OUR INDUSTRY IS ALIVE AND KICKIN’ – So lead, follow or get out of the way!
Within 3 days I probably saw more Tweets and Blogs about the Canadian Venture Capital Ecosystem and Canadian Entrepreneurship than I’ve seen in any given month! Rants, Raves, Criticism and Support, some comments were without any dept while others provided insight. Over the last few weeks, we started hearing about the different provincial government initiatives to support, as investors, the venture capital industry, thus addressing in part the lack of equity financing for existing and new promising technology companies across Canada. Following the CVCA publication earlier this year of a Comprehensive Study on The Impact of Venture Capital in Canada on Economy, Jobs and Innovation (link), many provincial governments jumped on the bag wagon and were announcing fund commitments, new fund creations and/or new budget allocations to VC in order to show their support and help in addressing this crying need for more venture capital funding for Canadian businesses.
Even though we still haven’t resolved the fundamental issue of having private capital flow to entrepreneurs with high growth businesses via more LP commitments towards privately managed venture capital funds, I was pleased to read about the initiatives, the interest and comments from the various players of our ecosystem. The level of comments I received (online and directly via email) from my recent post about the indirect benefits of the recent Quebec government commitments towards venture capital (first posted on Montreal Tech Watch) $5 billion to end up in the hands of Canadian entrepreneurs, nothing less! told me one thing: Yes, people care, people want change, people are showing leadership, support and interest. I’m not saying that everybody agreed with what they understood was going on and how the challenges are being addressed, many had their own views on the Canadian funding issues and had very different opinions, and that’s a good thing, I respect that, as long as those who are voicing their opinions can show leadership by causing action and are participating in the debate by building our industry, not purposely demolishing it.
I suggest you checkout the following blogs for more views and angles, some are more positive than others, yet they all offer additional insight, such as Suzanne Dingwall: Ont. Gov’t As A VC: In with a Whimper, Not a Bang; Mark McQueen’s OVCF dips toe in Ontario waters with “commitment” to Georgian Partners; and entrepreneur start-up CFO Mark MacLeod’S Unfair Advantage only to name a few.
The article from The Canadian Press, and interview with Edmee Metivier, the Business Development Bank executive vice president of financing, gave a glimpsed of the importance of the continued support needed for our Canadian technology ecosystem and the role some government agencies (such as the BDC) play ‘Lost generation’ of technology threatens Canada: official; The techvibe Canada’s Venture Capital industry is bad? blog posted comments and perspective from Brian Sharwood. Which in itself was interesting because it was a pure entrepreneurs’ view on the VC industry and start-up related government economic development agencies, questioning the way the system works from his angle.
But then… then… came the infamous WSJ article with as interviewee: Mark Skapinker. Ouch! That one hurt. Why? Because the message that came across was wrong, the burning Canadian flag was an insult, and it created a false generalized impression that we, as Canadian Entrepreneurs and VCs had failed. No the Canadian Venture Capital Community is not dead nor broken, it’s evolving and that’s a good thing! The Canadian Venture Capital Community, like in any other country, needs to adapt to its own national realities while at the same time face global competition. And secondly, we do have great new and recurring entrepreneurs, that have proven time after time that we can built great companies (even though we end up selling most of them to foreigner). Can Canada afford to have more proven and successful Canadian Tech CEO’s and Entrepreneurs? Of course, 10 times more, easy! Do Canadian Venture Capital Fund have enough financial resources to fund all the great deals out there? No, and we need to convince more institutions to allocate funds to VC & PE and we need toshow then hard results and strong IRRS!
For those of you who missed some of the action, here are the few must read links related to the infamous article:
1. The Wall Street Journal article itself: O Canada VC, We Stand On Guard For Thee
2. The reaction, among others of Mark McQueen: Skapinker gives his homeland the Bronx Cheer
3. The clarification blog by Mark Skapinker: Say it like you see it – and get kicked in the ass
4. The Rick Segal reaction: Owww! I hate getting hit from behind
5. The clarifying-clarification of Mark McQueen: Skapinker gives his homeland the Bronx Cheer part 2
I personally think that we can wish and want, complain and comment as much as we want. But the only way to build a successful business, a successful fund, to build a strong ecosystem, to innovate in an ever-changing environment, is by showing leadership. No one person, nor firm nor government will make any true difference “alone”. We can’t expect everybody to agree on “how” our ecosystem should be built or how our industry should thrive. But we can agree to respect the leadership of others, to work towards building a strong ecosystem and support those who take initiative in paving the way towards solidifying our Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital base.
Call to action! If someone doesn’t agree on how things are being done, then instead of complaining, show leadership and take action. Everybody, in its own capacity, can provide leadership, do his/her part, or at the least, support the leadership it believes is right.
I look forward to read more about what SHOULD be done, yet I sincerely expect to witness more of what WILL be done.