Startup “ecosystems” in Canada are doing well but…

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jesse Rodgers. Follow Jesse on Twitter . This post was originally published on November 21, 2012 on WhoYouCallingAJesse.com.

CC-BY-NC-SA-20  Some rights reserved by erin_designr
AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by erin_designr

The Startup Genome released another report mapping top startup cities but this time a bit more specific than it’s heat map from April of this year. Canada did well depending on how you interpret it with Toronto at #8, Vancouver at #9, and Waterloo at #16. In its previous report, Startup Genome ranked Toronto at #4, Vancouver at #16, and Montreal made the list at #25. Oddly Waterloo wasn’t listed in the previous ranking but made it into the top 20 in the new report while Montreal remained outside of it.

Focusing on my Ontario centric nitpick – the separation of the Toronto and Waterloo “ecosystems” when they are anything but separate is not going to give an accurate picture of Canada’s awesome startup communities. They are unique communities but their strength comes from how they work together in the same ecosystem. The emotional energy (and money) burned in defining how they are different is holding Canada back from an even better and sustainable growth curve. That energy is in the report.

In the report:

“Toronto competes for startups with regional competitors such as NYC, Boston and nearby Waterloo.”

Then in the Waterloo profile:

“In the near future, it will be interesting to see whether Waterloo is able to hold on to its talent base or whether it will be sucked into Toronto.”

Would you say that about Palto Alto sucking talent to San Francisco and vice versa? No. It’s the valley. A huge area that is far more developed but very similar to the Toronto – Hamilton – Waterloo. The problem, I think, is that at some point in the past when local economic development groups were competing on a similar scale for tax dollars (and manufacturing plants) they narrowly defined regions (Golden Triangle, Golden Horseshoe, etc) where everything above the escarpment is barbarians and the urban modern folk live below next to the cold blue lake.

There can be (and there are) distinct communities inside the larger Toronto – Hamilton – Waterloo ecosystem. Each community has its strength. Each success in the larger ecosystem helps the entire ecosystem.

The big problem the ecosystem faces (in Toronto):

Startups in Toronto receive 71% less funding than SV startups. The capital deficiency exists both before and after product market fit. Toronto startups receive 70% less capital in Stage 2 (Validation) and 65% in Stage 4 (Scale).

The ecosystem most likely lacks a sufficient quantity of all kinds of startup capital sources: angels, super angels, accelerators, micro VCs, VCs etc. As a result Toronto startups rely more on self-funding, or rounds from family/friends.

The other big problem (in Waterloo):

Waterloo has a funding gap (96% less in the second stage) for early stage startups before product market fit, probably due to a lack of super angels and micro VCs. There are high numbers of accelerators and much lower numbers of super angels and VCs than SV.

Solving the funding problem in Toronto also solves the problem in Waterloo, more companies that able to find the money and the talent to scale in either or both communities helps both or am I missing something?

Building a strong economy, community, and ecosystem isn’t a zero sum game.

Make your own luck at CIX

 CC-BY-NC-SA-20 Some rights reserved by nhr
AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by nhr

Next week is the Canadian Innovation Exchange. I sit on the Advisory Board and StartupNorth is an Association Partner. We are big fans of the event  and have watched over the past few years as CIX has gone through changes and growth. It continues to evolve both the CIX Top 20 as well as the event. The focus in 2012 is about providing meaningful content and experiences for entrepreneurs. This is a change from the past  where you might argue that the focus was on the investors attending. There is a strong focus on building an amazing event will attract amazing entrepreneurs, which in turn will attract amazing investors. And it the 2012 event looks to be very entrepreneur focused.

Entrepreneur Pricing

One of the bitches about this event used to be the pricing. There is a $199 entrepreneur ticket. Seriously, if you can’t justify the cost versus the opportunity to either see an amazing program or for the chance for random collisions with some of the best investors in the game actively deploying capital in the Canadian ecosystem.

This is your chance to hustle (see my comments about hustling at CVCA). Make your own luck. There will be people that buy products and the people that invest in companies at this event. Make something happen.

I love seeing Switch Video, an audience of VCs and companies that need video to grow their business. Bingo. Good hustle.

Buy a $199 ticket and figure out how to make serendity happen!

Entrepreneur Content

Where to start? Entrepreneur One-on-One with Jevon MacDonald . Sure he sold his company to Salesforce, but you know he started a blog, this blog. Jevon is a great guy. He has helped me with my thinking about startups in Canada, the role of venture capital, and with corporate development. GoInstant was around for a little less than 24 months, but I know that Jevon will be talking about the >5 years of hustle at Firestoker and Dachis Group before GoInstant. It should be a great conversation for founders looking for an understanding of how an amazing overnight deal.

The trade off is that if you go see Jevon, you’ll have to skip How Emerging Companies Can Think, Appear and Act Like they are Bigger then They Are which features Daniel Debow , Michael Hyatt , Yona Shtern and Razor Suleman . This is about how to strategically build a reality distortion field. Should be fun to learn the secrets of these 4 crazy entrepreneurs.

We spend a lot of time focusing on Lean and pre-product/market fit companies. But there are equally difficult questions about culture and growth at scale. There is a panel hosted by Howard Gwin and Derek Smyth with Dan Shimmerman of Varicent and Michael Harris of BlueCat Networks. This should be a good mix for companies that are in the scaling cycle. Given that apparently everything that Howard and Derek touch turns to gold: Varicent, Dayforce, Rypple and they have their hands in others Desire2Learn, Hootsuite, Vision Critical and others.

And there are US VCs. There is Mike Katz from Battery Ventures and Devdutt Yellurkar of Charles River Ventures (who invested in Influitive and Wave Accounting locally) and Alexander Kolicich of Mithril Capital Managment (and I don’t know the intricacies but Mithril is associated with Peter Thiel is associated with  Valar Ventures who invested in ShopLocket).

If you can’t find content that can help you, you’re doing it wrong.

It’s not about the content

Seriously, it’s not about about content. It’s about the hallway conversations. The random collisions. But you need to be there and you need to participate to have the chance for those things to happen. There will be a lot fo interesting folks in Toronto early next week, you should figure out how to have a collision. And make your own luck!

Register to attend CIX 2012

 

Toronto, Vancouver, Waterloo, where is Montreal?

Startup Genome Ecosystem Ranking

The state of the Canadian cities in the StartupCompass Startup Ecosystem Report 2012 (Get the Report) is interesting. The Startup Ecosystem Report 2012 lists 3 Canadian cities:

  • Toronto # 8
  • Vancouver # 9
  • Waterloo # 16

It leaves Montreal out of the top 20, it might very well be # 21. But it is very hard to determine without the full report that is due out later in the year. I also find it very strange, given the strong Montreal supporters in the  “Local startup ecosystem supporters” listed in the document:

The data reminds me of other analyst driven research companies (think GartnerAltimeter, etc.). The methodology leaves it open to bias. But it is a great stick in the sand based on our own community survey responses.

“The index is based on data from more than 50,000 startups around the world who are using the Startup Genome’s Startup Compass, an automated analyst in the cloud that helps businesses make better decisions via benchmarks and actionable recommendations.”

It will be interesting to continue to read the report and lessons for Canadian entrepreneurs.