Google Partner SADA Systems Looks To Seize ‘Strategic Opportunity’ In Canada With New Toronto Office

Toronto Mayor John Tory led a delegation to SADA's Los Angeles headquarters to welcome the new member of the Canadian tech hub's growing corporate community.

Los Angeles-based Google partner SADA Systems is looking north of the border for its next big growth opportunity.

With more than 200 Canadian customers, including the City of Toronto, last month SADA opened its first office outside the U.S. in the rapidly growing tech hub of Toronto.

To express thanks for that investment, Toronto Mayor John Tory visited SADA's headquarters in Southern California Friday and personally welcomed the new member of his city's corporate community.

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"I guarantee you we will do what we can to make sure your investment in Toronto is successful," Tory told SADA CEO Tony Safoian in a fireside chat before SADA employees, a Canadian delegation that also included Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, and representatives of the Google Cloud partner team.

SADA's founding represents a "great story of entrepreneurship," Tory said, noting the involvement of Safoian’s family, which immigrated to the U.S. from Armenia, in the company.

"Canada and Toronto is full of those stories," Tory said.

SADA sees Canada as a major strategic opportunity and plans to scale its Toronto office to 50 employees by next year. The country is a place with "an enormous lot of talent, a lot of startups," Safoian said.

"I anticipate it being our biggest office outside of headquarters in a short amount of time," Safoian told Tory.

The largest city in Canada has become a global innovation center—Toronto created more tech jobs last year than Silicon Valley and New York put together, Tory said.

It's also the most diverse city in the world, he added, with 51 percent of its population born outside Canada.

Toronto's economy is very different from what it was even five years ago, the mayor said.

It used to be that startups would move out of the city in their growth phase, and global companies were hesitant to move in.

That's all changed—capital is pouring into the country, and companies are looking to take advantage of a talent pool developed by a strong public education system, while their employees appreciate the high quality of life the city offers.

Attracting corporate citizens like SADA benefits not only Toronto's economy, Tory said, but also provides a valuable resource as a technology supplier for his government, and others.

"Governments are often afraid to invest in technology because they're afraid they'll be criticized for it," Tory said. But the reality is those investments typically have huge payoffs in cost efficiencies and effective delivery of services, he said.

SADA has been an innovator in supplying solutions that ease municipal headaches. A construction scheduling app SADA developed, based on Google Maps, has already proven "so useful" to several big cities, including Seattle, Tory noted.

Safoian said SADA's investment strategy basically maps to Google's. And the industry's third-largest cloud provider is dedicated to building its presence in Canada.

In preparation for the mayor's visit, Safoian spoke with Google's country manager, who told him Google was talking to 15 of the largest enterprises in Canada, including some based in Toronto, that wanted to adopt Google Cloud Platform. The only thing holding them back was the availability of talent to implement it, Safoian said.

Toronto is certainly no stranger to Google. The city has partnered with Google sister company Sidewalk Labs on a massive "smart city" project set to transform the Toronto waterfront.

Tory also mentioned that Toronto made the short list for the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes, despite offering no financial incentives. It's the talent of Toronto's workforce, which comes from almost every part of the world, that makes the city so attractive to tech companies, he said. The Canadian state-run health system also saves big companies millions in benefits.

A large part of Toronto's tech boom is due to the advent of artificial intelligence.

"As AI came into the fore, that helped us too," Tory said.

Toronto is home to Geoffrey Hinton, a prominent neural networks researcher who is on the staff of Google Brain.

Hinton for years "labored in the vineyards of artificial intelligence," Tory said, and many people "at best thought he was some kind of eccentric."

Now the research that stems from his lab at the University of Toronto, and from other colleagues based in the city, is recognized as foundational to the rise of smart machines.

Safoian said the success of SADA's Canadian venture will not depend on Google's ability to innovate, but simply “our ability to sell and deliver it successfully.”

SADA's ready to go full-throttle on that effort, Safoian said, and the mayor's visit to his Los Angeles headquarters reinforces Toronto's commitment to supporting his team.

"This is a level of love and attention that we are not accustomed to in general," Safoian told Tory. "These things matter, these interactions matter."