Meet the economist calling for a culture shift in Canada’s innovation economy

Plus: Shopify’s Tobi Lütke to headline BetaKit Town Hall.

Does Canada’s innovation sector need to borrow some of that brash American confidence to fix our productivity woes?

Canadian-American economist Rob Atkinson wishes Canada would embrace big business—even foreign firms—as “beautiful,” and called for a culture shift in the country’s innovation economy.

Atkinson, who has spent the last 18 years in Washington, D.C. running the think tank Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, helped launch an Ottawa-based affiliate last Tuesday: the Centre for Canadian Innovation and Competitiveness. Coinciding with the launch was the release of a nearly 70-page paper dissecting Canada’s perennial problems around productivity and innovation. The evening ended with a panel discussion.

“The US, we’re still not even sure we have a problem,” Atkinson said at the panel, adding that the American mindset of being the “greatest country in the world” is a double-edged sword when it comes to innovation. “At least in Canada, I see a growing, strong understanding [that] we’ve got some challenges here, we got to fix some things. That’s really the first and most important step, then figuring out how to do it is, frankly, not that hard.”

BetaKit sat down with Atkinson the morning of the panel to talk about why he thinks Canada needs more “killer instinct.”

Atkinson was critical of how the country that raised him has fallen so far behind others, especially the United States, when it comes to productivity. One positive highlight during our chat was Canada’s visa program; I don’t think he’d yet seen the news about new caps coming to the Startup Visa Program.

Thanks for reading on and ‘til next week, 

Bianca Bharti

Newsletter editor


TOP STORIES OF THE WEEK


Shopify’s Tobi Lütke headlines special BetaKit Town Hall on May 7

Canada currently faces many headwinds. The federal government’s response to these issues and our looming productivity crisis have left many in Canadian tech demanding better.

But entrepreneurs know better than to sit and wait for change because entrepreneurship is a form of problem solving. In that spirit, BetaKit has organized a special Town Hall bringing together Canadian founders and leaders from across the technology ecosystem for a pulse check on the state of innovation, productivity, optimism, and more.

The event will feature a discussion and AMA with Tobi Lütke, CEO and co-founder of Shopify, hosted by Satish Kanwar, BetaKit board chair and co-founder of Good Future. The agenda will also present vantage points from across the tech community, including Ivan Zhang, co-founder of Cohere, Joella Almeida, co-founder of MedEssist, Ali Asaria, founder of Tulip Retail and Transformer Lab, and Jocelyne Murphy of Socratica and Wygo.

(Read more)


Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst and RBC launch FinSec incubator

The Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst and RBC have launched the RBC FinSec Incubator, a new program to foster early-stage FinTech and cybersecurity startups.

The program aims to help participating startups enhance their product security and resilience, and achieve product-market fit, by teaching entrepreneurs about industry procurement requirements and providing opportunities to demonstrate their technologies to industry experts and potential investors.

(Read more)


South Korea’s Karrot hits one million Canadian users, builds Toronto engineering hub

Karrot describes itself as a “community-driven super app.” Through the company’s mobile and desktop platforms, users can: buy and sell a variety of secondhand goods, and access community groups, jobs, real estate, and automotive listings, as well as payment solutions.

Under the leadership of Ritual and GoodGood co-founder Robert Kim, who joined Karrot as CEO of the company’s North American operations in early 2023, Karrot has set its sights on launching its app across Canada and the United States as part of a broader push to replicate the success that it has seen in South Korea in other markets around the world.

(Read more)


Capital gains tax changes not included in feds’ Budget 2024 motion bill

Canada’s proposed capital gains tax changes were notably absent from the motion the Liberal government tabled Tuesday to introduce Budget 2024 in the House of Commons.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland reiterated the federal government’s support for the new measures but dodged questions from journalists about why the motion did not include them.

When asked if she had excluded these capital gains tax measures from this bill to force the Conservatives to vote on this specific issue, Freeland said “No,” and then smiled.

(Read more)


Geoffrey Hinton, Raquel Urtasun, Aidan Gomez set to speak at Collision 2024

Collision has revealed the first 100 speakers set to take the stage at its 2024 conference, which will take place in Toronto’s Enercare Centre from June 17 to 20.

This will be the fourth and likely final year Toronto or perhaps Canada will host the North American tech conference. Collision initially signed a three-year deal with the city in 2018, later signing an extension in 2023 to keep the conference in the city through 2024. Sources familiar with the process have confirmed to BetaKit that Vancouver and Mexico City are in the running to be the next host city.

(Read more)


Beyoncé’s former digital director thinks your culture is meaningless

Do ping pong tables, office dogs, and a casual dress code add up to a genuine “culture”?

Dr. Marcus Collins says no. The man who will deliver the keynote address at Inventures 2024 in Calgary this May lives at the intersection of marketing and culture. His career has seen him direct digital strategy for Beyoncé and award-winning campaigns for industry giants like Apple and Nike. Collins believes tech companies regularly tout “culture,” yet often fail to practice what they preach.

(Read more)


Five things you’ll want to do at the world’s most interesting crypto conference

Only one conference can claim a speaker lineup featuring the CEO of Pudgy Penguins and the Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Described as The Super Bowl of blockchain meets the Cannes Film Festival of Web3, Consensus 2024 is a three-day event in Austin, Texas from May 29-31 organized by CoinDesk.

(Read more)


Funding, Acquisitions, and Layoffs


VIC – Save da Sea – $650K CAD
VAN – Netskrt Systems – $10M CAD
AB – Alberta doles out $57M to hydrogen power projects
CGY – Galatea Technologies – $2.7M CAD
TOR – BitBuy acquired Canadian customers of Bitstamp
TOR – Fluence Technologies to be acquired by Anaplan
OTT – Versaterm acquires Mindbase
SHE – Biointelligence Technologies – $5M CAD
FRE – Potential Motors – $2M CAD
SYD –  AlterBiota – $4M 


The BetaKit Podcast


How Simple Ventures plans to fill a gap in Canadian entrepreneurship

“When you think about that shark American ethos, playing to win … but then also having the Canadian kindness, I think that’s where Canada and Canadians have a really big opportunity.”

Simple Ventures CEO joins to discuss the motivations behind the launch of the venture studio, the power of geographical arbitrage, and the structural, cultural, and economic impediments to Canadian entrepreneurship.


B|K: The BetaKit Newsletter is powered by Osler

Osler releases multi-year study of 450+ Canadian VC and growth equity financings 

Osler’s Emerging and High Growth Companies practice has released its third annual study of 486 anonymized venture capital and growth equity financings from 2020–2023, valued at approximately US$8 billion, providing data and insights for founders, entrepreneurs, investors and advisors contemplating transactions this year and beyond.

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Read the Deal Points Report: Venture Capital Financings


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