“Silicon Prairie”: Saskatoon’s star is rising
Saskatoon’s booming technology sector attracts global attention as tech entrepreneurs come to the fore with visionary cloud-based solutions.
Saskatoon’s technology hub is now considered a key economic driver for Saskatchewan, with a staggering record of exponential growth fueled by large acquisitions. In fact, the province’s tech sector generated an estimated $4.7 billion in GDP in 2018, accounting for nearly six percent of the province’s total GDP.
And it’s not going unnoticed. Local governments and universities, as well as major global technology corporations are showing their respect and support for this dynamic sector.
“We’re so pleased to see our provincial and municipal governments throwing their support behind technology with tax cuts and start-up schemes aimed at supporting young, enterprising thought leaders,” says Candace Schierling, Director of Business Development, Tourism Saskatoon.
The provincial government is providing various levels of financial support with the goal to triple the tech sector by 2030. The Made in Saskatchewan Technology Program helps local tech companies build their client base through a $10,000 procurement contract with the government.
Additionally, the Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive is a 45 percent-refundable tax credit to encourage local investors to fund tech start-ups.
“Additionally, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) recently doubled their sponsorship of Co.Labs, a non-profit organization helping grow Saskatchewan’s tech ecosystem by supporting start-ups as they navigate the path from a raw idea to a million-dollar business,” says Schierling.
As a small but mighty player in a big industry, Saskatoon is a hot spot for business events and conferences, drawing delegates from around the globe.
Major players in cloud-based solutions
Saskatoon has played host to Co.Lab’s annual Uniting the Prairies (UP) event since 2019, bringing together the top startups from across the Prairies to connect with global investors and tech leaders, effectively elevating the local tech community in the process.
“UP 2019 drew over 650 participants and featured 37 world-class speakers," says Matt Stefan, Executive Director, Co.Labs. “Last year, we pivoted to virtual and this year are continuing with the same.
“We've added the Match UP component of the conference—more than 300 curated virtual meetings between the Prairie's top startups and North America's most notable investors and tech minds. There is no denying it, UP is building international acclaim, bolstering Saskatoon's reputation as technology hub demanding the world's attention.”
Just four years old, Co.Labs is a burgeoning startup incubator, so far supporting more than 130 companies that have collectively generated over $20 million dollars revenue, attracted private equity investments north of $12 million dollars, and created more than 350 jobs for the province.
Curbie Cars is one such business. The first fully-licensed online vehicle retailer recently raised $7 million in seed funding – the largest seed round in Saskatchewan’s tech history – and is now expanding across the prairies, servicing Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Saskatoon-based 7Shifts, an employee scheduling software and team-managing toolkit for restaurants, is another renowned tech entity, successfully solving pain points for restaurant owners and shift workers.
Originally created by CEO Jordan Boesch to help his dad manage his employees more easily, 7Shifts is now used by more than 15,000 restaurants across North America, providing more than 350,000 restaurant workers with an engaging, user-friendly app to manage their schedules, and recently raised $21.5 million in series B funding.
“Curbie Cars, 7Shifts, Vendasta and SalonScale Technology are just a few of the successful Saskatoon technology startups who continue to choose the city as their ideal home base,” says Schierling.
“The mark of any successful tech entity is continued evolution. These companies are committed to improving their offering, with 7Shifts, for example, now investing in artificial intelligence to revolutionize their service.”
Drawcard for tech conferences
With so many innovative startups and established technology companies choosing to live and invest in Saskatoon, the city is playing host to domestic and global tech business meetings and events of all sizes.
“Technology organizations are attracted by this forward-thinking metropolis and the young, ambitious minds who reside here,” says Schierling.
Saskatoon offers more than 800,000 square feet of meeting facilities and over 5,000 hotel rooms, all within walking distance of the dining and entertainment precinct. Tourism Saskatoon can assist with funding through the City of Saskatoon and offers an Event Marketing Assistance Program designed to drive attendance to business events.
“Saskatoon’s lively nightlife, dynamic culinary scene, gorgeous river trails and cultural experiences add an extra dimension of intrigue for tech industry members seeking an inspiring business events destination that offers more than just a conference center.”
Meetings with purpose
By augmenting speakers’ series with passionate industry innovators and enriching programming with localized tours, business event organizers can attract delegates, increase revenues, and inspire future generations.
“We call that 'meeting with purpose’,” says Schierling, pointing out that when the time is right for in-person events to resume, Saskatoon is poised to show off its technology ecosystems and industry leaders in the vanguard of technological advancements and cloud-based solutions.
Plan your meeting in Saskatoon here.
Discover more about Canada’s technology business events here.