Another hurdle for Edmonton Startups?

My frustrations with working in technology, but more specifically, starting a tech company in Edmonton are well documented.  Since writing my original “Why Edmonton is Deadmonton for Startups” blog post 3 years ago, I’ve met several really impressive technology influencers, founders, venture partners, and technologists in Edmonton.  Furthermore, I think the city has been making  strides towards a better tech scene, and companies like Empire Ave have been succeeding despite their location … but I believe these are outliers and looking back, my original points really resonate for me.

I still find myself frustrated at times and reflecting on what might be lacking.  On this note, pointing out that a region requires an attractive lifestyle for it to become a tech hotbed is nothing new.  But this point really hit home while socializing at Startup event in Vancouver several months ago.  After spending 2 days at the event I realized I hadn’t met a single native Vancouver resident.  Every person had migrated to the area in search of a better lifestyle … not just for a better job in tech.

Tech Entrepreneurs share this “do it yourself/break the mold/never settle for less” characteristic.  This attitude exists at every level of their lives.  Work, social, family, and pleasure.  The type of people proactively striving to expand and improve their standard of living by moving closer to the ocean, closer to skiing, closer to ethnic diversity, closer to the arts, etc. are typically the same type of people taking initiative to improve their 9-5 work life by starting their own work ventures.  Seattle, the Bay area, Boulder, Boston, New York, Vancouver … these are all cities that young, energetic, creative, *won’t settle for less*, curious, and innovative people seeking a better lifestyle, amenities, more diversity, and natural beauty move to.  Not only do these people share this value, but they also transfer it to their children, and to the communities they inhabit.   These people initially may not move with the intention of starting a company, but their values lead them in this direction or spread to their children and their communities, which in most cases is more valuable than starting a company themselves.

With exceptions, Edmonton in recent years, has attracted young men from across Canada in search of riches that a job on the oilfields would bring.  Completely opposite from San Francisco, Seattle or Vancouver, I’ve yet to meet someone who moved to Edmonton because they were looking to improve their life quality via the city’s amenities, natural beauty, diversity, or creative energy … all areas I think Edmonton is weak.

There will always be outliers in Edmonton like the impressive people leading Empire Ave, Seek your Own Proof, Nexopia, and Start Up Edmonton.  As mentioned before,  I’ve been incredibly impressed after meeting or working with many of the people working and leading these groups.  They’re all great people, and great technologists / founders / leaders.  But until Edmonton is seen as an attractive place for young energetic, creative and driven people, it will never reach a critical mass of these types of people required to become a tech hotbed.  Until then, I recon, it’ll continue to grow and attract the nations finest oil workers; and export it’s talent to Vancouver, and the US.

3 thoughts on “Another hurdle for Edmonton Startups?

  1. One of the biggest problems is that most of the angel investors and investment groups in Alberta (and western Canada) force entrepreneurs to pay to pitch them. This is completely backwards to the way things works in successful startup markets. No wonder nothing innovative is coming out of Edmonton these days.

    The secret to success for Edmonton startups seems to be to spend as much time out of the city as possible.

    Why startups shouldn’t have to pay to pitch angel investors (http://wp.me/pk3g7-1da)

  2. I hardly think Edmonton is weak in natursl beauty or creative energy. But that is a common misconception. Perhaps the misconception would end if peope like yourself quit propagating it.

  3. As a CS phd who’s lived here all my life, and moving to San Francisco shortly, I completely agree. Tech companies are not tied to any specific location so it makes sense to put them in a place where people want to live, that place just isn’t Edmonton, as much as I hate to say it.

    This situation reminds me of the scene in “Roger & Me” where the town of Flint Michigan on the verge of bankruptcy blows $13 million to finance a luxury hotel in the hopes of attracting more tourists. Completely missing the fact that tourists don’t go to Miami, Paris, or Hawaii, for the hotels.

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