Waterloo. The first things that pop in my mind are the lyrics of Abba and images of Napoleon being defeated. But a week ago I had the chance to visit a place called Waterloo and associate it with something far better than a battlefield rout.
“Bye, bye, Europe”, I waved and hopped onto a plane that took me all the way across the Atlantic to Southern Ontario, Canada. Funny or not, there are many cities and districts in North America that share completely identical names with some European cities. And while EU Waterloo is just a piece of history on paper, the Canadian Waterloo seems to be making its own little history of… entrepreneurship.
At the region’s beating heart is Communitech, an all-in-one campus that offers a dynamic mix of incubators, accelerators, and companies, all on the same spot. I came across an excellent pool of experts, state-of-the-art facilities and great atmosphere. I met only dedicated people who truly believe in the growing power of their community. it’s no wonder that several amazing startups who astounded the world have risen here – straight from the backyard, where Blackberry became big. A recent success that really impressed me? I tell you stright away – KIK Messenger (you can check them out here: http://kik.com/).
So, once you are done having a good laugh at this photo (I’m the one on the right, yes, the one with the hipster glasses), have a look at these 3 takeaways from my visit:
3 things they have but we don’t
A Full-chain Door-to-door Campus
The region provides support for startups from the very birth of their idea to the time of company growth. University of Waterloo and Communitech share the same roof. The University stimulates good ideas in its own Entrepreneurship Lab and prepares them to enter Comminitech accelerator. In the mean time various research and testing facilities support the developing of the technologies. Each year multiple startups arise out of that pool. Oh, yes, and the entrepreneurial spirit is 3xstronger.
It’s geography – New York (1 hour) and Boston (45 Min) are just a flight away and so is the access to capital and investors.
Over 7 years and 100+ startup companies transformed into SME’s that secure employment for the entire area.
It might sound like a self-promotion, but let me be objective: So, here the 3 things we have but they don’t:
Ecosystem of Multinational Companies
We are surrounded by several OEM’s and SME’s such as Philips, NXP, ASML, and Intel. This allows us to get into a huge network of expertise and get startups in contact with the right people.
Yes, I know I said Waterloo is perfectly located, but the Netherlands is too – it’s your gateway into Europe.
We know about high-tech systems and hardware solutions ans we specialize in it. From early years lots of Research and Development (R&D) has gone into this industry and we have earned some “innovation” fame.
And the +Bonus takeaway – Collaboration. Networks and local ecosystems can never be copied nor can they be easily established. But once the network is there, the power is in the way it is shared. It’s all about the interaction between the high-tech startups and the companies in the regional ecosystem. Once they recognize the talent in the startups, they open up their networks, which extend from around the corner to around the world.
We’ve been travelling to China and Canada the past month because we @Startupbootcamp HighTechXL see huge win-win benefits in building bridges between accelerator programs globally. It is working for other sectors, so why not for ours?
Want to know more? Ask me anything @Luuk