Startup Canada, the grassroots campaign that is seeking to foster a more entrepreneurial culture in Canada, today launched its most audacious initiative so far with the creation in 15 different cities across the country of Startup Canada Communities, a combination of online and in-person networks intended to give entrepreneurs swifter and more immediate local access to all the resources needed to start a new venture.
We’ve been enthusiastic backers of Startup Canada from its very inception, and as I attended town hall meetings and other events across the country last summer and fall, one consistent theme sounded by entrepreneurs everywhere was that they needed both a one-stop clearing house for information about all the programs and resources available to them and a network through which they could connect with other entrepreneurs, with mentors and with all the other elements of the startup ecosystem.
Startup Canada Communities was one of the key initiatives announced in last year’s Blueprint document that came out of the unprecedented cross-Canada consultation the organisation conducted. It is specifically intended to foster strong support networks, especially in areas where they might now be lacking or more nascent. As Startup Canada founder and CEO Victoria Lennox told me earlier this week, “Startup entrepreneurs are everywhere across Canada but startup communities are not.”
Startup Canada’s challenge was to try to deliver what entrepreneurs were telling it they wanted without replicating what hosts of public and private-sector players are already doing and without insinuating itself between entrepreneurs and the resources with which they need to connect. I think the organisation has pulled off an elegant and workable solution in its Startup Canada Communities — locally driven and designed networks that will cater to the specific needs of each community whilst also tying them all together into a cohesive, national system.
“Through Startup Canada Communities, we are empowering entrepreneurs to take it into their own hands to address these challenges and build their own startup community, from the bottom-up,” Lennox said.
Startup Canada Communities launches in 15 pilot centres today, from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Prince George, British Columbia. The communities were chosen for their diversity in size, industry focus and maturity of the local startup community. The first-year experiences of these pilot projects will form the basis of a second wave of Startup Canada Communities in 2014.
The initiative has some big-name backing from startup luminaries such as Brad Feld, the Boulder, Colorado-based entrepreneur, venture capitalist and co-founder of TechStars; Startup Genome founder Bjoern Herrmann and Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week. But it is the local community leaders and teams who will largely determine the relevance and success of the project.
Here in Ottawa, the initiative is in good hands. Startup Canada recruited passionate startup advocate and tireless local entrepreneurship promoter Cheryl Draper as its Ottawa lead. Draper, who already helms Startup Weekend and Startup Grind in the nation’s capital, sees Startup Communities Ottawa’s role as building on and gathering together the broad range of resources that already exist in the city.
“Ottawa has a lot of resources,” Draper told me, “But it’s difficult to know where to start when you’re beginning your entrepreneurial journey or where to turn to take your business to the next level. That’s where Startup Communities comes in. We want to help those budding entrepreneurs navigate the waters because we are entrepreneurs ourselves and understand how hard it is to start up and to stay the course. After all, when a startup succeeds, everyone in the community benefits.”
You can join in the launch of Startup Canada Communities today by participating in one or more social media activities celebrating the launch. These include:
- 1 – 2pm EST: Re-Inventing Canada – The Case for Startup Communities. Twitter Chat: #startupc2c – Featuring Rivers Corbett (Startup Fredericton), Shauna Harper (Startup Prince George) and Chris Johnson (Ramp Up Manitoba).
- 3 – 4pm EST: From the Ground Up – Building a Startup Community. Twitter Chat: #startupc2c – Featuring Ken Bautista (Startup Edmonton).
- 4 – 5pm EST: Startup Canada Communities – The New Social Network.Twitter Chat: #startupc2c – Featuring Startup Canada co-founder and CEO Victoria Lennox.
- 6 – 7 pm EST: FEATURE EVENT – The Global Startup Movement. Google Hangout – Chaired by Rick Spence (Entrepreneur Columnist with the National Post). Featuring a special video from Brad Feld and Panel with Jonathan Ortmans and Bjoern Herrmann