This is yet another excellent article questioning the Canadian tech industry’s appreciation of its significant deficiencies and challenges. It reflects my own view after much research and many interviews. It is also the view of UoT Professor Richard Florida who published a similar article in the Globe & Mail recently. Venture capital is anemic, but many also believe that there is a lack of scale-up management talent. Another factor is deeply-embedded Canadian conservatism, as evidenced by the bizarre entry of high street banks’ debt offerings to entrepreneurs.
In one of the more bizarre recent articles on the state of the Canadian venture investment market, The Globe & Mail offered this story of the entry of Canadian commercial banks like CIBC, RBC and TD into the world of entrepreneurial finance. Not more than a few weeks ago, Toronto University Professor Richard Florida also published an opinion piece in the Globe & Mail, in sharp contrast which is entitled “Canada is losing the global innovation race”, describing the long term decline of Canadian venture capital and decades of poor investment in basic R&D compared to its other OECD industrialized nations. Recently, a colleague in Canadian venture capital told me of his retirement, citing the enormous difficulty his firm had raising capital from the Canadian financial industry. This is prima facie evidence of how disconnected Canada is from the reality of entrepreneurial finance and venture capital. The Canadian financial industry mindset is Problem One. Name another major entrepreneurial ecosystem that operates like this.
I was very interested yesterday to read the article in the Globe & Mail by University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida, and Ian Hathaway, Research Director for the Center for American Entrepreneurship, and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. The article by Florida and Hathaway draws the same conclusions as my research, providing even more precise data to support their disturbing conclusions. It is not hard to find many additional articles on these issues. Ironically, also yesterday, a LinkedIn connection shared a post by Sciences, Innovation, and Economic Development Canada with a very upbeat, positive assessment of venture capital for startups in Canada. This is the essence of the problem. Since I came to Canada years ago now, I have seen a pollyannaish state of denial about the true situation for entrepreneurship, immigration policy, and the lack of “smart” venture capital for Canadian startups. No amount of counter-evidence has changed this mistaken rosy outlook. Without a recognition of these problems, nothing will change.
Another Silicon Valley reckoning is on the horizon. We have seen cyclical events like this before, the 2001 bubble burst being the most recent memorable reckoning. The talk in 2001 was about too much “dumb money.” The coming reckoning, however, is on a massive, unprecedented scale, fueled by the same excess of global capital that has fueled the bubbles in housing markets in attractive locations around the World. The problems with Uber, Travis Kalanick, and the now obvious difficulty of the Uber Board of Directors to exercise meaningful governance should have been the “canary in the coal mine.” CNBC’s reporting on the excessive Silicon Valley “unicorn” valuations and media reports that New Enterprise Associates would divest $1 Billion in startup investments that cannot be made liquid have made the situation blatantly obvious. After a long silence, the Wall Street Journal has finally joined the reporting on the crisis. What more does one need to take to the exit?
Last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security delayed the International Entrepreneur Rule to next March, and it is currently accepting comments on plans to rescind it altogether. The agency cited logistical challenges in vetting these new visas. The International Entrepreneur Rule was designed by the Obama Administration to support Silicon Valley and the high tech industry’s need for immigrant entrepreneurs and engineers. Immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. account for 44% of all startups. The news has prompted a backlash from immigrant entrepreneurs like PayPal cofounder Max Levchin and leadership at the National Venture Capital Association, who argue that rolling back the rule will drive would-be job creators to other, more welcoming nations. This is already happening.
The Vancouver technology industry may well be on the verge of an extraordinary period of growth. Global, national, and regional factors appear to be aligning in ways that could create an extraordinary economic opportunity for the Lower Mainland which could not have been anticipated. Vancouver has been an endless topic of discussion about its comparability (or not) to Silicon Valley, the historical Canadian investment conservatism, and the lack of other resources necessary to create the “secret sauce” that makes a region achieve critical mass. That may be changing if only the convergence of factors is grasped and exploited.
Mayo0615 Reblog from July 22, 2013 It dawned on me that my blog post from July 2013, still […]