[Disclaimer: BrightSpark and my buddy Mark Skapinker has invested in b5media.]
In the military, they call it friendly fire. That's kinda what it felt like when I read one of the Wall Street Journal's blog post featuring BrightSpark's Mark Skapinker, essentially saying three things: the Canadian VC industry is dead, Government is heading for the hills, all the good talent headed south, and WTF let's just do it ourselves. Not exactly all Mark's words but that's the tone of the article.
Go read it and come back. I'll wait.
Oy, where to begin.
[Insert here my love for Mark, respect for Mark's entrepreneurial smarts, and all the stuff designed to make this not a personal response.]
First, the Canadian VC community is not dead. It's not collapsing, disintegrating, melting down, frying, or 'broken'. The industry is having a tough go of it right now, for sure. We are struggling like everybody else with economic realities (no IPOs, mergers, exits, etc). We have Limited Partners who, like those in the south, are having their own issues. All true. All painful. But let's not sign the burial contract just yet. We have capital, deals are getting done, and we will come out the other end bruised but alive.
Second, the Canadian Government kicks Uncle Sam's big bureaucratic TARP filled ass when it comes to supporting the entrepreneurial endeavors. At the Federal level as well as the provincial level, there are more programs here than in the U.S. While you should never base a business on Government grants/programs alone, for great ideas, great companies, these programs exist to help. Real cash money in some cases. In other cases, opportunities for young/small companies to play in markets you could only dream about. I'll write up a separate blog post on this point but for now, dollar for dollar, even with the economy in crisis, Canada blows the US away with her support of entrepreneurs. By a country mile (or 1.61 kilometers).
Third, the talent in Canada rocks. While Mark's actual comment was repeat entrepreneurs are in short supply, the larger point in my opinion is that of talent. I think we have lots of talent and we do have repeat winners around here. Greg Kiessling, Garner Bornstein, Phil Deck, Albert Lai, Mark Skapinker(!), Tony Davis(!), Osama Arafat, Stuart Lombard, are just the first names that pop up. I can only say this: Every business day of every month, I meet great talent. I read great ideas and I watch smart people start cool businesses. Canadians. They pack the house every time there is a meet up. I've traveled from St. John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia speaking to hundreds of entrepreneurs. I got quoted last week saying that we (my partners at JLA, RBC, and BPF) probably see about 600 things a month (note to KT: a month, not a week!). And that's just our three funds. Lots of this stuff, while not a VC investment, are manned by great people with great businesses. In summary, talent is not a problem in Canada.
Fourth, we'll do it ourselves. I love Mark. I really do. Mark is smart, Tony is smart, and Sophie keeps those two out of trouble by being 2.5x smarter. So, heck yeah, go make some businesses. Plunk down a little walking around money, get three things going and make them cash flow positive within a year. This makes my point of talent (repeat talent), great ideas, businesses getting built, and the angel money they rounded up speaks to the point about money being available for smart people with great ideas.
Yo, Timothy Hay fearless Venture reporter! Call anytime. Call collect. It's a blog you're writing. You have the space to get some other opinions, eh?
Memo to the CVCA: You might think about cranking up a little positive spin at the next shindig.
The bottom line for me: I'll debate anybody, anytime, anyplace on why Canada is the best place on the planet to start, grow, and maintain a business.
Update: Mark McQueen's blog post is here and has the snarky meter cranked up to a 11.