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New head of Communitech leading incubator says ‘no reason why Canada couldn’t be the global hub of innovation’

Financial Post| Bianca Bharti | Apr 5, 2021

Chris albinson and Communitech - New head of Communitech leading incubator says 'no reason why Canada couldn't be the global hub of innovation'There is no reason why Canada couldn't be the global hub of innovation'

Canada needs to foster companies that can compete on a global scale if it wants to build a sustainable technology ecosystem, according to the incoming chief executive of one of the country’s top tech incubators.

Chris Albinson, a Canadian venture capitalist who has spent the better part of two decades in California, was on Monday named the next head of Communitech, the Waterloo-based incubator that has more than 1,600 member companies.

A Kingston, Ont.-native, Albinson helped build the C100 network in Silicon Valley, a who’s who of Canadian technology leaders who came together to encourage collaboration and growth.

“To have a healthy ecosystem, you need big trees,” Albinson said in a recent interview with the Financial Post. “We need more big trees, otherwise, when the storms come through, stuff gets wiped out.”

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In Canada, that means more companies like Shopify.

Albinson says the time is especially ripe for Canada to establish itself as a formidable player, in part due to the pandemic. Remote work has caused some companies to set up offices outside of cities as talent, once concentrated in urban centres, now flee.

“Everyone assumes that the Valley’s sort of a fixed (hub),” Albinson said, before pointing to Boston, which was considered the centre of innovation in the 1990s before the San Francisco Bay area stole the crown.In order to get there, Albinson says we need to aspire to build globally relevant companies that can sustain long-term growth, something that’s already happening.

“When I talked to Canadian entrepreneurs coast to coast … they want to build the next Shopify,” Albinson said.

People also tend to forget, he said, that a University of Waterloo graduate, Apoorva Mehta, started Instacart.

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He sees businesses such as Clearbanc, a company that helps finance entrepreneurs, and ApplyBoard, a company that helps foreigners apply to Canadian universities, as signs that Canada’s tech space is ready to explode.

It’s doubly helpful that the ecosystem up north is more inviting than stateside because Canada has a better immigration system, there is access to global markets and capital and we’re leading in artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning, Albinson said.

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