Communitech welcomed founders from Santa Catarina, Brazil, opening not just its doors in Kitchener-Waterloo but also a pathway to potential opportunities across Canada’s tech ecosystem.

“This is actually my first time in Canada,” said Fernanda Parisi, lead user experience designer at Wolven. The company provides end-to-end tech services for development-related processes, and Kitchener-based ApplyBoard is one of its clients. Parisi visited the hub on June 21 as part of a delegation from ACATE (Technology Association of Santa Catarina State).

“We have been a member of ACATE for 15 years,” said Parisi. “We get to understand more of the ecosystem around here to see if we can increase our presence in the Canadian market. In Brazil, we have a very similar time zone and also very similar cultures.”

Led by Henrique Bilbao, Vice President of Internationalization, the ACATE delegation visited the Toronto area and Waterloo Region on a trade mission to showcase the potential of using the corridor as a platform for Brazilian tech companies to market their solutions globally. ACATE brings together over 1,800 tech companies from Santa Catarina, Brazil and has been recognized as one of the top five incubators in the world for promoting the development of the tech sector. 

At Communitech, Bilbao announced the launch of ACATE’s first Canadian outpost and highlighted the shared aspirations of both regions to drive technological advancement and economic growth.

“Communitech is one of our inspirations,” said Bilbao. “They have an amazing hub where everyone can help you or give you advice. We are trying to do the same to connect our members.”

During the visit, ACATE also partnered with the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) to launch its Kitchener-Waterloo chapter.

“Why Waterloo Region for the new chapter? There is no other choice,” said Peter Hawkins, co-chair of the BCCC. “When we talk to our members about what’s going on in Canada, Kitchener-Waterloo comes up 100 per cent of the time.”

Representatives from Communitech, Catalyst, the Accelerator Centre, Waterloo EDC and Conestoga College, as well as local politicians, joined the tour and celebration to highlight Kitchener-Waterloo’s growing ecosystem and its global appeal.

“The secret to our success over the last 27 years is that we put a lot of emphasis on building an ecosystem in the region,” said Peter Lenardon, Director of Account Management at Communitech.

Based in Downtown Kitchener, the Communitech Hub is also home to the City of Kitchener’s Innovation Lab, which “brings new thinking to civic challenge” by supporting the municipality in its efforts to look at how technology can improve the lives of its residents.

“We have a team here dedicated to digital transformation of the city’s government,” said Kitchener City Councillor Scott Davey. “When the city identifies challenges where new technology might be a solution, that problem comes here.”

Sriram Raman with the City of Kitchener’s Economic Development also highlighted the municipality’s commitment to supporting tech growth and recent milestones in the city’s innovation journey, such as the launch of the Innovation Arena

“Kitchener-Waterloo is a thriving business and technology hub, not only locally but on a global scale,” said Catherine Fife, Waterloo MPP. “This is only made possible because of local talent and strong leadership.”

The area is not only one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, but is known for its talent pipeline fuelled by post-secondary institutions including the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College.

Rose Mastnak, Director of the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective, highlighted the post-secondary institution’s Venture Lab, which helps early-stage startups in any industry validate and develop their business ideas. Conestoga also runs a program called the Gig Lab, which empowers students and alumni to monetize their skills by launching a freelance business, as well as the Sales Lab program, which was created to address industry demand for tech sales positions.

“Running those two labs in addition to Venture Lab is part of the secret sauce in this community as well,” said Mastnak. 

ACATE’s decision to establish a presence in Canada reinforces Kitchener-Waterloo’s appeal as a strategic entry point into Canadian and North American markets. Alexandre Piana from the Consulate General of Brazil in Toronto described ACATE’s outpost as a “window” to showcase Brazil’s sophisticated tech sector to Canadian markets.

Christina Hori, Trade Commissioner from the Consulate of Canada, pointed out bilateral trade opportunities between Canada and Brazil, noting that Brazil is Canada’s most important trade partner in South America with a trade volume reaching an estimated $9 billion.

“I think Canada can bring us more access to more advanced technologies than we have in Brazil,” said Parisi. “And I think Brazil can bring to Canada more agility.”

“If you want to do business in Brazil, we can help,” said Bilbao.