Building a startup culture

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Entrepreneurs, startups and high-growth businesses are the engine of growth and the backbone of the Canadian economy.

Ottawa serial entrepreneur Adam Chowaniec.

By Adam Chowaniec

Yet there continues to be a fundamental lack of understanding in Canada as to who is driving the train of economic and social growth.

Even those who don’t understand how vital we entrepreneurs are all benefit from our obsession with our ventures and our willingness to live such non-traditional lives.

At the heart of the issue is culture.

Building a vibrant entrepreneurial culture needs to come from the bottom up, driven by entrepreneurs who have the desire to build their own businesses and to contribute to the creation of an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Startup Canada Blueprints are the voice of Canadian entrepreneurs.

(A national tour this year) revealed a number of common challenges that must be addressed to create a more dynamic and successful startup environment across the country – from access to support, capital, mentorship and global markets, to culture, awareness, early education and promotion.

Overall, however, the tour uncovered three key challenges that we need to address:

• Canada needs to rediscover its entrepreneurial roots and embrace entrepreneurship as central to its national culture;

• Canada needs to cultivate savvier and more visionary early-stage startups to produce more high-growth companies with global reach;

• Canadian entrepreneurship must be fuelled from the bottom up through development of vibrant local entrepreneurial communities, led by entrepreneurs (not by bureaucrats or not-for-profits, as is often the case today), as the basis of a national entrepreneurship network.

We need to act with urgency. Problems and some solutions have been discussed for decades, but we are running out of time. The world is changing and competition is growing. We must take decisive action now to effect a substantial culture shift in how we regard and support new ventures in this country, ventures that can grow into global players.

Startup Canada’s engagement and celebration of entrepreneurs over the last year has highlighted the incredible momentum and capacity of this movement across the country.

The work ahead is to build a new generation of Canadian businesses that can scale and succeed in increasingly global markets. This needs to be a national effort.

Adam Chowaniec is the chairman of Startup Canada, a volunteer-run initiative that aims to foster Canadian entrepreneurship, as well as the former chairman of Zarlink Semiconductor Corp. and founding CEO of Tundra Semiconductor Corp.

See also: Startup Canada's real work begins

Organizations: Canada Blueprints, Startup Canada, Zarlink Semiconductor Corp. Tundra Semiconductor Corp.

Geographic location: Canada

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