I spent two days earlier this week at Waterloo University where I participated in the 2nd annual University of Waterloo Innovation Summit. I spoke on a panel discussing “Managing Global Connectedness: The New Innovation Economy" and I am still buzzing from the many conversations and people that I met throughout the summit. Here are my own personal highlights from the conference. For a more extensive summary - check out this link for Day 1 and Day 2 highlights.
1. A better understanding and appreciation that Canada needs to stimulate the awareness of other global ecosystems - Peter Harder beautifully summarized this during his closing remarks.
3. Current generation of Waterloo entrepreneurs are committed to the region - this was made evident from the panel discussion featuring Eric Migicovsky (founder of Pebble Watch), Stephen Lake (co-founder of Thalmic labs) and Michael Litt (co-founder of Vidyard).
4. Despite its success - Waterloo is not complacent and realizes the need to not only create startups but also GROW INTO COMPANIES (this is a bigger topic about how the capital markets in Canada is currently structured but it is for another blog post!).
5. Waterloo is AWESOME! - I have always been impressed by the region but these last two days demonstrated to me even more the impressive networks in the region, the high quality of startups, how the startup culture is ingrained in the psychic and the important role that the University of Waterloo plays as an anchor for entrepreneurship in the region.
What does this mean for Digital Arabia?
I have been championing the Arab world growing startup ecosystem for the past 3 years in Toronto and arguing for the need for Canadian investors and entrepreneurs to get more involved. This conference showed me that some influential people in Canada get it when it comes to connecting global entrepreneur ecosystems. The formula in my head has always been simple - connect entrepreneurs in the Arab world with their counterparts in Canada would be of hugely beneficial for both sides. A Toronto-based VC fund that focuses on Digital Arabia will not only be a terrific investment vehicle in a growing and yet-to-be-shaped region BUT it will also be a vehicle to expose Arab region entrepreneurs to the ecosystems in Waterloo, Toronto and Montreal. More on this in future blog posts.