Startup TO: Reaching Fame, Fortune or Normalcy?

If you’re a startup in Toronto, chances are you’re seeking more than just the expertise of an incubator or venture capital money. You probably want the fame too. You know, your face and company name plastered on Mashable, The Next Web and Tech Crunch. A speaking engagement at the next SXSW and CES. Living the dream. In Canada, that’s a tough mountain

Ashley Huffman, communications, INCubes

to climb for a few reasons.

As the Globe and Mail pointed out in their Report On Business, startup businesses are literally BOOMING in Canada, with an even more year-by-year growth in large business, besides the tanking of RIP, sorry I mean RIM. Medium sized business on the other hand is almost becoming nonexistent.

What does that mean for you as someone interested in reaching the fame and fortune bit through your startup? Well, you can align efforts to a) be a small to medium business with minimal chance of media exposure b) go big, which means you have at least a few years of trudging ahead before fame c) Go global, which pretty much means Canada becomes a spec on your market radar.


Saying that Canadian media is picky, is a kind understatement. Let’s face it, our main news outlets cover fear mongering, irrelevant pretend news (celebrity nonsense and Rob Ford’s weight loss really?) and all things USA. We’re FOX news but nicer and a little bit less political mumbo jumbo. One of the only major tech sites is, well you’re reading it right now. As a SMB, you don’t stand a huge chance of coverage unless you’re okay with just a restaurant review or someone gets shot inside your business.

Let’s hope it’s not the latter. If you think I’m wrong, just think about your daily newspaper, all our home grown stars, and the state of our television shows (minus a few like Dragon’s Den).

Go Big

Perhaps Canada is where the saying “Go Big or Go Home” came from. It explains why so many Canadian startups flock to the US; to go big or come home if they fail or their visa expires.

Going big in Canada is extremely difficult. In order to make it in Canada you have to first figure out our diverse market, and then find a way to become a big spender to make your marketing work. As consumers we’re cheap but not, curious but not, and careful but not. Does your business stand a chance at becoming big in Canada?

Next, do you have the resources or manpower to tap the US market or go global? That’s really what ‘go big’ means. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I am saying it’ll take all your efforts that you’re already using to make a decent living in Canada. Annoyingly and truthfully enough, Canada’s population represents around 10 per cent of the U.S. There’s a little more to it than that as Krista Napier points out in her article “Canada: We are not as simple as 10 per cent of the U.S. Market,” but it’s a basic fact for simple comparison.

Get Bought Out

You can always get bought out. But you’ll actually have to do more work than ever before to make that happen or even remotely realistic. If you think some swanky company is going to buy you out without your proverbial ducks lined up, you’re sadly mistaken. You have to be in the right buzz industry, with the right product/service with all your legal’s, finances and human resources in line, AND it has to be a one of a kind idea. Not to mention the whole process will not be pretty.

Long story short, if you want to go big and get as famous as possible, it means you have to be as ballsy, brilliant and dedicated than anyone you know or have read about. Or, you should consider finding a way to ship yourself off to Silicon Valley – a.k.a up and out of Canada.

On a positive note, SMB in Canada may not be booming but it’s rocking. By ‘rocking’ I mean many are not going out of business, they make profit over loss and are generally maintaining a steady course ahead. They also keep a healthy chunk of Canadians fed, housed and (hopefully) happy. So you may not be famous, but you’ll be a hero to the many people under you.

Ashley Huffman
Ashley Huffman
Startup, technology and girls in tech evangelist. Can be found behind the scenes at Nano Magnetics Ltd getting things done. Professional @Nanodots builder and Guinness World Record holder. Fan of life hacks, Scrum and WOW, in no particular order. Self proclaimed Twitter addict.

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