Startup TO: Why should you care about startups?

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by Ashley Huffman

If you’ve never worked in a startup company, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be in one. The way it’s portrayed in the media is fairly chaotic and a little skewed. The movie The Social Network didn’t help either by cutting out the real fun parts where they worked for 14 hours a day every day with no vacation and on average had Red Bull for dinner.

Now this post isn’t to gripe on the misconceptions of startups, it’s instead a look into how current events in the entrepreneurial realm are shaping what could be a direct impact on your medium to big business.

Canada’s startups are becoming of ever growing importance to our economic growth. Tech Vibes recently posted an awesome stat that 2.7 million Canadians were self-employed in 2010. That’s about 8% of the country’s total population (studies by Statistics Canada). We’re also home to the test capital of North America, we have a healthy immigration policy for a constant inflow of foreign brains and brawn, and not to mention our systems, organizations and businesses dedicated to accelerating, fostering and funding new businesses.

So what possible impact could a bunch of small, low budgeted companies have on your business?

Ashley Huffman – Contributor

To start, the Canadian government is turning its gaze on them like the All-Seeing-Eye from Lord of the Rings. They’re launching a series of medium and long-term measures to boost and help startups, including the recent culmination of Startup Canada. This new org is dedicated to providing an entrepreneurial support system across the country. They’ve wrangled in the best and brightest business ego’s, rags to riches  founders and biggest up-and-comers. Not to mention the grants, loans, funds and tons of provincial programs dedicated to startups only.

Do you know what you’re up against?

Incubators exist for one purpose, and that’s to accelerate the business process. Whether it’s turning a concept into a viable, running operation or helping a functioning business get a lot of cash. It at its core is an accelerator; like business steroids. It no longer has to take 6 years to grow a business, nor do you need to run at an operational loss of 2-3 years. Startups can run on fumes; in both funding and staffing. Some are even run by teens; like my pal Nicholas Montgomery the founder of @oneplantclass.

The mentality of “you get what you pay for,” in reality isn’t the case anymore thanks to the web. Entrepreneurs are jumping on the bandwagon of open-source and free utilities; especially when it comes to apps and tools. Unfortunately for larger companies, there’s a roadblock of licensing,
compatibility and work approvals. I get it, but you are missing out on a chance to use emerging technologies and save money at the same time.

In bigger companies there also tends to be a lot of politics and red tape, especially if unions are involved.

“Our IT manager was pretty much Jen from The It Crowd, she knew nothing about computers, coding or hardware. All she did was surf YouTube and go on Facebook. But they couldn’t fire her because she was full time,” said Scott, a former IT desk employee of Canada’s biggest Internet provider.

On the contrary.

“In a startup you don’t just do your best, you go above and beyond or you just won’t make it.  The livelihood of your coworkers is at stake, as well as your own. Like nature, it’s survival of the fittest,” said Graham, former programming intern at Silvercell.

Startups churn ideas and talent like butter on a farm. Where I mentor, INcubes, they have to sort through virtual stacks of applications; both startups and eager entrepreneurs.

Many Toronto startups are even swooping up some of the best and brightest players from bigger companies across Canada. The bait?  The temptation of flexible hours, increased freedom and the feeling that your work is actually making an impact.

Startups also utilize outreach in the most cost effective means, like the Internet! This includes while on their phone, whilst working at their desk using social media, with different tabs open on a separate monitor. Social media can be used to connect with some of the biggest players in the industry, and if you’re nice, you can get free advice. You can also read the blogs and tweets of some of the richest, smartest and most influential business heroes. And unlike the huge, expensive business conferences, you can make use of free-to-cheap meet ups, mixers, tweet ups and events. You may not meet those big wigs, but chances are you’ll meet the guy who knows the girl, who knows the big wig.

These every day entrepreneurial super heroes don’t just do their job, they take on the jobs of 4 people. When you go home at night, they’re still up working. When you’re sleeping, they’re probably still working. I’m not saying one way is better than the other, but I’m saying the people who work all the time just get more done. Undisputable fact.

What does this all mean?

It means packs of entrepreneurs will be coming out of the woodwork because they have a clear pathway and the assistance they need to grow. So, if you’re a medium to big company that isn’t innovating, using the internet effectively and keeping your people happy, your business is at risk.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need to stand together like proper Canadians.  But, by changing our mentalities to strive for innovation vs monopolizing our own markets, we can compete with each other into creating groundbreaking ideas and technologies. This will not only make Canadian companies more competitive within the biggest markets, but solve the real issues that impact the world.

Ashley is an education & technology evangelist from the GTA.  She is proudly a Marketing & PR mentor at INcubes and is the brains and brawn behind the geek blog Ashley is also a self-proclaimed Twitter and Nanodots addict.

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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