Luna Yu is the CEO of Genecis Bioindustries, a Scarborough-based company that converts food waste into biodegradable plastics using microbe technology.
“Here is actually where we grow up bacteria that makes the precursor for making the bioplastics that we have” Yu told Global News one afternoon, pointing to the large cylindrical machines during a tour of the facility.
Yu’s start-up is part of a rapidly-expanding tech industry and workforce here in Toronto — one that’s growing fast enough for the New York Times to rank the city the third-largest tech hub in North America.
“I’m not surprised, because Toronto has always been a really great sort of hotpot for great talent — from biotech to software engineering, machine learning,” said Yu.
Tech analysts say Toronto has some key advantages that make it a magnet for tech talent. Canada’s immigration laws, for one, aid in the arrival of skilled and diverse tech talent to the city, offering global perspective.
“Over 50 per cent of the talent in Toronto is foreign-born and that is a huge advantage,” said Krista Jones, founding executive of Momentum and vice-president of Venture Success at MaRS Discovery District.
“The second part of it is the depth of work that our universities and research hubs do in terms of being able to produce the types of talent that is actually essential to the growth of the ecosystem.”
Yu agrees, knowing the benefits of those supports first hand.
“Without the supports that we received from the Toronto ecosystem as well as the government funds and the grants, literally all of this would still be rice cookers today,” Yu said, gesturing to the machines inside the Genecis facility.
It’s not just investment programs that make Toronto attractive, but the ‘tech-for-good’ values that the tech ecosystem in Toronto holds dear — values, Yu says, that made sense for her eco-minded employees.
“They can be joining Genecis and doing something that’s really transformative for the entire planet,” said Yu.
It’s that component — those core values that Toronto’s tech eco-system is focused on — that gives the city its cutting edge when it comes to attracting talent, Jones says.
“They’re not just building business,” said Jones. “They’re solving global problems and that’s actually what I think is our edge in the global tech wars that exist.”
Experts say that with the strong ecosystem of start-ups and large multi-national corporations moving into the region, there’s a chance this ‘quietly booming tech town’, as the New York Times’ article described Toronto, the fourth-largest North American city, could soon surpass Silicon Valley in some ways to become a global player.
“How we’re actually going to keep the talent going,” said Jones, “it’s actually by having the employment that the talent needs, because the more you can generate the companies and the destination places, the more you’ll be able to attract global talent into Canada.”
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