Centuro Global, June 12, 2019
TLDR: Justin Trudeau (Canadian Prime Minister) recently spoke about his efforts to improve Canada’s startup ecosystem. This article outlines some of his methods and ideologies, before arguing that adoption of concentrated and strategic funding, as well as more intelligent immigration policies similar to Canada’s, would stand the UK’s startups in better stead to compete internationally.
When Justin Trudeau was unveiled as a keynote speaker at Collision 2019, people were rightly excited to hear from the man who has championed the power of Canadian startups. Collision, Toronto, is North America's fastest-growing tech conference, boasting over 25,000 attendees and seeking to replicate the success of its familiar European event, Web Summit. It is fitting then that Trudeau spent the entire half an hour of his valuable time speaking about the importance of welcoming foreign talent and investments while making every effort to bolster Canada's national infrastructures.
With Trudeau recently announcing the government-backed $52million 'Scale-Up' investment platform for Canadian startups and Canadian unemployment at a 40-year low, you could be forgiven for assuming he's happy to rest on the smooth seas he has created for businesses and the broader Canadian economy.
However, Trudeau indicated nothing resembling satisfaction concerning the Canadian startup ecosystem. Touching on everything from travel links to gender pay gaps, he excitedly rattled through his plans to take Canadian startups to the 'next level' and cement technology as a future-proof Canadian competitive edge.
So, why should we in the UK care? What lessons are there to be learnt and what advice is there to be heeded from a politician across the pond so proudly separated from the inspiring Silicon Valley giants?
In short; Trudeau offers principles and novel ideals that form a seemingly bulletproof path to success.
Empowerment & Inclusion
Trudeau has made every effort to maximise skilled immigration throughout his tenure as Canada's Prime Minister. Often viewed in stark contrast with their isolationist US neighbours, Trudeau is proud to run a country that welcomes foreign visitors and settlers with open arms.
This acceptance is of vital importance when considering the impact of low unemployment on startups. While undeniably a considerable achievement for Trudeau's Canada, high employment rates and job opportunities mean even more noise for startups to have to cut through when trying to entice the best talent. Trudeau does not shy away from this unpleasant truth – again affirming at Collision his belief that "access to talent is at the core of successful businesses".
To aid startups in battling talent congestion, Trudeau looks to solutions around engaging universities as well as investing in local and broader Canadian tech talent to ensure startups have access to bright individuals, fast. The best solution for every Canadian is undoubtedly to have a better-educated population, capable of stepping up to homegrown opportunities in fast-growth startups.
Long term schemes are receiving adequate funding from Trudeau, but as with all generational shifts, improvements take time. This patience is where Trudeau's increasingly rare approach to immigration can pay supplementary dividends. Trudeau wants to mobilise his population while encouraging and enabling foreign workers to flourish within Canada.
The Canadian Startup Visa is just one example of Trudeau's empowerment of immigrants. Trudeau introduced his 'Global Skills Strategy' – recognising the value in attracting the 'best and the brightest' foreign citizens. Settling talent in Canada not only meets short-term talent requirements but also grows companies to ensure more jobs for the next generation of Canadians.
Infrastructure To Entice
To reference back to Trudeau's Collision talk; he made an effort to touch on his government's improvements to welfare. An avid believer and supporter of younger generations, Trudeau has increased welfare benefits for young people, workers and new parents. He strives for a world where opportunities are open to all, no matter their age, background or social standing.
Improving Canada's infrastructure has also been seen in more traditional physical 'brick and mortar' solutions. Trudeau has commissioned high-speed travel links across the unforgiving Canadian terrain, he's pushed better living conditions and environments within inner cities, and he's prioritising technology in the national curriculum. For example, learning coding languages has been introduced to early-education for Canadian children, as well as grants for extracurricular organisations looking to help teenagers pursue a career in tech.
During Collision, Trudeau goes as far as to claim that 'no government has ever invested as much in the tech sector' as has been during his current four-year tenure. The message couldn't be clearer; Trudeau's government is investing to ensure there is room for everyone to have a path to success in Canada.
Is It Working?
In short: yes.
Canada's startups are basking in increasing amounts of foreign investment and growth. Contrast that with a consistent decrease in investment rates & funds for European and US counterparts, and it's fair to say that Canada's startup ecosystem shows enough promise to account for its lack of to-date maturity.
A commonly cited example is that of Thomson Reuters. One of Canada's best companies recently moved back to Canada and has announced plans to hire over 1,500 new jobs there. Trudeau highlights that the return of Silicon Valley startups and organisations is a growing trend and one that Canada will reap the rewards from.
Trudeau hopes that the days of losing promising startups to the allure of the Bay Area are gone. With the return of Canadian startups comes with it an influx of new talent and capital ready to be injected straight into the Canadian ecosystem.
A better quality of life, access to talent and space, positions Canada firmly above much of what Silicon Valley has to offer. Trudeau has been quick to capitalise on this returning promise; recently investing hundreds of millions into Canada’s VC infrastructure and even more into national AI research & development.
In 2018 alone, VCs invested over $3.7billion across multiple Canadian startups. This level of investment is yet another sign that Canada nears the startup maturity it needs to compete with neighbouring tech monoliths (£10 billion market cap) as well as shoring up a future-proof national competitive edge.
This growing startup potential is likely to flourish as Trudeau vows to continue moving funding and subsidies from traditionally successful oil & gas into sustainable and scalable industries within technology.
How Can We & Why Should We Implement Trudeau's Vision In The UK?
Fortunately, Trudeau has shown that a government prepared to prioritise support for grass-roots and startups will reap the rewards sooner than one might expect. Trudeau's vision works beyond its idealistic nature; absolute belief in diversity and its strengths is something to be commended, but no nation has the luxury of adopting investment approaches based purely on their utilitarian value.
The rise of nationalism in the UK is a concern as startups are intrinsically reliant on cooperation and connections. More welcoming immigration policies would go a long way to reassuring UK startup founders that talent will be readily available.
Further to this, a more comprehensive funding strategy from the British government to offer support to both early-stage ventures, as well as follow-on capital, is paramount. Reserving funds for expansion-series rounds is just as important as seed investment, but isn’t regarded as significantly right now.
Funding for research and development projects focused on cutting edge commercial technology is just as crucial for the UK as it is for Canada. The UK is home to some of the world’s best educational institutions and tech-companies; London is the hub, but talent and innovation are spread far and wide across Britain. Funding to encourage and facilitate the collaboration of ideas without forcing arbitrary centralisation is vital to gain an edge in developing international markets.
Finally, watching back the video of Trudeau's speech, a sense of unashamed pride in his country's unique approaches is as inspiring as it is heartwarming. There is a growing consensus within London's startups that trying to replicate the freak success of Silicon Valley is, at best, outdated. Embracing Britain's startups and their ability to attract world-class talent must be a better way to grow.
Breaking the London-led, Silicon Valley eLite status-quo is undoubtedly a bold step, but for the brave few who achieve it, an unprecedented level of success could expand far beyond the self-imposed European bubble. Join Centuro Global today and gain access to the kind of "one-stop-shop" to startup growth that Justin Trudeau so greatly champions.