How we can improve our startup ecosystem.

As in all startup ecosystems, there’s a crying need for more capital and coding talent on Canada’s East Coast. But in terms of structural improvements that would lead to economic growth, the region most needs expertise in helping established companies to scale.

Read the full Entrevestor article HERE  and share your opinions below. 

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Entrevestor's Peter Moreira opines that we also need to fund established companies to enable them to scale.
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Joe Ward Follow Me
Just a couple of quick ideas. In Cape Breton, with an emerging interest in what we might call the "startup scene" or "entrepreneurship ecosystem", the pipeline seems to be filled with lots of people with tremendous potential, but not a great deal of experience. That's not a knock; it's to be expected. A new ecosystem requires growth, development, and maturity over time. So the new entries to the scene (myself included) are not going to perform like a Georghiou, Lorway, Milburn, Lilly, Deleski, or Gallop right out of the gate (if ever). So I think we need better proactive connectors. There are a bunch of programs that are working towards this aim, like the tech networking events, various brands of community dev (Island Sandbox, CB Partnership, etc), MentorConnect, et al. The "etc" and the "et al" are reflective of the idea that it can be hard to navigate. So in some sense rather that putting a bunch of entrepreneurially rats in a maze and see which ones emerge, it might be better to actually guide them through the maze. It's a distraction from the focus needed. My feeling is that discovering a business opportunity is about finding a product/service that fills a need/pain in industry. Building that out itself is going to be a complex process. So to the extent that all the expertise of who to get connected to is involved, it just becomes a prohibitive bottleneck and hurdle that doesn't need to be jumped. I've heard from several entrepreneurs with seed capital that needed a basic incorporation to get their funds distributed. I was one of them. Yet there are at least two others I've spoken to with the same challenges. That process has been a large expense that chews up a big chunk of their micro seed capital, and burns time as you figure out which lawyer's office you're going to pay to notarize a printed incorporation template and watch you sign it. (cont'd)
Joe Ward Follow Me
1. Greater assistance with the minutia like incorp, but in a fast way (as in, we'll take care of this for you so you're not bogged down by it) 2. Concierge service to figure out which if the local {insert focus} comm econ dev or biz support groups is the best fit to provide assistance. 3. Better *coordinated* marketing of (and between) all available events and programs so that it's not only widely known to those already connected to the inner circle. 4. Econ dev groups that are less event focused and more outreach focused. * 5. Less recycling and focus deterioration from existing entrepreneurial base. ** * Do any of these groups reach out to entrepreneurs that emerge in the community? I've never had anyone contact me other than Innovacorp itself after my Spark Cape Breton achievement of some seed capital. While I'm not dismissing my own need to do my own legwork, I do find it surprising that none of the various groups ever invited me to a meeting to learn more about what it was that Innovacorp pre-vetted as something significant enough to provide seed capital. If I was within any of these groups, that would be a core focus. I'd de-emphasize speaking events, and re-focus emphasis on actually proactively reaching out to see if there are mutually beneficial ways to work with emerging entrepreneurs. ** A large percentage of our seed capital in local programs has been doled out to entrepreneurs with more than one *current* focus. When those awards are to those with established businesses, it will be less destructive of focus. It's possible to pursue subsidiary lines of business. We see that with MediaSpark and Protocase entrepreneurs. However, for entrepreneurs just out of the gate, it's a mistake. I know of some outstanding people with great potential for success who are definitely put in jeopardy by having competing focuses. In some cases, it might be better to simply given them second level investment in their core projects.
Christian Murphy Follow Me
Interesting perspective Joe. We must also respect that we as entrepreneurs need to build our businesses. Yes there are programs out there, depending on who you are and where you are with regards to your business, you may qualify and you more likely won't. The best advice that we as entrepreneurs can take was given a few weeks ago by Doug Milburn. Sell, sell and sell some more. As much as I could benefit from having cash in the bank, I believe more than ever that I have to sell. There was a guy that said, if your waiting for Government money you will be out of business before you get started. I've also been watching the startup communities around the world and what I am seeing is what I would dub a game show approach. The problem with that is there will only be a few winners based on a criteria that your business may not fit. Thus, stop betting on winning a prize and bet that someone wants your product. When you have limited resources, sell something, whether it's your abilities or your product. Right now I have pivoted my company to focus on sales, not what I wanted to do, but I'm not going to hope that I will win a game show to be successful, I am leveraging what I have so I can invest in what I want. The only guaranteed investor I have is me. If that makes any sense?.
Joe Ward Follow Me
Agree, and my 5 points are actually all distinct from a sole focus on getting gov money. While part of points 2 and 4 definitely are related (capital being a part of the objective), I see a lot of value in a proactive coaching and connecting role. Because the world has all kinds of Larry Pages and Sergey Brins, with world changing concepts, but not necessarily that slick MBA hustler type that loves flying from conference to conference, and knocking on doors asking for money. Though perhaps poor timing for a Gretzky analogy in the thick of the election cycle, but what would the Greatest have achieved without the kind of dad he had, building a rink and running drills in the backyard? Could that pure talent have been lost to the world? As a point 6, I think the CBRM should pump $250,000 a year into paying full tuition and expenses to get as many people as possible enrolled in programs like UIT Startup, or similar stuff that emerges. We need to keep the pipeline filled with people who are going to try stuff. How many more Protocases are out there just waiting to be discovered? That'll involve some hand holding and ass slapping. But accelerating a startup towards the things that help them succeed is just good strategy. If we sit back and hope that it's going to evolve organically, we're going to find that it has immense challenges reaching critical mass - and it will be very slow. Much too slow to hit stuff like Ivany objectives. This new wave that we're developing now in large part is due to the influence of Innovacorp, and a very small group of strong stakeholders locally that are starting to build things out like a pipeline. This is just one pathway, but it's a good one: Local degree/experience -> UIT Startup -> Spark CB -> Verschuren CBIF -> Innovacorp/ACOA -> (sales start) -> New Dawn or Innovacorp, Round II If we can find a way to make private money get injected into that pathway, things will be even better.
Christian Murphy Follow Me
Joe I am not disputing your thoughts, but as you pointed out there are too few programs and too few dollars to go around. That's why we have to be our own advocates. We as entrepreneurs can't wait for others to catch up. Every program you mentioned is important and valuable, but don't forget there are rules attached every step of the way, rules that can help but also rules that can get in the way. The only money that you will have free reign with is yours. I have more companies pounding at my door to help them sell their products, I am leveraging that to generate revenue. Currently I'm connecting a $20 Million company with a $35 Billion company to open up new channel opportunities. Meeting set. That's how I will succeed, through sales. If someone wants to come along for the ride, that's great! What do you have to sell? I am going to make things happen if I believe in what you're doing.
Joe Ward Follow Me
I didn't think you were. I was just agreeing, and clarifying some of my intent. Though I have talked about the limits on available capital here before, especially by comparison to what other markets are able to access, that wasn't my point today. My 5+1 points were much more focused on assistance, guidance, determination and access to all sorts of available resources (through capital is a part of that too). I've probably made a lot of mistakes by going it alone for a very long time. Yet my most successful entrepreneurial activity was a bootstrapped venture that did precisely what you noted in reference to Doug Milburn. We created a product. Put everything we had left into it. And then we sold it. And to the extent that we wisely reinvested earnings into our products and services - we did very well. While capital may have accelerated us - which may have been beneficial - we gained the position where we had enough surplus revenue to start choosing our own destiny. The end of that business wasn't due to lack of capital. It was a failure in direction and bad bets. I'm not relying on anyone here to do it for me. But I will be looking out for any resources that are available that I can leverage. From the perspective of the general discussion topic today, my feedback is based on some of the changes that would be beneficial to all early stage entrepreneurs in this region. So the 5 points are recommendations for the organizations involved in economic development and the startup ecosystem, not the startups themselves. I would never recommend that a startup sit back and wait for things to be more to their liking or to have an expectation that someone is going to do what they need. If you're going to start with nothing more than an idea, then it's *our* job (as entrepreneurs) to figure out how to get something to happen. But as a stakeholder interested in the ecosystem building, just some insights for the ones building out the ecosystem itself. :)
Christian Murphy Follow Me
Hey Joe, first off, I appreciate that I may come off a bit obtuse, so allow me to do the Canadian thing and apologize. Money is an obstacle, but also a tool. I'm simply focused on revenue becase the reality is, most of the suppliers of cash require that you have cash unless your a prize winner. So I am focused on how I can generate cash. That way, I don't have to play by other people's rules. I once said to the CEO of a company that that if I don't like the game, I change the rules. It's that simple. I'm working my contacts, this afternoon alone I've added two more partners to my partner pipeline and one more wireless company. There are two ways your startup can be successful, the IP (# Users Whatsapp) is so compelling that someone wants to buy your business without revenue or you get out and sell something and someone wants to buy into the growth of your business. That latter is a bit more traditional obviously. If you need help selling something Joe, let me know. Well off to try my hand at copy writing. Take care.

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