I have spent a considerable portion of my professional life immersed within the world of technology and innovation.
More than most I would say—from government laboratories to university science and engineering lab tables to domestic and foreign manufacturing production.
Without a doubt, I have been privileged to hold in my hands the fantasies of the many talented dreamers who have come into my life to share their visions of change to our world.
For this, I have many blessings. And when I choose to embed the realm of entrepreneurial ingredients into the mix, I can’t help but wonder at where we can go from here in our Okanagan regarding technological transformation.
This week, I thought we would explore what it might take any region to foster technological entrepreneurship in our valley.
The community leaders that I have interacted with in the region emphasize infrastructure such as capital markets.
Governments, in my career journey, have often attempted to promote “technopreneurship” by injecting risk capital.
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 that risk capital will solve all other prerequisites for growth in a high-tech venture environment.
But for this to actually occur, it’s fair to say that must be accompanied by other intangibles such as access to a plethora of idea pools, role models, informal forums, regionally-specific opportunities, safety nets, access to large markets and most importantly 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 compel us to do more, move faster and go farther than anyone else —even in the face of high risk and uncertainty.
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 desired mantra; to build long-term value as sustainability appears quite crucial; and the important one for all entrepreneurs, to have the personal freedom to be your own boss.
That last one always seems to have lasting appeal, particularly to those young men and women I have met over the past five years in the Okanagan and those I have come in contact with through our Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.
So lets get back to the technology and innovation side of this discussion. Over the past few months, I have had discussion with community leaders who have shared with me a longing for such initiatives as Okanagan Valley technology strategy, investment and technology network models, innovation and technology centres of excellence and the like.
Basically, this comes with an implicit desire to take control of our regional economic destiny.
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 common visions and actions 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 will largely our Okanagan’s regional 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 all of our valley residents.
In my career history with the Canadian 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 of 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.
These four main objectives led to a following 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 and;
• leverage regional public and private assets more effectively, as well as national and international partnerships
These “strategies for success” could realistically be our own Okanagan strategies, could they not?
1. Accelerate technology-based business development in established and emerging industry clusters with the greatest growth potential.
2. Develop the Central Okanagan as an emerging centre of “technology-based” entrepreneurship. (love to see this unfold).
3. Foster academic and research excellence that is specifically linked to regional economic development.
4. Foster and leverage national, provincial and regional value-added alliances.
5. Promote a common vision and co-ordinated action agenda targeted to brand the Central Okanagan as an important emerging of centre of technology-based entrepreneurship and small business development.
Now, recognizing that elements of these words may be in place, underway or clearly identified, prompts, we have the collaborative power to move these agendas forward to successful outcome for our region for the present and our future.