Immigrants of Tech- Vartika Manasvi
Meet Vartika Manasvi
Our newest feature Immigrants in Tech highlights incredible stories of newcomers who are making a big impact in the Canadian tech ecosystem.
Meet Vartika Manasvi, 2x Entrepreneur and Director of Startups at MARS! Vartika was the first woman entrepreneur from South Asia to receive a startup visa in Canada and brings a wealth of global experience. Here she shares more about her foray into entrepreneurship, what led her to build in Canada and her advice to newcomers looking to break into the tech ecosystem.
What's your story?
In 2018, I was working on my second startup idea called BFF. After learning from my first
startup experience, I wanted to validate the market need before investing too much time and energy in building the product. At that time, I only knew that India was not my target market. Ideally, I wanted to target a developed country, preferably a populous city in North America. To test this market, I needed to talk to users and understand the demand. Unfortunately, I had no means to do this except to go and figure it out myself. With around $10,000 in the bank and a 6-month visitor visa, I decided to go to Toronto, Canada. I didn't have any friends or family there, so I had to rely on Airbnb for accommodation. This experience was like self-discovery at all levels.
Although I had traveled extensively, my schooling, education, and my work experience for the most part were all in India. Therefore, while exploring the tech industry, I was also trying to determine if Canada was a place I could call home and launch my second company. Building a network was a significant challenge, but I persevered.
My breakthrough came when I found my first customer in Waterloo during the True North event organized by Communitech. This event marked the beginning of my journey, a new pivot, and I knew that I had to find a way to come to Canada. Fortunately, I obtained my startup visa from Platform Calgary in Alberta, which became a turning point for me and my company, StackRaft. Notably, I am the first woman entrepreneur from South Asia to receive a startup visa in Canada, and my co-founder, a 23-year-old engineer, is the youngest entrepreneur to receive a startup visa in Canada. We not only moved as immigrant entrepreneurs ourselves but also supported over 60 H1-B engineers in the U.S. that moved to Canada during 2019-20 under Global Talent Stream.
What led you to choose Canada as the place that you wanted to build in?
Yeah, that's a great question. I have had exposure to Silicon Valley through my travels and work there. Many Indian entrepreneurs aspire to the American dream. But I didn't want to be just another entrepreneur trying to hustle and build my dreams in San Francisco. Instead, I wanted to take a different approach that would keep me close to the market and increase my chances of success. All I wanted was affordability, less market competition, and an immigrant-friendly place. That's why I chose to go to Toronto, Canada, which is now emerging as the epicenter of tech.
For my second company, I delved into the blockchain space. Since Canada was focusing heavily on AI, I somehow felt that my chances of success would be higher in Canada than in Silicon Valley. I carefully evaluated the risks and considered that I didn't have extended family in either country to provide a reliable backbone for me if needed. Canada's diversity and growing tech ecosystem made it a fertile ground for my business. The demographic of people to test and validate my product was the same as in Silicon Valley, but with slightly lower costs. Honestly, I was able to muster the courage to do it in Canada, because of a much more friendly environment.
Silicon Valley, on the other hand, was a more mature ecosystem that might have been more challenging to break into as a newcomer. In retrospect, I'm pleased that I chose Canada as my base for my second company. The favorable market conditions at that time, along with the growing tech ecosystem, worked out for me.
What advice do you have for newcomers entering the Canadian tech ecosystem?
For newcomers, my advice would be to have resilience and grit. Moving to a new country can be overwhelming, and it's easy to get lost in the process of adjusting to a new cultural environment or even the weather. Many newcomers may feel insecure or uncertain about their new surroundings and lose sight of their own identity and courage to make such a significant change. Starting from scratch is not a bad thing, but it requires grit and determination.
When coming to Canada, the most valuable thing a newcomer brings is their courage, confidence, and self-belief, which all fall under the umbrella of grit. To break into the Canadian ecosystem, newcomers must maintain this grit and be resilient and persistent. It's essential to stay true to oneself and not lose sight of what brought them to Canada in the first place. By staying focused and persistent, newcomers can overcome any obstacle and find success in Canada.
The Canadian tech ecosystem is full of possibilities and offers excellent support. However, succeeding in this industry takes a lot of resilience and self-belief to stay focused and keep working hard. What's beautiful about tech and startups is that they don't discriminate based on age, religion, or any other factor. The industry values skills and performance above all else. As a result, anyone can break into the Canadian tech ecosystem if they possess the right skills and character. Newcomers must be self-aware and mindful of their new journey as immigrants. It's essential to remain focused and not lose sight of what brought them to Canada in the first place. By staying true to oneself and working hard, newcomers can succeed in the Canadian tech industry regardless of their background or origin.