Canadians think the government is doing a decent job of offering technology startups support, but almost nobody thinks this nation is a world leader when it comes to giving entrepreneurs a hand.

And they’re right on the money. With the help of AskingCanadians, we polled 1005 respondents from Nov. 8 to 11 about how Canada

Brian Jackson, Associate Editor, ITBusiness.ca
Brian Jackson, Associate Editor, ITBusiness.ca

compares to the rest of the world in terms of the ease of starting a technology-based company here. Then we asked them to rank what they thought were the most important things to do in order to make Canada a world leader in this important pillar of economic development.

Only 5.8 per cent of Canadians think their country is a world leader when it comes to making it easy for a technology startup to launch. But almost half consider Canada “among the top countries in the world at doing this,” while 39.1 per cent think “Canada could offer startup companies more support.”

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So in brief, most Canadians think we’re somewhere in the middle of the pack, and they’re right. According to the Technology in Toronto Region: Regional Innovation Cluster report conducted by the Toronto Region Research Alliance (and represented in awesome infographic form on our site), Canada does fall somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to providing the proper environment for tech startups to thrive.

In your view, how does Canada compare to the rest of the world in terms of the ease of starting a technology-based business here?

As our ICT in Canada infographic shows, we’re 4th in IT industry competitiveness, 8th in networked readiness, and 11th in digital economy. Canada’ per-capita expenditure on information and communications technology (ICT) is 11th, with the top three countries there including Switzerland, United States, and Norway.

It seems like Canadians are well-informed on where we stand with creating supports for a culture of tech entrepreneurship. So maybe we should listen to some of their ideas on how to improve things.

When we presented survey respondents with a list of six options to boost tech startup fortunes, and asked them to rank those in order from one (most important) to six (least important), Canadians said “an innovative workforce that won’t rush off to the U.S. or elsewhere for high-paying tech jobs” was the most important factor with an average ranking of 2.9. The next most popular measure was “venture capitalists who are willing to take risks in the kind of companies in which they invest.”

Many familiar with Canada’s startup community will be familiar with the lamenting of the lack of venture capital in this country. With funding for IT startups falling seven per cent in 2011’s second quarter, and 27 per cent in Quebec specifically, it looks like the situation is getting even worse.

This lack of capital is likely one reason many talented entrepreneurs head south of the border to pursue their technology dreams. Even

What’s the most important thing it will take to create the next Silicon Valley here in Canada? (Rank from one to six, with one being the most important).

The C100, a non-profit group that is dedicated to supporting Canadian technology entrepreneurship, is made up of Canadians that now live in California’s Silicon Valley.

When a major source of support for your tech startup community is coming from a group of top performers that are also ex-patriots, you know something is wrong.

AskingCanadians™ is a full-service online data collection firm dedicated to helping market researchers gather high quality information from Canadian consumers. Its French counterpart is Qu’en pensez vousMC, which includes a panel of more than 160,000 demographically representative and profiled Canadians who have opted-in to participate in online surveys that significantly influence today’s leading brands. AskingCanadians™ and Qu’en pensez vousMC are built through incentive partnerships with Hbc Rewards and Aeroplan. The result is an average response rate that eclipses the industry. For more information, please visit corporate.askingcanadians.com.

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  • Canada does fine at engineering, and its tech graduates are as talented as anywhere in the world.

    What Canadian politicians and even business leaders fail to understand is that supporting technical innovation (e.g. through R+D tax credits) isn’t the problem. Yes, it incentivizes creation of tech jobs in Canada, not just by Canadian companies, but also by most of the major American ones. But, it doesn’t build successful companies.

    Successful companies are built by addressing unmet and under-served needs and with marketing strategy. Building a better mousetrap isn’t good enough — those almost always lose in the market because the existing players can outspend and outsell you, and they can mimic your advantage quickly, negating its value.

    Canada’s greatest tech startup success story, RIM, started this way serving a new market need that no one thought they had. But recently, they’ve forgotten user-centric design and been left in the dust by Apple and Google, not because they have lesser engineers, but because management failed to see the market disruption coming from these formidable competitors and to react appropriately. RIM, like most Canadian companies, lacks the sophisticated marketing and business strategy talent that seeds Silicon Valley.

    The reason that the support infrastructure comes from Canadian expats in the Valley is precisely this. The culture of business model innovation and creative marketing that drives American success stories doesn’t exist in Canada. The best thing the government could do would be to stop coddling Canadian innovators with taxpayers’ money and r+d credits, or minimally to scale these programs back, and force them to get out and work with customers to build the right products for the right markets. Bring in experts (or repatriate them) to infuse the startup culture with the confidence, marketing talent and business startup mentoring that is everywhere in Valley incubators and VC organizations.

    Silicon Valley didn’t spring up overnight, but grew up over a few generations fueled by a local source of stellar technical talent — Stanford. Waterloo does the same for Canada. That helped create some of the Valley’s earliest successes, such as Hewlett-Packard, which in turn spun off many small startups, several of which became huge in their own right. That helped create the environment for the VC industry to emerge and grow strong, and in turn support a virtual startup assembly line, with cash, management and marketing talent, and a template for success.

    There’s no reason that Canada couldn’t have the same thing emerge if it focused on solving the right problems rather than thinking it’s all about the technology and research.