Canada looking to entice SA entrepreneurs with startup visa



If for whatever reason, you’re sick of the South African startup scene (maybe being able to see Table Mountain from your office window just doesn’t do it for you any more), you might find this intriguing. Canada is actively recruiting foreign entrepreneurs with a startup visa programme.

Introduced by the Canadian government, the programme is meant to assist qualified entrepreneurs interested in relocating to Canada.

According Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the visa is part of Canada’s plans to show that it is open for business to the world’s start-up entrepreneurs. “Innovation and entrepreneurship are essential drivers of our economy. We need people who can build companies that will create new jobs, spur economic growth and compete on a global scale, hence our new startup visa.”

Interestingly it looks like a delegation from the “Great White North” will be heading to South Africa in a bid to actively recruit entrepreneurs into applying for the visa. As part of the delegation, which will land in November, Canadian tech entrepreneurs and angel investor Mike Edwards will to meet with potential candidates.

Edwards’ own company, LX Ventures, acquires, integrates and accelerates early stage high growth tech companies, and he is also a director of GrowLab, a Vancouver-based startup accelerator.

“Our objective is to identify and evaluate new software companies which have graduated from the incubator stage and have earned enough early-stage revenue to show that they are sustainable businesses. These are the business we feel would benefit from investment and relocating to Canada,” he said.

He explained that to be eligible for the Startup Visa Program, the Canadian government required them to obtain a minimum level of funding: $75 000 CDN from angel investors and $200 000 CDN from venture capital organisations.

“I’m interested on behalf of both LX Ventures and GrowLab. While I’m in South Africa I also want to meet with other businesses like mine – startup incubators and accelerators – that can continue to scout for potential prospects after we have returned to Canada. I’m also happy to meet with economic development organisations that are interested in supporting the Startup Visa initiative.”

There will also be a South African on Edwards’ team in the shape of Gary Boddington, an entrepreneur who co-founded a business in his garage in Durban and sold it to the London-listed Sage Plc. Boddington now lives in Canada where he says he experienced essential support as a startup business and is now paying forward his good fortune to fellow South African entrepreneurs.

“I co-founded a South African business, sold it to a global company, and it currently derives revenues — and therefore taxes — for South Africa from a global customer base. In my humble opinion, South Africa could use more of that,” said Boddington.

He reckons the new startup visa programme could be an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs who are developing software and earning early stage revenue. “It will enable them to gain access to the North American markets, receive critical funding, compete on a level playing field with other global developers, find a mentor and live in Canada so as to be close to the market.”

Part of Canada’s pitch for the programme is Vancouver’s relative proximity to tech hubs in Vancouver and Silicon Valley, something it underlines with the fact that Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook all opening local development offices there.



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