- Thomson Reuters
Ray Sharma loves Toronto, and he’s willing to bet entrepreneurs around the world will love it, too.
Sharma is the CEO and cofounder of Extreme Venture Partners, a Canadian VC firm that recently assembled a fund for paying startup founders and their families to relocate to Toronto.
Upon arrival, they’ll receive seed funding, guidance on beginning their new Canadian life, and the opportunity to get on the fast-track for citizenship. Sharma says EVP is prepared to welcome 30 companies over the next three years.
“By bringing in this diverse thought from different regions, we increase the chances of innovation in our venture fund,” Sharma told Business Insider.
Sharma and his team hatched the plans for the fund roughly a year ago. The team realized the potential for bringing top talent to Canada since the modern CEO can set up shop just about anywhere, Sharma says. And given the current political climate in the US, with the H1-B work visas often used by tech workers under threat, the fund could lure Silicon Valley firms up north.
Chosen companies will receive between $50,000 and $100,000 in funding, mentorship for growing the business, and guidance for finding additional funding.
Meanwhile, the company is working with the Canadian government to ensure each founder that comes over can work toward permanent residency within six to nine months. In addition, the country ramped up its work visa program earlier this month to shorten the time between residency and citizenship.
“They can come over almost instantaneously,” Sunil Sharma, EVP cofounder, told Business Insider. “And then within a couple years they’ll be citizens of Canada.”
Co-founders can also take advantage of Canada’s sponsorship program for relatives and spouses. Although founders are invited to come over, foreign employees are not. Companies must make new hires once they arrive.
EVP hopes the program can stimulate the local economy and reaffirm that Silicon Valley isn’t the only place startups can grow and thrive. In 2016 rankings of the most high-tech cities in the world, Canadian cities appeared in three spots. Toronto came in eighth place – the highest ranking of all Canadian cities on the list.
“I think Toronto is kind of having its moment,” Sunil Sharma said. “It’s become one of these world-class cities while we weren’t looking, and that is really conducive for tech founders that want to have a good place to work, super low crime rate, lots of job opportunities, and all that. We’ve got that in Toronto.”