July 14, 2008

TOP and OCRI for Innovation Hub

It looks like the innovation hub is making some progress. I'm very happy that Ottawa is standing up for its fair share of money regarding this kind of infrastructure. I was at the Mars center in Toronto, it's pretty impressive and vibrant place to visit and work. I'm also very happy that the site they are looking at in Ottawa is downtown. There is so much going on in the market now, this will help create even more tech activities in that area.


Signed, Luc Lalande said...

Hi Frederic, hate to rain on this parade but my feelings are opposite in seeing how a building downtown -- by the way next to the major disruptive tear-down and renovation -- of the Congress Centre is going to be a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship in Ottawa. Space is commodity nowadays and I am not at all convinced that the "value-added" services of the proposed Hub are any better just as a result of the co-location of service providers. Besides, it's an affront that gov't-funded Hub-type projects compete against privately-led incubators such TheCodeFactory who seem to be far more attuned to the grassroot needs of local tech entrepreneurs.

The Hub is typical of what ails our capacity to compete ... a sense that we need more government to intervene with politically expedient solutions rather than real impact that provide our entrepreneurs a level playing field to compete and innovate.

I agree that the downtown sector would be a great place for a new wave of tech entrepreneurs to aggregate, but i would much rather see our gov't stimulate that with tax and other entrepreneur-friendly incentives than sink taxpayer dollars into a building project. I cite for example the success in Montreal in developing a real hub for the game development industry through the application of economic development incentives. This makes sense. The downtown Hub doesn't.

Luc Lalande said...

... following my previous statement on the Hub initiative, for those who know my connection to Carleton University, I would like to make clear the following:

"The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carleton University. But they might."

Ok. That said, I wish to comment on one other irksome aspect of the Hub initiative that exemplifies our deeply ingrained dependence on government support. We, as a community, are seemingly obsessed in thinking that we must always receive "our fair share" of government largesse. This type of thinking is so embedded in our discourse so few people realize that they are doing it. In fact, this thinking has permeated the entire debate about the Innovation Hub. If Toronto and Waterloo got their money, what about Ottawa? Unfortunately, this is what lies behind the whole Hub debacle rather than looking to do something truly innovative for the region.

Frederic Boulanger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frederic Boulanger said...

Luc I meant to reply earlier, thanks for taking the time to express your side of the story.

I don't take it as raining on the parade. I actually considered this a threat to the code factory myself initially. After speaking some more with the stakeholders on both sides, OCRI and CodeFactory, they target a different audience. CodeFactory is earlier in the lifecycle, than the hub. I think it makes us stronger to have both. Companies will have more support throughout, from really really early on,to middle of the road in a startup life. The early days of startups is in starbucks right now, when people don't have office space, and are moonlighting because they haven't quit their job yet, this is where CodeFactory is going to excel. The middle of the road, the hub, needs different kind of support, their idea is validated to a point where engaging broader resources is necessary.

To the point of truly initiative thinking means more than doing a hub in Ottawa. The Quebec government has made MTL a leader in incentives for Experimental development activities, as per a KPMG study released these last couple of days, the ctx was assessing Canada's competitiveness for running a business. I truly think that grassroot support is important in startups, and I don't think we can see this coming from large Government programs or organizations. If you look at the success of MTL the programs has landed multi-nationals, EA, Ubisoft, Morgan Stanley etc... It would be nice to have this in Ottawa, no questions there. It's not the hub or the Codefactory that will land us those. Startup wise in Ottawa, my own reasearch talking to VC tells me that Ottawa and Toronto are doing better than MTL. I think the Code Factory and Hub are more compatible with the regions strengths, software startups. Furhter more I don'T think the will in the governments is there in Ontario to do what Quebec has done, it's a different mentality toward business that we see at works.

Luc Lalande said...

An interesting comment by Toronto's Jevon MacDonald on the topic -- http://www.startupnorth.ca/2008/11/19/mars-phase-ii-in-the-deadpool/