It was great to see the article from Peter Kovessy of the Ottawa Business Journal today entitled “Innovation Hub in Stagnation”. We need more public oversight, debate and analysis on how our local political leaders have and are proposing to spend our tax dollars to spur innovation and economic growth for our region.
Relative to the Innovation Hub idea – there have been very negative public comments made about the plan from Ottawa tech leaders and entrepreneurs right from the beginning. The father of local high tech, Denzil Doyle, was straight to the point:
It is discouraging to see the idea of an Innovation Hub being run up the flagpole. On a scale of one to ten, I would rate it at minus five as something that is going to solve the region’s high tech problems. About 20 years ago, we were told that if we invested in a life sciences technology park, we would grow a life sciences industry that would rival the telecom industry. We all know how that turned out. We seem to forget that Mitel started in the basement of an office building in Kanata and that a combination of its working capital and outside investment financed its real estate requirements thereafter. DY-4 started in a very ordinary building on Laperriere Ave – and so on.
Entrepreneur John Oligvie called it out:
I have spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and in Boston and these two global high-tech centers have managed so far without building “innovation hubs”. This is discredited, “big government” thinking. Technical and business innovation can only be done by entrepreneurs, not by government. If you asked local VCs and tech entrepreneurs what they needed most in order to succeed, I doubt that anyone’s first answer would be “a big shiny new building”.
From my perspective, I have yet to talk to a local entrepreneur who is supportive of the Innovation Hub. When it comes to high tech and innovation driven economic development – most do not feel the City of Ottawa is coupled into reality.
I personally believe we need to have less of our tax money being spent on “overheads” such as buildings and associated staff and instead direct the tax money to programs that directly support the needs of regional entrepreneurs and the important local economic development they produce.
People like Tony Bailetti and the Talent First Network are on the right track –
“To innovate effectively, small and cheap is big; big and expensive simply doesn’t work” says Bailetti. He adds: “What we need to drive massive innovation in Ottawa is many small innovation hubs like TheCodefactory, all linked to early buyers worldwide. Mechanisms that enable our innovators working anywhere in Ottawa to collaborate with early buyers at the start of the innovation cycle can produce significant benefits for our community.”
Tony Bailetti is one of the few people around that truly understands what it takes to foster innovation and deliver regional economic development. His actions and results as one man have exceeded the results of any local organization or initiative when it comes to developing entrepreneurial activity and results for our region. He is motivated by the desire to “Do the right thing” and “To make a difference” for his community and his students. Tony is one of Ottawa’s (if not Canada’s) most valuable resources when it comes to economic development and technology innovation.
As an example – in 2002, Tony Bailetti ran an entrepreneurial training course called “Lead to Win”. The course was free to the participants. Of the 29 participants – over 50% launched a company in the Ottawa region. The resulting entrepreneurial activity, innovation and companies – launched by that one initiative, by that one man – resulted in the creation of over 300 local jobs and the influx of over $90M into our local economy.
That is exactly the type of community-based leadership and grass-roots economic development activity our governments should be encouraging, learning from and backing.
Ottawa already has an Innovation Hub and its name is Tony Bailetti.