Canadian startups woo Silicon Valley expats for top jobs

Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:27am EST
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By Sayantani Ghosh

TORONTO (Reuters) - Technology startups in Canada are seeking to lure back expatriates from Silicon Valley with the promise of executive roles, generous stakes and the chance to stamp their mark on a nascent industry.

Michael Katchen is one of the first. He came home to Toronto after helping to build and then sell a company in California. Four of the 40-odd employees of his latest venture, Wealthsimple, were once expatriates too.

"There is a benefit in being part of the engineering culture in the Valley ... a different sort of skill set that you acquire from being in senior positions or being around such a dense population of startups," Katchen says.

Katchen was one many Canadian techies to have left home in the past decade, frustrated by a lack of opportunity. Industry executives estimate between 300,000 and 350,000 Canadians live in Silicon Valley.

A small but growing number are being tempted to return to plum jobs in Canada's tech hub of Waterloo and Kitchener, Ontario, where many former employees of BlackBerry Ltd have struck out on their own.

The paychecks, for sure, are smaller. A product manager in Toronto might draw an annual salary of $82,000 versus an average $126,966 for a similar job in San Jose, California, according to job listings website Glassdoor.

The tradeoff is a shorter commute, a cheaper house and a laid-back lifestyle likely to appeal to 30- and 40-something executives looking to put down roots.

"In San Francisco, a one-bedroom apartment will cost you $3,000 a month. Here, $3,000 will get you a significant place," said Jeff Fedor, 45, who returned to Waterloo at the invitation of a former Silicon Valley colleague last year.   Continued...