Canada shops for SA start-ups
A new Canadian visa programme hopes to entice South African technology entrepreneurs to pack up and head north.
Canada is actively pursuing South African entrepreneurs through a new start-up visa programme its government has introduced to assist “qualified entrepreneurs” interested in relocating.
The cities of Toronto and Waterloo — the home of embattled mobile device manufacturer BlackBerry — both have thriving start-up scenes.
Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney says the country is “open for business” and that innovation and entrepreneurship are “essential drivers” of the geographically vast North American nation’s 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 start-up visa,” Kenney says.
To encourage South Africans who might be eligible and interested, the Canadian government has roped in expat, entrepreneur and angel investor Mike Edwards to meet with potential candidates next month.
Edwards’ company, LX Ventures, which is listed on the Venture Exchange of the Toronto Stock Exchange, buys and invests in early-stage, high-growth tech companies. Edwards is also a director of GrowLab, a Vancouver-based start-up 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,” Edwards says.
In order to be eligible for the start-up visa programme, entrepreneurs need at least C$275 000 in funding, of which $75 000 needs to come from angel investors and $200 000 from venture capital organisations.
“I’m interested on behalf of both LX Ventures and GrowLab,” Edwards says. While in South Africa, he hopes to meet with start-up incubators and accelerators “that can continue to scout for potential prospects after we have returned to Canada”.
Gary Boddington, another South African entrepreneur who now lives in Canada, will be joining Edwards on his visit and says the visa programme is a good opportunity for entrepreneurs who are developing software and “earning early-stage revenue”.
“It will allow 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,” Boddington says.
Meetings will take place in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg in November. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media