Published on Sep 06, 2020
Essays

Help Local

jean-talon-1

I love that feeling that when you discover a new local product. Be it a restaurant, vineyard, farmer, café or retailer, I really enjoy discovering & shopping local. On top of that, it feels good! You’re supporting a local merchant or producer and not one of the big faceless corporations. This topic has taken on new meaning during the pandemic with governments rushing to create buy local initiatives. I’ve been thinking of what it means for the local tech sector and how it can be better supported, not just by the government but by the entire community. It raises a few questions.

Should we stop using their products? This one sounds crazy to me. Better products win especially when distribution costs so little in software. It’s not just the mass consumer tools like search and social. Think of all the productivity tools that startups/techcos use that come from abroad. We can’t force people to use other platforms or attempt to change the rules of the game to benefit local players. Just look at the mess in Australia as an indication of what not to do.

Should people avoid working for foreign tech companies and work for local ones instead? Haha, what a hypocrite I would be if I advocated for this approach. Going to work for a big tech company has an important benefit to the local economy. Local tech can benefit from people that leave big tech. It’s not just tech companies but many other traditional companies can learn something from foreign tech; alas, that is a subject for another day. This is unequivocally a good thing as long as the playing field is fair. Big tech should not receive special subsidies to open offices or grants on talent.

Is there an ultimate solution? The answer should be obvious by now, we need to compete. Competing to build a stronger and more vibrant ecosystem has been the life’s work of many people in the city. This is an ongoing endeavour and one that has picked up a lot of momentum. One of the great projects in the city is FounderFuel that has their demo day this week. My only gripe with them is that it needs to be even bigger!

What we need are more shots on goal. We need more companies being formed all the time trying to solve real problems. Of course this process is messy and many startups fail. But building a flywheel of companies / founders / investors takes time. Successful entrepreneurs go on to start new companies or invest in new ones. Their investors back them the next time and the cycle continues. Over time, the quality bar gets higher and the companies formed compete on a bigger scale.

So attend demo day, work or invest in a startup (if you can), go work at a big tech company for a few years and always support the community. Helping local isn’t just about feeling good, it’s about getting better.

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