UPDATE: This post from February 21, 2016, is being republished in the light of the announcement that Club Penguin […]
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.
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.
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.
Report Lacks The Rigor Necessary To Give It Much Credibility. The AO report’s “economic impact” conclusions are based on 2014 Survey Monkey voluntary responses, which are problematic due to an apparent lack of critical assessment. The report does not follow the kind of rigorous industry analysis performed by leading technology consultancy firms like International Data Corporation (IDC) or Gartner.
It was with some amazement that I read of the stunning results achieved by Andy Hamilton and the Icehouse incubator in Auckland. I have had the good fortune to know and work with Andy, visiting the Icehouse as the Director of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s Silicon Valley incubator in Redwood City. Andy routinely asked me to stop by when I was in town to deliver a “tough love” talk to the resident companies. Andy’s results contrast sharply with the results being achieved in other incubators, particularly here in BC. Much is being written about an incubator glut, massive waste of government money, and most importantly poor quantitative results from incubator companies. For example, when asked how many companies they have helped succeed a local BC accelerator employee could only say: “You really have to define success. I mean for most of these guys our success is just about getting them to realize their ideas are bad.” Really?