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5 Charts: Waterloo vs. Pittsburgh

Posted by Waterloo EDC on August 11, 2020

This is part of a Waterloo EDC series called “5 Charts: Waterloo Versus” that compares our community with some of American’s top tech hubs, including Austin, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Columbus, Ohio; Salt Lake City, Utah and Detroit, Michigan.

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 an investigation of how our ecosystem stacks up against smaller US tech markets that are showing undeniable momentum, like Pittsburgh, Columbus and Phoenix. 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 are now ready to take on Pittsburgh.

The friendly competition continues!

Matchup #2: Waterloo, Canada vs. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Pittsburgh and Waterloo make for a good matchup. We’re both home to a globally ranked university known for excellence in computer science, a thriving robotics and automation cluster and each community has a reputation for entrepreneurship.

Quick Facts:

Quick facts comparing the Waterloo and Pittsburgh tech ecosystems

*CBRE Scoring Tech Talent, 2021

Round One: Tech Talent Density 

Waterloo/Pittsburgh tech talent concentration - Waterloo is 9.6% Pittsburgh is 4%SOURCES: CBRE Scoring Tech Talent, 2021

Waterloo wins round one and it isn’t much of a surprise – we have one of the highest-density tech ecosystems in North America. In fact, we were just named the #1 small tech talent market in North America.

What contributes to Waterloo’s impressive concentration of high-tech employment?

First, we have fewer universities and students, but Waterloo is home to Canada’s top technology school, the University of Waterloo, which is ranked top-40 globally for engineering and technology and top-25 for computer science. Second, Canada has world-leading business-friendly immigration programs that are helping American companies retain global talent in the face of H-1B visa uncertainty. The cherry on top is our growing collection of global tech giants like Google and Shopify, and high-growth unicorns like Faire and ApplyBoard, mean Waterloo has exceptional density in a small area.

Round Two: Engineering and Computer Science University Program Sizes

Waterloo/Pittsburgh tech student population - Waterloo is 14,100 and Pittsburgh is 8,049

SOURCES: The University of Waterloo, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh 

Even combined, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon’s engineering and computer science enrollment numbers don’t reach those of UWaterloo. We aren’t cherry-picking schools, either. 

Despite UWaterloo’s high enrollment numbers, its talent pool is far from diluted. The school’s grads are among the world’s most work-ready, they’re known for putting a premium on entrepreneurship, and 85.5% of all new UWaterloo software engineering students enter with a 95%+ average.

Bonus Waterloo fact: Waterloo’s Conestoga College is the only Ontario college that is accredited to hand out engineering degrees – contributing to our already exceptional talent pipeline.

Round Three: Research Output 

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

SOURCE: InCites Dataset; Emerging Sources Citation Index (2016)

Pittsburgh takes round three, but Waterloo isn’t far off! Considering the fact that Carnegie Mellon is recognized as a “new Ivy” – meaning they are competitive with other Ivy League colleges in attracting top talent – and runs one of the top AI labs in the US, it’s notable that Waterloo’s research performance stacks up.

For fun, let’s include a bonus chart that adjusts for community size.

Waterloo/Pittsburgh research output comparison per 100,00 people - Waterloo is at 1,354 citations and Pittsburgh is at 451

SOURCE: InCites Dataset; Emerging Sources Citation Index (2016)

Wow. It’s also notable that researchers and companies in Waterloo secure an impressive 150 patents per 100,000 people while Pittsburgh sits at just 38 per 100,000. Waterloo’s applied research output is simply incredible.

Round Four: Rent 

Waterloo/Pittsburgh office rent costs (in millions) - average rent times 75,000 square feet - Waterloo is $1.45 million Pittsburgh is $1.75 million

SOURCE: CBRE Scoring Tech Talent in North America, 2021

Winner: Waterloo, again. Our commercial rent costs are well below Pittsburgh’s.

In Waterloo, it’s possible to find working space that supports your company’s expansion plans while realizing significant cost savings, all without sacrificing talent quality or market access.

Round Five: Tech Salaries  

Waterloo/Pittsburgh median tech salariesSOURCE: ERI Salary Assessor (2021)

It’s all Waterloo here, too.

This isn’t surprising, since CBRE’s 2020 Scoring Tech Talent report ranked Waterloo 1st in Canada for tech talent quality to cost and Canadian talent is often much more affordable.

Waterloo’s lower cost of living is a bonus. With our average residential rates 50% less than Pittsburgh and our average household spend on healthcare nearly 50% less, 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 Pittsburgh. Yes, we are proud of our community, but the numbers speak for themselves. Want more detailed comparisons?

Click here to download a free data-driven U.S. tech markets comparison


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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