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Cheerleaders don’t move the ball down the field

By Francis Moran

When the British Columbia Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers meet in the 99th staging of the Grey Cup, Canada’s professional football championship, in Vancouver this Sunday, both teams will have squads of cheerleaders jumping and shouting from the sidelines in a loud and colourful effort to get the B.C. Place crowd roaring for their side. But while the young women in short skirts waving pompoms might be interesting for some to look at, nothing that they do is actually going to move the ball even a single yard down the field. They will score not a single point. Their contribution to the spectacle will not be captured in a single game statistic.

This morning, I was at the second event in as many weeks where the whole game plan seemed to be on pumping up the volume of the cheerleading rather than on the fundamentals of moving the ball down the field.

Speaker after speaker at these two events — last week’s kick off to Ottawa Entrepreneur Week and this morning’s regular monthly execTALKS event, both organised by the Ottawa Centre for Regional Innovation — spoke of the imperative that more “buzz” be created around Ottawa’s moribund technology scene as though sheer enthusiasm alone could overcome the very real challenges that face this critical sector of the local economy.

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30 considerations for getting tech to market: Part II

This is the 31st article in a continuing series that examines the state of the ecosystem necessary to successfully bring technology to market. Based on dozens of interviews with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, business leaders, academics, tech-transfer experts and policy makers, this series looks at what is working and what can be improved in the go-to-market ecosystem in the United States, Canada and Britain. We invite your feedback.

By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette

Last week, we began a three-part recap of our Commercialization Ecosystem series with insights and practical advice on securing investment capital and finding champions to help get your technology to market. We continue this week with commercialization out of the university setting, the value of mentor capital and building your startup’s DNA.

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Accelerated: Waterloo’s culture of collaboration

This is the 18th article in a continuing series that examines the state of the ecosystem necessary to successfully bring technology to market. Based on dozens of interviews with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, business leaders, academics, tech-transfer experts and policy makers, this series looks at what is working and what can be improved in the go-to-market ecosystem in the United States, Canada and Britain. We invite your feedback.

By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette

Throughout this series, we have often referenced startup accelerators and the important role they play in the commercialization ecosystem, as well as where government support fits into the equation. So we thought it was time to take a closer look at these entities by profiling three different ones from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

This week, we start with Waterloo’s five-year-old Accelerator Centre. We recently spoke with Tim Jackson, COO of the AC, about the role that this kind of organization plays in the process of getting technology to market, what makes it tick, the culture required to support it and how it measures success. What follows is an abridged transcript of our conversation.

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Government: The road to hell is paved with …

This is the 16th article in a continuing series that examines the state of the ecosystem necessary to successfully bring technology to market. Based on dozens of interviews with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, business leaders, academics, tech-transfer experts and policy makers, this series looks at what is working and what can be improved in the go-to-market ecosystem in the United States, Canada and Britain. We invite your feedback.

By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette

As we stated in last week’s post, government’s role in the commercialization eco-system should be to create that “supportive and normative framework.” The common sentiment among the various VCs, angel investors, accelerator and incubator executives, entrepreneurs and others we have interviewed is that government should stay out of the way as much as possible.

But before the big G steps back, what should it do to enable startups that are trying to get to market, or more established enterprises looking to break into foreign markets or migrate their product lines?

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Recent Comments

  • James LaPalme : Francis Would not say thrived - but close - in spite of geography. 15ish years ago - a group of similar skilled and experience and capable business folks (sales, channel, alliance, business development) all lived in Canada (Ottawa-Toronto-Waterloo). All except for one stayed - that would be me. Well the guys that went to Silicon Valley have thrived well beyond expectations. The others - Boston, Dallas and EU have done very well - thrived. My survival has been predominately based on CEO's from outside Ontario seeing my value. Best to move on to more receptive fertile ground if ambitious. A successful strategy is to move south do a few years and remove the pure northern business experience then come back - which my experience is very few will.

  • Francis Moran : I'm so glad to see you warming to this idea, Luc. Not that you were ever one of those mindless critics who automatically opposed the proposal; you were properly skeptical and demanding that it contain more of what folks like you and I believed was necessary for success. Looks like the city is listening.

  • Luc Lalande : Hi Francis, thank you for the steady and keen eye on the development of this important project for the City. I share your view that open spaces in the building’s design will be critical components for encouraging spontaneous interactions between people. Integrating such spaces in the Innovation Complex sends the right signals to the community-at-large and not just the local startup ecosystem: everyone is welcomed! With respect to Patti’s comments about the arts sector, it would be worth bringing back to light that the Hintonburg-Mechanicsville area has emerged as the first Arts District in the City of Ottawa, housing many artist studios, performing arts studios, and media groups. While the 7 Bayview located Innovation Complex may cater to the entrepreneurial set, there is still considerable property on these lands that could, one day, be developed and capitalize on the area’s sizable artistic community. But perhaps the open spaces at the Innovation Complex can be equally accommodating for anyone who embraces creativity and entrepreneurship: artists and innovators alike.

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