The Lethbridge Town Hall saw great new ideas emerge, including the exploration of seed investment cooperatives, entrepreneurial summer camps, and business-to-business marketplaces. We also saw the re-emergence of mentorship and one-stop-shop solutions. Let’s jump right into the top ideas.
Community of Lethbridge Investment Cooperative (CLIC) positioned a new investment cooperative that would pool investor resources to support local companies from the region. Local firms from the surrounding area could come and pitch their ideas to the cooperative, and great investment opportunities would be selected for support. Investor returns could be secured through several options including equity, shareholder dividends, etc. of which the coop would take a small percentage to keep the lights on. The group also stressed that coop would prioritize the provision of small levels of support for smaller firms, rather than large disbursements for big firms.
ShinookConnect.ca positioned an online support network for entrepreneurs and businesses, but further expanded these ideas to incorporate a heavy focus on relationship building, social discourse, community knowledge sharing, and removal of traditional barriers to cross-collaboration within the enterprise support community. The core idea would be to create a network of all of the local enterprise support groups and professional service providers that would be focused on helping local businesses address the complete range of challenges and opportunities spanning the startup life cycle. Businesses would be able to engage for free, as would all others members, but advertising spaces (attached to main social/collaboration pages, etc.) would be sold to those professional support providers or enterprise support groups looking to reach a broader clientele. The incentive for these groups to engage in the free online social/collaborative learning spaces would be the opportunity to demonstrate their skill and expertise to the community through quick tips, tutorials, and business guidance, before securing more profitable contracts facilitated by their proven online track record. The group also noted that any profits made by ShinookConnect.ca would be reinvested into learning opportunities for the community.
E-Hive positioned a business-to-business marketplace that would allow entrepreneurs and firms to post their service offerings and service requirements online and rate each other. The hope is that businesses would be able to get high quality, community-vetted support for their key challenges or opportunities, while simultaneously being able to advertise their own unique offerings. The group noted that their entire online marketplace would be ap-enabled, and that revenue would be generated through prime advertising spaces, and possibly through very small percentages of each transaction initiated through the online service. The group also noted that they would partner with local enterprise support groups at the outset to secure the required funds to setup the online marketplace and to conduct community outreach.
Entreprementor Hub positioned an online mentoring solution that would take full advantage of existing technologies like teleconferencing, Skype, etc. and social web apps like Google circles, Facebook, etc. to connect startups with the seasoned entrepreneurial mentors they need. Once a month, each key mentor associated with the Hub would also host an online workshop where they would review a series of challenges and solutions from their particular area of expertise like marketing, sales, or financing. All workshops would also be fully recorded and made available for later listening/viewing so that other entrepreneurs could digest key information and guidance at their own pace. The group also noted that they would sustain operations through very modest membership fees, sponsorship, and advertising options for professional service providers.
Overall, the Lethbridge Town Hall came up with some great ideas to support entrepreneurship in Alberta. We are particularly interested to see what Lethbridge will do with the E-Hive and CLIC solutions, as these models could be franchised across Canada if successful.