Gaining access to the US market via Canada


Building a Solid Foundation in Canada for your Start-Up


This is the first article of a 3-part blog series aimed to guide international entrepreneurs who are thinking about going global. In this series I’ll be going over:

  • Gaining access to the US market via Canada
  • Access to North American investors
  • North American distribution channels and strategic partnerships

As many know, immigration into the USA is getting harder and harder for international entrepreneurs. The US’s Startup Visa Program — started with much fanfare under President Barack Obama and poised for dissolution under President Donald Trump — only received ten applications with zero visas being awarded.

Acquiring a work visa, let alone a Green Card, in the US is becoming increasingly difficult. Even IF the current US government were to do an about-face and reverse all of the recent decisions they have made, it will still take time for things to get back on track with welcoming the immigration of international entrepreneurs and their businesses into the US.

Luckily for entrepreneurs outside the US looking to access business opportunities in the North America, there is another option – Canada. Industry leaders from San Francisco believe Vancouver, Canada is an ideal location for international entrepreneurs that want to target the North American market.

“Vancouver’s proximity to the USA makes it an ideal location for international entrepreneurs to position themselves to target the North American market.” —  Sridhar Vembu,CEO of Zoho CRM

Canada’s Startup Visa program offers work visas within 3–6 weeks and Permanent Residency (PR) for up to 5 founders, spouses and children in 12 months, with over 200 successful applicants to date. Canada’s program also allows the entrepreneur that’s gained PR to stay in Canada if their business eventually fails, unlike the US where the success of the business is tied to the visa status.

Though there are different ways to be eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, some of the main requirements are:

  • Having a qualifying business (holding majority voting rights, etc.)
  • Meeting the language requirements
  • Bringing over enough money to settle
  • Getting a letter of support from a designated organization in Canada

One of the biggest hurdles in the process is getting that letter of support. A lot of companies get stuck figuring out which designated organization they should align themselves with during the relocation process. These kinds of organizations range from VC funds, angel investors and varying incubators. While our company is one of the only incubators to not take equity in our program members, there are a huge list of organizations with varying requirements and benefits. A lot can go into deciding which organization to choose as if could affect the trajectory of your ‘relaunch’ in North America, so take some time to see which organization best aligns with your values (versus choosing which organization will take you on first).

One of the best value props of the Startup Visa program is how fast it can expedite Permanent Residency applications for not only the founders (up to 5) but also their spouses, and their children. A distinct advantage of the Startup Visa Program is that spouses and of-age children are permitted to work in Canada. 

“The growth of talent in Vancouver is enough reason for international entrepreneurs to make Vancouver their global HQ.” — Menaka Shroff, Head of Marketing Devices and Mobility, Google Cloud

Permanent Residents of Canada benefit from easier access to the US market for business and travel. For example, companies located on the West Coast, like our Vancouver HQ, are only a two-hour drive to Seattle and a two-hour flight to San Francisco. Relationships with your designated organizations giving you that letter of support can also link you up with prominent players in the North American Market. For example, we connect our members with regular CxO Dinners and our annual event.

“At this time, if it continues to be difficult to get into the US Market, with all of the benefits of the Canadian immigration policies being dramatically different, Vancouver is a natural and logical place to come to.” — Sameer Dholakia, CEO of SendGrid

Canadian versus USA Start-up Visa Issues

Are you ready to think about relocating to North America?

  • Are you an English speaking entrepreneur building a tech Start-up in one of the following categories: Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Blockchain, Financial Services, Data Science, Quantum Computing, Health Tech, or Cyber-security?
  • Does your company have the traction and numbers to prove that it can be sustainable, or do you have a track record of being a key member of successful start-ups in the past?
  • Does the designated organization you’re wanting to work with have a strong ecosystem of support to ease the move while your company relocates?
  • Will you have help once you’re on-the-ground and setting up your operations?

If you’ve answered yes to everything above, what are you waiting for? Take your business global and gain the inside edge on getting permanent residency in Canada.

About Launch Academy’s Maple Program

At Launch Academy in Vancouver, we work with tech companies who are established in their home country and looking to expand into the North American Market. We’ve been a designated organization since 2017 and have been helping companies land in Canada and launch their existing product or service since 2012. We don’t take equity in companies participating in our Maple program, but charge a program fee in exchange for our programming, access to extended resources and ample networking opportunities with Founders and VCs through our exclusive events and webinars.

If you’d like to find out more about Launch Academy’s Maple Program, find out more at