Posted by Rachel Howarsen, Sollca Company .
When you don't have a hometown hockey team in the playoffs, you have a lot more time on your hands to think about your hometown. And it looks like that has been happening in Toronto this week.
On Tuesday StartupNorth's David Crow expressed his concerns about Ontario and its start ecosystem.
Crow believes that the province has the entrepreneurial ingredients needed to succeed - demonstrated by the spectacular successes of Bumptop, Sysomos, and Pushlife among others - but that there is too much noise and not enough teamwork between regions.
It leads to the murky waters that are the entrepreneur community and support infrastructure in Ontario. There is no segmentation. There definitely isn’t self-selection. They use similar words to describe their activities: entrepreneurship, startups, technology, media, growth, etc. As entrepreneurs there is a paradox of choice about who to listen to, where to go for advice, support, mentorship and guidance.
Crow notes that Ontario has more "innovation hubs" than California (14 in Ontario versus 12 in California), while Silicon Valley's home state has a population that is 3.7 times larger than Ontario.
So has the political perception of support of entrepreneurs and innovation province-wide become more important than the education and economic growth programs that can make a difference?
Are we missing an opportunity to raise the profile of Ontario companies because we don’t want to embrace the fact that Toronto is one of the major technology/media hubs? Are we diluting efforts by spreading the love and effort across 16 regions?
Sara Diamond, president of OCAD University, agrees with Crow and would like to see Toronto confidently tout itself as Silicon Valley North (here come the comments from Waterloo).
“You have all of these ingredients and we need to be courageous enough to say ‘We are the No. 1 digital city in North America; come to Toronto and look at what the future will bring in digital capacity and a digital economy,’” she says.“I think Toronto could become a magnet for … next-generation thinking.”
In an interview in today's Globe & Mail Diamond suggests that Toronto has the industry, the infrastructure and the ideas to lead in digital technology and that she’d like to see the entire city support an annual digital media showcase as grandiose as the Toronto International Film Festival.
We would bring the world to Toronto to see what’s happening in everything from creative content and new media artists to the various industrial sectors. There are hundreds of companies creating everything from digital games to educational content to experiences that combine television with online. We also have a heated technology sector developing mobile applications in everything from security to health care. We’d want to put all of that together and at the same time bring the best minds in the world and have them talk about the future of a digital world. This has impacts for economic strategy by encouraging companies to stay in Toronto and not migrate to the United States or other parts of the world. It would be the kind of showcase that would attract venture capital and superangel funding.
Diamond closes the interview hinting that a Toronto Digital Media Festival might not be far off. Discussions between the city, universities and industry are underway.
That's just fine with Vancouver and Montreal. Vancouver will host the GROW Conference again this August and Montreal will be home to the new International Startup Festival launching this July.
But we've got more important things to worry about for the next couple months anyways. Go Canucks and Habs!