It’s Time To Tap Alberta’s Entrepreneurial Resources
Calgary, AB (Tuesday, June 19, 2012) – While Alberta may be known best for being home to oil and gas bounties, the province is home to another game-changing resource primed for development. Earlier this month, Startup Canada’s National Tour stopped in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat and uncovered a trove of visionary leaders, innovative ideas, and overflowing potential – all ingredients for an Alberta economy and reputation built on more than just the energy sector.
“There is an unparalleled entrepreneurial spirit in Alberta and it wasn’t long into our tour that we discovered there is more to the province than just oil,” said Victoria Lennox, Co-Founder of Startup Canada. “If Alberta wants to diversify its economy, it needs to capitalize on these rich entrepreneurial resources and empower its startups to tap new markets, both locally and globally.”
One of those new markets is Alberta’s rapidly growing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. This was evident during Startup Canada’s tour stop in Edmonton, which coincided with Accelerate AB, Alberta’s largest startup technology event, which brought more than 500 entrepreneurs to the city for two days of keynotes, panels, networking and collaboration. Building on the energy from that event, the Startup Canada Edmonton Town Hall focused on action plans and next steps for converting the entrepreneurial community’s ideas into results.
“In many ways, the Startup Canada Tour acted as a catalyst for action,” said Jeff Matthews, Innovation and Technology Management with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, which is Startup Canada’s Provincial Ambassador for Alberta. “Passionate and engaged entrepreneurs came together to celebrate and create tangible action items to further enhance support for entrepreneurship. We are now looking at how we can align the outcomes and share the results from each of the Town Halls across the province.”
In Calgary, the conversation shifted to thoughts on how to finance a diversified startup economy. Startup Canada and Calgary Economic Development co-hosted a panel of entrepreneurs and funding experts to explore the challenges and opportunities for financing startups.
“During the recent prosperity years, Calgary has become a buzzing, forward-looking and active place where entrepreneurship is celebrated and encouraged,” said Marek Drywa, Manager, Global Business Centre, Calgary Economic Development. “Many early-stage entrepreneurs in Calgary have an inspiring vision of their business reaching beyond the province of Alberta or even Canada. The Funding Your Startup panel set a fantastic tone for our Town Hall discussion on improving support channels and business funding opportunities.”
Calgary entrepreneur Adam Joyce, Executive Vice President of Podium Ventures, has been a long-time supporter of Alberta’s entrepreneurial community.
“I think it’s my responsibility to help promote startups, entrepreneurship and investment of all kinds into the Alberta and Canadian economy,” said Joyce. “So much of our world is set up to help people get jobs. My twist on it is how do we get our world set up to create opportunity and encourage others to take it? Startup Canada is adding to this vision.”
An investment theme continued in Lethbridge, where the Startup Canada Town Hall event there pitched ideas around investment cooperatives, entrepreneurial youth summer camps, and business-to-business marketplace opportunities. Two ideas from that Town Hall already show potential for being franchised across Canada.
“Fostering a culture of entrepreneurship is becoming more and more important throughout North America,” said Cheryl Dick, CEO of Economic Development Lethbridge. “With the number of licensed businesses in Lethbridge increasing by nearly 50% over the last 10 years, it is important to continue the momentum towards building an environment where entrepreneurs in the entire region can find support, information and resources to develop and expand successful businesses. The tremendous support shown by government officials, business leaders and media representatives in the Startup Canada stop in Lethbridge speaks to the essential role that entrepreneurs play in our local, provincial and national economy.”
Medicine Hat brought the tour’s learnings full-circle, showcasing how an Alberta startup in a niche market can make it big on a global scale. The Medicine Hat Town Hall was hosted at Weddingstar, an international leader in the wedding accessories industry. After 29 years in the business, Weddingstar CEO and President Rick Brink’s advice to Alberta entrepreneurs is to never stop thinking about markets beyond their local trading area.
“With the improvement of technology, the world is just outside the windows of our offices, with huge opportunities for those entrepreneurs who take advantage of it,” said Brink. “So, as the business world changes, we need to change. We need to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs, and these young entrepreneurs need to look at the bigger picture and to think globally.”
This calls for a stronger mentorship network, Medicine Hat Town Hall participants told Startup Canada, where entrepreneurs across all sectors can connect with one another, solve problems together, and act as sounding board for each other.
“Following our Startup Canada roundtable, we are planning for continued stakeholder engagement around three key areas of educating young entrepreneurs, creating a culture of entrepreneurship, and providing Alberta’s high growth entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed globally,” said Jon Sookocheff, Manager of the Entrepreneur Development Centre at Medicine Hat College.
Since launching its National Tour in March, the Startup Canada team has completed half of its tour across the country. A national audience is following the tour through Startup Canada’s interactive website, live web-streamed broadcasts of the tour, and active social media networks. A full events listing can be found at http://www.startupcan.ca/tour
In addition to being championed by patrons such as Brett Wilson (Host of RiskyBusinessTV, former Dragon & serial entrepreneur), Heather Reisman (Founder, Indigo Books & Music), Dani Reiss (Founder, Canada Goose), and Michael Legary (Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Seccuris Inc.), Startup Canada has also received support nationally from a number of ambassadors and industry sponsors Microsoft, Gowlings and Ernst & Young.
Other sponsors include Best Western Hotels, Artik, Kick Ass Media, PubliAir, VideoBooth the Association of University Research Parks Canada, the Canadian Association of Business Incubation, the Evidence Network, Francis Moran & Associates, FreshBooks, MSBi Valorisation, NextMTL, the Ottawa Technology Transfer Network, Podio, Best Western, Backbone Magazine, HootSuite, ITWorld Canada, Paper.li, Sprouter, and Techvibes.
- Town Halls engaged more than 350 and Fringe events engaged more than 1,000 Albertans in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat
- Spotlight interviews with more than 50 of the province’s top entrepreneurs
- Visits to TEC Edmonton, Startup Edmonton, and Edmonton Economic Development
- Meeting with Andrew Joyce and the team at Podium Ventures in Calgary
- Press Conference in Lethbridge hosted by Lethbridge Economic Development and Tecconnect
- Private tour of Weddingstar in Medicine Hat with Founder Rick Brink