Startup Canada Tour makes capital stop

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Tom Pechloff
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The entrepreneurial ecosystem has progressed “substantially” since Startup Canada started three years ago, CEO Victoria Lennox said Tuesday when her group’s cross-country tour hit the capital.

Startup Canada's Tour made its Ottawa stop at Algonquin College Nov. 17

“We’re not having the same conversations today as we did three years ago. Thank God for that. That’s really amazing,” she said. “What I’ve really sensed is that the community is now ready to come together.”

That message was echoed by Second Cup co-founder Frank O’Dea, who gave the first keynote address of the day in the Commons Theatre at Algonquin College. The same theme came up again in a town hall meeting with several prominent local entrepreneurs.

“I think we need to start investing in people versus their enterprises,” said Stephen Partridge, who sits on Startup Canada’s board and is also head of strategic assets and investments for events.com, an events registration software provider.

Wendy Mayhew, an author and promoter of the seniorpreneurship movement, said it was important for entrepreneurs to share their knowledge.

“Everybody should be helping someone else along the way. We all have the expertise. Share it. Don’t be afraid of the competition. Share the information that you have,” she said.

Makerspace North director Kyle McInnes added some colour to the town hall session with his response to the question of how the capital’s entrepreneurial community can be united and energized.

“I don’t think entrepreneurship is necessarily something that comes from a central planning committee, where we foster it, we grow it, it happens,” he said.

While he called the tour stop “great,” he added it could create “an artificial demand” for entrepreneurship when “natural forces will create it anyway.”

Ms. Lennox said Startup Canada is for all entrepreneurs, adding Mr. McInnes had an “awesome perspective,” one she said she knew he would bring to the event.

“A lot of entrepreneurs focus on their business and they say it will happen organically and everything will go great," she said. "Awesome. It will for them, but my experience tells me nothing happens unless something makes it happen."

The tour stop also featured panels on government and industry support as well as bootcamps on sales and marketing and going global.

There was also an opportunity for participants to meet two new local Liberal MPs.

“My goal with every entrepreneur tour is to create the strategy for the next phase of entrepreneurship movement so that we can really serve every entrepreneur across Canada and coalesce that voice to government,” Ms. Lennox said.

Ms. Lennox said she has noticed different themes across the country.

In Montreal, which has what she called a “more sophisticated startup community,” she said young companies are more focused on finding new customers, while in Atlantic Canada, the community is looking for more government support. Out west, she said, there’s a push to expand British Columbia’s angel tax credit to other provinces.

The tour’s final stop will be in Toronto on Dec. 14 at the MaRS Discovery District. Ms. Lennox said she will then take all the findings and recommendations collected across the country to the newly appointed minister for small business and tourism, Bardish Chagger.

Organizations: Startup Canada, Canada Tour, Liberal MPs

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Montreal, Toronto

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