State of VC in five years?

Canada has a great financial sector, a growing economy, tons of smart people and a bunch of pretty snazzy exits recently. Yet, with all this Deloitte and the National Venture Capital Association still predict that the number of VC firms in Canada will continue to decline (hat tip: TechCrunch).


Sure, Canada is doing better than US and Europe but we’re not doing so well versus the BIC. The first reaction may be that it is now conventional wisdom that China, India and (lately added) Brazil will  take over the world so it stands to follow more VC will set up in those countries. Fair enough.

But deconstruct this a little further. The Canadian VC industry has already been decimated over the course of the past few year and yet, according to this survey, over a quarter of the respondents think it will shrink further. (The VC industry’s shrinkage in the US is a good thing I and many other would argue. Too much dead weight)

And VCs follow exits, well recently Canadian companies have exited to Apple, Google and not to mention a pretty killer IPO. That should bode well for the VC industry over the next five years, but it appears that it doesn’t (Yes, these exits happened after the survey was held, but still….)

In fact, it seems that achieving exits in Canada  is the number one barrier to expanded investments in the minds of VCs when they think about Canada.  Number 2 barrier is “lack of established venture capital community” which seems like a bit of a vicious circle.

So what do you think? Should Canada be worried? What can be done to improve the five-year outlook on the Canadian VC scene?

Going global from day one

Arguably, two of the most important centers of innovation outside of Silicon Valley are in India and Israel. The reasons of why this is are numerous and could form basis of someone’s PhD thesis but for the purpose of brevity I’ll only highlight one: global from day one.

You talk to entrepreneurs from either India or Israel and they’ll surely weave great yarns about their companies (these are also two great storytelling cultures) but one thread that will be consistent is when the entrepreneur founded their company, they were immediately thinking of the global marketplace.

In Israel, it is because the domestic market is too small and there are limited opportunities to sell regionally. The story in India is that while population is huge, it is very poor so the actual local market for technology or technology services.

Faced with these challenges, Indian and Israeli companies would market to the US and Europe and often place key personnel in those geographies. Overseas became their across the street.

In the past year, Canada has been thrust upon the global stage several times. Whether it is praise for our banking system, our brave forces, our Gold-medaled athletes, or our ability to throw a party, Canada as a country has been seen as a global leader.

Will our entrepreneurs follow suit? Sometimes it seems that cross-cultural expansion from a Canadian perspective is an Alberta company selling into Quebec.

Unfortunately, as often as you hear of grand global ambitions from Israeli, Indian (and American!) entrepreneurs, you hear of relatively modest ambitions from Canadian ones.

All too often global expansion = US expansion. That is not the right formula.

Here’s a fact that is sometimes a bit uncomfortable, many American companies consider Canada as part of their domestic market. The effort and planning these companies put into Canada is the same one they put into Wyoming. (OK, maybe I’m overstating the point)

But here’s a suggestion, we should return the favor. Canadian companies shouldn’t think of the US as a “global” market but rather just an extension of the domestic one. When Canadian companies say global, they should mean it and have Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa dead in their sights. These regions all have burgeoning and tech-savvy populations and are eager to get online.

So whether we’re talking about consumer, enterprise, SMB or SP services or products, let’s see Canadian entrepreneurs putting the “world” into their WorldWideWeb plans. Canada’s got the world stage for the moment. Entrepreneurs, make your entrance.