November 27, 2023

From Europe to Canada: Why are tech companies expanding to Alberta?

Tech startups looking to build powerhouse teams and boost their presence in North America are eyeing Alberta, Canada

Sarah Drumm

4 min read

Sponsored by

Invest Alberta

Last year Stephen Tabb, the global HR director at Irish equity management platform Global Shares, found himself tasked with hiring an office full of people in a city and country he’d never visited before.

Fortunately for him, talent in Calgary, Alberta, abounds. By the end of 2022, 19 people were working out of Global Shares’ brand new Calgary office. This year, that number has doubled — and by the end of 2024, head count is expected to hit 55.

Tabb says Global Shares typically sees up to three times the number of applicants per role in the Canadian province compared to other countries it has offices in. “We were spoiled for choice,” he says, adding that there is “a great alignment culturally between our North American teams, which were already established, and the people we found in Calgary.”


For Global Shares, Calgary ticked a lot of boxes: it has a skilled and educated talent base — with many workers looking to transition from Alberta’s legacy oil and gas sector — a competitive tax system and a growing tech ecosystem it could work alongside.

With the help of international investment-attraction agency Invest Alberta, Global Shares secured desks inside the Edison building, a downtown Calgary skyscraper that was recently renovated from a stuffy corporate hub into a modern coworking space. 

"If you ask an employee to list all they would want [in an office], this has it,” says Tabb. “It really took the pressure off us having to invest in and purchase space. Crucially, it’s also allowed us to grow over the last two years.” 

As of November 23, 2023, Calgary is home to more than 1,428 startups according to Start Alberta, making up an ecosystem worth CAD$35.3bn (€23.6bn). Global Shares is not the only international company to come and join them, with Indian tech giants Infosys and Mphasis, French software firm Sidetrade and US startups Eventcombo and Teknol all having opened up Calgary offices in recent years. 

Last month, Fintech District, a representative body for Italy’s fintech companies, began working with Invest Alberta to cross-promote the region to its network — creating more potential for European startups and scaleups to make moves into Canada.

A snowy Silicon Valley?

Alberta sees itself as an affordable, efficient home for startups around the world that are looking to get a foothold in North America. The city of Calgary now has 50k tech workers representing 6.9% of all employment. Edmonton, Alberta’s second city, is home to North America's fastest-growing tech scene, and both Calgary and Edmonton rank among the top 40 overall, according to one talent scoreboard. 

Also, in terms of partnerships, 75% of the top 20 global investment banks have branch offices in Alberta

“The fact we were an oil and gas destination means we already have that innovation ecosystem, and now it’s opening up in the tech sector," says Neeraj Gupta, serial entrepreneur and chief advisor for technology & innovation at Invest Alberta. “Startups want that ecosystem, and that is driving companies to come over here.”

According to Start Alberta, Alberta-based companies raised a record-breaking total of CAD$1.2bn (€800k) last year — almost double the amount they raised in 2021, another record-setting year for investment. As well as VC funding, there are more than 35 accelerator and incubator programmes running in Calgary.

Chiara Padua, Fintech District’s deputy head, also points to government-backed initiatives, such as the commitment to invest CAD$1.5bn in digital transformation for financial services companies by the end of 2024, as additional opportunities that startups from abroad can tap into. 

Alberta’s Workforce Strategies programme has also committed CAD$600m to help businesses hire and train new employees. “These are all interesting topics for EU fintech companies,” Padua says. “Also, in terms of partnerships, 75% of the top 20 global investment banks have branch offices in Alberta.”


Life on Mountain Time

People around the world come to Alberta for new opportunities, with 72% of the province’s population growth in 2022 driven by international migration.

For example, Gupta was born in India and a resident of Sweden for a number of years. He says Alberta is where he sees his future — his daughters go to a great school, housing is affordable compared to other major North American, and even some European, cities and it has been easy to make friends and maintain professional networks.  

It was a very positive experience from the people side of it

Working in Sweden, “I was just spending time in airports,” he says. “Since I’ve come to Calgary, I save 30-40% of my time because I can go to the US in three hours and come back the same day.”

Tabb has also made time to visit his colleagues in Calgary. “It’s different to European cities — you can see the oil economy, you can’t miss the big brand names on the buildings,” he says.“It’s an indicator that people are changing roles and considering the future.

“What was really important to us as a business was people and fit,” he adds. “It was a very positive experience from the people side of it. And where our office is located, you have some great amenities — restaurants and parks. The only thing that didn’t help was the jetlag.”