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Tech startup HootSuite wants to hire 100 software engineers this year and it says it will be all but impossible to find them in Canada.

The Vancouver company, like other Canadian tech companies, is competing with California’s Silicon Valley, which regularly draws software engineers to work at heavyweights such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple and LinkedIn, as well as startup firms.

HootSuite will probably have to recruit internationally to add to the ranks of its 80 software engineers, says Ambrosia Humphrey, the company’s head of human resources.

“It’s a bit of a brain drain,” Humphrey says. “It’s really difficult to compete with really highly funded Silicon Valley companies.”

HootSuite’s senior software engineers help to build mobile apps that allow its customers to manage and measure their social networks.

The company competes against recruiters, such as San Francisco-based Hired.com, which is looking for as many as 200 Canadian software engineers for Silicon Valley firms to hire.

HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes has spoken out about the impact of Silicon Valley, saying Canada suffers from a growing shortage of computer developers and software engineers because the U.S. tech hub has claimed the best and the brightest for several decades.

Read: The Canada-U.S. Battle for Genius Entrepreneurs

“In order to keep people here, we have to do a better job of promoting ourselves,” says Humphrey.

For Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder and CEO of Hired.com, it’s not a brain drain from Canada. He says it’s an opportunity for engineers to get work experience and connections in the venture-capital community.

“Then, they’ll come back to Canada and utilize those skills to start new companies and mentor the next generation of up-and-comers,” says Mickiewicz, a Canadian who has opened up a Vancouver office for Hired.com.

He says the growing use of smartphones means there’s a huge demand for software engineers who can develop mobile apps. He adds that it’s not unusual for annual salaries to run between US$140,000 to $160,000 to start, plus company stock, to work in the San Francisco Bay area, now home to about 350,000 Canadians.

Hired.com narrows down the list of applicants for tech companies, and candidates usually get multiple offers from which to choose. These job-seekers have the opportunity to work for firms such as mobile-payments company Square, online vacation-rental company Airbnb, online ticketing service Eventbrite and social-networking giant Facebook.

Analyst Kash Pashootan says there aren’t enough big tech or startup firms in Canada to offer the same salaries or benefits.

Read: What employees want more than cash and perks

“Even for the patriotic, diehard Canadian who insists on their startup being in Canada, in many cases, the company gets to a point where it’s forced to sell to a U.S. big tech firm,” says Pashootan, portfolio manager at First Avenue Advisory, a Raymond James company, in Ottawa.

He says 68% of Canadian startups have been sold to U.S. companies in the past five years, citing the sale of Halifax-based GoInstant to Salesforce.com for $70 million in 2012. Bufferbox, which has kiosks for consumers to pick up online orders, was sold to Google for an undisclosed amount in 2012.

However, Pashootan says, the Canadian government has made it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs with a visa program that links them to private-sector organizations that are experts in working with startups.

Read: U.S. Jealous of Canada’s New Startup Visa Program

Also, the Ontario and the federal governments announced in January that they will ante up to $100 million in a venture-capital fund funding to invest in startup companies.

Greg Isenberg brought five software engineers from Montreal to San Francisco to help run his company, 5by, which has developed an app that sifts through online videos and delivers them to users based on mood, social interests and time of day.

“I would say there’s a top tier of talent that exists here [in the San Francisco area] that is unrivalled,” says Isenberg, 25.

University of Waterloo is considered a feeder school to Silicon Valley, and about a third of its software engineers head there after graduation.

Dean of engineering Pearl Sullivan says she’s not sure the movement of engineers can be called a “brain drain” anymore, as the tech marketplace is global in reach. And some of the engineers to return to Canada.

Read: What Keeps Your Employees From Leaving?

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