Waterloo EDC Blog

Waterloo vs. Columbus

5 Charts: Waterloo vs. Columbus

Posted by Waterloo EDC on August 26, 2020

This is the third edition in a new Waterloo EDC series called “5 Charts: Waterloo Versus” that compares our community with some of America’s top tech hubs. We’ve already matched up against Austin, Texas, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We will soon take on Phoenix, Salt Lake City and more.

We often compare Waterloo’s exceptional tech credentials to other major cities in Canada like Toronto and Montreal, and major US tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York, where the vast majority of tech investment has traditionally landed.

What we haven’t really dug into – until now – is how our ecosystem stacks up against smaller US tech markets that are showing undeniable momentum, like Columbus, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. We’ve scoured our data and are going head-to-head with tech markets across the United States. We’ve already stepped into the ring with Austin and Pittsburgh and are now ready to take on Columbus.

You guessed it - the friendly competition continues!

Matchup #3: Waterloo, Canada vs. Columbus, Ohio 

Waterloo and Columbus’ similarities make for a good matchup. We both have booming startup activity that has attracted a steady growth in venture capital investment, talent coming out of a globally ranked institution and a collaborative tech environment.

Quick Facts:

  Waterloo  Columbus
Population  600,000 922,223
Nearby Universities 3 10
Total Student Population  77,000+ 130,000
Big Tech
  • Google
  • Shopify
  • OpenText
  • BlackBerry
  • Oracle NetSuite
  • Google
  • IBM
  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Saama
Total Tech Workforce Growth (5 Years) 51% 14.2%

Round One: Tech Talent Density 

Waterloo/Columbus Tech Talent Density Comparison - Waterloo is 8% and Columbus is 4.6%

With regards to high tech density, Waterloo beats not only Columbus, but also other tech hubs like Austin, Pittsburgh and Denver – ranking Waterloo as one of the highest-density tech ecosystems in North America.

How, you ask?

First, Waterloo has fewer universities and students, but is home to Canada’s top technology school, the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo). Add on Canada’s business-friendly immigration programs, a collection of global tech giants like Google and Shopify and high-growth unicorns like ApplyBoard – all within a ~10km/6.5mi radius – and you have the definition of density.

Round Two: Engineering and Computer Science University Program Sizes

Waterloo/Columbus Tech Student Comparison - Waterloo has 14,000 and Columbus has close to 10,000

UWaterloo is a powerhouse. It ranks globally with US schools like Ohio State, Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Stanford, but comes out ahead for tech program sizes when matched up against these schools.

This scale comes at no compromise to talent. Check out these 5 facts about the university that will have you doing a double-take.

Round Three: Research Output 

Waterloo/Pittsburgh Research Output Comparison - Waterloo is 7,000 citations and Columbus is close to 5,000

Winner: Waterloo, again. Keep in mind that Ohio State’s College of Engineering is ranked #3 in the nation in industry research expenditures and is labelled a “public Ivy” – meaning as a public school, it’s considered to be of Ivy League quality. Waterloo coming out victorious says a lot about its research productivity.

For fun, let’s adjust for community size.

Waterloo/Columbus Per Capita Research Output Comparison - Waterloo is 1,350 citations per 100,000 people and Columbus is just over 200

Well, this just seems unfair! This is a good time to mention that Waterloo is one of the most patent-intensive communities in the world – granting 15 patents per 100,000 residents, 11 times the national average.

Round Four: Rent 

Waterloo/Columbus office rent costs - Waterloo and Columbus both have an average commercial rent cost of one million USD for 75,000 square feet

A tie! Finding the perfect working space for your company at a reasonable price is no easy task. In Waterloo, you can find the workspace of your dreams at a fair rate, all without sacrificing access to talent or market access.

Round Five: Tech Salaries  

Waterloo/Columbus median tech salaries

It’s all Waterloo here, too. Quality of tech talent and significant cost advantages are central to Waterloo’s value proposition. So much so that CBRE’s 2019 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent ranked Waterloo 1st in Canada for tech talent quality to cost. Our lower housing and healthcare costs are an added bonus. You can do more living for less money in Canada’s fastest growing community.


Waterloo has significant cost advantages in talent, research productivity and cost compared to Columbus. Yes, we are proud of our community, but the numbers speak for themselves. Want to find out who’s already working in our ecosystem? Download our Artificial Intelligence Ecosystem Map, which lists 130+ companies working on AI in our community:


Download the Waterloo AI Cluster Map Now!

Connect with us today to learn more about Waterloo’s incredible tech ecosystem. Like data? There's more where this came from!


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Topics: technology, talent, business, artificial intelligence, site selection