As a Toronto-based recruitment firm in business for 20 years, much of the work we’ve done has been across the GTA (Great Toronto Area), but a defining moment in Martyn Bassett's career came actually from Kitchener-Waterloo.
Martyn answered an email from the CEO’s EA, who needed to scale a sales team across the US. This company had already launched a product that was gaining popularity among an elite community of users: traders, brokers, and bankers on Wall Street. The CEO was getting ready for hyper-growth at scale and needed a search partner to "make it happen".
If you haven’t guessed already, that CEO was Jim Balsille, the company was Research in Motion, and the product was the Blackberry. Since then, Martyn Bassett Associates has grown in the scope and scale of search services it delivers, including where it provides those searches. Today, the firm has completed searches across Western Europe, the UK, almost every state in the US, and every major city of Canada.
But Kitchener-Waterloo has been a main recruitment community for us over the last 20 years and continues to be a location favourite. Why? Here are the two main reasons why we love recruiting for tech startups in Kitchener and why we never plan to stop telling their stories to the candidates they aspire to attract and hire.
The reputation of KW is one of innovation, due largely in part to its world-famous University, The University of Waterloo, which has created and fostered an ecosystem that is the closest thing Canada has to Silicon Valley.
There could be no better name for the University's incubator than Velocity. Velocity is the most productive incubator by private investment in Canada and boasts a one-year company survival rate of 92% for Velocity startups (2019).
- 474 Waterloo entrepreneurs have raised $12.9 billion since 2016
- $2.3 billion in revenue and 7,500 jobs generated by Waterloo entrepreneurship programs in the last decade (Deloitte Canada, 2019)
- 400+ companies have received support from Velocity since 2008
Velocity is also just one of many local tech incubators (The Accelerator Centre, Laurier Entrepreneur, and more) who are helping to drive this thriving tech startup ecosystem.
While the list of incubator alumni is long, and many are or have been our clients over recent years, there continues to be no end to ideas and innovation that gets funded and birthed by young founders with big dreams.
(2) Remote-first Culture
Before the adoption of remote-first culture, if a Kitchener company was hiring, the hire needed to come from within Kitchener. Not Toronto, not the US, the KW area only. If anyone from outside wanted the role, relocation was almost always required.
During that season of the industry, the community was very tight-knit and somewhat closed off. One of the first questions a client would ask us if they were evaluating our ability to deliver was, "do you know people in Kitchener?" This was fascinating given the fact that whether a recruiting firm knows everyone has no relationship to their ability to get search results!
The success of a recruiter is their ability to repeatedly identify, engage and qualify people they do not know, at scale, until the person who a client needs to hire is hired. This very fact and some of the other lessons we've learned watching companies make wrong hiring decisions are often related to small and tightly knit markets like Kitchener.
Then came Covid, which disrupted everything, including how KW tech companies hired. Suddenly Kitchener leaders were focused on surviving and thriving through a pandemic and leaning on remotely located world-class talent to get them there.
In fact, in a full-circle moment, startup hub Communitech launched a program called Outpost which helps Kitchener-Waterloo companies hire from anywhere, specifically when they do not have a business entity set up in the country they want to hire in.
From laggards to the forefront of digital-first remote hiring, Kitchener continues to reinvent and innovate not only products and services but also their local market. As 2022 rolls on, we cheer on our Kitchener-based friends, followers, and partners helping to build this innovative community.