Startup think tank: we need to double billion-dollar Canadian companies by ’26

A Canada-wide think tank including some of the nation’s well-known startup minds are saying in a new report that businesses need to do more to retain our homegrown talent. A “paradigm shift” is needed for a Canada’s digital revolution. The end goal is to create more billion-dollar Canadian digital companies, or at the least, attract, retain, and support skilled talent.

The report, called “The Innovation and Competitiveness Imperative: Seizing Opportunities for Growth,” was chaired by a group including Shopify CEO Tobias Lutke, Wattpad’s Allen Lau and Element AI’s Jean-François Gagné.

The story of Canada has always involved supplying other countries with the raw materials of their success, reads the report. From the earliest days of our nation, we sent beaver pelts to Europe to be turned into garments. Later, we learned to extract oil from sand, but shipped it to Texas for refinement.

“Today, we export valuable research, intellectual property, and talent abroad,” the report said. “We are exporting our most precious assets to the benefit of other countries. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We do, however, need to double down on our own inventiveness to capture more of that wealth here at home.”

It’s time to foster a homegrown advantage by commercializing our own innovations, say the authors. They push us to picture Canada ten years from now. Are we still exporting all of our talent, or will we have finally changed something?

The report’s end-goal is to grow the number of large Canadian digital companies, doubling the number of businesses earning $1 billion or more in annual revenue (from 13 to 26) by 2025.

Referencing the 2010 Canadian olympic team’s marketing slogan, “Own the Podium,” the authors of the report suggest that anchor firms (those with at least $1 billion in annual revenue) need to support regional technology clusters and create a ripple effect of growth and prosperity.

If we help scale those Canadian digital firms scale to $100 million in annual revenue, they can one day become “anchor firms.”

Currently Canada sports 58 firms earning $100 million in annual revenue. The authors wish to triple that from 58 to 172.

So how do we create those billion-dollar Canadian digital companies?

The report suggests several factors in doing so, like Establishing a Hypergrowth Passport pilot program and Modernizing SR&ED tax credits.

How do we start? Ideally by attracting, retaining, and supporting skilled talent.

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