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Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City) Work

Toronto’s Challenges, if it Tries to Become More Seattle- or Silicon Valley-esque

[This article was also posted on Global Nerdy.]

McDonald’s on El Camino Real and totem pole at Pioneer Square
Scenes from the Valley’s El Camino Real (left) and Seattle’s Pioneer Square (right).

Here’s some food for thought. Ahmed Hassan very recently wrote a comment in response to an article of mine, Ideas to Steal from Silicon Valley and Seattle, and it’s worth promoting to its own article, so here it is.

Being from Toronto and having worked in both Toronto, Ottawa, and the US, I think Toronto has severe challenges.

1. We build workers…not leaders.

We have loads of talent…but all we create is good worker bees.

2. Yes, lack of big companies is a big deal.

There are some ‘entrepreneurs’ who will just go at it on their own. yet, the vast majority of people like a decent job. So they meet up at large companies…work for a while…then maybe decide to start their own thing. All we have in Toronto proper is IBM and AMD. Anyone care to explain how RIM was founded in Waterloo. I ask that as a serious question. How does a small town create the only great Canadian tech company in operation right now? Why was it not founded in Toronto? Ask that question a few times…over and over.

3. Politicians do not understand business.

When you have someone like Miller who says he doesn’t care about companies who move to Mississauga for lower tax rates as he only wants companies who are willing to pay more to take advantage of Toronto’s urban character… you know something is wrong. They will try to push venture capital and ‘incubators…’.

As I say…mentality before process.

4. Sometimes you run out of talent.

How many high tech centers do we need? Everywhere you go, there is a lack of talent. If Toronto tech can just pickup and move to Seattle, Silicon valley, New york, boston, dallas, austin… in an already established tech base, why would they bother doing it here? Better weather, lower taxes, more like-minded entrepreneurs.

It’s not impossible. But Toronto has its work cut out for it. The biggest threat to Toronto…is actually Waterloo. Very close to Toronto and with a large tech base. It’s largely a mentality gap. Toronto embraces bureaucracy and structure. Startups are about freedom and independence. If you will…that’s why RIM was founded in Waterloo as opposed to Toronto. No Toronto bureaucracy would have ever approved of RIM. I mean they would be competing against Motorola, Nokia, MS… impossible…that’s a bad investment.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

4 replies on “Toronto’s Challenges, if it Tries to Become More Seattle- or Silicon Valley-esque”

It’s pretty bad out there for tech companies in Toronto, and there are many reasons. The big successes (Delrina and others) were a decade ago and there have been spinoffs of talent and capital. But the VC industry in Canada really lags the US. We’ll see spinoffs from RIM, but unless the investment climate improves, those returns will be diminishing as well.

Other problems are that universities are not producing entrepreneurs, Canada is not attracting talent, and the financial companies are poaching talent and not giving them any of the skills needed to succeed in private industry.

“Socrates was a philosopher. He went around pointing out errors in the way things were done. They fed him hemlock.” -Gil Amelio, quoting a “young philosophy student”

For some reason that’s the first response that popped into my brain.

always keep politics out of your business…unless your selling weapons!!!

promote activities that attract smart people. ie geekfest, furry conventions..you know stuff like that.

Spread your money around A LOT. Hard to say what the next big thing is but 9 times out of 10 you’ll never recognize it…cause its new

Hi northern Devils!!!

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