There are lots of entrepreneurs and start-ups with great ideas that, on paper, have the potential to be world-beaters.
Many of these ideas never see the light of day because they fail to make the leap from innovation to commercialization. It's one thing to come up with a better mousetrap, it's another to actually manufacture it and then sell it.
This is probably a sweeping statement that may get a lot of people up in arms but Canadians need to get a whole lot better at commercialization. This country is teeming with world-class engineers and major amounts of research and development but our ability to turn ideas into products can be significantly improved.
Albert Behr, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, says Canada's commercialization troubles have to do with a lack of skills and a lack of killer instincts.
"We are fabulous engineers but we are terrible business people because we are risk adverse and find reasons not to do things," he says. "Look at what's happening in (Ontario cities) Kanata, Kitchener-Waterloo and Mississauga; we have thousands of great engineers but the problem is we go and refuse to commercialize our technology."
Mr. Behr contends another problem is that Canadian companies initially look for local success as a stepping stone to global markets as opposed to trying to be world beaters out of the gate.
"We are as good as people in Bangalore, Singapore or Israel, but fundamentally, we are not good at commercialization because our focus is internal, whereas in Israel and Bangalore, they are focused externally," he says. "We go running to Mississauga to convince someone to buy our stuff."
Mr. Behr is hoping to talk the talk and walk the walk with a Toronto-based start-up, Cavet Technologies, which has developed a product called LumiSmart Intelligent Lighting Controller, which reduces the power consumed by fluorescent lighting systems operated by industrial, institutional and commercial properties by 30 per cent to 40 per cent.
The technology, developed by Vito Rinaldi, is based on compression algorithms that manipulate technology - similar, in many respects, to how compression technology can reduce the size of music and video files.
Mr. Behr, Cavet's president and CEO, says that from day one, the company started to market its LumiStart technology to customers in the United States, Germany and Britain.
"We never confused where we live with where we made our money," he says, adding the company's Canadian-made products will be available commercially in August.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.