in Angel Investors, Canada, Events, Exits, Recruiting, Startups

Natural Resources

AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved photo by Chealion

Ask a miner “What is Canada’s most precious natural resource?” and you’ll be sure to stump. The answer is easy… Canadians.

One of the tricks to Silicon Valley’s winning streak is that they back not only repeat entrepreneurs, but repeat teams. Just like one of those wonderful chocolate fountains you occasionally fortune upon at weddings, Silicon Valley recycles people. A team forms, builds a successful enterprise, people move on to try some new things, and projects that find traction attract back the core crew.

Is Canada effectively recycling people? Think long and hard, because if we aren’t the fountain is drying up – end of the party. I can name a handful who have ventured abroad and returned: John Green (@johnphilipgreen), Malgosia Green (@HeyGosia), Dan Morel (@dpmorel), Farhan Thawar (@fnthawar), David Crow (@davidcrow), Jeese Rasch, Zak Homuth (@zakhomuth)… the list goes on, but it could be longer. Maybe our friend Howard Lindzon (@howardlindzon) will start his next company in Canada?

What is bringing them back? Visa issues, sometimes. Spouses, more often. Schools for children, okay I’ll take it. But it would be much better if what brought our best and brightest home was opportunity. And the crazy part is, it is knocking. We have a safe multicultural inclusive country, close to major markets, with investment matching funds up the wazoo, and here is the most beautiful part – our nation is brimming with high caliber engineers (who are getting scooped up by Twitter, Facebook, and Google as you read this post).

Part of the challenge is funding. Canadian entrepreneurs are picking up and moving to New York, San Francisco, Boston, Boulder, and even Santiago (yes you read that right, Chile – in the southern hemisphere) for minuscule sums of seed financing so they can focus 100% on their startups vs their day jobs. Just ask Ken Seville (@civisidedotcom).

Myopic policies might attempt to discourage cross border exits, which are vital and create deep new linkages. Instead what we need to learn is that the opportunity is keeping the founders engaged once they head for warmer climates. I can guarantee, foreign direct investment will not thrive in the absence of results. To generate returns we need to recycle teams.

I am particularly excited about a handful of intiatives that address this gap including: Toronto HomecomingC100, and Startup Visa. Let’s find ways to support their efforts.

  1. Right on Jonas. AND when we think opportunities, we need to be thinking bigger and better. World class not just table stakes. Our multicultural, more globally oriented perspective provides the right insights for meaningful global opportunities. Let’s celebrate the exits to the industry giants. But lets aim to build the next giants that will be doing the acquiring. Let’s aim to build the things that become the foundation for the future… with what it means to be Canadian as the secret sauce that makes it great.

  2. Hahaha, Spouses. And children. This is completely true. It’s what brought me back from Austin and has kept me here instead of going to the Valley.

  3. My older brother Drew is considering a return to Toronto as well, after a decade in the states (New York, California, and more recently Chicago). He’s got lots of good reasons, most of which are documented in Toronto’s second place finish in Pricewaterhousecooper’s “Cities of Opportunity list”:

    Toronto beat out London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris. Booyah!

  4. I love the fact that there are Canadians who’ve lived in the U.S. returning to grow businesses in Canada. We’re looking at moving teams down to the U.S. right now, mainly because – you guessed it – capital. Canadian investors like to make small bets on things to be bought out, in our experience. And if you want to play big, you need to talk to people who think big. So having these teams come back to Canada is encouraging. Maybe some will have some exits and become that aggressive and ‘big thinking’ capital we see in the U.S.

Comments are closed.


  • Recycle Your Canadians Here! May 13, 2011

    […] Brandon from StartupNorth wrote a fantastic blog recently about how Canadians most valuable resource is themselves, and how […]