Canada has an abundance of innovative ideas, exemplary technical talent, and infrastructure to support its technology initiatives. So why is Canada not positioned as a country that is synonymous with innovation and commercialization?
One theory: SMBs in Canada struggle to market themselves concisely. Unconvinced? Consider the events that unfolded at the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) held on December 2, 2009, where twenty Canadian startups in the ICT, digital media, and cleantech markets, strutted their stuff in front of investors from across North America.
During CIX, the 20 finalists were given 7 minutes each to present their solutions and products to a panel of investors. They could present any way they wanted – the only rule was to stay within the 7 minute limit.
While all the companies knew in advance that they would be under these time constraints, and had a unique opportunity to present in a room full of investors from across North America, only a handful of companies actually completed their presentations in the allotted time. In fact, the majority were cut off abruptly at the 7 minute mark – many of them did not even have time to discuss their go-to-market strategies or key value propositions, limiting their ability to make a convincing argument in front of the investors. One could speculate that over time, this would eventually limit their ability to attract the funding and support they will need to commercialize their businesses and position themselves as innovative Canadian companies on a global scale.
Those companies that were able to communicate concisely were rewarded for doing so: the winners in each of the three categories, as well as the 2009 innovation leader, were as follows:
Information Communication Technology (ICT): Aeryon Labs
Clean Tech: Skymeter
Digital Media: CognoVision
Canada‘s 2009 Innovation Leader: CognoVision
With many Canadian companies struggling to communicate their solutions clearly and concisely, it’s not surprising that marketing is an area they need to work on. Yet, without an injection of marketing savvy, Canadian start-ups are in trouble. Start-ups need to import marketing talent to commercialize and grow, including serial entrepreneurs that have the experience and know-how to position their technology for large scale success, and that know how to get a message across succinctly and quickly. We have lots of great Canadian success stories like the companies that won at CIX in December, but they need a louder voice to compete on a larger scale, and need to make investments in sales and marketing rather then it being an after thought.
The good news is that Canada has some great resources and opportunities to help companies address these marketing concerns. MaRS, The Accelerator Centre, Ontario Centres of Excellence, and TiE are just a few of the organizations that provide the resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities that start-ups can leverage to better position and market themselves, commercialize their technology, and even attract some funding in the process. But in the end it’s the startups themselves that will need to start communicating more clearly to get attention on a global scale and attract the resources and talent to help transition their companies to the next level, and position Canada as a country that is synonymous with innovation and commercialization.
For more insight on this topic, check out the following document on www.idc.com : “Canada’s Sitting on a Gold Mine, But Will We Do Anything About It?”, Krista Napier, Jan 2010 – Doc # lcCA22150010 http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=PRF002546