Dear Prime Minister,
Congratulations on your win. I want to call your attention to the innovation economy. You're Ottawa's most successful politician right now. Sir Terence Matthews ("Terry" to most of us in the tech community) is Ottawa's most successful entrepreneur.
Like you, Terry cares deeply about our country. In an open letter from the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) 10 days ago, he said "Canada's lack of innovation, a 14th place ranking or a D Grade in Innovation, among the 17 OECD nations is leading to mediocre socio-economic performance."
You've been busy campaigning and may have missed the letter. But you can click here to read it.
Terry, who has started more than 60 innovation companies during an entrepreneurial career spanning 36 years, also pointed to an opportunity for leadership in a September interview with Canadian Business Magazine's Andrew Wahl:
We live in a world that is very competitive, and to compete you have to spend strategically in R&D, especially the development side. If you don’t do that, you go down. It’s urgent. Venture capital companies that used to come visit Toronto and Ottawa now bypass those cities and go straight to California or Boston. We’re off the radar. I’ve been in this industry now for almost 40 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad. At least somebody should say, “Industry is important.” Where is the flag being waved to say, “We are supporting, we are committed to Canadian industry.” Where is that flag? There is no committed leader saying, “Canadian industry is important, and we’ll do things for it.” In France, they fight like hell for their industry, and in Japan and Germany, they fight like hell for their industries. But we don’t here.
What happens if leadership doesn't fight for the innovation economy? (As a point of interest, Canada's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector currently accounts for 600,000 jobs, $140 billion in revenue, $5 billion in research and development, $23 billion in exports and $12 billion in capital expenditures.) Here's what happens, according to Terry:
You know what I’m doing? I’m investing in companies outside of Canada, and I don’t feel good about that either. I’m investing in the U.K. and the U.S., because their environments are better. Out of the four technology companies I start every year, three of them are outside of Canada. Now, isn’t that sad? I talk to many people of like mind, within government and business, and they agree with my observations.
I don't know about you Prime Minister, but I think attracting Terry's investment dollars – and the dollars of innovation-seeking entrepreneurs around the world who not long ago were very excited by Canada's rich university and government R&D base, strong employee work ethic, and ethnically diverse, globally-oriented, extraordinarily civil society – should be a top priority for your new government.
In your pre-election True North Strong and Free plan for Canada, I noticed a promise for a new $75 million venture capital fund to be administered by the Business Development Bank of Canada. I know you'll keep it – that's your track record, and that's why Canadians have cautiously endorsed your leadership in a second Federal election. To earn a ringing endorsement – to win big – you rapidly need to bring big thinking on the innovation economy to your policy table. It's a great opportunity for Canada.
There are many of us available to help Prime Minister. Ping us. We all want to win big.