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?