General Tech Innovation Economy

Canadian Tech Picks for 2014

Check out the picks from Ron Shuttleworth for 2014 in the latest CanTech Letter. 2013 was a banner year for his Canadian Tech small cap picks with mean returns of 171%! Despite the challenges of players like RIM, it appears the small cap tech sector is thriving including the recent investment from OMERS in Shopify giving an evaluation of over $1 Billion.


FiLIP for kids, wearables first killer app?

As much as I am fascinated by all things gadgets and the many smart watches that are popping up I have not really come across one that will make me give up my 10+ year old Tag Heuer. If it’s on my wrist its design matters a great deal to me and so far the big bulky smart watches that jam a bunch of features that add little, at least in my perceived sense, of convenience just don’t impress me much. They seem like gadgets for gadget sakes.

Then I came across the FiLIP, a “A wearable smart locator and phone for kids”. It basically packs the phone into the watch with a GPS enabling parents to track their kids by defining safe zones. If they are in a safe zone, like a school or a friend’s house that you knew they would be at, no worries. If they leave that zone though, the parents instantly get an alert. The child as well has instant access to parents or caregivers via a red button which calls parent configured call lists starting at the top and if no answer is received moves on to the next in the list. You can also send them text messages to let them know, “Time to come home for dinner!” There is no separate phone required. It’s all built into the watch.

This is a unique take on what wearables could actually do differently that would make the lives of parents a bit easier. Now how you convince a child though that the big green bracelet is cool and hip to wear is a whole other problem. But at least the functions make sense (for the parent). If FiLIP can nail the form factor so kids want to wear it and think it’s cool, I think they might have a winner on their hands.

Innovation Economy

CIX 2013 – Canadian Startups and Investors at MarsDD

This was my first year attending CIX 2013 and I was really impressed with the scale of the event, the number of  participants from both the investment community, incubators and startups. The auditorium at MarsDD was standing room only as the selected Top 20 startups presented their businesses to panels from the investment community. The breadth of companies from LMS (Learning Management Systems, a new acronym for me) to eHealth, video recognition processing, collaboration for hardware designing and the list goes on…. All of the presenters had seriously innovative solutions with real business models that are well on their way. And all made in Canada!

The breadth of investors in venture capital was also great to see. The smaller breakout sessions focusing on creating and building companies that last were backed by panelists from seed funding through to later stage funding. The advice was honest, open and encouraging to entrepreneurs. I was impressed by the willingness of founders that have gone before to offer angel investment and more importantly mentorship for the next wave of entrepreneurs even as they plot the next steps for themselves. The impact of the successful exits of many companies creates a viral community of people that have lived through a startup and know both success and failure. They are going on to found companies themselves. It really is where economic growth will come from and it is so important to foster and support businesses like these.

By the end of the day my mind was whirling with the possibilities of our innovation community in Canada and I can not wait to see who the next rising stars will be.


Leaders, Link Passion to Paycheck!

Reminds me very much of the idea from The Monk Who Sold His Ferarri, “Link passion to paycheck.” How may have seen corporate mission statements focus on “creating shareholder value” or “be the number one supplier of widgets”? Certainly not inspiring and says a lot about what the measures of success in those organizations are all about. They seem written for investors rather than as points of inspiration around which corporate culture can be created. The idea that you can work for passion and as a result the right financial things will happen is too rare in corporate culture today, but hopefully is changing.

Check the article out on LinkedIn.