WRITTEN BY: STEVE BOESE
To all the loyal readers of Innovation Insights, you may remember earlier this year when Jeff Chesebrough, Innovate Niagara CEO, and I wrote about our innovation ecosystem tour of Silicon Valley. At that time, we stated; “every community should venture out to benchmark other ecosystems, then adapt those learnings and carve out their own path. As we continue to build an innovation economy in Niagara, we must continue to learn from others, collaborate, support each other and push forward together.” Jeff and I are staunch advocates that those who excel are those who don’t talk about doing things, but those who take action and execute. Thus, we took action and ventured out to study another of the world’s leading innovation ecosystems, so that we could bring those learnings back to Niagara.
As part of the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN), joined by eight other innovation/incubation leaders from across Canada, we embarked on a NYC tour and visit to leading startup incubators/accelerators, global leading innovation centres and trade commissioner offices, as well as, group outings with NYC investors and Canadian startup founders. We met with senior management/founders to discuss and share best practices, programming, community/cluster building, event ideas, business/client services, investment/investor relations, government relations and established connections for Canadian companies that want to connect with the NYC market.
Tour stops included; Primary, the Canadian Technology Accelerator at Grand Central Tech, Phillips Lytle, NUMA New York, R/GA Ventures, Spark Labs, Venture Out & WeWork. The CDMN organized an investor dinner and arranged a meeting with Kelly Hoey, a NYC investor/influencer/author who agreed to come and speak at our 2018 Big Thinkers event – stay tuned for details.
Insights: New York City is highly competitive. New York, we get you; you’re cool and everyone knows it. People flock from all over the world to try and stake a small claim of you and for good reason. You’re legit. And while a city might settle knowing that they are the leading marketplace for so many industries like finance, advertising, real estate etc., it might be ok to not be a leader in the tech sector as well, right? But that wouldn’t be very New York City of you. During our trip we were reminded with almost every visit that New York City is the #2 place in the world for tech startups. And while New York City culture rarely accepts second best, this time, New York was boastful about it. Many of the people we met discussed how New York was a bit behind the game in tech and Silicon Valley rapidly advanced by supporting the tech ecosystem. While the hoody-clad tech crowd flocked to the West, the power suit New Yorkers started to fall behind. We were constantly reminded this is no longer the case. New York understood that tech is a part of all industries and that tech startups must be supported in order to advance. And in a short period of time, like many other industries, New York City has advanced to be a global tech giant. They leapfrogged many other cities and it was a big accomplishment.
Further Insights: New York City is highly competitive, yet in the tech industry, surprisingly collaborative. They really get it. Changing the cut-throat culture of some of the world’s biggest industries, in one of the world’s biggest cities is tough. But the tech industry is collaborative and you have to adopt that to be a part of it. And somehow, even New York City, has found a way to play nicely. We were warmly welcomed at every place we went. We openly discussed our ideas, pain points and solutions. The discussions were similar to those discussed in Silicon Valley. The industry knew each other, were supportive of each other and willing to help each other be better.
Conclusions: As we continue to build an innovation economy in Niagara we must, think big, be collaborative, support each other and execute. There weren't any negative tones in Silicon Valley or NYC. They didn’t talk about how they couldn’t do things. They only talked about how they could do them; then did them. It’s easy to give a million reasons why something can’t be done, but coming up with the one reason why it can be done can make all the difference. We are lucky at Innovate Niagara to work in a progressive, forward-thinking culture. We get to work with world-class entrepreneurs, businesses and startup talent. We get to see the amazing technology products and services that are being created here. It was refreshing to see that we have many of the same attributes as the world’s leading innovation economies. We must continue to think positively and push for greatness.
The Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN), is a network of 26 regional innovation hubs across Canada, all focused on supporting Canada’s digital/tech entrepreneurs. Designated a federal Centre of Excellence in Commercialization and Research, CDMN is dedicated to establishing Canada as a world leader in the digital economy. Innovate Niagara’s Steve Boese is a member of the CDMN’s National Board of Advisors and also serves as a CDMN National HUB Representative.
Steve Boese: Manager, the Generator at one – Powered by Innovate Niagara
This article originally appeared in The Business Link Niagara.