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January 21, 2009 / Boris Mann

Wednesday Wrap Up: Before Lunch Edition

Woo hoo! I managed to get this wrapped up before lunch this week. As always, please send in your links or stories for inclusion next week. Keep your eyes on events next week – Techvibes is calling it Angel & VC week, and there is definitely a lot of stuff going on.

Making Your Mark Entrepreneur Documentary Film

Jason Boritz and Jonathan Salemi contacted us late last week:

“…we have been filming a documentary for the past fourteen months on an entrepreneur trying to create a successful billion dollar business during a declining economy and the story and struggle to see if Mark Husmann, our entrepreneur succeeds, or continues to struggle while trying to find out more about himself.”

They’re looking for funding to do post production on this documentary. Check out more on the movie’s website, Making Your Mark.

Books for Startups

I put a call out for books that startups / entrepreneurs / etc. should be reading last week. Dave Smith left a comment, mentioning Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start and Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim and Mauborgne. I also found local entrepreneur Mike Desjardins doing a little video on 6 must reads.

Tech funding and innovation in Canada

Ottawa-based Alec Saunders, CEO of Voice 2.0 startup Iotum, has been writing about the tech industry in Canada, investment levels compared to the US, and if we are innovating. His current post says that the “precursors of success are here”, and goes on to highlight several areas in Canada where innovative ecosystems could be built, listing the Waterloo / Golden Triangle area, Toronto, and Montreal.

I guess he doesn’t know about our own Pacific Northwest Golden Triangle of Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle. Education? Well, my own alma mater the University of Victoria has the second largest coop program behind Waterloo, and here on the mainland we have the UBC and SFU powerhouses, never mind more technical colleges like BCIT. The fact that we’re so close to the “down south” activity is another advantage (and I’m reminded of Bellingham-based Tatango, whose CEO Derek comes up here quite often).

I’ll close up by quoting Alec’s thoughts on venture funding in Canada, which I wholeheartedly agree with:

We have the educational institutions.  We have a few of the anchor companies.  The biggest missing ingredient to drive Canada’s technology industry is funding.   Venture, as an investment class, has returned poorly in recent years, while natural resources have provided stellar returns for investors. It’s not a surprise that the Canadian venture sector is shrinking, not growing.

It’s also worth remembering that every dollar diverted from venture toward digging resources out of the ground is a mortgage on the future of all Canadians.

Addressing the venture funding gap should be a top priority for the Conservative government’s budget on January 26th. In fact, it should a top priority for every level of government from Federal to Provincial and even Municipal. We don’t necessarily need government funding for venture capital.  We do, however, need conditions that encourage a private sector venture industry to prosper.

I think everyone agrees with this sentiment, so my one piece of commentary is that we need to get past highlighting the problems, and move on to creative solutions.

W2 Media ICT Cluster

This is a bit last minute, but Irwin Oostindie asked me to help get locals from the Gastown area to come out and help kick off the W2 Media ICT Cluster launch. It’s at 5pm on Thursday, Jan. 22nd, at the Shebeen. If you’re a CEO of a tech company in the area and want to hear more about building connections between businesses, please attend and share your ideas. You can find out more at http://www.creativetechnology.org/

Riz’s Links

Rizwan Kheraj works for the NRC / IRAP program here locally, and comes across a ton of info relevant to Canadian startups. Here are a couple of selected links from him received via email this week:

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5 Comments

  1. Jevon / Jan 21 2009 8:40 pm

    Why does this always have to be a competition? I just don't get it.

    Everyone is trying to one up another city in Canada and it is useless. The comparison is useless because until one city or region makes a break for it, then we are all just a bunch of losers trying to hold eachother down.

    Don't waste your energy. Alec is from the middle of the country, so he is going to think about it a bit more. You can't blame him for that. Nobody is crazy enough to suggest that Vancouver and Victoria don't hold their own, there are just different operating contexts in each region.

  2. Alec / Jan 21 2009 8:42 pm

    Hey Boris — Thanks for the link. IT's not that I don't think that UVic or UBC or Vancouver / Victoria / Seattle aren't good locations. I am just woefully ignorant of the startup scene in BC.

  3. Boris / Jan 21 2009 10:59 pm

    @jevon: it's not a competition, it's called marketing. If each region doesn't stand up and wave the flag (and note, I didn't slag any of the other regions…) then we don't get heard.

    As Alec said in his followup comment here, he doesn't know the area — hence the post 😛

    Anyway, on to solutions, which will exist at the municipal, provincial, and federal level.

  4. Chad / Jan 22 2009 4:57 pm

    @Boris: Is there currently legislation before Parliment that you feel would make a difference to start-up activity in BC? What role does government have short of tax breaks?

    Our broadband penetration is pretty good in Canada (compared to the US). Would a federal computing cluster be useful (ala EC3 and the like)?

  5. Boris / Jan 23 2009 12:26 am

    @Chad: the provincial government has been doing some interesting things with regards to creating the proper environment — with the VCC program and BC Renaissance Capital Fund.

    If there is any sort of "bailout" or "infrastructure investment" at the federal level — I'd like to see some of that going to support knowledge workers, increased wireless infrastructure, and other items that would help create an environment that facilitates more technology based companies.

    Quote again from Alec Saunders above — "every dollar diverted from venture toward digging resources out of the ground is a mortgage on the future of all Canadians". We believe that technology gives us the biggest (non polluting) bang for your buck in terms of dollars spent. Give me a $1M, and I'll fund 10 startups — there are few other sectors where you can directly inject capital and attempt to build innovation and businesses.

    Maybe highlighting what Jevon is saying … venture investment is highly localized today — can the federal govt be a unifying force and bring together our local endeavours?

    Our broadband penetration is OK … but our wireless and mobile is terrible (oligarchy!).

    I don't think investing in a *commercial* computing cluster would be useful … but it's definitely an area where academics might benefit from more funding. Or maybe some highly connected data centers, where commercial companies could install / run whatever would make sense.

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