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Globalizing Calgary Tech: Vol. 4 | Innovation Centres Around the World

Published: Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

In fall of 2020, Platform Calgary started Globalizing Calgary Tech: thoughtfully curated virtual discussions that help connect our community, put the spotlight on local tech and innovation leaders and learn from cities leading in tech and innovation around the world. These discussions and learnings lead to action, helping us to focus our work to massively grow the size of Calgary’s startup and innovation ecosystem.

In Globalizing Calgary Tech: Vol. 4, we heard from six panelists from established ecosystems and cities around the world that are leaders in technology and innovation,  including Avvey Peters of Communitech in Waterloo, Henna Keränen of Sting in Stockholm, Hugo Paquin of TechQuartier in Frankfurt, Jessica Blechinberg of Maria01 in Helsinki, Remington Tonar of The Cannon in Houston and Satish Rao of Newlab in Brooklyn.   

Each innovation community offers unique programming and support for founders at all stages of their startup journey. Here’s what the panelists shared and how that relates to the work we are doing in Calgary:  

1. Collaboration over competition. Ecosystem players all want the same thing: a  thriving tech sector and economy. Avvey from Communitech gave an important reminder not to fall into a scarcity mindset. Every organization brings something to the table, so the more players involved, the bigger the impact we can make. Through collaboration, we can achieve our goals faster and more efficiently. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, in the end, everyone wins — and our city becomes a landmark of tech and innovation.

At Platform Calgary, we know that collaboration within a cohesive innovation ecosystem will create a more resilient community and ensure we create more than triple the number of successful tech startups in Calgary. We’re excited to have 47+ partners signed on to work alongside us in the Innovation Center.

2. Measure the impact rather than theatre. Impact is felt in consistent and sustained efforts that create change. With every action taken by an innovation centre, consider the value and impact it will have on the innovation ecosystem, and measure that whenever possible. By creating more meaningful collisions, we’ll generate more positive impact.

Hugo from TechQuartier emphasizes that innovation doesn't just happen through one activity but rather by focusing on meaningful outcomes from the beginning. One-off activities or events without strategy is just “theatre”. 

At Platform Calgary every program, event, or communication is in service of our goal to 10x our local tech industry within ten years. As a trusted civic partner, our mission to diversify our economy, create tech jobs and businesses and encourage greater prosperity for all Calgarians. This motivates every action we take. There is no time for theatre. 

3. Notice the emerging themes in your city. Satish says that at Newlab they look not only at where money is already being invested, but they also note talent trends. These themes highlight sources of talent that might traditionally leave, but would be interested in staying if there was a landing pad for them. Henna from Sting built on this idea by noting that creating the right business environment will also draw in outside businesses. 

At Platform Calgary, we are constantly assessing our innovation ecosystem to understand where we can have the greatest impact through our programming and partnerships. For example, we know there is a great need to support founders who are at the beginning of their tech startup journey and those looking to reskill for the next step in their career. Targeted programming fills the gaps in our innovation ecosystem and is agile enough to respond to emerging themes and issues in Calgary. 

4. When coming up with solutions, stop to think “is this what startups need?” We need to continue creating solutions that will help startups succeed on a local, and eventually, global scale. Since our community is always changing and growing, we need to consistently work with and listen to the needs of local entrepreneurs.

Jessica from Maria 01, reiterated that we have to put the needs of startups first, and continuously and directly ask them: “are we providing what you need and want, for now and in the future? How can we help you launch on a global scale?” By creating tailored programs and events for specific audiences, we are listening to startups and filling the gaps within the community.

At Platform Calgary, one of our guiding principles is “Love Founders”. This means we put founders first, no matter where they are in their entrepreneurial journey. That includes regularly checking in with our community to make sure we are supporting Calgary’s innovation ecosystem with everything we do.

5. Community impact metrics beyond jobs. Focus on the community and measure the impact created. While we grow the economy, track the success of other entrepreneurs in the community and research how much talent is circulating. Remington at the Cannon reminded us that Houston and Calgary are not top of mind when people think tech and innovation - but we’re working to change that narrative. Not only do we want to benefit local citizens, but we are stamping our city as a force to be reckoned with on an international level to be working with innovation centres and startups all over the world. We want to ensure that we’re creating opportunities for the next generation and making an impact beyond the ecosystem.

At Platform Calgary, we know that jobs matter, but they are just one metric of success. Together with our partners, we are measuring the growth and evolution of our innovation ecosystem to understand how we are having impact and what we should adjust to generate even greater success for the community. 

6. Physical space is key. Hugo from TechQuartier describes the importance of physical space for the innovation community. He says a shared space should include room for focused work, open discussions, workshops and presenting. The variety of spaces, and the people who inhabit them create “ripple effects,” where serendipitous encounters are bound to occur. 

At Platform Calgary, we know the power of physical space to build community. This fall, we will open the Platform Innovation Centre, a 50,000 square foot single point of access to Calgary’s innovation ecosystem. It will be a place where tech entrepreneurs and founders will get everything they need to succeed, but it will also be a place that celebrates and encourages the collisions between people that can create exceptional results. Located in the heart of our city, it will be both a physical and metaphorical hub for our growing tech industry and ecosystem.

Click here to learn about Globalizing Calgary Tech Vol. 3, and here to watch previous Globalizing Calgary Tech events. 

We’d like to hear from you!
What would you like to explore in the Globalizing Calgary Tech Series? If you have ideas or topic suggestions please share them with us by email.