Nice Person's Silicon Valley

Toronto would like to be seen as the nice person’s Silicon Valley, if that’s not too much trouble. It could even become the Switzerland of privacy.

In recent years Canada has become a magnet for technology talent, reeling Canadians back home and diverting the stream of overseas applicants away from Silicon Valley to Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.

Others are drawn by the image of Canada as a liberal utopia, where diversity, inclusion, and humility triumph over greed and bigotry. And, of course, the Canadians are famously nice and polite.

As President Donald Trump tightens the US border, Trudeau opens Canada’s arms ever wider, promising to welcome 350,000 additional immigrants by 2021. As a result, Toronto added more new tech jobs between 2013 and 2018 than any other North American market surveyed.

Canada has its own technomythology. Instead of tech geeks, it has a workforce portrayed as diverse, reserved, and polite. Where Silicon Valley prizes trend-setting consumer products, Toronto’s startups tend to be more focused on services and products for business and government clients that are less likely to capture the public imagination.

And Canadian's value their privacy. It's tech industry activists caught the world’s attention for shutting down Sidewalk Labs, a Google-owned project to create a smart (and surveillance-powered) city in an area of Toronto. There’s now a real opportunity for the country to help lead a new, privacy-protecting movement in technology. “Canada could become the Switzerland of privacy,” says John Ruffolo, a venture capitalist and staunch Sidewalk critic.