It’s a common refrain from the Prime Minister on down to your local business association and beyond: how do we spur innovation in Canada?
Sure, creating more tech hubs like those in Toronto, Waterloo, Montreal and Vancouver would be a start. Some might say we need to invest more in higher education. Still others would point to tax reforms to encourage entrepreneurism. All good ideas, but what about this: train those new startups to be more open and transparent with their data and, above all, get them to file their quarterlies.
That’s the message from Hockeystick CEO Raymond Luk, who says that while it may be a simple idea, data-sharing often goes unheeded by beginning tech companies who sometimes want to play their cards close to their chest.
“There used to be this thing back in the day called stealth mode,” says Luk. “The idea was that, ‘Okay, I’m going to hide out in my garage and build this incredible thing and then do a big reveal.’ And I think after many, many companies tried this and then … nobody cared, they started to realize that it’s better to put yourself out there, to share your data on your company, get to know your VCs. Because if nobody can find you, you will not grow as a company.”
Luk was on hand at the SASS North conference in Ottawa last week to celebrate his company’s recent acquisition of Launchspot, a software program for startup accelerators. Cantech Letter sat down with Luk and Launchspot founder and CEO, Rob Darling, who said that his company is a great fit for Hockeystick, which runs its own private market data network.
“Launchspot focuses a lot on the operational side of accelerators, the day-to-day aspects and the entering of data,” says Darling. “Hockeystick saw that they could use our product to complement theirs.”
Luk says that Canada has the opportunity to be a world leader in startup metrics, a field which at the moment remains underdeveloped. “The market is very unstructured,” says Luk. “Most of the data is sitting in Microsoft Excel on people’s laptops, so it’s a huge effort to centralize.”
“But if you’re a private company, as soon as you get on this cadence of sharing information periodically, the easier it will be for you to raise money, to attract good board members and advisors,” says Luk. “We’re educating entrepreneurs on how to behave like big companies.”
“There’s no country in the world that has better investments than Canada in innovation metrics and is closer to having this kind of open, transparent view of the economy,” says Luk. “In the US, it’s such a huge economy, there’s all kinds of different pockets but there’s no comprehensive, global view of how startups function and grow. Even countries like Israel, they don’t have a unified view of how many startups there are, how many are living and dying.”
Luk says that all three levels of government in Canada could benefit from having a more integrated set of measurements for accelerator and incubator programs, a step which he sees as key to boosting innovation across the country. “It’s not easy, because if you want to measure innovation, you have to measure it by a ten-year span of time,” says Luk. “That means you better start now.”