When it comes to creating a business, there may well be a certain pride that comes from being able to stamp it as 'Made in Canada.'
But for startups eager to expand beyond this country's borders, being Canadian may be detrimental to success if it distracts the founders from what's truly important.
Within our borders, 'Made in Canada' is something we should support and embrace. Highlighting and showcasing the success of this country's entrepreneurs is immensely important in convincing the next generation innovators that success is an achievable goal.
From startup weekends to summits, it's important to promote the viability of small business and entrepreneurship as widely as possible. There's no other way for this country to spawn innovation than to tear down barriers to entry and make it an attractive choice.
Small businesses employ a lot of Canadians – in fact, the government places the figure at around 7.7-million in 2012, which was roughly 70 per cent of the private labour force. While that number seems to be positive, it doesn't tell the whole story. Not all of these small businesses are innovating and driving change as much as our global competitors. The World Economic Forum ranks Canada as 22nd in innovation, and 15th in global competitiveness.
Yes we have a large number of small businesses operating in Canada, but on a global scale we're not close to leading the charge. Within our own country, these are issues we need to address and one sure fire way to do that, is to strongly promote the successes of what is being achieved.
So from an internal messaging standpoint, the celebration of Canadian success is necessary, even essential. When it comes to talking to investors or customers however, the truth is that where you come from is secondary to your ability to execute.
If you're Canadian, American, British, Israeli or from one of any number of international innovation hubs, your point of origin is largely irrelevant. Once you're marketing to customers and participating in revenue generating activities, the only thing that matters is that you are executing and that you're accessible.
Play It Interactive, a Canadian company I co-founded, has created an interactive, live events platform for mobile users across emerging markets – with a primary focus on India. For them, the fact that they are headquartered in Calgary is as irrelevant, as the fact that they're Canadian. What is relevant is that they have an office and feet on the ground in Mumbai, working with Indian clients in their own cities and within their own cultural framework in order to deliver results. For our autonomous tracking camera company, TRACE Live Network, opening an office in LA to gain a U.S. presence was done for the exact same reason.
National pride is a beautiful thing, but ultimately, it doesn't (and shouldn't) play a major factor in the external identity of a company. While there's benefit to national governments, media, and educational institutions speaking loudly to the benefits of being 'Canadian,' in my opinion, entrepreneurs should concern themselves less with the billing address of their office space and more with the fundamentals of building their startup such as driving customer engagement and creating that smooth product-to-market fit.
Cameron Chell is co-founder and CEO of Business Instincts Group, a venture creation firm in Calgary that finances and builds high-tech startups. To learn more about his work with sustainable startups visit www.CameronChell.com