Starting up our start-up dreams

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When tech entrepreneurs hunt for locations in which to launch their enterprises, they typically follow a checklist. It goes a little like this:

Does a community offer a “business-friendly environment” (low cost, high technology infrastructure, state-of-the-art telecommunications networks, regulatory simplicity)?

Does it provide convenient, engaging and diverse educational, cultural and recreational opportunities (after all, these folks are motivated by the lure of the near-mythical “work-life” balance)?

Most of all, perhaps, does it labour hard to become a magnet for venture capital investors?

In most significant ways, Moncton scores high on the scale.

Business-friendly environment? Check.

Extra-curricular amenities? Check.

Private venture? Well. . .we’ll get back to you on that.

According to Shane Dingman, The Globe and Mail’s technology reporter, in a piece he wrote for that newspaper earlier this year, “The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association’s annual funding report (shows) the total venture dollars invested declined in 2014 to around $1.9-billion on 379 deals, compared with 2013’s $2-billion on 452 deals. The average dollar amount per deal, however, rose from $4.4-million in 2013 to $5-million.

“That’s still a far cry from the more than $48-billion (U.S.) in venture capital that accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP estimates was invested in U.S. companies in 2014. But observers are confident that gap will shrink.

The Globe compiled 21 examples of the largest venture funding announcements in Canadian technology over the last 18 months.”

Among other things, he reports, “The list reveals a growing number of big-dollar deals among medium-sized startups – a change for a sector that has historically focused on mostly seed, or early-stage financing. Those 21 companies collected more than $784-million (the massive $100-million funding of Ottawa’s fast growing e-commerce provider Shopify in December, 2013, and the $60-million raised by Vancouver social media dashboard maker Hootsuite in September, 2013, make up a significant chunk of that total).”

Moncton, with all of its economic and social advantages, stands to gain, but only when its tech buzz truly catalyzes a critical mass of venture investors from across Canada and around the world.

Again, the advantages here are clear, according to the City’s tale of the tape: “In 2014, KMPG ranked Moncton as the lowest cost location for business in Canada; Moncton is known as the hub of the Maritimes with more than 1.3 million people living within a 2.5-hour drive; with a 9.7 per cent population growth between 2006 and 2011, Moncton is the fastest growing Canadian urban centre East of Saskatoon and the fifth-fastest growing CMA in Canada; Moncton (has) added more than 25,000 jobs to its workforce since 1990; home sales in 2011 reached the fourth-highest level in history – there were twice as many houses sold in 2011 than a decade ago; with an average price of $166,476 in 2013, Moncton remains one of the most affordable housing markets in Canada; total value of building permits issued in 2011 reached $184 million, the second highest level in history; retail sales reached $2.1 billion in 2011, 17 per cent higher than the Canadian Cities’ average.”

Now, if we could only make that message viral around the nation, the continent and the world. Certainly, we are trying. But, as Ben Champoux, CEO of 3+, the tri-city area’s economic development agency, might say: Try harder.

Silicon Valley was once an orange grove; today, it’s a corridor of multi-billion-dollar venture investments in technology start-ups that have, in the past 25 years, changed the world.

Not for nothing, this New Brunswick jurisdiction enjoys the highest per capita income on the East Coast.

Moncton, what are you waiting for?

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