Establishing a Startup Ecosystem in Squamish

Business Startups are the economic engines that drive innovation and progress in today’s hyper-connected global economy and it’s Startup Communities that are at the center of this revolution.

Startup communities are entrepreneur ecosystems. They’re being created around the world in small and large cities like Boulder Colorado, Vancouver, Iceland and Russia to name just a few. These communities are driving innovation, creating jobs and invigorating small business energy. Simply stated; start-up communities attract and breed entrepreneurs who go on to build companies like AirBnB, Dropbox, Sendgrid and many, many more.

Squamish is a small town with big ideas currently going through a transformation. It was once a forestry town that’s now transforming into an outdoor recreation tourism destination. It’s challenged in finding ways to create local jobs and to evolve into a sustainable, self sufficient community. The population is growing quickly but the local job market is not keeping pace.

English: Squamish main street taken by Jess La...
Squamish, BC

Squamish is my community, I love this place and I want to see it succeed and prosper. It’s beautiful and has the ability to provide what I consider the best work-life balance opportunity in Canada.  That may sound biased but for me and many others, it’s the truth. There’s an abundance of great activities at our doorstep and this is what mainly brought me to Squamish in the first place. However, the challenge to completing the work-life balance equation is local jobs. Like me, there are many people that commute to Vancouver or Whistler for work and therein lies the challenge.

How do we create jobs and transform Squamish into a great place to live, work and play?

The solution to me is simple in theory. Jobs come from businesses and businesses come from entrepreneurs so it seems logical to me to find, attract, nurture and support entrepreneurs. One proven way to do this is by establishing and growing an inclusive startup ecosystem.

Startup communities are not something new. Author, entrepreneur & investor, Brad Feld is the co-founder of TechStars; a mentor-driven business accelerator in Boulder Colorado that has succeeded at building one of the most successful models for startup communities. Boulder has an incredible Startup Community. Brad’s authored several books including Startup Communities, Do More faster, and Venture Deals.  All great books I have read and that have inspired me and given me great knowledge and guidance on this subject.

“The effect on the local startup community in Boulder has been even more amazing than we anticipated. Boulder has developed a culture of sustained mentorship, where new founders place great value on seeking out mentors, and experienced entrepreneurs generously offer their time and expertise. This mindset makes the community better as a whole and it helps everyone in the community be more successful.”

To get a better understanding of exactly what I’m talking about, this great video gives a quick explanation of what a startup community is and what it needs to be successful. These lessons can be applied in Squamish or anywhere, to establish a local vibrant startup ecosystem.

The Key Points of making this a reality in any community

  • It takes long term commitment. (20 years) Creating a entrepreneurial ecosystem is a marathon not a sprint.
  • The entire entrepreneurial stack needs to be engaged.
  • Startup communities need leaders & feeders
    • Leaders must be entrepreneurs
    • Feeders are government, lawyers, accountants, angel investors, venture capitalists & educational institutions & marketers
  • Continually attracting and recruiting fresh people into the system

“In order for Techstars to be effective, there have to be the best mentors in the community who are ready and willing to participate and who understand the “give first” culture that is so important to successful startup communities. When you have a whole community behind you, rooting for you to win, and making connections for you—it’s a huge, unfair advantage.”

What’s being done for startups with Techstars in the past 7 years is fascinating and exciting in that the mentorship-driven accelerator model is and has been duplicated in over 1000 local communities around the world with great success.  Techstars has helped fund over 100 companies a year, and they have more than $70 million under management.

If Squamish wants to create a sustainable economy well into the future, it needs to look at new solutions for creating jobs and I feel that creating an active, vibrant startup community is a long term solution to our present day challenge.


Are you the Boss or the Leader?

There’s a big difference between being a leader and being a boss. I’ve had my share of “bosses” and I’ve also had the pleasure of working with some amazing leaders. When I feel i’m working for a boss, I usually quit very soon after realizing it cause life is too short to work for people that just don’t get it.

Unfortunately there are still some executives in business today who manage their teams with the Command and Control method of motivating teams. It may work when sending 18 year old’s to war but it really has no place in today’s businesses.


19 Billionaires’ and 19 quotes

  1. Steve Jobs: Live Each Day As If It Was Your Last
  2. Bill Gates: From Those To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Expected
  3. Oprah Winfrey: We All Need Makeovers From Time To Time
  4. Michael Dell: Never Be The Smartest Person In The Room
  5. Michael Bloomberg: Don’t Stay Down Long
  6. JK Rowling: Failure Can Be the Foundation Of Success
  7. Jeff Bezos: Gifts Are Easy, Choices Are Hard
  8. Mark Zuckerberg: It’s Easier If You Do Something You Love
  9. Steve Ballmer: Don’t Have Passion, Have Tenacity
  10. Larry Page: Tackle Big Dreams, There’s No Competition
  11. Eric Schmidt: Don’t Bother To Have A Plan
  12. Eli Broad: You Can’t Be Successful By Being Timid
  13. Pierre Omidyar: Prepare For The Unexpected
  14. Ross Perot, Sr.: Plan Your Decades
  15. Ted Turner: Work Like Hell And Advertise
  16. Reid Hoffman: Be Contrarian And Be Right
  17. Carl Icahn: Think For Yourself
  18. Steve Case: The People Around You Matter
  19. Jerry Yang: Don’t Let The News Get You Down

Which one is your favorite?

Important Stoic Reminders

images (2)

I recently listened Tim Ferriss’ book, the 4 Hour Workweek. It’s a very informative book on breaking free from the typical 9 to 5 work life many of us have become accustomed to. I recommend reading this book if you want to break free from the cubical and create a more fulfilling entrepreneurial lifestyle.

I stumbled across the post “Stoicism 101: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs” on Tim’s blog. I’ve never been exposed to Stoicism until I read this post but the principles are a practical set of rules for better results with less effort. I suggest you read the article as it’s very good and there are over 300 comments adding to the discussion.
I thought I would re-post some of the stoic reminders here as they help re-calibrate my mind and remind myself to be happy with the things that matter.

Marcus Aurelius

“So other people hurt me? That’s their problem. Their character and actions are not mine. What is done to me is ordained by nature and what I do by my own.”

“Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.”

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own–not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me.”

“Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.”


“‘What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.’ That is progress indeed. Such a people will never be alone and you may be sure he is a friend to all.”

“Show me a man who isn’t a slave; one who is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear. I could show you a man who has been a Consul who is a slave to his ‘little old woman’, a millionaire who is the slave of a little girl in domestic service. And there is no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed.”

“Count your years and you’ll be ashamed to be wanting and working for exactly the same things as you wanted when you were a boy. Of this make sure against your dying day – that your faults die before you do.”

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”

“Cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, never to trust prosperity and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything that is in her power.”


“So-and-so’s son is dead
What happened?
His son is dead
Nothing else?
Not a thing.

So-and-so’s ship sank
What happened?
His ship sank.

So-and-so was carted off to prison.
What happened?
He was carted off to prison.
-But if we now add to this “He has had bad luck,” then each of us is adding this observation on his own account”

Police officers should wear video cameras

glassUPDATE: I originally published this post on Nov 2nd 2012 and I thought I would update it with a cool new technology soon to be on the market from Google called Google Glass.

This is a tool that will completely change our world yet again and I’m hoping that it will change law enforcement as well. The glasses as seen here on the right can be worn like eye wear to shoot video, get directions, take photos and more. I expect we will see police, fire and paramedics with these devices in the not too distant future.

Continue reading post from Nov 2nd 2012

Thousands of complaints and police inquires are done every year about the poor conduct of police officers in the line of duty. Just last week I was hearing comments on the radio of yet another complaint about a police officer assaulting a disabled woman.

Luckily in this case, someone was filming the incident which made it very easy to determine the facts of the situation.

Sandy Davidsen, 29, was walking past three officers on the city’s Downtown Eastside in June, 2010, when Constable Taylor Robinson pushed her to the concrete. Video of the incident drew tens of thousands of views and immediate condemnation, and challenged the force’s already-strained relationship with residents of the poorest neighbourhood in the country. Source: Vancouver officer who pushed disabled woman could face harsher punishment

In today’s high tech world where the cost of video cameras are so low, I think that all police officers that are interfacing with the public should be required to wear video cameras. It’s in the best interest of the public but also the officers wearing them. as well.

With camera’s rolling, the actions, behaviors and attitude of the public as well as the officers would be different. People act differently when being filmed and I think this practice would go a long way in helping reshape our criminal system and society as a whole. With video evidence of every incident, it would take less time to sort out the facts and  would increase overall accountability.

This isn’t a new idea, there are some places that are already doing this. Here are some related articles.

The Startup Ecosystem Report

“Countries are shifting from service-based economies to become increasingly driven by a new generation of fast-moving software and technology organisations.” 

The Startup Ecosystem Report published by Telefónica Digital was released recently ranking communities around the world that have the right ecosystem to promote tech startups as compared to the current well known Silicon Valley.

Vancouver was ranked in the top 10 which is great for BC in general and could help support a niche hub region in Squamish. The study provides tangible evidence and insight for investors, entrepreneurs and policy makers on where entrepreneurship takes hold in a community.

What is interesting to me is that this study also provides insight in to areas that a community like Squamish can focus on to attract tech startups to help build a more diverse economy.  Squamish, being a outdoor recreation mecca can provide a work life balance unlike many locations in the world which is already significant lure to entrepreneurs. We already have companies like Tiipz,  a tech company that’s developed a location based mobile marketing platform that enables brands to capture real time consumer insight. We also have hundreds of knowledge based consultants and professionals that are part of Inside Edge.

In the report, each ecosystem was ranked using the index below. It’s based on data from more than 50,000 startups around the world. It ranks them based on 8 weighted component indexes that are defined in more detail in the report.

startup index

Each ecosystem was profiled in the report and an investor, entrepreneur and policy maker perspective was described. Here are some of the highlights I found interesting and relevant for any community interested in establishing a  startup ecosystem.

Entrepreneur Perspective 

“Silicon Valley has given birth to more billion dollar companies than any other ecosystem because of its plentiful risk capital, world class talent, inclusion of the headquarters of many giant public companies, a vibrant support ecosystem, and an openminded, trust, “pay it forward”, change the world culture”

“People in Silicon Valley really believe in “pay it forward”. It’s not all transactional and tit-for-tat. Folks help each other and those not as far along as them. It’s also very accepting of failure; if you have some real catastrophes on your resume, that’s considered a badge of honor – there are not a lot of places on the planet that’s true. It’s also the easiest place in the world to start a company. Everyone is here to help you kick ass.”

“Over the past 15 years I have co-founded startups in the Bay Area, Boston and NYC, which has given me a first-hand look at their ecosystems. Boston’s key strength as an ecosystem is its diversity. There is no other place on Earth that comes close. Boston is #1 in biotech, #2 in high tech and top 3 in medical devices, energy technology, materials & environmental science, robotics, etc. This is fueled by the large number of top universities and by the diversified New England economy. Whatever your dreams may be—no matter how crazy they may seem—there are people here who can help you build a product and a business.”

“It’s all about people and their mindset. Startups need inspiring people to follow, mentors to teach, and money to support ideas. You can build an ecosystem with just a few committed people to help inspire others. A necessary requirement is an entrepreneurial mind set and there is no policy to easily foster that entrepreneurial mind set.”

Policy maker perspective 

  1. Decreased payroll tax to support high-head count low revenue tech companies(Silicon Valley)
  2. Supporting the development of new “collaborative consumption” startups, such as AirBnB, by deregulating lodging ordinances that protect hotels and bed and breakfasts, and Lyft, by deregulating traditional transportation services like taxi cabs to support ride sharing services(Silicon Valley)
  3. Policy makers can help closing the funding gap by attracting late-stage venture funds through tax breaks and incentives, and investor-friendly policies.(Toronto)
  4. Policy makers can encourage more investors set up late-stage funds with appealing tax breaks and tax incentives. (Paris)
  5. More accommodating immigration policies, tax breaks and incentives for startups and investors could help. (Australia)
  6. Policy makers are only supporters. They should not lead development. (Russia)

The value of Degrees

Harvard Business review just published a post called “Stop Requiring College Degrees” and I couldn’t agree more with what they are saying.  Just because you have an MBA or a degree from a college or university, doesn’t mean you are the best person for a job.

In my opinion, experience trumps education every time. If you have a masters degree in project management but have never managed a project with a team larger than 5 people, you will fail compared to a person that has no formal degree but has experience working on 10 projects of various size and complexity and leading a group of people through any endeavor. Age doesn’t matter either but of course, experience does come with age.

“One of the most productive things an employer could do, both for themselves and for society at large, is to stop placing so much emphasis on standard undergraduate and graduate degrees.”  Andrew McAfee

To me, having academic credential can sometimes provide a false sense of security both to the employer and the person with the credentials. If you’ve only ever studied project management and never really got your hands very dirty, chances are your project will fail.

Obviously it’s not just me that thinks this. HBR is talking about and so are many others. The author of the PersonalMBA  asks the question; “Is it worth it to get and pay for an MBA?”  The answer author Josh Kaufman concludes is that you don’t.  He says and I agree that you can learn everything you need without spending $100K+ on school. In today’s world of online education and the proliferation of readily available knowledge. There are better options out there.

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