【英语财经】加拿大试与硅谷争抢初创企业 Canada Offers Incentives to Lure Startups Across the Border

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2014-5-28 08:57

小艾摘要: Imagine you are launching or running a startup and there's a place where all of your developers--the biggest expense for most tech companies--cost one quarter what they do in Silicon Valley. Sure, it' ...
Canada Offers Incentives to Lure Startups Across the Border
Imagine you are launching or running a startup and there's a place where all of your developers--the biggest expense for most tech companies--cost one quarter what they do in Silicon Valley. Sure, it's cold there, but talent is plentiful and the locals are friendly. Would you trade your hash browns for poutine?

Adam Adelman, co-founder of Mighty Cast, a startup working on a new kind of wearable technology, recently told me the Canadian government is paying almost 80% of his developers' salaries. And that's not a tax credit. It's a rebate, a check he gets from the government whether or not his startup makes money.

Even at Mighty Cast, a two-year-old hardware startup, salaries have been 80% of expenses. Combine that with the lower salaries demanded by engineers in Montreal, where Mighty Cast moved its headquarters after its genesis in Silicon Valley, and Mr. Adelman says he's able to stretch his angel round of investment four times as far.

But why should Canada throw all this money at tech? One reason is simply that high tech is the route to the post-industrial economy that all countries with any degree of central planning aspire to--just look at the explosion of the IT sector in China, abetted in no small part by its government. Tech represents high-paying jobs from an industry that isn't resource intensive and, in contrast to Canada's oil-sands boom, doesn't pollute. What bureaucrat wouldn't sign on for that?

That it requires incentives on this scale to attract companies from Silicon Valley, where capital and talent feed on one another in a virtuous circle, shows that the tech industry, like the markets favored by the companies it spawns, tends to be winner-take-all. When one dominant player grabs most of the resources, everyone else (Canada included) is forced to open up their treasuries to attract what's left.

So far, it's mostly established U.S. companies taking advantage of these incentives. In 2013 Cisco signed an agreement with the government of Ontario pledging up to $4 billion in investment over the next 10 years in exchange for $220 million in incentives. Seven of the 10 largest tech companies in the world have outposts in Canada, including Google, Siemens and IBM, and startups like Square are setting up offices in the Waterloo region, where tech employers tend to concentrate.

But if you're a small startup looking to take full advantage of these incentives, there's a catch: You have to become Canadian. You don't have to give up your current citizenship to get all the benefits, but your company must be majority controlled by person(s) who are residents of Canada (a different status than full citizenship). Companies merely setting up a satellite in Canada can still get 50% of the salary reimbursement a fully 'Canadian' company would.

The strange prospect of immigrating to another country is probably one reason why I discovered only one U.S. company whose founders had actually moved themselves and their primary office to Canada, but hundreds of foreign companies (more than 250 since 2003, to be exact) that have set up satellite offices in Canada to take advantage of partial incentives.

Startup entrepreneurs willing to go all in can take advantage of a fast-track 'startup visa,' which seems like the golden ticket to moving north of the border if you already have some investment capital (a requirement). Startup visas aside, Canada's 'selective' immigration policies, which favor education and talent, are so liberal that Facebook is essentially using them as a gateway to the U.S. Established in March 2013, Facebook's 'temporary' office in Vancouver, home to 150 freshly graduated engineers from around the world, gives the company a holding pen to train and evaluate its new recruits until they're eligible for U.S. work visas.

There are pitfalls in moving to Canada. One is being cut off from the investors and engineering and executive talent who throng Silicon Valley or other U.S. tech centers. If a startup hub isn't big enough, says Andreessen Horowitz managing partner Scott Kupor, executives who can take a company to the next level won't relocate for a new job, because if the company fails, there aren't dozens of other places they could go work, as in Silicon Valley.

My own view is that entrepreneurs looking to build the next Facebook, and VCs looking to fund it, probably shouldn't look to startup hubs outside the Valley, and certainly not in Canada. Part of the reason is culture. One reason he left Silicon Valley after selling his first company, says Mr. Adelman, is that he was tired of its kill-or- be-killed ethos. Engineers in the Valley are 'single minded' in their focus on how many stock options they're being offered and the size of their potential windfall when the company goes public or gets bought. This can also lead candidates to switch jobs more frequently as they seek an ever greater potential exit.

In Montreal, by contrast, it may be easier to find candidates who are motivated primarily by building a product they believe in. The downside is a more European attitude toward work-- less intense, less ambitious, more likely to have wine with lunch, Mr. Adelman says. This doesn't mean Canada's engineers are any less talented than their American counterparts, as the satellite offices set up throughout Canada by the giants of tech attest. Canada is also home to at least a half-dozen top-tier universities, and Montreal has the highest proportion of university students of any city in North America.

The right startups could surely benefit from a significant discount on their costs. And when and if these startups leave, the leaders of their former home cities will know who to blame: Canada.

ZUMAPRESS.com有谁不想在魁北克肉汁奶酪薯条的国度工作呢?
设想你即将开办或正在经营一家创业公司,有一个地方能让你的所有程序开发员成本只有硅谷的四分之一,而这项成本是多数科技企业的最大支出。当然,这个地方的气候很冷,但当地人才济济,居民待人友善。你是否愿意把日常饮食从土豆煎饼改为当地的普丁薯条?

Mighty Cast是一家涉足新型可穿戴技术的创业公司。该公司的联合创始人阿德尔曼(Adam Adelman)最近对我说,加拿大政府在支付他手下程序开发员近80%的工资。这不是税项抵免,而是返利。无论他的公司是不是赢利,他都能从政府那里拿到一张支票。

在Mighty Cast这家成立两年的创业型硬件公司,员工薪酬占支出的80%。政府的这项优惠条件,再加上蒙特利尔的工程师对薪资较低的要求,促使Mighty Cast的总部从诞生地硅谷搬到了蒙特利尔。阿德尔曼表示,天使投资人的钱现在所能干的事情是原来的四倍。

但加拿大为什么要把这些钱投到科技业呢?简单说,就是因为高科技是通往后工业经济的道路,而任何实行中央规划的国家都渴望后工业经济,例如,中国的信息技术产业正是在政府的大力扶持下取得了爆炸式增长。科技意味着非资源密集型产业的高薪岗位,而且与加拿大油砂业繁荣不同的是,科技业不会污染环境。有哪个政府会不支持呢?

不过,加拿大需要拿出如此优厚的激励措施来吸引硅谷的公司,这说明科技业和它催生的公司所青睐的市场一样,往往是胜者为王。硅谷的资金和人才相互促进,形成一个良性循环。当一个主导性的国家掌握了大部分资源后,其他国家(包括加拿大)就不得不打开金库,吸引剩余的资源。

到目前为止,被这些激励措施所吸引的主要是老牌美国公司。2013年,思科(Cisco)与安大略政府签订了一份协议,承诺未来10年投资至多40亿美元,而政府将相应提供2.2亿美元的激励政策。全球10大科技公司中有七家在加拿大有业务,其中包括谷歌(Google)、西门子(Siemens)和国际商业机器公司(IBM)。而像Square这样的初创公司则纷纷在科技公司比较密集的滑铁卢地区设立办事处。

但如果你是一家希望充分利用这些激励政策的小型初创公司,那么需要注意的是:你必须成为加拿大公司。你不必放弃原有的国籍来换取全部的好处,但你的公司必须由加拿大居民(身份不同于加拿大公民)持有多数股权。仅仅在加拿大设立一个附属公司也能像一个彻头彻尾的“加拿大”公司一样获得50%的工资补贴。

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