In the world of global stereotypes, Brits are pompous, Australians are macho, French are rude, Americans are brash… and Canadians are nice.
Just look at any poll or survey and the popular assumption is that we live in the global Garden of Eden. Brand Canada has mass appeal and the image of the outdoor-loving, fresh-faced, permanently smiling, and ultra-polite Canadian does that no harm at all.
While this typecasting isn’t necessarily "real," typically we are a quiet, subdued, and modest bunch—and, while these traits are undeniably admirable and should be held dear, when it comes to self promotion in the high stakes and high density world of startups, we might just need to find our voice and occasionally "grow a pair."
LOOK AT THEM APPLES
For the Apples of this world, merely changing the color of a mobile handset makes the worlds’ tech press go weak at the knees. I mean who’d have thought a gold handset was even possible?
For those starting out however, media attention isn’t an easy thing to come by—especially up in the Great North, where there are limited amount of outlets with even one eye on the venture industry. Oh, for just a few more Techvibes.
When it comes to startups, living North of the border can feel a little like being at a cocktail party above a Metallica concert. Bang on the walls all you like; chances are, no one’s going to pipe down just so you can say your piece. Even shouting louder may well be fruitless. If you want to get heard by the masses, you might just need to go down to the party yourself and make some noise there too.
The truth is, you have to be prepared to go the places people are getting noticed and pushy enough to earn some proverbial shoulder room at the mosh pit.
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Due to some startling startup successes and failures, complete with their heroes and villains, the entire ecosystem has got it’s media mojo back—and, having finally emerged from the post dotcom-bubble-blackout, there are plenty of column inches waiting to break the next big sensation.
For Canadian startups such as HootSuite, which have seen their share of luck and judgment pay off and made them deserving startup celebrities, their profile and ability to fund smart PR and marketing teams, have meant that they enjoy plenty of traction both north and south of the border. For those without existing profile, they must rely on being pushy and vocal with their message or, alternatively, having a truly innovative product that looks light years ahead of the competition.
With UrtheCast, a Canadian startup I cofounded—and which is in the process of launching live, HD streaming video from the International Space Station—has enjoyed global media attention from the BBC to CNN. While not every startup might have the media cat nip of UrtheCast, Canadian entrepreneurs should nevertheless establish what is unique, enticing, useful, innovative, inspiring and/or just plain enjoyable about their startup and be prepared to speak loudly and proudly to all who will listen, whether they be north, east, south, or west.
DITCH THE MODESTY
Every notable startup has had to find their own path to the front pages and, whether it came from a stroke of innovative genius or being in the right place at the right time, it has to be commended.
Startups, despite the current media spotlight, still haven’t achieved “Field of Dreams” status. Canadian entrepreneurs and their teams need to be out beating the pavement and knee deep in the hustle every day, otherwise, undoubtedly, someone more pushy, more brash or more eager will come along.
Being outspoken about our successes might not fit neatly with that stereotypical Canadian but visibility is an essential part of growing a startup. If we want to be a part of that game, we have to earn our place like everyone else and for those who aren’t willing to bang on doors to tell their story, they just might find themselves drowned out by noise.
Photo: The Snipe