Managing The Accelerated Corporate Lifecycle

Anyone starting a new company should understand the concept of the “corporate life cycle”, and use it as a guide for understanding where the company is in that cycle, to understand the risks at each stage, and to recognize the need for action to change course. This graphic shows a typical corporate life cycle and different possible paths as the company matures. Management of the corporate life cycle also dovetails with the concept of a “strategic inflection point,” which I briefly discussed in my Week 5 Report, The Internet of Things. John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco Systems has pointed out that the rapid acceleration in market changes has also accelerated the corporate life cycle, emphasizing the importance of understanding it. Companies abound that were initially very successful and yet eventually closed their doors, or were acquired because the company did not anticipate market changes and the need to adapt to the new situation.

Internet of Things At A Strategic Inflection Point

This post focuses on a particularly important technology market, the Internet of Things. IoT is at a strategic inflection point, due to explosive projected market growth and unresolved problems of wireless data throughput and energy-efficiency needs. The IoT market is projected to grow to 75 Billion devices by 2025. This growth is predicated on very high throughput wireless networks combined with high energy-efficiency which are not yet available.  Existing wireless technologies, including 5G, will not meet this market need. Also, the extreme diversity of IoT applications will require both small sensors that operate using minimal energy and bandwidth and virtual reality applications with very high Gigabit per second data rates and substantial power requirements.

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. 

At its inception, Uber touted itself as a shining example of the “sharing economy” described by Jeremy Rifkin, in this now famous book, The Third Industrial Revolution. As time has passed the reality has been radically at odds with a sharing economy.  Among the many issues that have emerged has been the legacy of Uber’s ugly corporate culture, secret apps used to confound regulators, and to intimidate journalists, a Justice Department investigation of illegal practices, including 200 Uber employees conspiring together to attack Lyft’s operations. The proverbial chickens have come home to roost, as municipalities around the world have begun to regain control of transportation policy within their jurisdictions, and the inflated valuations of these unicorns begin to deflate.