UPDATE: This post from February 21, 2016,┬áis being republished in the light of the announcement that Club Penguin […]

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.

I noticed the following post on LinkedIn, and thought that it was important to share it. When I first came to UBC to teach Industry Analysis and Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Management, I was struck by how utterly unprepared Faculty of Management students were to stand up and communicate their ideas. Most students used 3 x 5 cards and stared at the floor. One student, without realizing it, stood up and crossed his arms across his chest, projecting only his personal discomfort with the situation. Clearly this problem needed to be addressed. If there is one thing I have learned since graduating with a Speech-Communication degree, it is the importance of being able to stand up and communicate your ideas, what you believe, and most importantly, who you are. It is crucial to career success.

I met today with Ali Kashani and Janice (pronounced “Janeece”) Cheam of Energy Aware in their offices in Chinatown, East Vancouver. Ali is a UBC Vancouver Engineering Ph.D, and Janice is a Sauder “BComm” graduate. Together, they are the brains behind Energy Aware’s novel approach to the “hairball” of the Internet of Things. I began our meeting as a skeptic, and came away impressed with their approach, their market savvy, their chemistry as a team, and the big name partners they have already attracted.

At the request of Professor Ray Taheri of the UBC Engineering Faculty, I gave this guest lecture to all 4th year engineering students in ENGR 499 Capstone Project. From my background in entrepreneurial mentorship and entrepreneurial finance, I focused on the unique challenges engineers face in considering starting and developing a new venture. I discuss the full range of issues, but my personal emphasis, from experience, is the “character” issue. Some excellent engineers have successfully made the transition to entrepreneurship and executive management, but for others the odyssey is a bridge too far. Consequently, I place significant emphasis on honest self-analysis and appreciation of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Listening is a priceless skill.