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SXSW Panel: Blame Canada


Quano (Elastic Entertainment) / Thiele (ExPAN) / Atallah / Bocska / Krug

(The panelist/attendee ratio at this one is… Let me see… 1:5. Kind of like the good old days.)

Krug (during intro): Flickr started in Canada… With government funding.

Ok, the South Park into wasn’t necessary.

Bockska: They pay a lot of taxes in Canada… But you can fill out a form and get a lot of it back. That money actually goes somewhere and does something. It requires citizens to endure some bureaucracy, but you can get funding for projects that VCs wouldn’t be willing to put money towards Greater liklihood private business will drive innovation in Canada, rather than academia like in the U.S.

Thiele: Funding from all levels of government. Historically from education, but now also seeing more from smaller enterprise. SR&ED financing reimburses portions of money used for R&D in private companies.

Atallah: Programs like that help mitigate risk.

~ ~ ~

Thiele: Service exports are actually going up even though US and Canada dollars are pretty much equal.

Bockska: Tired of hearing about exchange rate. If you’re relying on the exchange rate or government funding you don’t actually have a business.

Krug: Isn’t that an anti-Canadian sentiment?

Bockska: “I fully admit that.” Better goal of funding is to help out friends in need, those companies on the cusp, and hope they make it.

Atallah: But quality of resulting products can benefit, especially where price differentials can make a big difference.

~ ~ ~

Quanao: Canada has traditionally been a natural resources supplier… And kind of the same in new media. In the order to get things to the next level, they need to go south.

Atallah: You don’t have to physically go south, but your business has to. They do smaller scale projects in NY, Japan, etc.

Bockska: For some reason has always felt more comfortable working with people in the Valley rather than someone in, say, Calgary. Canada may benefit from trying to look more

Thiele: There has been a tradition of migrating innovation south, but its slowing down, and you’re starting to see people go north as well.

Krug: In Vancouver, but most clients are American. Do you think your business would be more successful outside Canada?

Thiele: In Calgary, but 65% of business is in the U.S. Being located in U.S. hasn’t been necessary.

Krug: Are Canadian companies truly more innovative?

Quano: Maybe not, but they have the opportunity to try things and see if they can grow. Canadians swept recent Interactive Emmys.

Bocska: As Canadians, we have to be more innovative. Canada is not at the top, its a challenger that has to shake things up. “Canada is the Adidas to the United States Nike.”

Atallah: There is definitely a lack of the proper training and infrastructure for interactive media in Canada, but that’s true in U.S. as well. Finding the right people is the main constraint on growth right now. [emphasis mine]

Thiele: Look across North America for talent, but I find a lot in Vancouver.

Q from Audience: How many home runs do we have? How many RIMs do we have? One. The innovation is an act. There’s no market in Canada.

Bocska: It’s hard to feel like you’ve accomplished much in Canada. Only 30 million people in Canada… But they seem to have 1/10th of the industry… That’s pretty good.

Comment from Audience: Good at building, not selling.

Quano: The Catch 22 of these funding models is that since there’s not real expectation of revenue, things stay as experiments… That said, 1.7b generated in Vancouver for this kind of stuff… Not including EA.

Show of hands: About half of audience is Canadian.

Q from Audience: For each success story, there are 10 that fail. There’s a lot of crap and waste coming out of free money. Maybe an American model where you have to convince someone in advance would be better.

Atallah: I agree and don’t agree. But look at Dot Com in the U.S… Private financing funded a lot of crap. There is crap everywhere.

Response from Audience: But there’s a difference between funding crap with private money, and funding crap with my money.

Q from Audience: As a creative who is tired of NYC and isn’t interested in the Valley, how viable is it for Americans to move north to work in this kind of stuff?

Krug: Very easy… Bring your friends.

Comment from Audience: You know, this kind of funding does exist in U.S… SBIR grants, for example. Our company was partially started with it.

Comment from Audience: R&D research reimbursement helps encourage setup in Canada… Like Microsoft has done. American companies can nearshore and have part of their salaries paid for by Canadian government.

~ ~ ~

Didn’t go the way I expected, but very interesting panel nonetheless.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 10:02 am

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