We’re at an economic crossroads in the Canadian entrepreneurial landscape. The self-employed economy is experiencing explosive growth and recent leaps in innovation are driving the emergence of new startup categories and clusters, based on technologies and products the average consumer hadn’t yet heard of even a few years ago. They might not even know them now.
From Canada’s beginning, entrepreneurs have enriched our communities, our economy and even our daily lives, but what will the next 150 years of entrepreneurship in Canada look like?
Here are the top trends I think are mostly likely to transform Canada’s small business landscape.
The self-employed economy is poised for unprecendented growth
Today, more professionals are joining the growing ranks of the self-employed workers in Canada, driven in part by an increase in the on-demand economy, like ride-sharing, peer-to-peer rental, project-based job platforms and online retail platforms.
In fact, Intuit Canada’s newest study in partnership with Emergent Research projects that full and part-time freelancers, independent contractors and on-demand workers are expected to make up 45 percent of the workforce by 2020.
Flexibility and work-life balance are part of the story, but there is also the tougher reality that traditional jobs are much harder to come by now than they were for previous generations. While unemployment rates in Canada remain stable at 7 per cent, the vast majority of jobs created in the past year are part-time, adding fuel to the emergence of the gig economy.
As the freelance segment grows, we’ll continue see new products and companies emerge to meet the needs of this unique type of entrepreneur operating in this new economy like co-working spaces, tailored financial management solutions and online training tools.
Canada’s best and brightest will build here
For those in Canada’s tech sphere, we’ve witnessed the steady march of top talent and promising startups leave for greener pastures and the promise of greater prosperity in Silicon Valley, or as it’s less affectionately known, the “Silicon Valley Brain Drain.” As we look towards the future of entrepreneurship in Canada, I predict that this trend will wane.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts from government to invest in Canadian innovation and attract and retain our best talent; educational institutions to better equip tomorrow’s leaders with the entrepreneurial and STEM skills they need to thrive; and grassroots organizations like Startup Canada who provide the tools, education and resources business owners need for long-term success, I believe that Canada has the potential to become the best country in the world to start and operate a business.
Emerging tech will catalyze the creation of new startup clusters
Leaps in new technologies will profoundly change Canada’s startup landscape. The trend I see with greatest potential for disruption is artificial intelligence, a method of training computers to learn by processing huge sets of data with software that mimics the neural networks in the human brain.
Business, government and education leaders have already started to energize homegrown AI development and lay the foundations for Canada to become a global leader in this segment.
For example, to cultivate partnerships in a sector poised to impact every industry, several of Canada’s largest corporations are contributing to a $5 million fund for artificial intelligence startups called NextAI. Through the program, organizations like Royal Bank of Canada, Magna International Inc., Bank of Nova Scotia and the Business Development Bank of Canada investment arm BDC Capital will provide artificial intelligence startups with $200,000 in addition to access to technology, mentorship and education.
The federal and Ontario goverments in partnership with the private sector have also funded a new institute for artificial intelligence research called the Vector Institute.
Canada as been a driver of AI innovation from the very beginning and Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have started to carve out unique identities as AI innovation hubs. With continued collaboration across the public and private sectors, we can help Canada reach its full potential as the global powerhouse that we know it can be.
To advance Canadian small business success and innovation, we must think big, be entrepreneurial, and come together with one collective vision for Canada as an Innovation Nation. The future is bright for entrepreneurship in Canada, and we’re thrilled to be part of it.