Harnessing Hogtown’s Hominids for High-Tech Hijinks and Hubs
Joey has a great article on making Toronto a great place to live, work and play. Becoming the next Silicon Valley, is that a realistic goal for Toronto.
“The frequent changes of jobs in the Silicon Valley necessitated and re-enforced the community of relationships that existed.” – Thayer Watkins
Unlike Joey, I have only lived in Toronto since 2001. I did not grow up here. I did not go to school here. I chose to move here because it was one of three places in Canada where there is a strong technology community and there is not a school of optometry (for those counting Vancouver, Montreal and Waterloo). I moved to Toronto from Austin, TX where there is a strong network of alumni. There are a large number of firms that have spawned out of the shadow of a few companies:
I’ve always wondered, where are the Toronto companies that spawn founders. “The derivatives matter most” has been a part of the TorCamp DNA since the beginning. Where is the metaphorical "Fairchild " that brings talent to Toronto and allows the creation of "Fairchildren ". It seems likely that a great spot to look would be at local successful, publically traded companies. Can you name big successful software companies that have started in Toronto? More importantly, can you name successful companies that have started because the founders were members of another “parent” company? Why has RIM or Nortel not created a strong spinoff culture?
The good news is apparently one strategy for success is to leverage the “brain circulation” of individuals who have spent time iin Silicon Valley and other hubs return and build successful companies retaining their strong ties to US counterparts.
“The new Argonauts—armed with Silicon Valley experience and relationships and the ability to operate in two countries simultaneously—quickly identify market opportunities, locate foreign partners, and manage cross-border business operations.” – AnnaLee Saxenian
There are a large number of repatriated Canadians from software hubs in Toronto. This might be a better hope for new wealth creation in Toronto in the high-tech sector.
What is a vision?
We have a fascination with self-congratulatory bullshit efforts! Take a look at the gigantic disaster of TechWeek.to, this is an event that is based on the vision that Toronto “will become, and be acknowledged globally, as one of the 5 most innovative, creative and productive locations in the world for ICT research, education, business, and investment by 2011”. What the hell does that even mean! It is unclear that the leadership of this effort even understand what a local technology company is, let alone have the ability to create “opportunities for new projects, new businesses, new sales, new hires and new business and cultural partnerships”.
I don’t think ICT Toronto represents a what I’d like to see for a vision for the Toronto tech community. It feels removed, bureacratic, and uninventive. It feels like a strategy used to attract auto manufacturers. And we all know how well that is working.
Joey has promised to share his vision over a few blog posts about his vision for Toronto.
“I'm going to talk about what it would take to build up Toronto as a high-tech hub and a livable city. Watch this space!” – Joey deVilla
I’m interested to hear Joey’s perspective. And I’m going to be thinking about what frustrates me and more importantly what I’d like to see.
What do you think needs to change to make Toronto a high-tech hub?