Kevin O’Leary joined Canada’s Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, today to make a big announcement for the country’s startup and venture investing community. Canada’s startup visa, if implemented, will create highly skilled jobs and bring much-needed capital into Canada’s startup sector.
As envisioned, Canada’s startup visa would enable Canadian investors like O’Leary to recruit highly skilled startup entrepreneurs from around the world to build fast growing, successful startup companies in Canada.
“Building fast-growing, globally competitive companies is tough,” said O’Leary. “You really do need every advantage you can get. The startup visa will give entrepreneurs and venture investors like me access to a global pool of talent.”
Today’s announcement kicks off a consultation process: over the next few months, the Canadian government’s citizenship and immigration ministry (CIC) will get input and feedback from angel and venture investors, startup CEOs, and the heads of startup “incubators”.
“Canada cannot afford to lose out in the competition for foreign entrepreneurs among immigrant-receiving countries, said Minister Kenney. “We need to proactively target a new type of immigrant entrepreneur who has the potential to build innovative companies that can compete on a global scale.”
O’Leary’s background as a repeat entrepreneur and venture backer fed his interest in establishing a startup visa.
Widely known as a low-risk, value yield investor, O’Leary keeps a strict limit on his own financial exposure to what he sees as riskier bets. His biggest company, O’Leary Funds, stays away from risky startups and instead tends to focus on value, yield and capital preservation. Still, he maintains an active presence in the entrepreneurial world as the chairman of O’Leary Ventures, his own privately owned venture company.
“We do deals on both sides of the border,” explained Alex Kenjeev, president of O’Leary Ventures. “It doesn’t take long before you see how the wrong immigration policy can prevent these highly skilled, entrepreneurial job creators from fueling our innovation economy.”
Canada is not the only country looking at a startup visa. In the United States, startup visa legislation has been floated twice in the last two years – but has not yet become law.
“We’d like to see startup visas available on both sides of the border,” said Kenjeev, “but whichever country moves first will send a strong signal, and gain an advantage as destination for capital. As an investor, you want this idea to be a global movement.”
The United Kingdom introduced a startup visa program a year ago. Chile has gone even further, granting government cash to help fund those entrepreneurs who qualify for their country’s startup visa program.