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Toy cars drive over a map of Canada in this photo illustration. (Cheryl Clock/The Canadian Press)
Toy cars drive over a map of Canada in this photo illustration. (Cheryl Clock/The Canadian Press)

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Startup rankings expose geographic bias Add to ...

How is Canada doing as a startup country?

It’s a question posed a lot these days as the role of entrepreneurs becomes more important to economic prospects worldwide. With so much volatility and instability, the emergence of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem is increasingly being seen as a positive development.

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There was much rejoicing earlier this week when the Startup Genome Project released a new report that lists three Canadian cities as part of the world’s leading startup ecosystems. Toronto ranked eighth, Vancouver ninth and Waterloo 16th.

In many respects, this is positive news for the Canadian economy and its startups as it demonstrates that progress is being made to establish and nurture the entrepreneurial landscape. A ranking in the top 20 means there is activity that can be leveraged to build larger and healthier communities.

Not that long ago, many Canadian entrepreneurs talked more than they walked. These days, more people are taking the entrepreneurial plunge as opposed to talking about how great it would be. On the flip side, the Startup Genome rankings should not overshadow the fact that there is still not enough capital for startup entrepreneurs to create and grow companies.

In this year’s third quarter, the Canadian Venture Capital Association reported that $363-million was invested, a decline of 6 per cent from a year earlier. Eighty-seven companies received funding, a 33 per cent drop.

The Startup Genome rankings demonstrate that individual cities are doing well, but Canadians should not think about entrepreneurial activity in geographic silos. The country is too small to create economic fiefdoms that revel in their own success, while dismissing activity in other places.

For Canadian entrepreneurs and startups to flourish and become world leaders, we need to work collectivity. We need to look at Canada as an entrepreneurial community as opposed to individual communities. We need to create programs that encourage cross-pollination of ideas and make support services and financing accessible to startups and entrepreneurs wherever they exist.

That’s not to suggest strong local ecosystems should be ignored, but it does mean an approach to Canada as a single entrepreneurial entity.

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