Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014

The world is being built and rebuilt with computers and robotics and the code that controls them. It’s a paradigm shift that affects the entire economy, not just private sector business and employment, but public health care, government, education… everything.

It’s a brave new world characterized by the digit(al)ization and commodification of data, including personal information, resulting in a wholesale reconceptualization of privacy and a radical shift – and accompanying redistribution of wealth – from manufacturing to knowledge-based economies, especially knowledge that can be codified.

It’s important to remember that this shift is neither an accident nor an inevitability. After all, computer code doesn’t write itself; it’s written by humans: individuals who make certain decisions, and have certain agendas; individuals who decide what problems to solve for, and what the solutions should look like. Whoever writes the code, controls one of the primary means of production of 21st century economic life – creates the operating system of 21st century life in general. Program or be programmed.

But it’s also important to remember that access to the skills and tools necessary to make the decisions and set the agenda has, generally speaking, been unevenly distributed. This ranges from computer programming skills to physical infrastructure and machinery like computers, 3D printers, robotics, even internet access.

Access is one of many issues addressed during Global Entrepreneurship Week. For example, at events like:

  • “Brilliant Labs” which supports the creation of makerspaces in classrooms and after-school programs;
  • “Social Storm” Global Hackathon which brought together students from 10 international post-secondary institutions to collaborate on technology-based solutions to real-world problems around global access to education.

Other examples include a Women Entrepreneurs lunch & learn; the recent Girls Learning Code; the Lego Robotics tournament at NSCC Marconi; and the UIT Startup Immersion program.

Universities like CBU, in supporting or leading these initiatives, have a particular obligation and imperative to ensure the greatest possible access to 21st century tools and skills both within their walls and in the communities in which they’re located. And I’m not just talking tools of profit but tools of personal and social health & well-being; cultural & environmental sustainability; education; governance… everything.

After all, technology is not just about selling a sleeker smartphone; and entrepreneurship is not just about being able to buy a fancier car. It’s just as often about making the world a better place. 

Here are some great counter examples of those stereotypes.

Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014!

Tech Community in Sydney

Moore’s law predicts that the performance of microchips will increase exponentially over time. A variation seems to be governing the life-cycle of Atlantic Canada tech startups:

  • March 2011 — Salesforce (San Francisco, California) buys social media monitoring company Radian6 (New Brunswick).
  • July 2012 — Salesforce buys co-browsing innovators GoInstant (Halifax/Cape Breton).
  • January 2013 (???) — Salesforce buys LeadSift (Halifax), which mines social media data to generate sales for companies.

One of LeadSift’s angel investors is Jevon MacDonald, CEO of GoInstant. This is how it’s supposed to be. See the full story: natpo.st/UbigQl via @innovacorp

Is the rate at which Atlantic Canada startups are moving from innovation to acquisition accelerating? And if so, is it a bubble? Or a positive trend? ‘Entrevestor Intelligence’ thinks it’s just the beginning.

The Tech Community in Greater Sydney

From Entrevestor Intelligence [pdf], sponsored by NSBI.

When co-browsing startup GoInstant sold out for more than $70 million this year, one detail that was lost in the hoopla was the fact that its technology was conceived and pioneered in Sydney, Cape Breton.

The company came together in late 2010 when Sydney-based programmers Gavin Uhma, Kirk MacPhee and David Kim showed up at one of the TecSocials organized by Robert Pelley, the Innovacorp Investment Manager based in Cape Breton.

The featured speaker that night was the agency’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jevon MacDonald, who was amazed when Uhma, MacPhee and Kim told him about the project they were working on – a co-browsing system that would allow people at different computers to work on the same screen…

The fact is that there is a community of tech talent in the former industrial hub that is exceeded in the province only by Halifax.MeConsider the case of eLearning company MediaSpark, which is developing GoVenture World, a massive multi-player online game that will train budding entrepreneurs in what it’s really like to start and grow your own business. The company has 17 employees, of whom 16 are in Sydney, including its entire development team.

As well as talent, Sydney-based companies have found capital needed for their businesses. Techlink Entertainment, which develops responsible gambling systems and products, has raised $5.5 million in VC investment and $6 million in loans from Nova Scotia Business Inc. World Health Outcomes and Marcato Digital Solutions have also raised VC funding, while MediaSpark received investment from what CEO Mathew Georghiou calls ‘quasi-venture capitalists’.

The tech community in industrial Cape Breton is as varied as you’d find in other centres, ranging from the healthcare systems developed by Corrine McIsaac at Health Outcomes Worldwide to the geological samples analysis software of Celtic Coring Systems.

One area of strength is developing technical applications for cultural industries – no doubt a happy byproduct of the rich artistic tradition of the area.

MediaSpark is a publisher of eBooks used around the world, while Marcato Digital has developed administrative systems for musicians and festivals. A newcomer to the space, TixCamp, is now developing software that can help concert organizers assess demand for specific acts.