The Kitchener-Waterloo region is frequently cited as one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech clusters. Thanks to the high concentration of post-secondary institutions and the range of organizations dedicated to supporting start-up ventures, the job market is rapidly expanding and tech talent is flowing into the region at an impressive rate.  One of our newest employees, Noah Lipsyc, is the perfect example of this: at the beginning of September, he relocated from downtown Toronto to Kitchener to be a part of the Terrene team. I sat down with him to get his perspective on the experience and on KW’s status as a technology hotspot.
Kate: Can you fill in some background about where you were living and working previous to your move to KW?
Noah: Sure! I was living in downtown Toronto and working uptown at a big corporate office, doing web development. I commuted every day on the subway; it was only like a 35 or 40 minute commute, which was actually pretty decent for that city.
K: Under what circumstances did you discover the job at Terrene? What drew you to it?
N: I had recently started that job in Toronto and realized that a position with a large company was probably not going to be a great fit for me. I remember looking for postings on AngelList, thinking, “There’s got to be something exciting and daydream-worthy here.” I sent off a message to Terrene, and we chatted for a while about a position as a remote worker, but that died out. Then, nine months later, they called me back and said, “Hey! What’s going on now?” And the lease on my apartment was up, so I thought, “Why not?” They came to Toronto and grabbed dinner, and then I accepted an offer from them, never having been to Kitchener-Waterloo in my life. The first time I went here was to apartment-hunt after I had accepted the offer.
K: Wow, big gamble!
N: Well, I figured that, worst case, it’s only an hour and a half away from Toronto, and I’m resourceful, so I’ll find something to do here. I’d heard a few people speak pretty highly of it.
K: What sorts of things did they bring up?
N: I had a bunch of University of Waterloo co-ops at the place I was working before, and they spoke positively about it. I remember them saying that there was some interesting stuff at the university--that KW didn’t have some of the amenities of Toronto, but it was an interesting place. There were a lot of tech people and that energy and excitement of people creating things.
K: On that note, what research did you do when you were weighing the decision of whether or not to move to KW? What were the major factors influencing your choice?
N: Cost of living was a big one. I realized that the lifestyle I’d be able to afford here would be pretty different than Toronto. There was a lot more living space, and some opportunities to get out of the city, to be outdoors, which is important to me. And it was reasonably close to Toronto, where all my family is, so it wouldn’t be that hard to get back there. It basically came down to: “Is the company I’ll be working for interesting?” Which it definitely was; it was exciting. I missed working with start-ups. I had done it before, but it had been a little while, and that’s kind of the environment I want to go into. Especially with Velocity, which is in this really cool space. So I said, “Sure, why not?”
K: What is it about start-ups that’s so appealing for you?
N: I guess I like the openness and the flexibility that comes with being such a small, tight-knit group. There’s not a lot of overhead, there’s not a lot of bureaucracy... if you see something you want to do that would make things better, you go and do it. They tend to move quickly and make interesting things and actually care about the things that they’re making. That’s something that’s really important to me.
K: Now that you’re here, what do you think of the region? Can you name any specific business or organization you’ve discovered since coming here that you’ve found particularly cool?
N: Yeah! I was really surprised to find, in my first couple weeks here, a pupusa restaurant. Pupusas are like… Central American… pizza pocket tacos? I was in Guatemala earlier this year, and I had them there. They were the best street food, and I just stumbled upon them--I was not expecting to find pupusas in Kitchener. So, there’s a pupuseria somewhere. They were delicious.
K: That sounds great! Now, some people say that KW is becoming Canada’s Silicon Valley. Do you agree?
N: It’s funny--people kept saying that to me, too. It definitely seems like a tech hub. The number of tech people I’ve just randomly run into… for instance, I ran into someone who lives upstairs from me. We started chatting, and it was like, yep, he also moved here for tech. And every time I run into someone at the climbing gym, it turns out they moved here for tech.
K: Having moved from Toronto, what would you say to a friend who was also considering moving to KW for a tech job?
N: Well, I could tell them that, at least personally, I’ve found a bunch of positives about moving. The cost of living, the amount of open space, and the proximity to nature are all really nice.
Moving from Toronto to KW has been a big change. But the concentration of exciting opportunities and interesting people here has exposed me to some great things I wouldn’t have got the chance to otherwise. I’m looking forward to continuing to explore and grow in Waterloo Region.