CDPQ and Its Partners Profile Quebec's New Entrepreneurs

CDPQ put out a statement on how women and immigrants are twice as present as other groups among new entrepreneurs (translated from French):

After two years of the pandemic, the overall rates of entrepreneurial intentions and steps are visibly down.

Réseau Mentorat unveils today the 2021 Quebec Entrepreneurial Index presented by the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation, an essential reference since 2009 in terms of measuring entrepreneurship in Quebec. Women and people of immigrant origin have rates nearly twice as high compared to men and native people among new entrepreneurs. These are results that consolidate the increasingly important place of these groups in Quebec entrepreneurship, as observed in the 2020 Index.

Decline in overall rates of intentions and procedures, stability in the rate of owners

In 2021, the overall rate of entrepreneurial intentions stands at 15.1%, down by more than 5 percentage points since 2019. The overall rate of initiatives stands at 7.2% (9.7% in 2019). The declines in the last year are mainly linked to that of the rates for men and young people, but despite this fluctuation, the 18 to 34 age group remains the age group with the greatest desire to be an entrepreneur.

After five years of reduction in the rate of homeowners (from 7.9% in 2015 to 5.6% in 2020), it has stabilized and is still at 5.6% in 2021. This stabilization is explained by the higher rate of people with an immigrant background (6.9% compared to 5.3% for natives). The closure rate (people having closed a business at least once in their lifetime) is 10.0% (11.9% in 2020), a slight drop which could be explained by the significant government support system during the crisis.

Near parity of male-female rates for intentions and procedures

After a steady reduction in the gap between the female and male rates since 2015, the 2021 Index shows a rate of intentions for women almost equal to that of men (respectively 14.9% and 15.2%). The rate of procedures for women is also almost equal (respectively 7.0% and 7.4%).

The rate of new owners (in business for less than a year) is significantly higher among women than men (respectively 13.3% and 7.2%). Of all the new owners, this represents a proportion of 64.8% for women. In comparison, when the 2017 Index dedicated to female entrepreneurship was published, this proportion of new female owners was 51.4%. More than ever, women play a leading role in the business world, and these rates reflect their dynamism.

People of immigrant origin: resilience and agility

This group is still twice as “dynamic”: the rates of intentions and procedures of people with an immigrant background still remain twice as high in 2021 as those of natives (intentions: 25.7% compared to 13.3 % for natives, procedures: respectively 12.2% and 6.4%).

In 2021, the homeownership rate is higher among people with an immigrant background (6.9%, compared to 5.3% among natives), and is particularly explained by the significantly higher rate of new homeowners in business for less than a year for this group (15.7% against 9.0% for natives). As a sign of resilience, let us also highlight the many pivots that owners with an immigrant background have been able to make in the past year in various respects. For example: the transformation of the company to offer a different range of products/services (55.3% against 36.1% for natives) and the adoption of a new commercial approach (56.1 % versus 37.5%).

Labor Shortage: #1 Obstacle for Business Owners

Unsurprisingly, business owners identify labor shortages as the #1 barrier to growing their businesses, followed by all barriers related to health and economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A positive data observed is the increase of more than 10 percentage points of owners who consider their business to be in good shape compared to 2020 (47.2% against 36.1%). However, the share of businesses in danger and at risk of imminent closure doubled, from 2.1% to 4.2%, and more among immigrant owners than natives. For all of these companies in difficulty, 1 in 4 cites the shortage of labor as the main cause.

If the pandemic and the labor shortage are generating impacts that are felt in the entrepreneurial chain, the aging of the population is also part of the background of these ongoing changes.

Other Highlights

Labor shortage: potential impact on our future entrepreneurs.

  • This lack even affects people in the process of starting a business since they are the third party to indicate that it is a difficult obstacle to overcome in the context of the creation or takeover of their business; a challenge in addition to many others at this entrepreneurial stage.

The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector is more popular.

  • The rate of people taking steps within this sector has moved from 10th position in 2019 to 4th in 2021, to stand at 8.8%. This is a notable progression to follow closely.
Neurodiversity among entrepreneurs.

The 2021 Index also made an incursion for the first time into the measurement of people declaring themselves neuroatypical and living, for example, with attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD), the syndrome of Sprinkle, etc. Nearly twice as many people report being neuroatypical among business owners (11.2%) than among people who are not in the entrepreneurial process (6.5%). Interesting data that expands our understanding of the needs and ways to better support these entrepreneurs.

In conclusion

Quebec will always need new entrepreneurs to develop its communities and help it face increasingly complex challenges. To be able to achieve our targets and ideals as a society, we must continue to encourage the diversification of our entrepreneurship.

To learn more about the 2021 Quebec Entrepreneurial Index and download the report:

The 2021 Quebec Entrepreneurial Index of the Mentoring Network is presented by the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation as well as by the following major partners: National Bank, CDPQ and the Quebec CPA Order. The Index is produced in partnership with the National Bank | HEC Montreal and Leger. 

Please take the time to read the full press release here with the following quotes:

“Quebec needs bold and determined entrepreneurs in all its regions to ensure the vitality of its economy. With the Quebec Entrepreneurial Index, our entrepreneurship ecosystem can adapt its offer and better respond to the realities of people who want to start a business. I also emphasize the growing place of women, young people and people of immigrant origin in this ecosystem, which is increasingly like our society!"

Lucie Lecours, Minister Delegate for the Economy

“ The labor shortage is causing problems for current entrepreneurs and making people who may have the intention of starting a business hesitate. We must find ways to preserve and develop the entrepreneurial capital of Quebec."

– Pierre Duhamel, General Manager, Mentoring Network

“ The 2021 Index highlights the significant presence of women and immigrants in entrepreneurship, which is good news for the diversity of our business succession. However, our entrepreneurs are facing obstacles exacerbated by the pandemic and we are seeing a drop in entrepreneurial intentions. National Bank is resolutely committed to working with its partners to support entrepreneurship and will continue to support entrepreneurs during this period of uncertainty."

– Isabelle Savard, Vice President, Sales Strategy and Effectiveness, National Bank

"Over the past few years, the results of the Index have shown us that the Quebec entrepreneurial community is constantly evolving. This is enriched by its diversity, because it contributes to its creativity. CDPQ takes the dynamism of entrepreneurship to heart by participating in the promotion of inspiring models for the new generation of entrepreneurs."

– Ani Castonguay, Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec

"CPAs and the business community are true allies. As leaders, we have the responsibility to share our vision, our optimism and our ability to reinvent ourselves, which must serve as fuel for entrepreneurial succession! Whether they come from the younger generation, immigrants or the less young, they are essential to building the Quebec of tomorrow."

– Geneviève Mottard, CPA, CA, President and Chief Executive Officer, Quebec CPA Order

"Like every year, the National Bank - HEC Montreal Institute of Entrepreneurship is proud to be a partner with the Mentoring Network for the Quebec Entrepreneurial Index. Knowing that women and immigrants are the most present among new entrepreneurs shows us that we are on the right path to becoming a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem. Nevertheless, the rate of business failures is double among immigrant entrepreneurs. We must therefore redouble our efforts to better support them and remove the barriers that prevent them from having access to all the support offered by the ecosystem."

– Luis Cisneros, Director of the Entrepreneurial Base and the National Bank Institute of Entrepreneurship – HEC Montréal

"Léger is pleased to collaborate with Réseau Mentorat again this year for the Quebec Entrepreneurial Index, which aims to be more inclusive than ever. Despite a slight drop in the rate of intentions and procedures, the gender gap is now minimal. Also, people with an immigrant background are those with the highest rates. With a stable homeownership rate and a slight drop in closures, the outlook for the future remains positive for Quebec entrepreneurship."

– Christian Bourque, Executive Vice-President and Partner, Léger

This is an interesting report because it tries to capture how entrepreneurship is evolving in Quebec and how long-term capital can help meet the evolving needs of this group.

On a positive note, women and immigrants are increasingly taking the lead in entrepreneurial ventures, creating opportunities for others and also enriching the diversity of our society.

On a negative note, the rate of business failures is double among immigrants and we need to better support them and remove the barriers that prevent them from having access to all the support offered by the ecosystem.

Still, the profile of Quebec's entrepreneurs is changing and long-term capital needs to adapt to this change to better support women and immigrants.

Why is this important? Because ultimately the wealth of a nation or province is measured by productivity gains over the long run and those gains only come via human capital and sweat equity.

Entrepreneurs are vital to the economy. Not just Quebec's economy but Canada's economy.

We need to support homegrown businesses because that's what will ensure the prosperity of our country over the long run.

Got that? It's not expansionary fiscal and monetary policies that ensure long-term economic growth, it's entrepreneurship and creating the right conditions to attract and retain top talent from all over the world so we can sustain long-term productivity gains.

Governments play a role in setting the right policies on all fronts and here, I am admittedly worried:

We need to coordinate better policies to ensure our new entrepreneurs stay here and don't flee because we are ignoring their concerns. 

Everything is interrelated, all policies including pension policies should be made with one overarching goal: to enhance Canada's long-term prosperity

What else? Immigrants and women are the new faces of entrepreneurship and it's critically important that long-term patient capital supports them.

Interestingly, today I learned that two of the wealthiest women in the world are teaming up to start a $1 billion fund to advance gender equality and women's leadership:

I'm a huge stickler for gender equality and diversity & inclusion in every form and think all of Canada's large pensions need to do more on this front, through investments supporting entrepreneurs and through their own hiring practices and the way they promote women and disadvantaged minorities within their ranks.

Now, CDPQ has a dual mandate -- to maximize returns without taking undue risks and invest in Quebec's economy. We can argue whether other large pensions should be doing more to invest in Canada but once again, governments need to create the conditions to attract these investments.

Whether it’s by fully or partially privatizing Canada's airports, ports and toll roads or whatever, I need to see more policies that will influence Canada's large pensions to invest more within our borders.

There is an argument, however, that by investing more domestically, you can exert more influence on domestic companies and control these investments better, making these companies more productive over the long run.

As one Canadian senator put it to me: "ESG isn't just about the E, there's S and G, and I'm wondering how we justify investing more assets in countries which don't have the same governance as Canada."

Great point but he agreed with me that the federal government can do more to create more opportunities, especially in infrastructure, so our large pensions invest more in Canada.

Still, there is something to be said about CDPQ's success investing within Quebec. Its Quebec portfolio has done extremely well over the years and part of the reason is because it's easier to know, support and nurture companies right in your own backyard.

On that note, let me end this comment by stating I was happy to learn Montreal-based raised $120 million US Series B to accelerate the growth of its next-generation job search platform:, the fast-growing global player in next-generation job search platforms, today announced a $120 million US Series B funding round led by Inovia Capital, with the participation of existing investor Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), and new investors Investissement Québec, Climb Ventures, BDC Capital, Fondaction, and HarbourVest Partners.

This brings total recent investments to $150 million US, including $30 million US in new debt financing from the Technology & Innovation Banking Group at BMO Financial Group. This new funding will allow to further expand its user-centric, programmatic job search platform by improving the relevancy and efficiency of the job search experience for job seekers. The funds will also be used to hire new team members globally, invest in product development, further establish the brand and scale its newest solutions for SMBs.

"We’re thrilled to have reached this exciting milestone in the life of our company,” says co-founder and co-CEO Lucas Martínez. "With this new investment, we look forward to further strengthening our position as a leading global next-generation job search platform by hiring top talent and increasing our investment in product and R&D.” is available in 78 countries and 29 languages and currently employs 400 people globally. Its proprietary technology matches job seekers with relevant job opportunities while its pay-per-click model helps recruiters easily adjust their job advertising campaigns based on performance. 

The platform is one of the largest sources of employment in the world, displaying more than 30 million jobs from 1 million companies, with repeat and growing engagement from international brands. has consistently been featured as one of the fastest-growing companies in the rankings of the Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, and Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500.

The race for talent has only been accentuated by the significant challenges that businesses are facing right now. has rapidly grown to become one of the largest and most international platforms for employers to source and recruit”, says Chris Arsenault, Partner at Inovia Capital. “This partnership is prompting a new phase of growth as they launch a suite of value-added products to become a true job-seeker-centric platform.” 

“ continues to be a disrupter of the very large global recruiting industry and is well positioned to accelerate its impressive expansion through its ability to adapt to the changing market and technology,” says Alexandre Synnett, Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at CDPQ. "Since our first investment in 2019, the company has tripled in size, and we are committed in supporting its future growth." 

"Our team is pleased to contribute to Talent's growth by participating in this important round of financing. We are proud to support a local world leader in connecting employers and their future employees, and we will continue to work closely with our ecosystem partners to ensure access to capital for our promising companies" says Guy LeBlanc, President and CEO of Investissement Québec.

Co-founders Maxime Droux, Lucas Martínez, and Benjamin Philion, alongside their global team of industry experts, have a clear roadmap to becoming a one-stop-shop for candidates and recruiters. is committed to expanding how talent and businesses find, fill, and navigate work. 

About is one of the world’s fastest-growing next-generation job search platforms helping businesses find candidates no matter their budget, number of job openings or technological capabilities. Based in Montreal, Canada, with 8 offices around the world, our dedicated team adapts to the job posting requirements of our clients and helps them grow. Available in 78 countries and working with an extensive network of publishing partners, we adapt our solutions to the needs of small businesses all the way to enterprise clients, so you can find talent, your way. 

About Inovia

Inovia Capital is a venture firm that partners up with audacious founders ready to build enduring global technology companies. We are known to roll up our sleeves and serve founders with dedicated, long-term mentorship, a global talent network, and strategic support for global scale. Inovia Capital manages over $1.9 billion US across early and growth-stage funds and holds offices in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, San Francisco, and London.

About CDPQ 

At Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), we invest constructively to generate sustainable returns over the long term. As a global investment group managing funds for public retirement and insurance plans, we work alongside our partners to build enterprises that drive performance and progress. We are active in the major financial markets, private equity, infrastructure, real estate and private debt. As at December 31, 2021, CDPQ’s net assets totalled CAD 419.8 billion. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter or consult our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

I love reading these stories about entrepreneurs in Quebec raising the bar. 

Quebec has great entrepreneurs like Alain Bouchard, Jacques D'Amours and Richard Fortin (Alimentation Couche Tard), Serge Godin (CGI), Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil), André Chagnon (Vidéotron), Larry Rossy (Dollarama), Robert Miller (Future Electronics) and well known families like the Saputo, Molson, Desmarais and Kruger families all running very successful businesses.

But it's the new crop of entrepreneurs which I am paying attention to now like Dax Dasilva (LightSpeed), Philip Fayer (Nuvei) and many other technology entrepreneurs who are tomorrow's disruptors.

There are also many inspirational female entrepreneurs in Quebec that most people don't even know about, including yours truly (I do know about Lise Watier who started a powerhouse cosmetics company).

Where am I going with all of this? The faces of Quebec and Canada's entrepreneurs are changing and we need to celebrate the diversity these new entrepreneurs bring and support them through an ecosystem that responds to their needs.

Below, new data from The Pew Research Center found that in nearly two dozen cities, younger women earn just as much if not more than their male counterparts. There is still more room for progress, especially for older women.