At a technology stakeholders’ event hosted yesterday in Kitchener-Waterloo, the Alpha Exchange unveiled its White Paper about “Building Connections and Fixing the Funding Challenge to Kick-Start Canada’s Technology Sector“, which has underperformed since the internet bubble burst twelve years ago, more so than the technology sectors of some other countries such as the U.S.
A case in point: despite Canada’s citizens having a reputation of being highly digitally connected, our “internet economy” as a percentage of GDP is below the G20 average and forecast to fall further behind. Through a review of academic research and interviews with 22 thought leaders in the Canadian technology sector, we have scored Canada’s technology ecosystem on six functional characteristics: technical expertise, public support, regulation, finance expertise, management expertise and funding.
Our overall conclusion was that despite our strong technology talent, history of public sector investment and generally supportive regulatory environment, our shallow well of start-up management talent and mentors as well as our poor availability of funding nets the Canadian technology ecosystem a lackluster grade of C.
We have however identified five initiatives that could allow Canada to kick-start the re-establishment of its technology sector with no or minimal public money. These five initiatives, which together are reinforcing each other, all aim at creating connections and liquidity to allow for the successful development and funding of technology firms through their entire life-cycle:
- Connecting start-ups to talent and investors
- Supporting crowdfunding
- Developing an institutionalized pre-IPO capital market
- Establishing an exchange focused on the technology sector
- Supporting an “angel investor” tax-credit.
“These initiatives need to take place along with a redoubled focus on the host of other factors that create an environment for success for Canada’s technology companies.” notes Jos Schmitt, Alpha Exchange CEO. “With the right choices, we can prevent the impending decline in Canada’s global technology relevance, and support the development of an economy of the future. We believe there is tremendous untapped talent and opportunity in the Canadian technology sector. We are ready to play a key role in unlocking that opportunity by improving the funding process and connecting experienced advice and leadership with start-ups. Our first step has been the establishment of a technology focused exchange.”