Tobi has struck a vulnerable nerve with his painfully accurate comment that Canada has a cultural problem, a “go for the bronze” mentality.” He is not the first to point out Canada’s lack of clothing WRT commitment and investment in innovation and entrepreneurship. Canada frankly has never been keen on risk capital. It’s just not Canadian, eh? Tobi joins Richard Florida and other Canadians in making similar awkward observations. The greatest irony is that Tobi’s remark that we need an “Own the Podium” program for Canadian innovation, was first proposed by former UBC President Arvind Gupta in a Vancouver Sun editorial some 10 years ago. Predictably, nothing has happened since then, and nothing will likely happen now.
Yesterday, I was an invited guest at an annual “entrepreneurship” event held in Vancouver. The event is an extraordinary opportunity to connect with most of the major figures, leaders, and investors in the entrepreneurship community. It also prominently showcased presentations from a number of the most promising new startups. But the undercurrents in conversations around the room were soul searching questions about the current glut of startup accelerators around North America, and the frothy euphoria and enthusiasm about “entrepreneurship.” Some experienced entrepreneurial investors complained about the air of unreality of it all, and the excess of mediocre companies being cranked out. A very prominent and experienced Vancouver venture capitalist pointed out to me that a glut of Canadian startups only compounds the long-standing issue that Canada could not produce the necessary risk capital even if more of these companies were investment ready, which they are not. A related issues is the waste of government money in these companies. Clearly, the situation is a mess.