I’ve been brainstorming with a few like-minded folks in recent months about ways to help make the Alberta environment more conducive to success for budding entrepreneurs. This came from a shared commitment to working with start-up companies because we believe that with today’s super-connected environment, there is every reason for world-leading companies to be built and managed from anywhere, including here.
But we see a common mode of failure that in many cases can be easily avoided — it can be stated most simply as having a complete perspective on market opportunities. Countless companies start with a breakthrough invention then waste resources building the wrong product, at the wrong time, for the wrong market, with no way to effectively access customers. Our universities turn out world class students, but there is no greater crime than having them working hard and efficiently on the wrong thing.
We realized that success in our own journeys of starting, building and exiting (mostly software) business were largely a function of being wired into the right networks of people; providing the perspective to focus on the right things. First, we had all targeted international markets, in many cases to the exclusion of local customers. As such, the networks of valuable business relationships we built were in the Bay area, Seattle and other places but rarely local. But every new Alberta entrepreneur is starting from scratch if they can’t tap into this experience and contact base locally.
When I look at an investment opportunity, I’m generally pretty quick to dismiss it if on the extended team there aren’t solid links to the natural customer, competitive and supplier markets. At iNovia, we adhere to a strong discipline of sizing up any opportunity we’re interested in against comparables in San Francisco, New York and other places. I’m not interested in the best opportunity in Alberta, I want to back the team that will win globally.
It turns out that we now have plenty of “been there, done that” folks from Alberta. Some are still in Silicon Valley running companies and the C100.org group is making them more accessible than ever. Many more have moved back after selling a company, perhaps for family reasons but are often isolated from the local community creating a huge opportunity to unleash value by getting them more connected with local companies — this is the A100 target. A100 is a not-for-profit Alberta society comprised of just such nominated members. These two groups are now working together to help get perspective around promising teams so that they have every reason possible to win on the global stage.
It’s not about trying to duplicate Silicon Valley somewhere else. It’s about building a culture and commitment to an enduring innovation-based economy for our children and grandchildren; rather than hoping the resource-based economy, we’ve been lucky enough to be born into, remains.
There are already more than a dozen paid members and growing by the week. Ask me for more information about A100.