What’s missing?

It’s been more than 4 years since I first blogged about hosting BarCamp in Toronto. And it’s been a crazy 4 years.

And the thing that I’m most proud of are the dozens of derivative events (like ChangeCamp, CaseCamp, StartupDrinks, eCommerceCamp, and the entire *Camp scene). And the ever increasing number of new people and the connections between individuals. There are fantastic social events like Ignite Toronto and PowerPoint Karaoke. There are mobile events like MEIC, Mobile Innovation Week, MEF, MoMoTO. There are events focused on Generation Y – #genYTO (make us GenXers even more bitter). There are opportunities to connect with others in Toronto. There are parties and fundraisers (#hohoTO, #twestivalTO).

There’s something happening here, and what it is ain’t exactly clear

Guess what? There’s a scene! There are events. There are investors. There are startups. There are parties. There are fund raisers.

Why does this matter? It makes it easier to find others that share your interests and may have shared values. It is easier to find the nodes in the network and then exchange value.  It makes it easier to find potential employees. It makes it easy to identify the funders, the mentors, the serial entrepreneurs. The goal was to build a hub, to enable people to come together, to share and connect. It’s up to every participant to identify who might be interesting to them, to build a trust network and to determine how to participate. Hopefully everyone figures out a way to add more value to the network than they extract.

What’s missing?

Well funding. It’s not that there is a lack of funding, there is funding. Venture capital in Canada is an industry that is changing. But the shortage over the past 10 years has created a unique environment. It has pillaged the talent pool. It has left a talent gap. Hear me out. Companies like Microsoft started hiring away  the  best in the early to mid 90s, “228 grads in 1993, 219 in 1994, 283 in 1995, 233 in 1996” . Sure there were others, but Microsoft, Trilogy, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and others are fantastic training grounds for young entrepreneurs. The secondary effect of hiring out of university is that your young talent is free to move about the country. They are unencumbered by mortgages and small children. They tend to work hard, develop mad skills, grow the company, and then settle in and raise a family. Then they stay.

They don’t come back. Why because the companies have grown, they have vested options, nice pay cheques and the prospects in Toronto are weak at best. There are not enough well funded and executing startups to move back and take a senior level role that pays near market rate. Why take a paying gig? Well you’ve got kids. You need to move back. You haven’t spent 10 years in Toronto building a personal/professional network. You know that in Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle you can garner a base of $150,000 at a funded startup.  You compare that to startups that think that stock options are incentive compensation (seriously, there’s a vesting schedule you give execs a big grant to incent them to work, if things don’t work out you terminate before the vesting date, sign).

Jumping the Gap

What’s missing? It’s the 25-35 year old up and coming development executive/entrepreneur. It’s the individual that goes from employee to early employee to founder. That experiences the successes and failures of building, launching, selling products in a compressed incubator. We individuals that could be in these roles, but they often get frustrated and leave many of the larger organizations to start agencies and consultancies. They learn the skills of being a time-and-materials junkie (which as previously discussed is not a bad skill set), it’s just different from building a massively adopted product. The lack of funding has meant many of the startups that could hire these individuals can’t because they can’t compete against the base salaries and lifestyles that have been adopted. It doesn’t mean that you VP of Sales should drive an Aston Martin (if that’s part of your compensation package, call me, I’m available for all Aston Martin driving gigs), but it does mean that you need to attract and retain the best available talent locally and around the globe that will enable your company. The chronic underfunding of Canadian companies has hamstrung startups to relying on whoever is willing or able to work for cut rate salaries or those that have the deep passion for the startup culture.

We need to:

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