Connect with the newcomer tech entrepreneur community and find support

Canada’s economy is fueled by immigration. We rely heavily on newcomers for talent, new businesses, and disposable income or investment. The Canadian tech ecosystem, in particular, benefits greatly from newcomers and immigration. This is not surprising when you consider that newcomers bring new talent and diverse skill sets. Research indicates that immigrants are more likely to start businesses and create jobs than their Canadian-born counterparts. Starting a business is taking risk. And newcomers are, by definition, risk takers, having uprooted their life in their home country in search of an improved one elsewhere in the world. Overall, there is a strong consensus that newcomers fuel innovation and lead disruptive entrepreneurship, at a time we need it the most.

Newcomer tech entrepreneurs face challenges when they come to Canada including a lack of networks. Anyone who has launched a tech startup will attest to the importance of a relevant network. Whether it’s securing that first round of investment, getting into a fitting incubator, or building a strong peer community for support, connections can contribute significantly to the success (or lack thereof) of your startup. But connections are precisely what newcomers lack. Additionally, navigating the ever-expanding tech ecosystem and its abundant resources is challenging. If you’ve ever been to a store where the wide range of choices overwhelmed you, you know what I’m talking about. Now add one more layer to that: the legal, tax, and finance complexities in a new country.

As newcomer tech entrepreneurs, a great first step to overcoming such barriers can be finding support through an incubator, accelerator or other similar program that meets your startup’s needs. Programs like these can provide you with valuable mentorship and guidance, help open doors for you as they vouch for your business, and be part of a community of entrepreneurs on the same journey as you.

The DMZ, the MaRS Discovery District, Communitech, Creative Destructive Lab, NEXT Canada, or one of the Ryerson University Zones are just some of the many incubators you can look into as you search for the right home for your startup. There are also programs that have been developed to specifically address newcomer barriers. These include the Scale Without Borders program which focuses on newcomer tech businesses, JumpStart Refugee Talent which serves refugees, the Newcomer Entrepreneurs Hub, or Immigrants Developing Entrepreneurs Academy.

As a newcomer entrepreneur, you will also find that building a meaningful network with the right people will land you the opportunities you need. That’s where being part of networks like TechTO, Scale Without Borders, or an online community like StartupNorth is helpful. Through these, you will be invited to events that showcase helpful content about building a startup in your new home country. You will also build a network that will eventually consist of the right investors, talent, customers or opportunities for exposure. In terms of government funding, tech entrepreneurs can tap into OCE, SR&ED, and IRAP or rely on wage subsidies like Magnet and Mitacs.

As you navigate these resources, and plug yourself and your startup into the ecosystem, there are two key things to remember. Firstly, this is a process and is only successful in that it is done authentically and in the long term. Secondly, as important as they are, do not let activities related to mentorship, building your network, or even seeking funding distract you. Your main focus should be on validating your idea, gaining more customers, and growing your startup.

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