Canada is home to many history-shaping innovations, and as a country, we are known for exceptionally ingenious ideas.
From ARCHIE, the world’s first search engine, to the pager, to IMAX, to more recently, tech giants like Shopify, Slack, Hootsuite, Abcellera, – the list goes on.
But these are big names for more reasons than great ideas, persistence, persuasive founders and perseverance. They all managed to take those innovations and secure vital investment funding, taking their ideas from concept to commercialization.
I’ve been watching with growing concern as many promising, potential tech darlings don’t get past the exciting startup phase. This is an especially acute concern given the current tech downturn that we’re witnessing, and living through.
As an angel investor, and serial founder, I have some unique perspectives on why some companies succeed, some fail.
As chair of TiE Vancouver, part of TiE Global Angels, the world’s largest angel investor network (with 62 chapters around the world), I believe advice and mentorship from successful founders and experienced investors can and must play a role in incubating potential unicorns and preparing them for success.
Why do so many fail to launch?
Where many Canadian entrepreneurs fail is not for a lack of passion, or creativity, or formal education. The access to specialized, advisory-based education and training on building fundable companies and securing crucial investment funds is really limited.
Always, and especially in times of an economic downturn, being able to successfully present your ideas to potential investors literally makes or breaks your innovation. No one wants to be a “whatever happened to X?” startup, but it is all too common.
It’s not due to a lack of funding, Canadian tech is a billion dollar, federally-funded industry.
According to the World Economic Forum, Canada ranks 14th out of 17 peer countries when it comes to innovation, even though on a per-capita basis, our $7-billion federal annual investment into research and development (R&D) is far more generous than other OECD nations.
What does this mean? Despite billions invested federally, there is simply not enough venture capital available in Canada as compared to Silicon Valley and other global tech centres. Global venture capitalists and private investors are reluctant to invest until an innovation can show that it meets real-world market needs in larger markets, such as the US and Asia. It is technologies vetted by experts familiar with those markets, and backed by prominent investors who understand them that “de-risks” potential startups further for investors, and makes them keener to invest.
Can Canadian entrepreneurs find funding, even in an economic downturn?
Yes – but not by relying on potential alone. It was always harder to raise investment funds for Canadian founders, it is even harder now as capital markets have slowed down over the last year. However, despite the doom and gloom of the global economy, and even with all signs pointing to a Canadian recession, there is help out there for Canadian entrepreneurs.
TiE Vancouver is a non-profit and includes the world’s largest angel investor network TiE. TiE Global has 62 global chapters that supports aspiring entrepreneurs by opening them up to a huge network of TiE’s Canadian, US, and global strategic advisors, and angel investors. TiE advisors work hands-on with entrepreneurs, and include high-level executives in some of the largest US and global companies.
TiE Vancouver is thrilled to announce TiE Incubation Lab, an innovation hub and accelerator where successful applicants have access to mentorship, hands-on advisory, and investment.
What is TiE Incubation Lab?
With TiE Vancouver’s latest venture, TiE Incubation Lab, selected applicants will have access to hands-on mentorship with local and global founders with successful exits in the tech sector. These are experts who specialize in what a particular project needs. TiE Incubation Lab participants will receive:
- Access to TiE’s network of Canadian, US and global strategic advisors
- Mentorship founders with successful exits in the sector, experts who specialize in what a particular project needs (growth and traction, expertise in a specific sector or geographical region)
- Support with preparing for the fundraising process
- Investment from members of TiE Vancouver Angels
- Access to the worldwide investor network of TiE Global Angels for further investment
Closed sales and letters of intent towards buying from prominent US and global organizations helps ‘de-risk’ startups for investors as validation is there that a market exists with demand to buy what the startup is selling/supplying. TiE advisors help with the oft-ignored, but absolutely essential component for any funded venture: support with preparing for the fundraising process. This empowers entrepreneurs to take their concept into a place where it can become commercially viable.
What can we do to support entrepreneurs in moving from ideation to implementation?
Many are asking what can be done to ensure that Canadian entrepreneurs continue to thrive and to push the limits on what innovation looks like. We’re seeing so much promise out of clean tech, healthcare, bio tech, ag-tech, and we don’t want it to slow down, nor does it have to. Ways that incubators and networks like TiE Vancouver can and do help:
- By increasing the number of companies receiving funding,
- Ensuring that factors are right for a company to get funded, like removing barriers that come with a lack of access to experts
- By making high potential founders and startups increase their odds of success, by supporting them on their fundraising efforts
- Connecting startups with investors within the TiE Global networks
Applications are open, and optimism is high
Application is free and open now, for more information, aspiring entrepreneurs can visit the TiE Vancouver website. I hope that TiE Incubation Lab will help entrepreneurs and startups, and create a cohort of successful founders who will pay it forward and mentor and advise the next generation of Canadian founders. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Maninder Dhaliwal is the Managing Partner at Startup Studio – Accelerator and Venture Fund, Founding Chair of TiE Vancouver Angels, and serves on the global steering committee for TiE Global Angels, the largest angel investor network in the world.