Ask a miner “What is Canada’s most precious natural resource?” and you’ll be sure to stump. The answer is easy… Canadians.
One of the tricks to Silicon Valley’s winning streak is that they back not only repeat entrepreneurs, but repeat teams. Just like one of those wonderful chocolate fountains you occasionally fortune upon at weddings, Silicon Valley recycles people. A team forms, builds a successful enterprise, people move on to try some new things, and projects that find traction attract back the core crew.
Is Canada effectively recycling people? Think long and hard, because if we aren’t the fountain is drying up – end of the party. I can name a handful who have ventured abroad and returned: John Green (@johnphilipgreen), Malgosia Green (@HeyGosia), Dan Morel (@dpmorel), Farhan Thawar (@fnthawar), David Crow (@davidcrow), Jeese Rasch, Zak Homuth (@zakhomuth)… the list goes on, but it could be longer. Maybe our friend Howard Lindzon (@howardlindzon) will start his next company in Canada?
What is bringing them back? Visa issues, sometimes. Spouses, more often. Schools for children, okay I’ll take it. But it would be much better if what brought our best and brightest home was opportunity. And the crazy part is, it is knocking. We have a safe multicultural inclusive country, close to major markets, with investment matching funds up the wazoo, and here is the most beautiful part – our nation is brimming with high caliber engineers (who are getting scooped up by Twitter, Facebook, and Google as you read this post).
Part of the challenge is funding. Canadian entrepreneurs are picking up and moving to New York, San Francisco, Boston, Boulder, and even Santiago (yes you read that right, Chile – in the southern hemisphere) for minuscule sums of seed financing so they can focus 100% on their startups vs their day jobs. Just ask Ken Seville (@civisidedotcom).
Myopic policies might attempt to discourage cross border exits, which are vital and create deep new linkages. Instead what we need to learn is that the opportunity is keeping the founders engaged once they head for warmer climates. I can guarantee, foreign direct investment will not thrive in the absence of results. To generate returns we need to recycle teams.