Close to 300 people showed up at the Marshes last night for Tech Tuesday. The event for the evening was to be a panel discussion on the state of the tech industry in the Ottawa area. The panelists were to be:
Bruce Good – Executive Director, Centre for Business Innovation, The Conference Board of Canada. Read Bio
Terry Matthews – Chairman of Wesley Clover International. Read Bio
Jim Roche – President & CEO of Stratford Managers Corporation and CANARIE Inc. Read Bio
Terry ended up being delayed so Leo Lax filled in as a forth member for the first part of the evening. Each of the members of the panel were given five minutes to address the audience which was followed by some prepared questions. The highlights from the talks were:
- We lack the ability to commercialize.
- We don’t track metrics on how well we are doing as small businesses.
- It was noted that Canadians work well together and we share.
- It was noted that Canadians are nice, sometimes too nice.
- Other countries support programs that offer more IRAP like funding and less SHRED
- We need to think less about technology and more about business
- As and industry we don’t speak with a single voice.
- Small companies should partner with larger anchor companies and their supply chains
Then the meeting devolved into a bitch session. Some people supported the position that the government should do more, others wanted to organize (Sounded like union talk). It was pointed out several times that the government supported the auto industry in it’s time of crisis but did not support Nortel and does not seem interested in supporting Blackberry.
There was definitely an undertone of Canadian protectionism. People wanted to know why the Canadian government buys Cisco over Mitel. No one stood up and said “It’s because they have a better and more innovative product”, but the thought crossed my mind. Why do I have an iPhone instead of a Blackberry? Simply because it’s the best device for what I need to do.
Terry mentioned that it was not hard to compete with Nortel (Tongue in cheek). This is indeed how I saw things unfold. I have to ask myself, why would the Canadian people support a company that couldn’t figure out their own internal problems? Yes the fall of these companies hurts Canada, but if these companies are poorly run or have inferior products and strategies there is really not much that we can do to help.
Blackberry has made a lot of mistakes (Multiple custom OS’s, Incompatible hand set apps, a late and limited app store, poor developer resources) and Although Nortel had some really established products, it clearly had problems.
In my opinion we need to work smarter, better and compete on a global scale. If we don’t build the best product, we deserve to fail. The government and the people should buy the best products. We don’t need the government to buy Canadian unless Canadian is the best.
Programs to help start-ups with innovative ideas is a good idea as long as those companies produce a return on investment. I spoke recently with the dean of engineering at a large Canadian university and he said that he was very frustrated that his best students were passed over for groups that had better but empty pitches.
We need to treat every investment dollar like it’s our own.