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.
The sale and breakup of a flagship technology company is a reoccurring theme in Canadian business. But this time is different. If BlackBerry Ltd.goes, there is no ready replacement. That’s a telling switch from the situation Canada faced with the sale of Newbridge Networks in 2000 and the demise of Nortel Networks in 2009. More than a decade of declining business investment in research and development has left Canada without an obvious BlackBerry successor. Despite bright spots in Waterloo, Ont., and Ottawa, the country’s performance on most of the important benchmarks of innovation has been deteriorating for years.