The 2016 Startup Day on the Hill attracted a record number of entrepreneurs from 25 communities across Canada.
The old adage, “From little things big things grow”, could not be more true when talking about Startup Canada’s Day on the Hill. What began in 2013 as a small gathering of 300 entrepreneurs has grown into the largest annual gathering of innovators, investors, industry leaders and government decision makers.
This year’s event in Ottawa, which was held on May 5, 2016, saw more than 1100 entrepreneurs from 25 communities across Canada converge and connect directly with 100 government leaders.
“It’s a way to sponsor the dialogue between entrepreneurs and government,” says Startup Canada’s co-founder, Victoria Lennox. It’s clearly working – over the past three years, Lennox has noticed a clear shift from awareness raising about the importance of entrepreneurship to policy change.
She attributes the high turnout to the current momentum of entrepreneurship in Canada (the country is ranked second in the world for start-ups).
“Entrepreneurship is looked at as a vehicle for growth. There’s a huge opportunity for Canada to be a social innovation nation,” she says. “I was really happy with the event.”
The chance to engage directly with Canadian leaders is Startup Day’s main attraction. However, there were countless other opportunities for small business owners to network, learn and share best practices.
At ‘Policy Hack-a-Thons’, entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch ideas to government ministers on a range of topics, from how best to support women entrepreneurs in scaling their businesses, to ways the federal government can best support social entrepreneurships. Startup community leaders also had the chance to meet privately with their local MPs. Minister of Finance Bill Morneau gave the opening remarks, while speakers included Intuit Canada CEO Jeff Cates, Porter Airlines CEO Robert Deluce and Minister of Small Business Bardish Chagger. Cates spoke about the need to support small business owners in Canada. He also encouraged better support for entrepreneurs in financial management.
“Poor financial management remains one of the top driving causes of new business failure,” Cates later wrote in The Huffington Post. “Understanding how to run a successful business is irrelevant if we don’t have an institutional framework that measures our success and propels us forward.”
Lennox says Startup Canada is helping to facilitate change. “We’re actually getting things done. And now that this is the top of the agenda, this is our moment to get meaningful change happening,” she says, referring to the $8 million earmarked by the federal government for an innovation agenda.
She hopes the conversations started at Startup Day will impact the legislation that most directly affects entrepreneurship in Canada.
However, she says none of it would have been possible without the support of the event sponsor, Intuit Canada. “[Intuit is] a best-of-class model – right from entrepreneurial staff and a culture of entrepreneurship to how they interact with the ecosystem,” says Lennox. “I’m very excited about our continued partnership.”
In addition to Startup Day, Intuit has worked with the organization to support the launch of 25 grassroots startup communities across Canada and 23 co-working spaces, as well as to connect 3000 entrepreneurs to financial literacy training.
Lennox says she feels immensely proud of the success of Day on the Hill, and how it has grown. “It’s important that the startup community has a voice and is connected with government,” says Lennox, who points out that bold decisions need to be taken to remain competitive. “Ultimately, government creates the conditions within which businesses operate.”
Jeff Cates, CEO of Intuit Canada, attended this year’s Startup Day on the Hill in Ottawa. Here are some of his key takeaways from the event, as published in The Huffington Post:
Entrepreneurs need better access to capital to launch and scale up. “We have an incredible talent pool and burgeoning startup community here in Canada and we must foster an ecosystem that allows other small business owners to feel the same. To do so, it’s crucial to demonstrate that Canadian startups can secure funding without moving south of the border.”
Small business owners can’t be afraid to take risks. “I cannot overstate the importance of taking calculated risks. You can’t be afraid to fail. At Intuit, we position Canada as an innovation sandbox for other markets; a place where we can take risks, try new things and export innovation to the rest of the world, including the US. We all need to employ this mindset if we’re going to bring the Innovation Nation vision to life.”
Photo caption: (from left to right): Victoria Lennox, CEO Startup Canada, with Bill Morneau, Finance Minister, Government of Canada and Tony Lacavera, President of Globalive Holdings