UPDATE: This post from February 21, 2016, is being republished in the light of the announcement that Club Penguin […]
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.
My biggest complaint with venture capital and the current entrepreneurial landscape is the lack of Big Ideas— the superficiality of the technology sector. “We were promised flying cars and we got 140 characters” –Peter Thiel. We also got corporate greed masquerading as “the sharing economy.” Many other well-known observers of this industry share my complaint. Some argue that these Big Ideas are too big for private investment, and can only be funded by governments with the resources and vision to accomplish such large long term projects. I disagree.
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?
Management students may ask why the title of this post claims that quantum technology is good business. So let me try to explain, and then read on to the PandoDaily post by David Holmes. The bottom line is that some basic understanding of quantum mechanics is going to be a valuable management skill going forward. Why? Read on
Konrad Walus’s business sounds almost too futuristic — three-dimensional printing of human tissues for use in research or therapeutics.
Since last fall, however, Walus and his partners have run Aspect Biosystems Ltd. through the Entrepreneurship at UBC program, taking an idea from their research labs to incorporation, formation of a viable business plan and on to discussions with a potential first customer.
“Aspect Biosystems could not have started in a garage,” Walus said. The scientists behind it needed the testing equipment and imaging machines that go along with the infrastructure of a major research university like the University of B.C.
This is a very Big Deal, which increases the likelihood that Big Data will be a very Big Deal.
While the Canadian economy is expected to languish in the doldrums for the foreseeable future, D-Wave, a Vancouver quantum computing company, with e@UBC funding, is making big waves (pun intended). Seemingly out of the blue we now have two Vancouver companies that may be showing Canada the way out of its “natural resource curse:” D-Wave and potentially also Hootsuite.