Motorola is “ready to go on a hiring spree” in Waterloo, the home of BlackBerry HQ, according to a new report from the Financial Post. The Google-owned maker of smartphones already has an existing, small office in the heart of one of Canada’s most important tech hubs, but plans to build a proper, full-fledged engineering team in the area.
BlackBerry is going to be shedding a lot of talent, very quickly, as it plans to lay off around 4,500 people in the near future. Motorola wouldn’t tell the FP that those layoffs specifically had anything to do with its decision to expand in Waterloo, but did comment that “it’s not always easy to find places that have significant tech talent in a variety of areas, but especially mobile.” Given BlackBerry’s focus, it’s very likely he’s referring to the abundance of engineers located in the region with smartphone experience.
Waterloo is already an area with high demand for engineering talent. The startup ecosystem in the region is vibrant, and those young companies all need engineers to build their products. VC investment is rolling in for companies in the area, which means more competition than ever for graduates of the University of Waterloo, one of the most highly respected engineering schools in the world. Other sizeable tech companies have also expressed newfound interest in the area, with Square announcing just last week it would open offices in BlackBerry’s backyard.
Google has other interests in the area, too. Its office in Waterloo has contributed considerably to the development of Chrome and Chrome OS, and there’s a specific focus on mobile for its team there, including the mobile counterparts of Gmail and Google Docs. Considering the Google Waterloo team’s focus on mobile software, it makes sense that Google would want its Motorola mobile hardware unit nearby.
BlackBerry and its ongoing demise (yes, I’m totally comfortable calling it that at this point) is not going to be a great thing for the Waterloo region by any means, and a lot of people are going to suffer as a result of the company’s collapse. But this move by Motorola shows that the core of what makes it such a successful tech hub remains intact, and will call other big players to fill the void the smartphone pioneer is leaving behind.