The North American smartphone market may be getting a new competitor this year. Reports are coming in from Canada that Yota Devices is planning to relocates their headquarters to the Toronto area by the end of this year.
Update: Or maybe not. Yota Devices has just denied plans to shift their HQ. In a statement to a Russian news site, the smartphone maker indicated that they are opening an office in Canada, not shifting their operations.
Best known as the maker of the dual-screen Yotaphone, Yota Devices said last week that they are planning to shift their HQ in order to take advantage of the skills of the growing number of ex-Blackberry engineers. "Among those people there are brilliant engineers," Yota Devices CEO Vlad Martynov told the Financial Post last week. "What we do is we pick up those engineers and bring them to the company." Yota Devices already staff around the world, including 15 ex-BB staffers as well as several ex-Nokia engineers and several sales staff based in Toronto.
Launched in 2009, Yota Devices got its start in making 4G routers and modems before grabbing worldwide attention with the launch of the Yotaphone in late 2012. This dual-screen smartphone didn't ship until December 2013, but during the preceding year its unique design kept everyone's attention. The Yotaphone is a mid-sized Android smartphone that pairs a 4.3" LCD screen with a second 4.3" E-ink screen.
With a price tag of 499 euros, the Yotaphone was well into the premium smartphone category and offered strictly adequate performance, according to reviewers. One would think that would limit sales, but Yota Devices apparently sold enough to warrant developing a second model with a larger 5" OLED screen. The Yotaphone 2 debuted at Mobile World Congress in February 2014, about 3 months after the first model shipped.
This move has absolutely noting to do with the sanctions imposed by the US, Canada, or the EU as a response to the conflict in the Ukraine.
Yota Devices sees smartphones as their future and Canada as the best way to get there. The smartphone maker had briefly considered relocating to the US, but choose Canada because of the lower costs, tax benefits, and government support, as well as the recruitment possibilities which, thanks to US limits on visas, aren't available south of the border.
Yota Devices is also planning a new funding round, with the goal of raising $100 million and possibly listing the company on the Toronto Stock Exchange.