It has been proven time and again that a bottoms-up community-led entrepreneurship can yield far better results than expressly-designed innovation ecosystems that claim to stimulate innovation and business drive. The Canadian government has been spending a lot in the latter, overlooking the important role grassroots community entrepreneurs could play today.
A fine example of community entrepreneurship is offered by Edmonton, where five years ago Startup Edmonton was initiated to bring together technical entrepreneurs in the community. Regular meet-ups, demo camps and startup weekends were part of this process, which ultimately gained enough seed funding from businessmen to acquire a 14,000 sq ft space of an old warehouse, which now holds up to 150 events every year, attended by 170 community members and 50 companies.
The reason behind the success of Edmonton’s startup community was because it had grassroots entrepreneurs in the lead, along with the support of its local government. For startups to succeed, it is important to focus on the community in every town and city, despite the widely held belief that high-growth start-ups are dependent on venture capitalists’ investment, incubator programs, and availability of people with exceptional talent and ambition.
Investing in a community is not so complex. Community meet-ups are easier to organize with some free food and drinks and a good place to gather. The government can boost these initiatives by funding staff to aid entrepreneur-led community groups. The amount of money that is spent on national conferences every year would do more good if it is invested in mobilizing community entrepreneurs. Funding can also be redirected to pay for company founders’ travel to connect with international communities. Even if 10% of what the government invests in “innovation ecosystem” is instead put for the development of community entrepreneurship, it can achieve wonders for Canada.
The Startup Canada Communities project is a step in the right direction. The project takes a much needed bottoms-up approach by mobilizing community leaders and providing them with necessary resources, shared tools, and mentorship to build and scale their start-up communities one by one.
Source: Financial Post