Canada is having a global moment for our technology. Not only are we often seen as the Silicon Valley of the north, Canada (and Toronto) is uniquely poised to explode on the global scene as a top producer of technology startups.
This has been a long time coming, with great technology coming out of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and other Canadian cities for quite some time. However, in 2017 and beyond we are sitting on a goldmine of talent, resources, and ideas.
So here’s the idea
To build a profitable tech-based company that is entirely Canadian-made, down to the studs. Everything about the company must be Canadian; our products, our technological infrastructure, our sourcing, and our service providers.
All Canada, all the time.
Can it be done, or will competitive pressures force this experiment to dabble in foreign lands?
How I developed this idea
I got involved in the startup world in 2015 when I founded my own company, Ziversity. We aimed to help companies recruit more diverse talent, but the business ultimately folded in February 2017.
While I didn’t build a growing, profitable business that time around, I learnt a ton about what it takes to start a business and got tons of information all about the Toronto/Canadian startup ecosystem – there’s a TON going on here.
It started just as a list – what Canadian alternatives are there to every major service provider? When it comes to what Canadian technology can offer, I was shocked to see the depth and breadth.
No matter what you need, it seems there’s a Canadian company tackling that problem.
It’s pretty simple: I have to use Canadian companies/technology for everything I use to power my business, unless no competitive Canadian alternative exists for a product or service. If they are a multi-national, they must be either founded by Canadians in Canada or be headquartered in Canada.
I’ve come up with the term “Substantively Canadian” to help me make quick decisions about what is and is not Canadian for the purposes of this experiment.
A Substantively Canadian company is one that has at least one of the following:
- Canadian founder who founded the company in Canada
- A company with their global HQ in Canada
- Run by Canadians at the top, with more than 50% of their core employees being Canadian (not including contractors or outsourced work)
As with every good rule, there is bound to be at least one exception. For this experiment, that exception is Google and G-Suite. There is no viable Canadian alternative to the services that Gmail can offer for hosting your email, and so many tech companies – Canadian and non – integrate with G-Suite as it’s the industry standard.
I will also be making exceptions as needed for crucial business elements where no viable Canadian option exists. This will be a scrutinized process that I will document in at least one blog post per decision, so follow that process with me.
The goal is to build a thriving business, take a critical eye to Canadian tech, and use Canadian tech wherever I can. But if I have an absolute business need that either cannot be fulfilled by Canadian tech OR cannot be directly fulfilled (i.e. the “Canadian way” requires intense extra work, set up, or costs), then it is not aligned to the idea that I need to build a profitable business.
What I hope to accomplish
Beyond building a successful, profitable company, I hope to show the world that Built In Canada is not a second tier option and certainly not a joke (sorry for the aggressive tone).
As well, I’m here to have fun!
Building a company is stressful, and forcing any constraints on yourself is bound to make things more difficult. But, and I’ve seen this now from building one failed company and one moderately successful one, building a company is one of the most exciting things you can ever do in your life.
I’ll also be taking a critical look at where the gaps are in Canadian tech. More on that soon.
Who is this project for?
Well, I certainly hope that everyone will enjoy the stories and the look into the Canadian tech ecosystem, but it seems there are three types of folks who might find this experiment particularly valuable:
People actively following the Canadian tech ecosystem:
This could be founders of Canadian startups, journalists, or enthusiasts about Canadian tech.
People in public service who want to better understand how tech will impact them:
Part of this project will be some serious documentation of Canadian startups. If you’re working in public policy, this experiment can help you learn more about what’s going on in the tech world.
Entrepreneurs who want to start – and stay – Canadian:
There’s so much talent in this country, but often we feel we have to go the US because Canadian companies are too difficult to work with or too focused on selling to foreign buyers. This experiment will hopefully show you that you can build and stay Canadian (and hey, maybe show you a company or two you hadn’t heard of before that could be your next partner, customer, or place to buy from).
Join the journey
Follow along as I build this business – and let me know what you’re interested in seeing more of!
This is going to be a fun ride, so welcome one and all. Let’s complete The Great Canadian Tech Experiment.