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.
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.
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.
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.
This issue has driven me absolutely nuts since I first arrived in Canada from Silicon Valley. It did not take me long to figure out that things did not work they way they did in California, and that there wasn’t much of a true entrepreneurial economy here. Since then, I have also been appointed to the Canada Foundation for Innovation grant process, providing me with insight into how R&D funding works in Canada. I have seen many issues in Canada that have impaired the nation’s ability to develop an entrepreneurial culture, among them is the inherent Canadian conservatism and short term horizon of investors unfamiliar with technology venture investment. But none has been worse than Canada’s decades-long neglect of adequate funding for research and development nationwide.
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.