In case you missed it, over the last decade Waterloo has transformed into a hub for innovation, tech excellence and a place where industry giants – and future giants – come to thrive. From the creation of tech incubators to the re-emergence of Waterloo icons, this community has supported the growth and development of a robust tech ecosystem. We have compiled a list of nine developments from the last decade that have helped build Waterloo into the tech hub it is today.
Waterloo’s big developments over the last decade:
UWaterloo strengthens its reputation as Canada’s top technical university
If there was any doubt, the last decade has firmly secured the University of Waterloo‘s reputation as Canada’s top tech university. In the last 10 years, the university has opened two new top-of-the-line engineering buildings – Engineering 5 and Engineering 7 – including new capacity for robotics innovation. In the last year, Maclean’s Magazine named UWaterloo the #1 school for computer science and engineering and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) – the world’s most trusted global university rankings – placed the school in the world’s top-40 for Engineering and Technology.
Google expanding Waterloo-based Canadian engineering headquarters
Over the last 10+ years, Google Canada’s Waterloo operation has grown from a four person team to an 1,000+ employee office. The company is now in the process of significantly increasing its office space, with plans to have more than 3,000 local workers. The office also houses the company’s first Canadian Google for Startups Accelerator, which focuses on artificial intelligence and machine learning. The new building is right beside the original location, directly across the street from a significant new residential/commercial development and steps away from a new Transit Hub that will offer light rail and bus connections across the city and daily connections to Toronto.
" The talent pipeline here is world-class with better costs, retention rates and collaborative culture than anywhere in North America. "
Former Senior Engineering Director, Google Canada
Waterloo now has four home-grown tech unicorns
Waterloo entrepreneurs are developing a reputation for building some of Canada’s fastest-growing companies. Over the last 24 months – in the middle of a pandemic – four separate companies with significant Waterloo ties became unicorns (companies with $1 billion valuations). Faire, founded with HQs in Waterloo and Silicon Valley, recently raised a $400 million Series G on a $12.4 billion valuation. ApplyBoard, the epitome of a Waterloo tech success story, now has a $4 billion+ valuation. Arctic Wolf, a company with its HQ in the United States but primary tech office in Waterloo, raised a $150 million Series F on a $4.3 billion valuation last July. This February, eSentire became Waterloo’s fourth unicorn with a $325 million financing deal on a $1.1 billion valuation. Who’s next? There are plenty of candidates in Canada’s most dynamic tech ecosystem.
Velocity drives entrepreneurship in Waterloo
In 2010, Velocity – the University of Waterloo’s leading entrepreneurial program – moved into a 37,000 square foot space in the Lang Tannery in Downtown Kitchener. Known as the Velocity Garage, this incubator has helped launch more than 300 companies, including several high-growth firms like ApplyBoard, Vidyard, Faire and Avidbots. A 2021 report revealed that Velocity alumni and residents have collectively raised more than $2.4 billion USD since the incubator’s creation. In 2020, the University of Waterloo announced plans to build a new “Innovation Arena” that will house the Velocity incubator in a much larger space.
Waterloo named the #1 small tech talent market in North America
The newest CBRE “Scoring Tech Talent” report has identified Waterloo as the #1 small tech talent market in North America. This puts Waterloo ahead of Columbus, Pittsburgh, Orlando and Madison. We also landed at #21 overall, which includes the continent’s largest cities, which put us ahead of Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis/St. Paul. We were #2 in North America for tech talent growth rate and #4 for tech talent density. We also ranked #4 overall for tech talent quality and #1 in Canada. You can’t build a great tech company without great people.
The re-emergence of a Waterloo icon
BlackBerry, once known for inventing the smartphone, has re-emerged as one of the world’s largest cybersecurity firms. In 2019, BlackBerry announced the acquisition of Cylance, an artificial intelligence and cybersecurity company, for $1.4 billion and plans to open a new cybersecurity R&D laboratory in Waterloo. The Canadian government now considers BlackBerry the industry standard for trusted technology. Over the last decade, BlackBerry has worked to become a highly competitive software innovator, regaining its position as an iconic Canadian company.
Laurier re-invents its leading business school
Wilfrid Laurier University celebrated the grand opening of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics’ newest building, Lazaridis Hall, in 2017. Led by a $20 million investment from BlackBerry founder and Waterloo native Mike Lazaridis, the newly named Lazaridis School of Business and Economics is re-inventing itself as a technology-focused management institute. This 220,000 square foot space houses the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises, the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation, and the Department of Mathematics. This makes it a one-stop shop for incredible business talent and expertise. Laurier also offers the largest business co-op program in Canada.
Waterloo opens world’s largest Internet-of-Things manufacturing space
Catalyst137 is the world’s largest IoT manufacturing space, a place where Waterloo’s growing IoT companies can find the resources needed to compete in the global market. The 475,000 square foot former warehouse has become home to the Waterloo-area maker community, providing centralized funding, consulting, engineering and other services under one roof. Opened in 2018, this hub already has some high-profile tenants, including Toyota, BorgWarner and Miovision.
$2 billion + development boom in Waterloo
Following completion of a brand-new light rail system, Waterloo has seen an explosion of new development. There is currently about $1 billion in new development planned for the downtown core – including six 20+ storey residential towers and new office towers offering 386,000 square feet of office space – and the whole region has more than $2 billion in new development planned. Along with a new soon-to-be-built Transit Hub that will serve two-way all-day GO connections to Toronto and a major population influx, the skyline in Waterloo is set to change dramatically over the next few years.
Bonus: Full ecosystem maps for Waterloo’s tech community
A lot has changed in the last 10 years. If you haven’t been here, you might have no idea who’s operating in our community. Luckily, Waterloo EDC has you covered. We’ve produced full ecosystem maps for artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, cybersecurity, fintech, health innovation and autotech. Each map provides a full, categorized list of companies and the research/commercialization organizations that support them. Download now!