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Report On Business Canada 'even better than the United States' for some young entrepreneurs

Clockwise from above left: Rebeca Souza, Nick Back, Jonas Vermeulen, Sharoon Thomas and Rafael Miranda.

Young immigrants are coming to Canada in particular for its diversity, stable economy and an education system that turns out highly qualified tech professionals. Here are five of them and the businesses they are building

Jonas Vermeulen, from Bruges, Belgium; chief executive officer, CLEW Systems and Software: CLEW works with companies around the world to build bridges between legacy and custom-made software.

Not long after Mr. Vermeulen founded his company in 2012, he began to realize that its growth was being hampered by the difficulty in finding skilled employees in Europe. "Without good people, you can't grow," he said. "So I knew I had to come to North America."

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He had visited Toronto previously and liked the city. "Toronto is also the city you think of first when you think about technology," he added. "All the tech companies are here, and you also have the advantage of hiring through university co-op programs." The weakness of the Canadian dollar to the euro didn't hurt either, he said.

Mr. Vermeulen approached the Toronto Business Development Centre and its business incubation program and presented them with a business plan, which met with their approval. Mr. Vermeulen arrived in Toronto with his wife and son in early 2016.

Today his business is picking up new clients in the United States, Japan and Austria. Unlike Europe, said Mr. Vermeulen, his job listings yield between 70 and 80 applicants each, as opposed to two or three in Europe. As a result, he said, "Things are going really well for CLEW."

Rafael Miranda, from Sao Paulo, Brazil; co-founder of Ultrahaus Startup Studio: Ultrahaus helps entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of strategy, planning and management of their startups.

Since its 2003 launch, Mr. Miranda's company has set up digital marketing plans for some of Brazil's biggest brands before moving on to help other startups develop. The move to Canada has been a challenge but one he and his wife and business partner, Renata Menezes, have been happy to take on.

"My initial reason for coming to Canada was a personal one," said Mr. Miranda. After the birth of their daughter, he and Ms. Menezes were looking for a safer, healthier environment in which to raise a family. Canada, and Toronto specifically, was at the top of their wish list.

"I just fell in love with the country," he said, "with the city, and with the people here. My wife feels the same way."

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He likes Canada's business climate, too. "For me, Canada is even better than the United States," he said. "It's an open country with business links to both the United States and to Europe."

Mr. Miranda came to Canada via an intracompany transfer to set up a branch of his Brazilian company here in 2013. It now has a half-dozen local clients. "It is going slow, but it is going," he said.

Sharoon Thomas, from Kochi, India; co-founder and CEO of Fulfil.io: Fulfil.io helps small and medium-sized retailers compete with Amazon, Shopify and their ilk through improved inventory management, and by giving customers the same online convenience.

Mr. Thomas had just co-founded his company with three partners when anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the U.S. government persuaded them to leave California's Silicon Valley for Canada. The venture capital firm Extreme Venture Partners invited the four young entrepreneurs to check out Toronto, and they decided to re-establish their startup there.

That decision has proven fruitful. "We have just made some new hires and are still actively hiring," he said. "So in terms of people, and in terms of customers and revenue, we are doing just as we had expected."

Toronto is particularly beneficial for early-stage companies, he added. Costs are about half what they would be in the San Francisco Bay Area, he said, and the access to good talent makes hiring easier. "There are several good universities around Toronto with co-op programs," he said. "So when you're ready to hire, you're getting talent that already has experience. You're not starting from scratch."

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The federal government's startup visa program was also key. "It gives you a work permit immediately," he said.

Rebeca Souza, from Natal, Brazil; CEO of SmartFarm: SmartFarm, a branch of another small Brazilian company, Agromarra, develops tech for livestock farmers through its monitoring app and smart-tag technology.

Ms. Souza is still launching her startup, but she feels confident about its potential for growth in a country where agriculture is as economically important as it is in Brazil. She said three investors are interested in her company, and it was accepted into the HELIX accelerator program at Seneca College last summer.

"Right now we are adjusting our product," said Ms. Souza, who came to Canada in 2016 with a business visitor visa. "We have to translate the whole app into English, including the farming terms that are used here. And provincial regulations vary, so we have to figure that out as well."

The advantages of Canada include its economic stability, she explained, as well as the presence of "pretty much every culture in the world. The economic relationships Canada has with the big markets like those of India, China and Latin America are great for business, especially a global business."

Ms. Souza is also impressed by the calibre of tech talent in Toronto. "It's amazing how qualified the people here are. It's easy to find someone who has worked in cutting-edge technology already, people who are essential for a company like mine to be on top of the game."

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Nick Back, from Oxfordshire, England; chief operating officer, Physicool Canada: Physicool is a branch of a British company that markets products based on a patented, medically formulated coolant.

Mr. Back was among the first entrepreneurs to arrive in Canada through the startup visa program; he was sponsored by the Toronto Business Development Centre. Together with his business partner, Joe Chiodo, he has been setting up a North American arm of Physicool since 2015. So far, he is selling one product, a long-lasting, cooling mist that alleviates the symptoms of menopause.

"There was no product on the market in this category, so there was that opportunity to move forward with this, and with related Physicool products, like the cooling bandages," he said. "We have been building up the online business and attracting buyers through social media."

He will seek Health Canada approval to start selling the bandages, which are already available internationally.

For Mr. Back, who previously worked in IT, the main reason he came to Canada is lifestyle-related. "We are outdoors people," he said of himself, his wife and two young children. "We ski, sail and mountain bike. And we actually much prefer the climate here – we like snow and hate rain."

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