Waterloo EDC Blog

Five charts that illustrate Waterloo’s unique tech hub credentials

Posted by Waterloo EDC on November 28, 2019

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Home to Google’s Canadian engineering headquarters, major Square and SAP offices, well-known scale-ups like North and Faire, 1000+ startups and Canada’s three fastest-growing tech companies, it’s pretty clear that Waterloo is generating some pretty significant tech success.

How do we compare to other tech-heavy communities across Canada and the United States?

Waterloo EDC has acquired new data that helps answer this question and put some quantitative heft behind the claim that Waterloo is one of North America’s premier tech hubs.

Here are five charts that demonstrate Waterloo’s unique tech hub credentials:

Higher tech talent density than America's top 10 tech labour pools

Share of High-Tech Employment_Final

Yes, you’re reading that right. Based on statistics from the US Bureau of Labour and Statistics Canada, a larger share of Waterloo’s employment is high-tech than any of these 10 cities/regions. We didn’t cherry-pick, either. These comparators are the top ten tech talent labour pools in the United States according to CBRE’s 2019 North America Scoring Tech Talent report. Waterloo has a greater density of tech talent than the Bay Area, Seattle or Boston.

Maybe this is an issue of scale? After all, these cities/regions are all huge and diverse. So, we looked at the “small tech talent markets” as CBRE defined them – places like Columbus, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh – and Waterloo beat them, too.

When it comes to talent density, Waterloo is the top tech hub in North America.

Click here to download a free guide to tech talent in Waterloo

Incredible computer science graduate output

Computer science graduates_Final

This data set includes the next six biggest cities in Canada, all of which are far larger than Waterloo (population: 600k). For example, Montreal is nearly seven times our size. Vancouver is four times our size. Even Edmonton is more than double our size. In the case of Toronto Region, which includes other major Canadian cities like Mississauga and Brampton, we're looking at a community that is more than 10 times the size of Waterloo

And yet, each year we produce more computer science graduates than every one of them except Vancouver and Toronto Region (and even those two aren't far ahead). Much of the credit goes to the University of Waterloo, which doesn’t just produce a lot of computer science graduates, but some of the best computer scientists in the world. In fact, a report from CBRE said that Waterloo has the highest-quality tech workforce in Canada. Oh, and just about every one of their graduates finishes with two years of on-the-job experience at companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google. That helps explain why it’s one of Silicon Valley’s top recruitment schools.

The most venture capital per capita in Canada

Venture Capital Investment per Capita in Canada

Again focusing on Canada – where we have comparable data – we can see the substantial venture capital (VC) investment advantage Waterloo has on a per capita basis. Across the last five years, no major community in Canada comes close to Waterloo’s VC success, with Montreal slightly edging Waterloo in 2017.

The investment trend hasn’t abated, either. In 2019, the community celebrated significant raises at Faire ($150M), Applyboard ($55M), AvidBots ($23.6M), DOZR ($14M) and eSentire ($47M), among others.

Click here to download our Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Cluster Map - a  complete listing of AI businesses operating in our community.

World-class density of startups and funding

Start-up density_Final

One of our favourite facts to illustrate Waterloo’s tech credentials is that we have the second highest density of tech startups in North America. This chart really makes that point clear.

The X axis is the number of startups per 100,000 people. As you can see, the Bay Area is far above everyone else, but Waterloo is second, ahead of noted tech hotbeds like Boston and Seattle.

The Y axis highlights the amount of funding per startup per 100,000 people, which helps put all communities on a level playing field. Again, the Bay Area is way ahead, with Boston, Seattle and Waterloo in a tight second group.

Astounding research output

Research Output 1_Final

For some tech companies, this is akin to saving the best for last.

Waterloo punches way above its weight when it comes to research. The University of Waterloo has a top-rated artificial intelligence institute, Canada’s largest university-based automotive research centre and the world’s largest concentration of math and computer science talent. That doesn’t touch on the substantial tech-focused research being done at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Conestoga College’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing or independent research hubs like Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

The chart above illustrates the total number of citations coming out of Waterloo and each of the top US cities identified by CBRE’s Scoring tech talent. Remember, each of these cities are many, many times the size of Waterloo. And yet, Waterloo research is cited more than Seattle and Dallas and almost as much as Washington. Now, if we correct for community size, here are the citations per capita:

Research Output 2_Final

Wow. No one is even close.

Now, maybe this is due to the size of these other communities. After all, they have a lot going on that isn’t research or tech. So, we decided to compare Waterloo’s citations with the “small tech talent markets” that CBRE identified. Here are the results:

Research Output 3_Final

So, we’re still pretty darn competitive. Only Pittsburgh is ahead of us, and the next closest city – Columbus – is far behind. When we look at citations per capita with this group, Waterloo is once again well ahead of the pack.

Our community is a place where tech companies can find the best talent, attract investment, join a dense tech business community and tap into excellent research.


Do you want to learn more about Waterloo’s incredible tech ecosystem? Contact our team today for more tech ecosystem data and information.

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Topics: technology, talent, R&D