But the successful Canadian company – which was sold to Stockholm-based Ericsson in April – wasn’t so successful here at home.
“We sold nothing in Canada, absolutely nothing,” Mr. Chowaniec told a room full of entrepreneurs in Ottawa Thursday.
He spoke at an event hosted by Startup Canada, a national tour promoting and supporting entrepreneurship in Canada. One of the ways to do that is to change the risk culture in Canada and try to figure out why Canadian corporations don’t buy from Canadian startups, said Mr. Chowaniec, who is the chair of the Startup Canada board.
“There’s an urgency in our discussion today,” he said. “We need to change the status quo.”
Entrepreneurs attending the event heard talks from the local mogul as well as Invest Ottawa president Bruce Lazenby and Startup Canada’s executive director Victoria Lennox.
Scott Annan, founder of StartupPlays and Mercury Grove, said the last thing Ottawa needs is more programs or organizations for startups. Many exist, and events are hosted across the city all the time.
“There is an ecosystem, there are a lot of startups, and they’re tenacious,” he said.
The problem, he added, is that while there is much talk about the organizations and funds helping startups, there is not enough talk about the startups themselves.
Entrepreneurs aren’t “puppies or kids who need their hands held,” he said, but they do need to be supported locally. He challenged each person in the room to know the names of at least 10 startups in Ottawa before leaving the event.
Attendees were invited to identify a barrier or challenge facing entrepreneurs, develop a business plan to fix it, and make a pitch as to why their solution is important and feasible.
Many suggestions centred around the idea that entrepreneurs need access to mentors who can satisfy their individual support needs. Others included the need to make crowdfunding legal in Canada, an initiative recently taken up by Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, and creating an e-store for small local companies.
The cross-country initiative consists of 30 town hall meetings and 130 events scheduled from coast to coast between March and September to discuss how to solve challenges faced by Canadian entrepreneurs, with the goal of increasing national competitiveness and prosperity. The tour will end in Vancouver on Sept. 21.