B.C. tech industry buoyed by Trump immigration order
Executives see a chance to recruit skilled overseas workers who haven't previously considered Canadian jobs
B.C.'s technology sector is poised to take advantage of U.S. President Donald Trump's tough new immigration policy to recruit foreign talent that has previously been more attracted to big American centres.
"I think it's actually a massive opportunity," said Mobify CEO Igor Faletski whose mobile commerce company is headquartered in Vancouver with offices in Chicago and the U.K.
Faletski said it would be no surprise to see a significant wave of immigrants saying 'I want to come to Canada.'
"We might see some American citizens come north and some Canadians return from Silicon Valley," he said.
Silicon Valley often attracts the best talent from around the world and, according to Faletski, that makes it tough for Canadian companies to grow.
"It has been more challenging for our companies to scale sometimes, to become medium-sized or large-sized because of a lack of experience, talent and executives," said Faletski.
Mobify is in hiring mode.
A shortage of programmers and other skilled IT professionals is true of many B.C. technology companies.
"We're coming through four or five very strong years in the tech industry here and the consequence of growth across all different sectors has really exacerbated the talent challenges for a lot of companies," said Bill Tam, CEO of the B.C. Tech Association, in Vancouver.
Tam says local companies will welcome those interested in seeking opportunities here given the changing atmosphere in the U.S.
"It creates a near term opportunity for those who might find themselves in the position where they're displaced as a result of the executive orders that were issued on Friday," he said.
Go North Canada is a collaborative initiative by Canadian tech companies to help those working in the U.S. consider opportunities north of the 49th parallel.
As well, last fall the federal government announced measures that will make it easier for Canadian companies to hire skilled foreign workers.
That global skills strategy is scheduled to be launched this spring.
"It's very timely," said Tam.
The new policies could give Canada "a leg up" but Kenny Hawk, CEO of Mojio says "we'll have to see how it shakes out."
Mojio is a Vancouver-based tech company that has developed devices to connect vehicles and the internet through the vehicles' own built-in computers.
"There's a lot of smart talent globally that I want to make sure I will be able to hire and use to grow our company," said Hawk on the phone from his office Palo Alto, California.
"I want the borders to be safe too. There's no easy answer to this. It's a tough thing."
Hawk has built his business in Switzerland and Germany.
He says a free flow of immigrants into the tech world is a good thing but being safe and protecting one's country is a good thing too.
Mobify's Faletski immigrated to Canada from Russia and has dual citizenship.
"It's not the news anybody expected to hear or wants to hear," he said of Trump's policy changes.
"But it's an opportunity for the industry and for the country and I'm very excited about that."