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My Next Chapter

It’s a fantastic time to start a company. Whether you’re a kid with a laptop on a beach in Brazil building mobile applications, or a Silicon Valley student with access to a 3D printer, it’s never been less expensive to get going, and more efficient to reach global markets.

At BlackBerry, I witnessed first hand the power of start-ups to effect transformation. I’m not just talking about the massive transformation that an Uber or Facebook represents. I met dozens of entrepreneurs around the world who all said the same thing — starting companies had changed their lives by creating opportunities and helping them to contribute to their local economies.

So over the last few months I have thought a lot about getting more directly involved in the start-up world. Two goals have shaped my thinking – I want to engage with start-ups, but not necessarily run one, and I want to stay local.

So why not run a start-up? I’ve founded three companies in my career, and been part of several other start-ups. Rather than found another company, I want to apply some of what I have learned to help other founders – to scale the knowledge I’ve acquired beyond simply doing another start-up myself.

Perhaps one of the best places to do that, right now, is here in Canada, especially in Kitchener-Waterloo. That’s why I want to stay local.

Kitchener-Waterloo is home to over 500 start-ups. It has three institutions of higher learning (University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga Polytechnic), an active investor community (the Golden Triangle Angel Network is one prominent investment group), multiple accelerators (Velocity, Waterloo Innovation Network, and the Accelerator Centre are several) and fantastic support from municipal governments. And of course, there’s Communitech.  Communitech is the glue that binds all the region’s startup commercialization activities together, in addition to helping mid-size and enterprise tech companies grow and succeed.  Kitchener-Waterloo is also close to Toronto, Canada’s largest financial center and business market. Kitchener-Waterloo may be the perfect “primordial soup” for early stage companies – something like Silicon Valley must have been 50 years ago.

Some of you reading this may know that I once worked for Microsoft. Despite being away from Microsoft for 14 years, my experiences there provided some of the most enduring lessons of my career — lessons that I have relied on daily in every role I’ve held since. Those lessons range from campaign mechanics, to management, culture, scale and execution. As many of my former staff at BlackBerry will tell you, we often took lessons from Microsoft and applied them to great effect.

So it was natural that one of the first companies I reached out to after leaving BlackBerry would be Microsoft. As of last Monday, I’ve rejoined Microsoft in the role of Principal Technical Evangelist. My beat is Canada – not just Kitchener-Waterloo. My boss is Microsoft Chief Evangelist and Corporate Vice President for Developer Experience, Steven “Guggs” Guggenheimer. I’m part of the global Microsoft Ventures team. And we run programs, like the Microsoft Ventures Accelerators, that are focused on helping early stage companies achieve their full potential.

If you’d like to know more, join us at the Communitech Hub In Kitchener-Waterloo on February 12th for a Collision Day and celebration of Microsoft Canada as Communitech’s newest partner.

Now, who wants to get started?

{ 32 comments… add one }

  • Morten Lindstrom February 2, 2015, 2:36 pm

    Great news!

    I wish you the best in your new endeavors, and look forward to hear more..

    Let’s get started!

  • Mikel February 2, 2015, 2:55 pm

    Super excited for you. Just this morning I learned that Raspberry Pi launched their Raspberry Pi 2 and that it will run Windows 10! Will you be at all involved with Window’s IoT efforts? All the best, keep empowering developers all over the world! :)

    • alec February 2, 2015, 3:42 pm

      I’ll only be indirectly involved in IoT, in as much as Microsoft Ventures has an interest there. But Kevin Dallas — the GM of that business — is fantastic.

  • Zukka February 2, 2015, 3:08 pm

    Good luck for all Alec.. All the best for you :)

  • Pantony Sr February 2, 2015, 3:47 pm

    ‎Will Canada have TeachingBots ready for demo at AIEducation Madrid June 2015, linked below? 

    Will ML at U of A have  products for monetization? 

    Can SOLR + Maluuba nAPI + collated 25,000 pages of ‎Leonhard Euler ” resurrect the mind of” the greatest algebra teacher in history? Does ML have some tricks so mobile users can  dialogue with Leonhard Euler? 

    So many, many forms of teaching bots, waiting for the breath of life from Canada’s ML brainiacs…

    Here’s the Madrid conference respecting Artificial Intelligence in Education :

    Here’s state of the art, machine learning, December 2014:
    Jeremy Howard: The wonderful and terrifying implications of computers that can learn – YouTube

    Yeah, Jeremy you’ve demonstrated they can learn, can they teach?

  • Garett B February 2, 2015, 3:51 pm

    Very exciting time to be joining Microsoft! All the best in your new gig, it’s sure to be another awesome adventure!

  • Chris E February 2, 2015, 4:10 pm

    Great news! Will you have any involvement in the Windows Phone area of the business? Do you still use a Blackberry? : )

    • alec February 2, 2015, 4:14 pm

      I’m not directly involved in Windows Phone, except in as much as companies that we are interested in at Microsoft Ventures might be using Windows Phone. And I’m giving up my BlackBerry, I’m afraid, for a standard issue Windows Phone.

  • Frank Siedler February 2, 2015, 4:29 pm
  • Dean Elwood February 2, 2015, 5:43 pm

    Great – when can we expect the next music video? :)

    Congrats Alec, welcome home.

  • Gurtaj Padda February 2, 2015, 6:08 pm

    HI Vince congrats on your new assignment.

    our product portfolio has evolved nd just added corporate secure exchange to it. how can i show you or Microsft ventures our product. http://www.shieldmece.com
    one of a kind platform for complete secure text and talk.

    Gurtaj Padda

    • alec February 2, 2015, 6:16 pm

      Where are you located Gurtaj?

      • Gurtaj Sing Padda February 2, 2015, 6:20 pm

        I am located out of singapore but our services are available in USA.



        • alec February 2, 2015, 7:51 pm

          OK – we have folks in Asia too. Let me find the right person for you.

  • Jerome Carty February 2, 2015, 6:10 pm

    Congrats to you, Alec! Also, congrats to Microsoft for getting you back!

    It sounds like you’ll enjoy your new role. Keep us posted!

  • Jon Webb February 2, 2015, 7:08 pm

    Woohoo, congrats Alec!

  • Jonathan Hirshon February 2, 2015, 7:10 pm

    Congratulations and I think you are reconnecting with MSFT at one of the most pivotal and exciting times for them! :)

  • Patrick February 2, 2015, 7:10 pm

    Sounds exciting! All the best at your next chapter :)

  • Eddie February 2, 2015, 8:24 pm

    Hi Alex, great news I read here. I am very excited for you. I wish you all the best and good luck.

  • Rod February 2, 2015, 11:21 pm

    well things just curiouser and curiouser Alex. Best wishes for a fine adventure.

  • Jerry Li February 3, 2015, 3:56 am

    Congrats Alec! You were always one of the public facing representatives of at BlackBerry that I felt was giving it their all and then so, so much more. The other person was Vivek who gave some of the best device announcements and demonstrations that I have ever watched.
    Can’t believe its been over over since BB10 has first launched. Really appreciate what you have done for the developer community and public audience in general.

    Once again congrats and best wishes!

  • Jonah February 3, 2015, 4:20 am

    Good Lucky in MS.
    i know your very first introduction of IE.

    We former has lots of partnership with MS as well, we are also in MS’s Biz Spark program.

    Looking forward meet you sometime in China :)

    • alec February 3, 2015, 8:54 am

      Thanks Jonah. Look forward to seeing you again in the future too.

  • marysia February 3, 2015, 9:10 am

    Very best of luck Alec…they are lucky to have you :)

  • Frank Abrams February 3, 2015, 9:19 am

    I’m sure you’ll make a great contribution to startups!

  • Kerri Brooks February 3, 2015, 10:52 am

    Congratulations Alec!!!
    How exciting and what a perfect opportunity of Leadership for you!

  • gary fioret February 3, 2015, 2:36 pm

    Congrats!! Sounds very exciting. Wishing you the best.

  • Chris Biber February 3, 2015, 3:59 pm

    Congrats on the new role. Way to go! I am looking forward to the impacts on the startup scene…

  • Mac Taylor February 4, 2015, 11:46 am

    Congrats. Hope all goes well. Exciting news.
    Hope to meet again sometime.

  • Lloyd Summers February 4, 2015, 7:25 pm

    Best of luck in the new role!

    I owe you a few favours for myself and other developers you’ve helped along the way from BlackBerry – you have been sadly missed since being sent to QNX and I know they made a good choice bringing you into Microsoft.

    Shameless plug: It is probably too small scope, but if your venture seeking ever brings you to small startups in mobile app and game development – please don’t hesitate. I’m planning to raise up a small mobile company at some point this year. Based on the numbers, I shouldn’t require any extra capital to raise up the company, but it would be helpful to build a team quicker with a big brand supporting.

    Anyway, I know this will have some very positive changes down the road for Microsoft. Congrats on the big change!

  • Mike Zhou February 6, 2015, 12:00 pm

    kitchener-Waterloo region definitely has the potential to become Canada’s Silicon Valley and I am sure a lot of startups will benefit from your knowledge. Keep the talents within Canada! Congrats and look forward to seeing you again in the future.

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