“Entrepreneurship should be nothing new to Canadians. BC’s native peoples were trading goods up and down the West coast, and as far afield as Russia, long before contact with European culture. Business is the new way of hunting. The iPad and the cell phone have replaced the canoe, the club and the bow and arrow.” Chief Leonard George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation at the Startup Canada Aboriginal Town Hall in North Vancouver, BC, Sept. 19, 2012
Entrepreneurs, and high-growth businesses are the engine of growth and the backbone of the Canadian economy – they create value and jobs that sustain our quality of life. There are more than 1 million small businesses in Canada that employ 48 percent of our total workforce, account for 25 percent of total exports, and provide 30 percent of our total GDP. Of those small businesses, 4.7 percent are classified as high-growth enterprises and are responsible for 45 percent of new job creation in Canada.
Yet there continues to be a fundamental lack of understanding in Canada as to who is driving the train of economic growth. It is not big business. It is not the public sector. Entrepreneurs, startups and high-growth businesses are the economic engines in Canada. They are not just elements of it; they are the heart of it.
Even those who don’t understand how vital these entrepreneurs are benefit from their obsession and from their willingness to live such non-traditional lives. We need to create a Canada that understands entrepreneurs and comes to see them as value creators and nation builders – people who can take us beyond our resource-driven focus and capitalize on the human resources with which we can grow.
At the heart of the issue is culture. Entrepreneurial optimism, belief and investment in Canada are often showered with disbelief, mistrust and apathy. We need a cultural shift – a change at a fundamental level – in order to facilitate meaningful economic revival and the transition to higher levels of social and cultural achievement. Canadians need to break out of old habits and think differently to create a culture of belief and positivity that generates new opportunities.
A culture shift cannot rely on government alone. We need to place entrepreneurs themselves as leaders of this transformation and we all – individuals, families, businesses, investors, educators, community leaders and non-profit organizations – need to feed the transformation with governments providing an enabling environment. 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.
1.1 Startup Canada National Tour & Campaign
Startup Canada is a grassroots, entrepreneur-led, volunteer-run community that launched in May 2012, born from the desire to better support entrepreneurs and to foster a more entrepreneurial culture. This report is the voice of Canadian entrepreneurs. It is a summary of the community, entrepreneur and expert conversations coming out of the Startup Canada National Tour, which took place from May to September 2012 and stopped in 40 Canadian communities. The Tour brought together 20,000 Canadians and 300 partners through 200 events fuelled by hundreds of volunteers to kick-start a national conversation and celebration and to connect the Canadian entrepreneurship community from coast to coast.
In addition to town hall meetings, expert discussions and more than 500 video interviews with some of Canada’s leading entrepreneurs, Startup Canada brought the conversation and celebration online through social media and online campaigns, daily and weekly updates, #startupchats on Twitter, event live-feeds, and public input via videos and online forums.
The Tour provided a platform for the Canadian entrepreneurship community to come together, share ideas, identify gaps and opportunities, and commit to community-level action. Collectively, participants gave life to more than a dozen community-led projects – from co-working spaces and entrepreneur-led accelerators to communications campaigns and community asset-mapping exercises. For the first time, the Canadian entrepreneurship community connected in a common activity and conversation.
1.2 For Who? So What?
This summary, the culmination of conversations that engaged more than 20,000 Canadians in person and more than 50,000 Canadians online, is also a call to action to everyone who wants to contribute to creating a stronger and more prosperous Canada. It provides a menu of reflections and ideas on how we can do better.
As the largest and most extensive entrepreneurial consultation in Canada, producing the most expansive and up-to-date entrepreneurial database in the country, the magnitude and scope of this effort cannot be dismissed, and action is imperative.
It is daunting. It is messy. And we might not know how we are going to get there. This is the nature of entrepreneurship. These are ideas on ways forward, and we will sort it out and advance together.
Entrepreneurs can be found throughout society. They are change agents and we need them as much inside government, media, education and the non-profit and citizen sectors as we do in creating new ventures. Just as it takes a community to support a startup, it will take all of us working together to start up Canada.
1.3 Thank you
Startup Canada, the National Tour and these Living Blueprints all began as a seed of an idea. After months of cold-calling, hundreds of hours of Skype meetings, thousands of air miles, uncounted tweets and the unrelenting hustle of hundreds of entrepreneurs and volunteers, we have achieved an important milestone as a community.
Thank you to our first adopters, early investors, patrons, board, advisors, provincial ambassadors and committees, community hosts, partners, volunteers, contributors, reviewers and mentors who unreservedly shared their time, expertise and networks to allow this seed to sprout. Thank you to the media that covered us, the public officials who supported and celebrated our arrival in their communities, and the unsung heroes who stepped up without hesitation when asked for help, asking nothing in return. Together, we are on our way to creating a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem that values reciprocity, philanthropy and empowerment.