“Now is the time to make a long-term bet – to make connections with clusters of schools in the area and to build new pipelines for jobs,” said Tristan Jung, a Korean-born computer scientist who grew up in Toronto. Worked for six years at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco and recently persuaded the company to build an engineering hub in Canada.
In the past year, Twitter has hired more than 100 engineers in Toronto, tripling its Canadian workforce. Household Internet names such as DoorDash, eBay and Pinterest created similar technology hubs in the city, as did growing artificial intelligence companies such as Cerebras, Grock and Recursion Pharmaceuticals.
This corner of Canada includes two universities known for top researchers and engineers: the University of Toronto, a short walk from downtown, and the University of Waterloo, m. Jung’s Alma Mater, about an hour away by car or train. In the past, much of this talent has migrated to the United States. But more and more trained engineers and computer scientists are working in and around Toronto.
Or, as Mr. Jung, they return home after years in the United States.
In Toronto, US-based companies can accelerate the arrival of new tech talent from other countries – a stream of talent that has long been the lifeblood of the American tech industry. As the U.S. immigration system slowed and thrived under the Trump administration, Canada introduced programs aimed at bringing skilled workers into a country that is already unusually diverse. According to the city, about 50 percent of Toronto’s residents were born outside the country.
“It’s infinitely easier to bring this kind of talent to Canada,” said Heather Kirkby, Richardson’s chief public officer who applies AI to drug discovery. “Many companies have abandoned immigration to the U.S., which has its limitations possible.”
In and around Toronto, local organizations intend to feed the tech ecosystem. Ontario recently passed a law that explicitly prohibits companies from applying non-competitive clauses in employment contracts, encouraging employees to find their own start-ups. Backed by a 100 million donation from local business leaders, the University of Toronto is building a complex that will house AI and biotech companies.