Sunday, April 11, 2010

Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

If you want to get a sense of where the largest Canadian space focused businesses are going you might want to take a look at the article "MDA Says New NASA Direction Plays to Company’s Strengths" published April 9th, 2010 on the Space News website.

The article, quoting extensively from a March 18th conference call between Macdonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) executives and investors, states unequivocally that the company "which is facing a revenue loss of $20 million a year with the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle, nonetheless views NASA’s proposed new direction as “a dream made in heaven” and is urging the Canadian government to take advantage of it before other nations do."

But if you want to get a sense of where the smaller newspace focused companies are, you need to read "The Future of Venture Capital in Canada" a series published on the new media website The Mark, which bills  itself as as "Canada's daily online forum for news, commentary, and debate."

That's because smaller space focused Canadian companies generally don't have existing investors who get together with the management team for quarterly conference calls to discuss new opportunities. Most want too, but the investors with the capital to take advantage of new opportunities are very, very hard to come across.

Some of the comments in the Mark series of articles are fascinating. For example:
  • In the article, "Low Times for VC" author Mark Skapinker, the co-founder of Brightspark Capital says "the Canadian VC industry has always lived in the shadow of the country’s natural resource industry. As the natural resource marketplace has continued its massive growth, technology has become an afterthought."
  • In "Creating a Venture Culture" author, creative technologist and technical marketer David Crow thinks Canadians "need to stop relying on SR&ED, IRAP, and other tax credits that support an ecosystem of zombie startups."
  • On the other hand, Start-up CFO author Mark MacLeod, in his article "Sustaining the Startup" reminds us that "a large portion of Canada's risk capital comes from government sources. Without this public support, we would have no industry at all."
  • And "Startup Nation" author Mike Lee, the VP of New Ventures for Rogers Communications reminds us that "great individuals and great teams are the force behind successful entrepreneurial stories." However, "when you compare Canada to the rest of the world, we are underdeveloped with respect to experienced startup talent. The raw talent is here, but the conditions to help that talent gain invaluable experience managing and operating in startups are sorely lacking."  
The jury is still out on whether the new opportunities available for space focused businesses are going to lead to a Canadian space and technological renaissance or just benefit a few of the few largest and best positioned firms.

I personally believe that MDA Chief Executive Daniel E. Friedmann would rather appreciate having a couple of solid Canadian subcontractors to help him build those telecommunications satellite for the National Space Agency of Ukraine.

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