Showing posts from 2011

Southwestern Ontario Development Fund: Challenges and decisions ahead (part 1)

Consultations—or at least “pre-consultations”—began last Friday for the Ontario government’s proposed Southwestern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF) to promote economic development in the region, modelled after a similar fund for Eastern Ontario created in 2008.

If passed by the legislature, the fund would provide $20 million a year to projects in Southwestern Ontario—an area that hasn’t been defined yet—with the goal of attracting and retaining investment, creating and retaining jobs, and promoting innovation, collaboration and cluster development.

Dalton McGuinty announced SWODF while on a tour of Digital Extremes in London and the bill was introduced the following day by Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI). Along with creating the new fund, the bill would also make permanent the Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF), which is currently a four-year program scheduled to end next year.

It’s only been a week since Bill 11—the Attracting Investment and Crea…

Added bonus for StartupCampLondon: eProf at Chinaccelerator

On top of the other items on the schedule at StartupCampLondon tomorrow (Thursday) as an extra added bonus, we'll have Trevor Koverko from eProf talk about his experience spending the summer at Chinaccelerator, a TechStars-network accelerator in China. eProf was launched by Western students earlier this year and helped by BizInc, the new student incubator at UWO.

So we have:
Featured speaker: Roger Skubowius, founder of Reqwireless, a mobile apps startup that was acquired by GoogleTrevor Koverko of eProf on his Chinaccelerator experienceTitus Ferguson and Adam Caplan from UnLondon to talk about the open data app contest using the City of London's 2012 budget dataAn opportunity to see the UnLab hackerspace, which is right downstairs from StartupCampThat's all on top of the informal presentations from startups (just sign your name on the whiteboard when you arrive and you can talk about your idea or startup and get everyone's feedback), which are at the core of the event.

StartupCampLondon this Thursday

The second StartupCampLondon this Thursday, October 27, starting at 5:30 at the Convergence Centre. If you've got a startup or an idea for one -- or just want to be part of the local startup community, you won't want to miss this informal "unconference."

The centrepiece of the event will be brief presentations from startups or prospective startups. If you want to get feedback and suggestions on your startup, just sign up when you arrive and you'll get a chance to tell everyone about your idea or company. They probably won't be shy about giving their opinions, but it's all friendly and fun.

Our guest speaker is area resident Roger Skubowius who will share his experiences of starting a mobile apps company that was acquired (very secretly, at the time) by Google. That was the deal that brought Google to Waterloo and from which it has grown its current development office. Roger will talk about what it was like selling to Google--and not being able t…

Roundabout crossings and yield to pedestrian signs

Just a quick followup to a Tweet that generated a couple of questions. The Tweet included a link to a news story in London showing a roundabout with no marked pedestrian crossings, no yield sign, and suggesting that the City of London was powerless to do anything about it. That seemed odd, having spent the last several years living near one of the many roundabouts in Waterloo -- one that has both marked crossings and yield to pedestrian signs:

So, somehow Waterloo found a way to have marked crossings and pedestrian yield signs. They aren't always as effective as you'd hope they'd be, although it got better over time. I think everyone who lives near a roundabout has stories of drivers not yielding. But the marked crossings are there and the signs are there, and the news story in London made it sound like that was something that couldn't be done.

UPDATE: Waterloo created its own rules for yielding to pedestrians at roundabouts. According to the Record, the Ontario Traffic…

It really isn't the IP policy!

I'm going to have to get back to the Mike Lazaridis speech next time ... today's London Free Press had a big story on me -- very generous in its comments, which I appreciate (I'd provide a link but it's not online). There was one part, though, that has me attributing Waterloo's startup success to the university's IP policy -- which is not only something I don't believe, but something I've been trying to convince people for years is not the case (or, to the degree that it had an effect, is much less direct than the usual stories would have you believe). That was one of the key points I was trying to make in my last post.

The Free Press story correctly has me pointing out that very few of the startups we saw in Waterloo were built around the transfer of IP. In fact, I'd have a difficult time coming up with many startups in Waterloo that were based around technology that would have been institutionally-owned if the underlying research had been performed…

No, most tech startups are not built around new university-based research discoveries

There's a cardboard version of where new tech companies come from and how to generate more startups that I've heard repeatedly over the years—including several times since coming to London.

It goes something like this: research at universities leads to new discoveries (usually patentable), and commercializing these new university-based discoveries is where most startups come from. While some of the more entrepreneurially-minded professors/researchers might build a company around these inventions themselves (especially if the university has an inventor-owned IP policy), often these gems just sit there waiting to be commercialized. What we need to do, therefore, to create more startups is have folks roam the halls looking at research discoveries and figuring out how to build new companies around them and get them funded.

Even in Waterloo, we'd often hear that version of startup creation—never from people who actually worked in the startup support community, but it wasn't a…

Growing a tech centre: What I saw in Waterloo, what I hope to see in London

Since I moved to the London area and started working with TechAlliance, I've had several discussions -- and a few media interviews -- around what London needs to do to grow as a tech/innovation centre and how London compares to Waterloo Region in that regard.

The Waterloo side of things I know well and can discuss at length, but at first I didn't really know enough about London to talk about that side of the issue. In 2000, I wrote a story for the Waterloo Region Record comparing the Waterloo and London tech scenes, but whatever I knew about London then was based on some Web searches and a day's worth of interviews (which is to say, not much at all). I still don't know as much as I want to, but after six months, I've observed enough to at least start in on the topic. Rather than write one very lengthy blog post, I'm going to try to divide them into less-TLDR chunks.

Since this is looking more like a preamble, I should also say that Waterloo is indeed ahead of Lon…

StartupCampLondon: The next step in building a regional startup community

We held the first StartupCampLondon last Thursday at the Convergence Centre and drew a packed room—literally standing room only. Going in, nobody knew exactly what to expect, but the evening exceeded all expectations among the event instigators (TechAlliance, UnLondon, Sensidea, and The Research Park) and provided an impressive showcase of the London-area startup tech scene, both to the local crowd and to our out-of-region guests from Toronto and Waterloo.

It gave us a great base to grow from, and that's exactly what we're going to do—with two or three StartupCamps a year and regular informal get-togethers for startups to be offered every month (anyone in the London area who has a tech startup or is thinking about creating one can be part of these get-togethers—just send me an e-mail to to make sure you’re invited).

The goal we had for StartupCampLondon was to take the next step in building a connected tech startup community in London and the surroundi…