“There has ever been a better time to start a business in Canada and there’s never been a better time to be Canadian”.
Bruce Croxon’s closing words received thunderous applause from the hundreds of entrepreneurs filling the Canada Stage of Startup Canada Day on the Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. On Thursday, October 19, over 500 entrepreneurs—from Whitehorse to St. John’s—converged upon the National Capital Region to share ideas, learn from startup leaders, and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of Canada. To use panelist Anne Whelan's phrase, each participant will be returning home with their buckets full of confidence and inspiration, ready to change the world.
The world needs more Canada; the only thing stopping us from seizing our rightful place on the top of the pedestal is ourselves. As Anthony Lacavera, Chairman of Globalive Holdings put it: Canada is #1 at being #3. We need to throw modesty to the wind and celebrate our achievements; bronze is not good enough. Canada is a leader in artificial intelligence and our engineers, innovators, and entrepreneurs are world-class. So rather than being content with our best and brightest being poached by international organizations like Google and Amazon and representing Canada by proxy, we need to cultivate and keep our talent in Canada and own our impact on the world.
Each speaker and panelist brought their own unique perspectives to explore Canada’s entrepreneurial success and global leadership. Here are some highlights from the day:
Speaker: Dr. Sean Wise, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Ted Rogers School of Management
Dr. Sean Wise started the conference by stating that “you can’t teach entrepreneurship”. However, what academic institutions and innovation hubs like Ryerson’s DMZ can do, is provide a safe and collaborative environment to facilitate the learning of entrepreneurship.
Everyone has an entrepreneurial spirit within. All one must do is be courageous and invest in yourself.
Creating a Canada for Every Entrepreneur
Moderator: Catherine Cano, President & GM, CPAC
Panelists: The Hon. Bardish Chagger, Government of Canada, Nyla Ahmad, Rogers Communications, John Hamblin, Startup Halifax, Maayan Ziv AccessNow, Patrice Mousseau Satya Organic Skin Care
It may be 2017, but Canadian businesses are not as diverse or inclusive as we want to believe. As it stands, there are more men named John who sit on Canadian Boards of Directors than there are women on boards. Women are no less capable as entrepreneurs, yet they own only 15% of Canadian businesses.
The Hon. Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, used the panel to discuss initiatives the Government of Canada is spearheading to make businesses more inclusive towards women and minorities. This includes tabling legislation to bring the identities of all organizational board members into the public and reducing the red tape for women to access government funding.
Banking on Diversity and Purpose
Speaker: Michael Denham, President and CEO, BDC
People are the key drivers of success in small business, according to research by BDC.
Canada’s workforce is facing a major demographic shift: in three years, more people will be leaving the workforce than joining it. However, only 6% of Canadian businesses surveyed see immigrants as a valuable opportunity to fill this gap; a huge missed opportunity that startups and competitors will benefit from.
People entering the workforce also require purpose; money is no longer enough to retain talent. The most successful small businesses provide compensation while allowing their employees the ability to give back to the local or broader community.
How Can We Win
Speaker: Anthony Lacavera, Chairman, Globalive Capital
Artificial intelligence will be the 4th industrial revolution and Canada is well-poised to lead this field. However, we need to stop our fragmented approach and adopt focused collaboration on sectors we have tremendous success in such as financial services, the automotive industry, energy and natural resources, and defense.
Here are 11 things Canada can do to remain a global leader in AI and retain our talent:
1. Double-down on investing in winners
2. Increase availability of scale-up funding
3. See competition as an opportunity, not a threat
4. Move up value chain to keep scale in Canada
5. Reduce trade barriers
6. Support leading incubators
7. Better celebrate our success
8. Encourage average citizens to engage with policy
9. Be quick to adapt to technological change
10. Keep more great talent in Canada
11. Urgently shed our “colonial branch-plant mindset”. Having Google or Amazon open offices in our cities where they recruit our talent at lower salaries is not a success.
Demo Day on the Hill: Pitch Competition
Judges: Bruce Croxon, Round13 Capital, Michele Romanow, Clearbanc, Nicole Verkindt, OMX, Paul Gaspar, UPS Canada
To cap off the conference, we had four entrepreneurs-- Enright Cattle Co., Quckwick Fire Starter, SATYA, and Partake Brewing--compete in a live pitch to Canadian investors including two Dragons from CBC’s Dragons’ Den. Each entrepreneur had four minutes to make their pitch on stage and an additional four minutes to answer questions from the potential investors. Pitches were evaluated on the following criteria: product, business model, and ability to go global.
Once the flames died down, British Columbia-based Satya Organic Skin Care took home the investment!
From looking at the audience it is hard to believe that Startup Canada was only founded in 2012. However, it’s a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of Canada that this community brought together over 500 like-minded individuals to Ottawa to give voice to Canada’s 2.3 million entrepreneurs. The country and their government heard them loud and clear.