Tech Hub Showdown: Ottawa vs. Austin

Welcome to Part 1 of our Tech Hub Showdown series that compares Ottawa, Ontario, with American tech hotspots Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Denver, Colorado; Silicon Valley, California (Bay Area); and Washington, District of Columbia.

Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is an innovative, diverse, future-ready city and a great place to live, learn, and work. In this post, we’ve compared data on Ottawa and Austin’s economies and workforces to help you make an informed decision on where to invest and grow in tech.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Round 1: Quick facts

The City of Ottawa has a population of just over 1 million, but The National Capital Region has a population of 1.44 million which includes the neighbouring city of Gatineau, Quebec.1 Austin is the fourth-largest city in Texas with a population of 961,855 and a metro population of 2.35M (US Metropolitan Statistical Areas tend to take in a larger area than Stats Canada’s equivalent). 2 Geographically, Ottawa is about four times the size of Austin.

Both cities are highly educated with 45-46% of the population holding at least a Bachelor’s degree.

Ottawa has eight post-secondary institutions including Carleton University, Algonquin College, Collège La Cité, and University of Ottawa—the largest bilingual (English-French) university in the world. These institutions educate as many as 164,087 students each year.3

Austin has 26 post-secondary institutions. The city’s largest and only public university is the University of Texas at Austin.

Over the last few years, many tech companies have been moving to Austin for better affordability compared to other large American tech hubs like Silicon Valley. If you’re looking for a cost-effective option, the Canadian dollar makes Ottawa a great location for growing companies.

Ottawa’s Shopify is a multinational e-commerce company that boasts more than 1.75 million retail merchants generating $2.1 billion in revenue in 2021. The city has also attracted international companies—such as Apple, Amazon, and Ford—to grow and expand in Canada’s capital.

Ottawa and Austin are both home to major offices for tech giants such as IBM. IBM’s centre of excellence in analytics, IBM’s Watson Analytics, was developed here in Ottawa and is using artificial intelligence to revolutionize healthcare, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things. Austin’s IBM has many future-forward projects too, such as collaborating with NASA to boost space research.

Round 2: Tech talent density

Today, Ottawa has the highest concentration of tech talent in North America with 11.6% of the population working in tech-related fields. Austin’s tech market is smaller, making up 7.5% of their total employment.4

In addition to world-leading post-secondary institutions, Ottawa has a high concentration of R&D centres that make the city an ideal location for tech talent attraction and retention.

Round 3: Tech talent growth

Between 2015 and 2020, the number of tech pros in Ottawa grew by 22.5%. Within the same five-year period, Austin’s tech talent grew by 10%.4

Ottawa has 74,000 workers in its tech talent pool in key professions including software, communications technology, digital media, clean technologies, and others across all industries.

Round 4: Average tech salary

The average tech salary in Ottawa is US $68,000. Austin’s average cost of talent acquisition is much higher by comparison with the average tech salary at US $97,000.5

Ottawa is one of the most affordable major cities in North America, which means professionals can afford a high quality of life for a fraction of the cost compared to other large cities. In fact, Expert Market ranked Ottawa as Canada’s Best Tech Hub To Live and Work In.

Round 5: Labour market

When it comes to the labour market, Ottawa’s is as strong as ever with 5,466 more tech jobs added between 2016 and 2020 than there were graduates in the city. Ottawa is keeping talent and attracting new talent to the area, which is a sign of healthy tech growth. Not only do many students who study in Ottawa for tech-related programs stay here to start their careers, but the city also attracts outside talent who are flocking to the city to jumpstart their careers in tech.

By comparison, Austin’s labour market had 5,716 more tech jobs than there were tech graduates, which can make hiring top talent more challenging and expensive for growing companies.6

Ding, ding, ding…

While Austin puts up a good fight, Ottawa takes the belt when it comes to affordability and talent.

Want more comparisons? Stay tuned for our next Tech Hub Showdown: Ottawa, ON vs. Boston, MA.

For more information on how you can make Ottawa your next business destination, contact our Global Expansion Team today.



1 Statistics Canada. (2021). Population estimates, July 1, by census metropolitan area and census agglomeration, 2016 boundaries [Data table].

2 Data Commons. (2020). Austin.

3 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 4.

4 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 3.

5 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 19.

6 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 6.

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