Dear Artemis: We're a US-based company looking to expand hiring to Canada. Where do we start?
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Welcome back to Dear Artemis: Where you ask us tough questions and we use our collective 45+ years of knowledge in the recruiting space to answer them.
We’re an American scale-up with a recently-raised series C. We’re looking to expand to Canada. What does that process look like, what cities should we consider, and who should we hire first for a new location?
- Founders, Series C scale-up
Amazing! Congrats on your Series C. We’re so happy to hear you want to expand to Canada. We’ve helped a number of great US companies build out their Canadian teams here.
Here are some things to consider when deciding where in Canada:
Local universities that produce great talent and have robust co-op programs: For example, the University of Waterloo is notorious for their Computer Science degree and co-op programs. Wilfred Laurier is known for their business school, etc. In fact, the University of Waterloo has Canada’s #1 Computer Science program. (Fun fact: did you know that 18% of Canadian tech founders spent some time at UWaterloo?!)
Competitors: Are any of your competitors already in Canada, and if so, where? Ie if your company is in networking & security, Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo both have a number of these companies. Your best source of talent is near other companies that employ the same types of people.
Provincial laws: Similar to the US, each province has their own employment law. ADP has a great link-aggregation page of each province/territory’s laws.
Physical real estate: Are you hoping for an office of your own or co-working options? Bigger cities have many co-working locations, while mid-size hubs have more affordable real estate for your own office.
Proximity to airports: If your US leaders will visit the Canadian location or the Canadian team will visit the US HQ, it'd be helpful to be within a ~60-90 minute drive of an airport that flies close to your HQ.
Time zone: This is less important if your US team is geographically distributed already, but if all or most of your US employees are in one time zone, it’s beneficial to be intentional about what time zone your new office will be in. In some cases, the same time zone is best for employee collaboration, meetings, etc. In other cases, a different time zone is better (i.e. hiring customer support in a different time zone to support your nationwide customers for more hours).
Local accelerators/incubators: Startup hubs draw great talent, and we know that ex-founders from even failed startups can be the best employees. They’re innovative, critical thinkers who like to get sh*t done and challenge the status quo. Startup hubs also typically host great events for the tech community that draw great talent out. We partner with The Accelerator Centre & Communitech to help the companies they support find great talent.
Similar stage/slightly larger companies: Since you’re a series C startup, look for areas that have other series C and series D/E startups. You’ll probably look for talent that has seen the kind of growth you’re about to experience, so it will be helpful to be in close proximity to them.
Contact local economic development agencies like the Waterloo EDC. Each region will have their own EDC to support you through the process. They’ll help you navigate the other items on this list: understanding the community profile, universities, real estate, incentive programs, employment laws, and provide many other resources.
Once you’ve decided on the location and are working with the local development agency, now it’s time to hire! Whether your office will be a hub for one team (ie. a development office) or not, we recommend starting by hiring a leader who can build your culture and recruit a great team. Finding the right leader with “street-cred” is critical here: By hiring a great leader well-known in the community, you bring their network with them. Their team is likely to follow them because they trust this leader. A local search firm can be instrumental in this process as they’ll have a strong network and have “go-to” leaders.
If you’re flexible in which type of leader to hire first, we recommend hiring product management or other customer-facing leaders first. They’ll bring the voice of the customer to the team and will find ways to either be or continue to be active in the local community. This will build your employer brand and provide engagement opportunities for your team.
We hope this is helpful. We’ve helped many great US companies find local leaders to build out Canadian offices - if you have more questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,
Negin & the Artemis team