Transforming Prairie innovation into Prairie companies
Canada holds a peculiar status in the global tech ecosystem. Developing groundbreaking ideas, it seems, is a matter of course. Our researchers nurture and develop them in universities thanks in large part to government funding. Then, something tragic happens. We sell them at a steep discount to global players. We have become, as Daniel Muzyka put it, “a net exporter of ideas”.
One of the main reasons for this is the disconnect between what’s happening in Canadian universities and what’s happening in Canadian industry. The result? Multi-billion-dollar companies like Google can patent Canada’s revolutionary AI research and use it throughout their entire business to make bank.
So what’s the problem? Why can’t Canada turn billion-dollar ideas into a larger volume of billion-dollar companies? One major cause is the lack of access to seed stage or early-stage funding. Disruption requires the application of either new technology or new approaches, and this equals risk. Historically, risk takers in places like Silicon Valley have had access to funding to develop their ideas into products and then test, iterate, and sell them.
Canadian companies – not so much.
If early-stage funding in Canada is tricky, then it’s a downright challenge – if not near impossible – in the Prairies. With provinces like Ontario and Quebec attracting most of the larger tech world’s attention, it’s difficult for Prairie provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba to secure the funding they need. It’s a shame, too, since that funding would be well placed. Over the past few years, new tech companies have rapidly emerged in the Prairies and the region’s entrepreneurs are shifting from natural resources to technology.
Activating this entrepreneurial energy and converting it into a tech ecosystem requires the money to generate early success stories and create momentum. Promisingly, some of that money is already here. In 2020, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba attracted over $300 million, $10 million, and $29 million in VC funding, respectively.
If you’re a Prairie entrepreneur, how do you go about securing a piece of this funding? How early do you start looking for funding? How do you articulate why you need funding? What do you need to say to convince someone to give you money? And how do you make heads or tails of the types of funding available?
To answer these questions, we’ve consulted with experts at Harvest Builders as well as experienced players in the Prairie tech ecosystem to develop, “The Harvest Guide to Funding”. This guide will help you to identify:
- Whether your business or business idea is appropriate for venture capital
- What kind of funding your business needs
- How to connect with and pitch to venture capitalists
- How to understand the difference between “smart money” and “inexperienced money”