Ihave spent a considerable portion of my professional life immersed within the world of technology and innovation.
From government laboratories to university science and engineering lab tables to domestic and foreign manufacturing production, I have been privileged and held in my hands the fantasy of the many talented dreamers who have come into my life to share their visions of change in the world.
For these experiences, I have many blessings.
And when I choose to inbed the realm of entrepreneurial ingredients into the mix, I can’t help but wonder where we can go from here at a local, regional or national level through technological transformation.
This week, I thought we would explore what it might take a region such as our beloved Okanagan to genuinely foster technological entrepreneurship.
The Okanagan community leaders that I have encountered emphasize infrastructure such as capital markets and good legal systems to effectively process technological advances.
Governments, in my career journey, have often attempted to promote “technopreneurship” by injecting risk capital. Ouch, I say. They distribute such funds through a variety of channels, small business development centres being one that comes to mind.
An assumption is made in this regard that assumes risk capital will solve all other prerequisites for growth in a tech venture.
But for this to actually occur, it is fair for me to say that it must be accompanied by other intangibles.
Those would include one of my personal favourites—access to a plethora of idea pools, role models, informal forums, regionally-specific opportunities, safety nets, access to large markets and executive leadership.
Let’s face it my friends, entrepreneurship is a way of life. It is a way of thinking, acting and believing.
It is a driving force that compels one to do more, move faster and go farther than anyone else—even in the face of high risk and uncertain outcome.
Unmistakably, the rewards, especially in the technology sector can be great. But as many right here at home in our valley will tell you, it is not an easy road to travel. So, why become an entrepreneur?
For the true entrepreneur, that is a rhetorical question. For the emerging entrepreneur, particularly in the field of technology, there are three major reasons— objective of creating something useful and novel, to be on the cutting edge is a required mantra; to build long-term value as sustainability appears quite crucial, a lasting utility as it were; and this is an important one for all entrepreneurs—“ to have freedom.”
Being your own boss always seems to have a lasting appeal, particularly to those young men and women I have met over the past three years in the Okanagan either personally or through contact with the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.
Over the past several months, I have had discussions with community leaders who have shared with me a longing for such initiatives such as Okanagan Valley technology strategy, investment and technology network models, or innovation and technology centres—basically, with an implicit desire to take control of our regional economic destiny.
With these expressions in mind, I have a few of my own thoughts I would like to share with you.
In all my travels in recent years across this great land of ours and including my privileged interfaces in the U.S. and abroad, a major theme that always rises is the importance of having common visions and action plans to mobilize key local partnerships.
Stemming from this theme is the absolute importance of unfettered collaboration and cooperation among, in our case, Okanagan industry, business, academic and government sectors.
It is no scientific secret that effectiveness of such partnering activities will largely determine our Okanagan region’s ability to create high-value jobs and careers, educate, attract and retain talent; and to accelerate economic growth while sustaining a high quality of life for people who choose to live here.
In my history with the federal government and since, I have interacted with many U.S. technology research organizations. Recently, I discovered a renewal of my exposure of days gone by from IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin in a report they had completed for a Canadian client which sums up nicely the question of regional transformation through technological entrepreneurship.
The report outlined five key strategies:
• facilitate successful recruitment of companies and talent in targeted industry sectors
• assist in the growth of local technology-based organizations
• assist in the incubation and accelerated-growth, of regionally based, globally competitive companies
• leverage regional public and private assets more effectively, as well as national and international partnerships
These strategies for success could realistically be our Okanagan strategies, could they not? Consider these options:
• accelerate technology-based business development in established and emerging industry clusters with the greatest growth potential
• develop the Central Okanagan as an emerging centre of “technology-based” entrepreneurship
• foster academic and research excellence that is specifically linked to regional economic development.
• foster and leverage national, regional, provincial and global value-added partnerships and alliances.
Promote a common vision and co-ordinated action agenda targeted to brand the Central Okanagan as an important emerging centre of technology-based entrepreneurship and small business development.
Now, recognizing that elements of these words are in place, underway or at least have been identified prompts me to think we have the collective power and ability to move these agendas forward to success for our Okanagan region.