By Nathan Rudyk
OBJ editor Leo Valiquette and Celtic House VC/Managing Partner Andrew Waitman have both donned flack jackets so they can kick some high tech ass in their respective editorials in the Ottawa Business Journal and National Capital SCAN.
Valiquette takes aim at the Freedom 55 government mindset that equates entrepreneurship with social maladjustment (why take risks when you can just chow down in the cube-farm for 20-odd years waiting for your indexed pension), then goes on to take the piss out of the quality of entrepreneur presenting at last month's Ottawa Venture Technology Summit. He says we've got to "embrace change and leave the comfort zone behind. If this is lacking in our collective psyche, the game is over before it's even begun."
Waitman, a straight shooter who runs Ottawa's – and one of Canada's – largest VC funds, and who has made recent investments in local companies like MODASolutions and dna13, says while we're good at keeping score of cash coming into tech, we're bad at keeping score on the ROI. The result that we have no proof of consistency or scale. Andrew points down the road to Kitchener-Waterloo's success with Research in Motion (valued at $50 billion at the time of his SCAN article, and as he points out in his comment below now worth than $65 billion and the second-most valuable company in Canada) and Sandvine (valued at $800 million).
I think Valiquette's playing our strings. As someone who dates back to pre-IPO Cognos (the last project I worked on there as an employee was their first annual report) I've never encountered a single tech CEO from Cognos founder Mike Potter on down who is informed by, inspired by or envious of the collective psyche of civil servants.
As for the quality of entrepreneur presenting at OVTS, I did see one lame presentation by someone who had no idea what his business model was or how he'd produce a return on the VC money he was seeking. But I saw several other on-the-money pitches – judge for yourself on the upcoming October edition of OCRIRadio.com where we interview two of those entrepreneurs. Still, there's nothing wrong with having our butts kicked once in awhile, and Leo Valiquette is correct that every OTVS presenter should have his or her act together. Keep it coming Leo, but don't pay so much attention to the out-of-work whiners that populate the OBJ forums. They're not entrepreneurs, just people who should find a geek-fattening cube to safely grow old in.
Waitman's butt-plant about tech Ottawa's need to get better fast about demonstrating ROI hits closer to the target. I'd like to see the score-card idea extended beyond the companies ready for Andrew's VC money, down to the many boot-strapped tech firms that are the vast majority of local employers. If data on revenue growth, employees, R&D investment etc. is aggregated by a trusted third party that as Andrew says has "institute" or "association" in its name, we'll have another way to show the world we're on the move.
And yes, I've heard the apologist speak that this is a lot of work and hard to do and entrepreneurs won't share that kind of info and blah blah blah. I think it's B.S. Ottawa tech works like a great big small town. If we make this a tech community priority and explain why ROI scorecards are necessary to the health and wealth of our industry, and point our ample resources at it, it'll happen. By the way, if you want to hear more Waitman, click here for his thoughts on last year's "OCRIRadio.com Big Money" podcast. He's got a fine mind and a big wallet.
OK, it's Friday night after 7pm and this entrepreneur is hungry for more than ROI data right now! L8r.(Nathan Rudyk is President and CEO with market2world communications inc., Canada's tech PR and product launch agency. This entry has been cross-posted at the OCRIRadio.com blog.)