Canada’s Cautious Attitude Still Stifling Startups, Entrepreneur Says

A Vancouver entrepreneur who recently built a startup in Silicon Valley and sold it to Groupon wants Canada to be ready for big-time entrepreneurship—but doesn’t believe that it is yet.

“Canadians in general are looking for safe day jobs,” Yen Lee explained to The Globe and Mail. “Vancouver and Canada in general have not had the history of the home runs, like the Googles and the Yahoos and the Facebooks. And so, because they don’t see the upside, all they see is the risk involved with a startup—because startups in Canada are sub-scale and don’t end up being big enough to exit.”

“And that leaves the folks who are willing, that have a desire to be disruptive, the folks with an appetite for risk,” he adds. “Those folks in Canada usually end up in the US.”

According to Lee, Canada has a lot going for it: a good immigration policy, supportive government, and loyal employees, among other things. But “the attitude just isn’t there,” he affirms.

Lee points to our Olympic program from 2010, Own the Podium, as something our startup ecosystem should draw inspiration from. It was described at the time as “not Canadian” because it was aggressive and controversial and celebrated victory. Our entrepreneurs, Lee suggests, should adopt a similar mantra.

In essence, in order to compete, we have to want to compete.

Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press