We were very interested to see how the Startup Canada Waterloo Town Hall would unfold. Of all of the regions that the tour has visited to date, Waterloo certainly stands as the most classically high tech of the group, and we were keen to observe whether any of the messaging around the challenges facing Canadian entrepreneurs would change – would this highly tech engaged community identify completely new areas for Canadian entrepreneurial improvement, and would new solutions paths be proposed to bring about the required change. The answer was a resounding yes.
The Waterloo Town Hall was also the piloting ground for the next innovation to the Startup Canada Town Hall methodology. Given that many of our more recent Town Halls were beginning to identify the same types of challenges and solutions, we felt it was time to enhance these discussions and seek greater levels of depth regarding implementation plans. As a result, we asked our Waterloo Town Hallers to build out their traditional Dragon Style pitches, and to create a comprehensive delivery plan for their proposed solution. Within these comprehensive plans, our teams were asked to identify unique roles for local community stakeholders including business, academia, government, and enterprise support, to identify the specific community actors to be engaged within these groups, to identify the likely human, financial, and other resources required to support their initiative, and to develop the real schedule of activities and events that would lead to the successful role out of their proposed solution.
Then, sticking to tradition, the winning business cases and implementation plans were voted on and selected by the members of the Town Hall, and the winning team was empowered to bring forth their solution within the local community. The results of our updated Town Hall approach were absolutely fantastic, and led to the production of robust and highly detailed implementation plans and locally championed activity schedules, which could serve as a guide not only to the Waterloo community, but also for other communities across Canada facing similar challenges.
It was also very exciting to see that, despite the reality that several familiar challenges and solutions paths were raised in Waterloo (highly resonant of our East Coast findings including the need for more mentorship, facilitated navigation of business support programs, and a central point of access for all entrepreneurial related support) we also observed several completely novel entrepreneurial ideas from this highly dynamic and tech driven region.
Some of the most innovative entrepreneurial support ideas included:
Startup University: A parallel tracked secondary school program that would provide supplemental entrepreneurial education, training, mentorship, and experiential leaning opportunities, directly alongside the more traditional education curriculum.
Gravity: A Cross sectoral entrepreneurial ideas and solutions connector, that would aim to get local talented resources from computing, engineering, business, physics, and arts-based organizations identifying internal challenges, sharing them with cross sector colleagues, and working together to find opportunities to help each other resolve these challenges via a combination of skills sets and experience.
My First Million: The crowd favourite that proposed the creation of a franchiseable community entrepreneurial kit that would help local communities identify their unique startup support path, built from existing resources, and a media approach that would connect and guide young entrepreneurs from kindergarten to university to the right tools and programs to graduate them along successive stages of their unique entrepreneurial journey.
Beta Loop: The winning Waterloo Town Hall idea proposed the development of an online beta testing environment that would also simultaneously operate as match making services between new startups with the requirement to test products in a less costly and risk reduced environment, and those engineering/computing students looking to gain experience working with a startup while potentially indentify promising long term job prospects.
Founder Match: The Town Hall runner up ingeniously proposed a lava life for startup founders, where a business or engineering student could create a short profile documenting their skill set, business idea, values and ethics, long terms interests, and could get connected via a match making algorhythm to a compatible founder with both the corresponding skill set they need to startup their business, and the matching values profile that would help to ensure long term success.
Overall, the Waterloo Town Hall brought forth some truly exceptional and completely novel ideas in support of entrepreneurship, and we look forward to following up with the winning teams to see the type of incredible progress this region can surely make towards improving its entrepreneurial ecosystem.