From Trump’s U.S. to ‘welcoming city’
Immigrant who moved his startup to town feels ‘at home’
Sharoon Thomas moved his cloud software operation from India to Silicon Valley in October 2015 after it was hand-picked by a high-profile venture capital fund.
He arrived to California on a business visa that restricted him to developing his business idea and didn’t allow paid work. The visa also didn’t give him a chance to become a permanent resident in the U.S.
Last summer, with the escalating anti-immigration and nationalist rhetoric from then presidential front-runner Donald Trump, Thomas approached Toronto-based Extreme Venture Partners, a technology venture capital firm.
In early June, Thomas, 29, settled in Toronto and his Fulfil is already recruiting two sales executives to promote its software, which help distributors and retailers manage their inventories along with other ecommerce products.
“Toronto is the world’s most welcoming city. It is so diverse that I feel right at home,” said the native of Cochin, who has travelled and worked in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Spain, the United States and United Kingdom.
“Even before Trump was elected, the U.S. (immigration) did not have provisions for startup entrepreneurs. After Trump, I felt I made a wise decision to apply to Canada. Entrepreneurs already have to deal with a lot of uncertainty. The last thing we need is have our immigrant status questioned.”
The relocation is an example of a growing interest among entrepreneurs in choosing Canada over the U.S., thanks to political uncertainty south of the border under President Trump’s administration, which has made a travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries, currently being challenged in court, and a wall along the Mexican border priorities. Thomas said a wealth of IT talent and lower startup costs give Toronto an edge, and that stability is an important consideration for entrepreneurs in selecting a location.
According to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, as of March 15, more than 100 foreign entrepreneurs have been approved for permanent residence in Canada under the Startup Visa Program since its inception in 2013.
Ritu Panda, left, and Sharoon Thomas are co-founders of Fulfil, a cloud software company recently relocated to Toronto from Silicon Valley.