BlackBerry news distracted Waterloo from the presence of Jack Dorsey last week, but his significance was not lost on us. Dorsey represents a modern day, forward-thinking, and overall impressive entrepreneur. A two-time dropout, a man of many interests, and cowboy boot enthusiast, Dorsey pursues solutions with conviction.
In short, his presence and announcement of Square’s expansion into Canada is an amazing sign for the next decade of technology entrepreneurship in Ontario.
I attended Dorsey’s Waterloo talk last week, and it was unlike any talk I have ever heard from him before. This one started much the same. He began with his own startup history, detailing his parent’s story of love and a pizza shop, a tale I’ve heard dozens of times. But this time it was different.
Deviating from his usual script, Dorsey told us about his love and pursuit of punk rock , his time as a massage therapist and his daily pursuit to better himself. It was a whole new side of him I have never seen, and I appreciated every second of it. I knew this talk was much different than any other. He used these unique experiences to convey a series of lessons, mistakes and life changing events that helped lead to his eventual success. This reinforced the concept of each individual’s potential to create well designed solutions.
It wasn't until after the conference, while sitting in a local burger shop around other entrepreneurs, did I realize the impact of this talk. People who knew little about Dorsey, Square, or Twitter had become lifelong fans. The excitement that filled that room was carried out with each of the entrepreneurs, industry professionals and students that squeezed into Waterloo’s Humanities Hall. Never have I heard such optimism about new ideas, technologies and opportunities in the Ontario region. Later that day, the enthusiasm only grew with Square’s announcement of a permanent Waterloo office in 2014.
So what does this mean for technology entrepreneurship in Ontario? It validates the presence of the talent, ambition and environment to become a world leader in technology. With promising startups such as Thalmic Labs, Kira Talent and Interaxon, Ontario is quickly becoming a destination to build great things. Although talent is only half of the equation, support is also needed to help foster great startups into influential companies. Accelerators, venture capital funds and angel investors will aid in their growth. Notably, the Next 36 has contributed to two of the startups mentioned, along with a number of others.
The signs are there; the next decade for technology entrepreneurship in Canada could have global impact. The next Apple, Square or Google could be developed here by students or entrepreneurs building tools for the future.
Dorsey’s speech has given hope, enthusiasm, and an excitement that captures the entrepreneurial spirit. In the closing remarks, he left the room with a message of "entrepreneurs building tools for entrepreneurs." It is a mantra that could very well fuel a new innovative age in Ontario and one that could eclipse past achievements. This will be an exciting time for Canadians pursuing change as globally aware high impact entrepreneurs.
Dorsey’s presence may have been overshadowed by other headlines in mainstream media, but for forward-thinking entrepreneurs, his message is all that mattered.