Calgary, Alberta - Globally competitive, locally focused

Combining the resources & capital of a major city with the connectivity of a small town, Calgary is primed to make big waves in the global innovation ecosystem.

Calgary is a village.

Stick around long enough, and you’ll begin to understand this metaphor, a common saying many locals will confirm. If there’s truth to the “six degrees of separation” rule, in Calgary we can probably cut that number in half. Despite being home to more than 1.3 million people, it’s a city with a distinctly “small town” connectivity and “support local” attitude - a quality that gives our innovation ecosystem a key advantage.

Combining the resources and capital of a bigger city with a strong sense of community more often found in a small town, Calgary is a place where everyone can feel like they belong. It is a place where collaboration and connectivity reign supreme and ecosystem development is king.

Here, making a new friend is as easy as sitting down next to strangers. Join me for a beer in the Brewery Flats - a bustling, collaborative community of craft breweries just East of downtown - and you’ll be sure to leave with a new connection. People here are friendly, always ready to lend a hand and contribute to our collective success.

These attitudes translate to business as well, a fact evident in the wealth of support offered by a collection of ecosystem supporters. Platform Calgary, Startup Calgary, Calgary Economic Development, ATB Financial, Alberta Innovates and Creative Destruction Lab are just a few examples of groups actively supporting startups and enterprise innovation in the city.

Rainforest Alberta, a collective aimed at growing ecosystems in the province, creates space for open conversation, collaboration and connection. Members of the Rainforest live by values present in the social contact - a set of values outlined in a charter including concepts like “free help,” “diversity,” and “pay it forward.”

Outside of the tech space, we’re seeing the establishment and growth of innovation hubs in creative industries, hospitality and social enterprise. People here are scrappy - hustlers, with passion. Seemingly everyone has a side hustle (or two, or three), a perfect representation of the entrepreneurial spirit we’re known for. Calgary is a place for energy - and that isn’t just oil and gas.

Diversify, or be left behind

Perhaps the reason Calgary has such vibrant local communities is because, for decades, these communities lived in the shadow of the city’s legacy. Before the last few years, Calgary was known pretty much exclusively for two things: fossil fuels, and the Calgary Stampede. The city was full of other things, of course, but in smaller pockets. Communities in innovation, the arts and hospitality grew organically, supporting one another and building an ecosystem.

A major recession - followed by a major paradigm shift - brought diversification to the table with unexpected urgency. Feeling pressure to avoid further disruption and embrace a triple bottom line, companies, investors and government began investing heavily in the future of the province, leaning into other opportunities to flex our innovative thinking.

We’ve utilized our experience in the energy sector to become cleantech leaders. Lifestyle brands and hospitality are thriving. We’ve seen a resurgence in music, art and film. Our innovation ecosystem is well-supported by industry, ecosystem conduits, accelerators and post-secondaries. We’ve got leading researchers and entrepreneurs raising the bar higher than we’ve ever thought possible.

We’re set to establish an innovation hub in the heart of the East Village, accented by a world-class library and a National Music Centre. Tech companies are growing so quickly they can’t seem to hire fast enough.

After the recession, approximately one third of Calgary’s office space sat empty. Now some of that space has been transformed into an urban paradise - innovation campuses, shared spaces, artist collectives, even a dog hotel. Affordable rent has allowed change-makers to take up tangible space in the heart of the city.

The communities that have been bubbling just under the surface for years are finally able to rise up and shine.

An identity of our own

For a long time, Calgary represented a less popular, far younger sibling to the likes of Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. We’re not as globally connected, we don’t have access to ocean ports, and our poutine is nothing to write home about. But in recent years we’ve adopted an identity of our own. We’re an established tourist destination, the perfect combination of exciting activity and livability while remaining affordable.

This sense of competition, a need to work harder, is the factor that primed us to be a fierce contender in the global sphere. We've used our creativity and drive to create a place that attracts talent, investment and growth in all industries.

Our homegrown, organic communities thrive because people here care so much about this community we’ve built together. Our rallying cry - our group mission, our collective goal - is simple. We’re ready to put our city on the map and let the world know we’re open for business.

We live by a common mindset. When one of us succeeds, we all do.

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Our data shows that collaboration is at the core of the fastest growing startup ecosystems. We work with forward-looking organizations who understand that joining the global startup economy is key to to drive innovation and spur economic growth.