Feature Story: After its 36-city tour the organization drafts a plan to put startups themselves in the driver’s seat, not government handouts.
Startup Canada followed up its whirlwind tour across Canada on Tuesday by unveiling a three-part plan to build a more supportive, cohesive infrastructure to help the country’s entrepreneurs.
And it’s a plan that puts startups themselves front and centre – notthe government funding programs or non-profit initiatives that havetraditionally been resources for startup support.
“Ultimately the best people to lead startup communities are peoplewho’ve got those bruises from building something,” said Daniel Bida,who spoke during a Startup Canada event held in Toronto on Tuesday tounveil parts of the national action plan.
Bida said a rare exception is Toronto’s Centre For Social Innovation, anon-profit which takes an entrepreneurial approach that’s “very focusedon being a self-sustained entity relying on revenue and growth.”
“If you get more of the bureaucratic or non-profit (approach) theymight focus more on just establishing a system and repeating,repeating, repeating,” added Bida, executive director of Torontostartup ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc.
That’s not to say government has no place in the startup ecosystem. Infact, Startup Canada’s action plan might actually increaseaccountability and efficiency at government funded startup programs,said Debbie Weinstein, a member of Startup Canada’s management boardand a partner at Ottawa law firm LaBarge Weinstein.
“I don’t think (governments) need to spend more money. They need to bebetter organized,” Weinstein said, noting Canada’s Scientific Researchand Experimental Development (SRED) tax credit is a good resource fortech startups. “Government will be forced to be better organizedbecause organizations like (Startup Canada) will keep them on theirtoes.”
In June, a Wave Accounting study of 1,386 SMBs in Canada and the U.S.found that government incentives have almost no influence on motivatingentrepreneurs to found startups; only two per cent of SMBs said suchincentives were a factor in their decision to launch a business.
Startup Canada is an Ottawa-based non-profit foundation launched earlythis year to identify key startup challenges and ways to tackle them.The group toured 36 cities across Canada this spring and summer,gathering ideas and feedback from 20,000 people at town halls and otherevents. Based on findings from that whistlestop tour, the three keytenets of Startup Canada’s action plan are:
Three key parts to action plan
Startup Canada Connect: a newfree social media platform to connect entrepreneurs with each other andstartup various resources
Startup Canada Communities: apush to build a cohesive national network of entrepreneurs based onstrong grassroots initiatives at the local level
Startup Canada Campaign: aneffort to create a more entrepreneurial culture in Canada bycelebrating startup success stories and role models through coverage innews media, social media and “key national institutions”
The third prong of the plan came out of a recurring message during thenational tour that Canadian culture doesn’t do enough to eithercelebrate successful entrepreneurs or encourage failed ones to tryagain.
“If you fail in Canada, you never get a second chance,” Weinstein said.“Journalists here love to point to failure, if you look at the way theytreated Nortel (Networks) and the way they’re treating RIM (Research inMotion) now.”
Startup Canada organizers said the execution of the action plan will befunded by sponsors and an upcoming crowdfunding campaign. Although it’scertainly not the first initiative aimed at boosting entrepreneurshipand related resources in Canada, this one is different, said RickSpence, the former editor of Profitmagazine who is on Startup Canada’s advisory council.
“It’s always been a top-down approach before,” Spence said at theToronto event. “Startup Canada has that combination of thinking big andgoing local. The tour was a way of connecting with entrepreneurs andentrepreneur organizations. They got a very authentic look at what thechallenges are for entrepreneurs in Canada. That gave them so muchcredibility.”
“They paid their dues. They went out there and listened,” Spence said.
The Startup Canada campaign created this infographic based on statistics about its tour across Canada, talking to entrepreneurs.