Since I joined the high-tech industry years ago, Silicon Valley has had a fundamental need for highly educated engineers and scientists that could not be filled by American graduates. This reality has been bemoaned by Congressional politicians for decades now, who have essentially done nothing to increase the emphasis on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) for resident Americans, and who instead chose to provide the H1-B Visa enabling Silicon Valley high-tech companies to employ immigrants to fill these crucial positions, and has enabled the high-tech industry to thrive. The election of Donald Trump has changed all that. His platform is almost completely devoid of any acknowledgment of the crucial importance of high-tech innovation to U.S. productivity and economic growth, the need for H1-B immigrants and the parallel need for greater investment in STEM education.
Accelerate Okanagan should be commended for publishing a document, the stated goal of which is to “assist in attracting new talent, companies, and potential investors to the Okanagan, as well to inform policy makers and the media.” Such reports are commonly used to promote a community or region’s economy. However, as with the earlier 2015 report, there are persistent issues, particularly with the industry definition and methodology of the study. The result is questionable data and numbers that simply do not pass a basic “sniff test.” Accepting the results of this study as published may only serve to mislead community leaders on planning, and mislead prospective entrepreneurs considering relocating here.
In 1981, Richard Feynman, probably the most famous physicist of his time asked the question: “Can we simulate physics on a computer?” At the time the answer was “theoretically yes,” but practically not at that time. Today, we may be on the verge of answering “yes” in practice to Feynman’s original question. Quantum computers operate in such a strange way and are so radically different from today’s computers that it requires some understanding of quantum mechanics and bizarre properties like “quantum entanglement.” Quantum computers are in a realm orders of magnitude beyond today’s supercomputers and their application in specific computational problems like cryptography, Big Data analysis, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and sub-atomic physics will change our World. Canadian quantum computing company, D-Wave Systems has been at the center of Google’s efforts to pioneer this technology.
The following infographic provides an excellent overview of the World’s Most Innovative Countries and the weighted criteria used to rank the top 10. Glaringly, Canada is completely absent from this list. It is worth noting that eight of the ten countries listed have much smaller populations than Canada. That said, I have little essential disagreement with this list. Investment in research & development, leading to commercial technology innovation is crucial to a country’s economic growth and competitiveness in productivity. Canada lags in every category.
There is a lot of hubris and fantasy here in the Okanagan that no amount of reality can kill. Contrasted with that is a political faction that wishes for nothing more than the status quo. In yet another example of Kelowna’s long-standing poor employment market, and bizarre claims of being a technology industry hub, high tech employment in the Okanagan is being curtailed by the mass exodus of qualified graduates to employers outside the Okanagan.
It dawned on me that my blog post from July 2013, still has particular relevance to the current situation in Canada. I discuss the longer term structural issues confronting Canadian entrepreneurs and Canadian venture capital. When I first arrived in Canada in 1989, I learned quickly that the Vancouver startup ecosystem was nothing like what I knew from Silicon Valley.
Talk on the street suggests that Hootsuite’s problems are not all related to the downturn in the larger […]
British Columbia and New Zealand share many economic similarities, except that New Zealand has way more sheep, are way better at rugby and are better sailors. Both economies are focused on natural resource exploitation, tourism, wine, and horticulture. Both economies have similar populations though we have more space and are not isolated in the South Pacific. The motion picture industry has been a major factor in both economies, but both are highly vulnerable to foreign exchange fluctuations. Both economies have made efforts to diversify into high tech, pouring millions into development of startups. Both economies have had modestly successful companies in high tech, which have been bought out and moved out. The crucial difference may be New Zealand’s pragmatism about how to deal with this economic reality. British Columbia could learn from New Zealand.
Heidi Roizen is a very well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur. I first met Heidi years ago at a European COMDEX event in Nice when she was still in her entrepreneurial phase. Since that time she has gone on to fund numerous startups, and is now a Partner at Draper Fischer Jurvetson. In this blog, Heidi is sounding the alarm to entrepreneurs that, as she says, the market has already turned for the worse. She has been there before and offers her sage advice to this generation of entrepreneurs on how to survive. IMHO, she is spot on.
Well-known local entrepreneur and community activist, Raghwa Gopal has been named the new CEO of Accelerate Okanagan with much fanfare. My sincere wishes for his success in this important new role in the community. However, it is extremely important to also recognize the major challenges he faces. Just this week BMO issued a report which ranked Kelowna the worst job market in Canada, well behind many seemingly more distressed Ontario communities. The reasons for Kelowna’s economic problems are deep and long-standing.