Before I get to the exciting news, on behalf of Ontario Immigrant Network and the communities that we serve, I need to say this: Thank You Libro Credit Union – for selecting OIN from a long-list of very worthy causes, and for recognizing the role that you can play in a very important issue: financial literacy and entrepreneurship for both Canadian and newcomer youth.
Why did YOU take the plunge?
*This is a guest blog
I often get asked why I became an entrepreneur? Why did I start my own company? I could answer that I grew up in an entrepreneurial home, with a father who ran his own business for years. I could answer, that the change agent in me did not like working for large corporations and instead wanted to build my own business and make things happen. However, neither of these reflect reality. My answer, much to the surprise of most, is that I became an entrepreneur out of necessity.
Around the country, incubators are popping up. Tech incubators, health incubators, manufacturing incubators. Venture capitalists continue to create to new opportunities to attract the next big tech company and angel investors sit poised, ready to be mentors and investors to new entrepreneurs.
Every start-up at some point in their existence, considers chasing venture capital. The funding may be a life-line to emerging companies, who have been boot-strapping to just get by. Location plays an irrefutable role in the ability of these firms to get funding. Location determines both the likelihood and the amount that start ups are likely to receive. Consider that start-ups in Vancouver receive typically receive 80% less funding than start-ups in silicon Valley?
Where is a Firm Most Likely to succeed?
Several studies have examined the likelihood of venture capital success. In a 2009 study in the Harvard Review by Chen, et al, and another in 2010 by Josh Lerner, found that start-ups who received funding that were OUTSIDE of the geography of their venture capitalists, significantly outperformed, those closer to the VC’s office.
This posits an interesting phenomenon, why is that investors continue to be scared of secondary markets? Start-ups are naturally attracted to cities where VC’s exist. VC’s often set higher hurdle rates for firms that are outside of their area due to increased monitoring costs for items such as travel time. Do those firms, because of their higher hurdle rates, outperform start-ups in NY, Silicon Valley and Boston? Or, to actually attract VC attention, are these firms better to start with?
How does this affect firms seeking VC funding?
Is it better for firms who are seeking VC funding to pack up and head to a larger tech center?
The propensity of these firms receiving funding would increase. What does this mean for firms located in smaller cities? Should local governments invest more in encouraging more VC’s and investors in an area?
We will examine these topics in the coming weeks and provide insight and recommendations for firms looking for VC investment.
What is the Value-add of incubators?
Over the last decade, incubators have been popping up all over the country. There are economic development incubators, venture capital incubators and industry specific. On the tech side, Accelerators are the newest label to be put onto incubators. Despite all of this growth, one question that seldom appears to emerge, is “What value does your incubator add”?
The concept of “value added” is one that rarely emerges in the ever changing world of technology. Value added is no longer “trending” in this world of “build it and they will come”, yet the concept of value add is one that all companies, regardless of industry, company age or experience need to maintain to ensure their long-term success.
Value add is simple, it is the value that you create for your users, your customers and market. It is what makes you different and special in a world filled with competition. It is the service you provide, that has a real, tangible outcome.
In the case of incubators, what is the value add? Most would say for technology incubators, it is the networks, the social connections, the ability to facilitate the flow of capital and investment to young entrepreneurs to commercialize their products/services. Every VC is seeking the next dropbox or Facebook. The job of incubators and accelerators is to function as the intermediaries (middlemen) of old, and connect these two resources.
3 Key Differences
1. While the connection to capital, is most certainly an important value added service, in other circles-mainly those crazy socialist Europeans (note the sarcasm here) are more concerned with a firms longevity rather than its immediate bottomline. The reasons are both social and historical, but it is sufficient to note that Europeans tend to be less concerned with concepts such as quarterly returns, and more concerned with yearly, and multi-year returns. They pioneered concepts of “patient capital” and social innovation. Where North American incubators are connecting individuals to capital, European are offering business support services-Entrepreneurship training, business administration support & yes, financing.
2. Europeans also tend to be more invested in the “entrepreneur” rather than the idea. Rather, than focusing on finding the next facebook, they seek to find the next Mark Zuckerburg. What an original concept, invest in people and the results will come.
3. Finally, more European incubators then tend to invest for longer, in these companies (3-5 years) to get the returns they seek. They are not so much concerned with getting the current cohort out the door, and finding the next batch. The long-term investment is to ensure the long-term success of the company, and the people who work for it.
What differences do these entrepreneurial models create in the end company? What metrics should be used to evaluate incubators? MARS recently released a report calling for an IMPACT metrics for measuring incubator success. The time has come to measure and demand outcomes. Standards need to be created for education, program and service offering and not just simply seeking the next high tech dollar.
There is a lot written these days about innovation, competitiveness and intellectual capital. I hear the banter of politicians, the monologues from leading Venture Capitalists and Investment firms, and I sit back and think about how they have it all wrong.
Our society is aging. David Foot in his ground-breaking work, “Boom, Bust and Echo” discusses the impact of the aging population on everything from Baseball to Housing Markets. As people age, we generally become more conservative. Be honest with yourself, do you find yourself thinking, “how can kids do that”, or even worse looking at your own kids and forgetting what it was like to be that age?
As the whole of society begins to turn grey, we will see a fundamental shift in attitudes, work style and social values. While these changes are not bad in themselves, they will begin to shift Canada from a competitive and innovative nation, to one that lags in industrial and technological competitiveness. The beginnings of these shifts are already occurring. Report after report documenting lagging Canadian productivity and economic slumps hits the airwaves every few weeks. Taken individually, these may represent nothing more that an slow economy. However, our economy has been slow for nearly 5 years. The “Boom” years are gone.
The graying of our population is not a bad think in itself. There is much wisdom that can be reaped from the experienced to new firms starting out. Repeatedly, our politicians push money into grants, into mega-projects, and large industrial complexes, in hopes of getting a sound-byte with their name on it, when really what we need are small focused, incubators, mentorship programs, and training platforms to transform the tacit knowledge that exists in our aging population and extend it to our youth.i
Youth also must understand that they are not “unique snowflakes” (as one friend often refers to the Y-Generation) and that the struggles that they as new entrepreneurs experience are not unique and in fact–exceptionally common to almost every entrepreneur.
This does not mean that the creativity of Generation Y cannot be harnessed to develop unique products, competitive solutions and to be, yes, innovative. Mentorship programs need not be one way only–we often think of a Mentor as an older individual–young people can also run Mentorship programs teaching others–who are new to an industry, a way of thinking, how to be more creative. As we age, we become more risk adverse, how about a mentorship program that teaches us to be less prone to risk? How about a Mentorship program that engages social leaders at all levels and teaches us to be innovative?
Our next blog post will discuss how smaller cities can be more competitive in a global environment.