As a huge proponent and supporter of Canada’s technology and startup communities, I’m always looking for encouraging developments.
This week, there has been two positive announcements: MaRS unveiling MaRS Common, a new workspace for startups, and Extreme Venture Partner pulling the covers off a refreshed Extreme University that will see five teams participate in a 12-week program that will involve workspace, advisors and mentors.
As much as the Canadian startup landscape is probably more exciting and healthier than it has arguably ever been, it is important to keep in mind that it’s still a fragile and nascent community. This makes it important to have an ecosystem that provides the necessary support to encourage entrepreneurs to embrace startups and, at the same time, provide them with what they need to have a good shot at success.
Many of the key pieces are starting to fall into place. There are more seed investors playing active roles – a group that includes Real Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Extreme Venture Partners, Mantella Ventures and GrowthWorks. As important, there is a growing community of entrepreneurs who have been there, done that. And you’ve got an increasingly sophisticated group of service and product suppliers that can meet the needs of startups in different ways. The launch of MaRS Common and the updated ExtremeU are more evidence of an evolving and maturing community that will be able to supporting a thriving startup ecosystem.
That said, there are still challenges facing Canadian startups. While getting seed capital is getting easier (relatively speaking!), it is still difficult to find Canadian investors willing to inject major series A capital – we’re talking deals worth more than $5-million. Many startups with strong prospects still have to head south of the border to get the money they need to take their businesses to the next level.
And it will be interesting to see how the global economic conditions impact the Canadian economy and Canadian startups. If people become more concerned about their investments, does it mean they will back away from riskier propositions such as startups?
That said, it is difficult not to be encouraged by the growth of the startup ecosystem. There are lots of good things happening on a variety of fronts.