Island of Prosperity, or Fantasy Island?

Hey all, I managed to get back from a snowboarding trip with my wife in Big White (think 50cm over two days and a near death experience on a cliff after an ill-advised line through the glades) to grab a meetings in Waterloo on Monday and catch the first day of the mesh show, and in many ways the two days were certainly salve for the wounded. On Monday, I was lucky enough to run across Tech Capital’s Tim Jackson, who that morning in the Globe and Mail had very optimistically predicted the return of the startup buzz to Canada (at least to Waterloo, anyway), his jaunty pink shirt bespeaking the coming end of the VC hibernation. And over the next two days exchanging biz cards and beers with the mesh folks (including Tim’s partner Jacqui Murphy, who has a terrific rant about where governments should be offering support for new companies), the rosiness was practically overflowing: everyone using the web for social justice, connectivity, and profit, all sung out with loud and justifiably proud voices to the background over a twittering audience’s happy fingertips. Standing out above all, Austin Hill’s description of the Quebec government’s seeding efforts with its venture capital industry ($1.2B commitment, with seed and later stage focus and hopefully a national investment scope) and the likelihood that it will drag the whole country kicking and screaming into our next boom.

All amazing stuff, and it put a spring in my step as I headed back to the Porter lounge to get a connection back to the capital city. At least until I ran into my good friend Chris Fewster, a great Kanata-based investment adviser with CIBC Wood Gundy, in the lounge with a couple of his broker buddies. These guys had just attended a “Night with the Bears”, an event sponsored by Eric Sprott and a bunch of other economic doomsayers, and my buddies were absolutely bummed: cottage purchases were on hold, private schools being reconsidered, and most seriously a few of them were considering giving up Starbucks for home brew. Seriously though, the story is very, very bleak. US$7.5 trillion in national wealth in the United States has evaporated over the last year, and the bears’ message is that the global economy simply will take a very long time to recover from that (one of them is modeling the Dow at 1000!). Wow, I thought, stuffing my pockets with free Porter almonds and shortbread, maybe the mesh folks have got it wrong, maybe we’re all living in happy, self-satisfied denial. Should we really retrench and quit kidding ourselves?

That’s when it occurred to me to ask the guys if they were all buyers in this market, and they all were – they all believe. And that made me feel better again, and it occurred to me too that we’re all buyers, all the folks I met over those two days – Tim Jackson, Iain Klugmann, Dan Mathers and Communitech EIR crew, Sandra Macdonald, David Kruis, Austin Hill, Sasha Chua, Patrick & Daintry Lewin, Dan Debow, Asif Khan, Ron Begg, Kurt Gooden, Keith McSpurren, Maura Hanley, Stephen Smith, Alen Bubich, Dan Bowman, David Shore, Shaun McIver, Brydon Gilliss, David Crow, Rob Koturbash, Aditya Shah, Bryan Person, Shawn Vallillee, Chris Schmitt, Alan Isfan, Jerry King, David Ford, Meghan Bourke, and Jacqueline Csonka-Peeren – we’re all believers I suppose, and it is a pretty buoyant crew with which to go down with the ship.