Istuary Innovation Group opens Waterloo office to connect with tech talent pipeline
By: Bob Vrbanac
Canada’s chief export should be innovation and supporting the talent to make it possible.
That’s what Francois Guay, director of talent and culture at the Istuary Innovation Group, said as he surveys the Canadian tech landscape after recent expansion in Waterloo and Ottawa.
The Vancouver-based company opened an office in Waterloo in October to attract the type of talent that will help it scale and innovate emerging businesses it partners with.
Istuary partners with innovators, entrepreneurs, technical talent and experts to build technology companies for fast-growing markets, such as China, and to capitalize on quickly expanding opportunities and demand.
They do that by partnering with companies, investing in new technology and incubating new ideas.
Guay was previously Nortel’s vice president of global recruiting, where he gained experience in the competitive world of finding and developing tech talent. Seven months ago he joined Istuary.
He said the key to startup success is thinking about how to go global from day one, and the goal of Istuary through its Innovation and Idea Labs is to help that happen.
“It’s about high technology growth, a lot of innovation and working with some really smart people,” said Guay, about moving from the former tech giant in Ottawa to a more nimble company. “It’s about working for a company that goes global from day one, and has this huge opportunity for growth.”
There is a job creation boom in the technology sector intensifying the search for talent in Canada. A recent national tech jobs survey revealed that Waterloo Region recorded a 74.4 per cent increase in job growth in the tech sector, outpacing bigger tech hubs like Toronto and Vancouver.
Istuary estimates that by 2019, there will be 182,000 jobs to fill for IT professional that will lead to a talent squeeze in regional markets.
That’s why Waterloo fits into the company’s search for talent because companies like Google and other big players are already coming here to find it.
“Waterloo has so much going for it,” said Guay. “The University of Waterloo is one of the best universities in the world, and Wilfrid Laurier is offering the business and some tech business (education) to go with it.
“There’s lot of entrepreneurs and Istuary is an entrepreneurial company, so we’re always looking for people with that mind set.”
He said there have been some great companies in the local market and there is the potential for more homegrown successes to come out of the area.
It’s just a matter of matching them up with the markets for their products or identifying needs that need to be filled, especially in growing tech markets in Asia.
China itself is undergoing a technological shift with lots of services and processes open to the right kind of technical support and development.
Guay said Canada has that expertise and the track record to develop it. The opportunity allows for it to punch about its weight in the global economy and become a major exporter of those innovations.
“We’re looking to partner with startups trying new things,” said Guay. “We’re scaling in things like big data, machine learning, data storage, smart industry and the Internet of Things.
“So obviously when we look at a place like Waterloo a lot of those skill sets are already there, and for us we’re growing exponentially across Canada.”
Guay said in his time with the company, founded by Ethan Sun who lead software development teams for Cisco, Nortel and China Telecom, they’ve grown from 130 employees to 330 and are hoping to grow to 600 by the end of next year.
The Waterloo office is a big part of the company’s growth plan as it expects to grow its local office by 50 to 100 people by the end of 2017.
“In December 2017 our goal is to be somewhere between 50 to 100 people in Waterloo — closer to 100 if it’s possible,” said Guay. “If we find the right talent in the areas we’ve talked about we’re going to grow.”
Finding the talent is the key and Guay said that companies need to collaborate more with academic institutions and engage in global learning partnerships in order to fully develop Waterloo’s potential as a tech talent pipeline.
“We need to constantly upgrade our innovation,” said Guay. “Canada’s product is innovation, and it should be our main product moving forward.”
We can’t compete with emerging players like China and India in the size of their markets. Innovation closes that gap, said Guay.
“The ability to collaborate is key,” he said, citing local examples such as Communitech and the Accelerator Centre.
“(The Canadian government) has to ingrain that in the students, ingrain that in the corporate cultures and we have to become an innovation powerhouse,” said Guay.
But to continuously do that you have to upgrade your talent base and infrastructure and your collaboration mechanisms to do that.”