Silicon Prairie

MobSquad had a 
unique plan to support tech companies in San Francisco’s famed Silicon Valley – and then chose Calgary as the location for its 
head office.

MobSquad, which has 14 people working in its head office, offers a virtual Canadian office to U.S.-based clients by pairing its staff of engineers with tech firms on an exclusive, long-term basis. The now Calgary-based company expects to have 150 full-time engineers within 18 to 24 months as demand for its services grow – a need evidenced by increased job numbers south of the border.

“A year ago, there were 19,000 software engineering jobs in the Bay Area alone. Last week, that number was 28,000,” says Irfhan Rawji, founder and CEO of MobSquad. “This is a big problem that is getting worse. If you don’t have talent in your startup or a scaleup, you’re really in trouble.”

What made Calgary attractive to MobSquad was the support of local investors and government funding, says Rawji. “These are the right conditions for success,” he adds.

The government funding refers to the $100-million Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund. The fund was established in the spring of 2018 by the city with the goal of funding private companies, non-profits and public institutions that will be catalysts for economic growth, diversification, increased employment, and expansion of the property tax assessment base.

“It’s a long-term play,” says Steve Allan, executive chair of Calgary Economic Development (CED). “We want to be the city of choice in Canada for the world’s best entrepreneurs.”

Over 150 applications had been submitted for funding in late-2018 and MobSquad was the first company to qualify for a grant through the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund. The firm was awarded $1.5 million and opened its head office in October 2018.

Robyn Bews, vice-president of business development for CED, says its global recruitment efforts to attract technology companies is ongoing. The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund allows the city to aggressively compete for companies that could significantly impact the city’s innovation ecosystems.

“Calgary connects with fast growing tech companies in our target markets looking to scale up but who are finding it difficult to compete for talent and find space,” says Bews.

Calgary’s selling features are its position as one of North America’s most livable cities, its relatively low cost of doing business and cost of living, its status as a head office leader and its proximity to well-established technology centres like San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.

“Almost one-third of our active company-attraction files are in the technology space and we look forward to showing the country that Calgary is an emerging Canadian tech centre,” Bews says.