A renowned tech magnate once said, “If I were down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”
Not to talk myself out of a job, but one rarely needs to spend their LAST dollar on PR if they just “keep it real” from day one.
Growing up in Alberta (born and bred, insert a tip of the ol’ hat here), I got used to reading the headlines. Then as a journalist, I often helped write them:
“Alberta’s economy to diversify!” and/or “… leadership candidate XYZ set to make diversification of economy top priority if elected to XYZ.”
As a teenager into music and art and a young adult with a basis in liberal arts (one of few not destined for engineering), I watched and waited in anticipation for our economy to expand and grow beyond the (albeit integral to our success story) world of energy (Oil and Gas).
Every five to ten years, Albertans like to wax poetic about diversification.
I’d go as far as saying that anticipation of diversification became a sort of bedrock of personality anchor for many in this region; an inferiority complex ingrained in our psyche. Now that it’s finally knocking on the door, letting itself inside and taking a seat at the dinner table; I wonder if we will truly feel confident enough to fully embrace it as family, and not just let it billet.
Up until a few years ago, our tech sector was relatively small. Ignored by the majority of the population. The old guard likely finds this whole ticker-tape parade and bandwagon tech following rather amusing (as of 2023). I hope, however, they are excited to see the fruits of their labour finally hit pay dirt.
I admit, I didn’t think we’d get here. I’m glad to be proven wrong and trust we won’t accidentally pump and dump it.
WHY I’M STILL HERE
I founded Start Me Up PR for innovative entrepreneurs, artists and shit disrupters. As a former journalist, I believe in the power of authentic storytelling, no spin doctoring included. My team collaborates with those who prioritize substance over image. We dig the change-makers, and tech-forward organizations committed to making a positive impact. My father founded his own company in Calgary in the late ‘70s, providing the rebar to the largest buildings in our skyline and integral public and private works. Like many Albertans, I am proud to be part of that entrepreneurial history and want to continue on with it.
Putting my money into myself and others where I can. As of 2023, I am an investor in a venture capital micro fund that supports early-stage, regional founders, many sans bootstraps. Founders who have few lines of sight to scale. I take part in female-focused investor incubators and work with NFPs that are addressing the leaky funnel of women in tech while also shedding light on the inequity of balance of private investment dollars going into startups.
I bet on the right cards.
I have found that is the diverse and marginalized founders who have helped me establish my own business, predominantly the LGBTQ2S+, Indigenous and equity-seeking entrepreneurs who have supported me. This support has helped me to explore and understand my own Metis history and begin the decolonization of my brain, heart, and being.
You can’t have innovation in an echo chamber. You need all voices, minds, experiences and people to drive change. The era of white men in golf shirts at the head of boardrooms might finally be dwindling. This tech sector boom? I’m ready to seize the opportunities and help others do the same. I’m all in. Enthusiastic and ready to fill my boots with the collective Kool-Aid! Yahoo and Yeehaw (it’s Yahoo btw) into the next iteration of Alberta.
Our success (and the hype that comes along with it) is attracting attention (and investment) beyond our region (good PR). Many are interested in joining us or offering us something. It could become a little too easy to get swept away in future-faking promises and give away our power to those who have not proven they deserve it.
As our tech sector is relatively new in comparison globally, I think (many will NOT agree) that we are often so afraid in Alberta to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know, that this stubborn mentality puts us at risk – keeping us small – and allowing predators to come in and graze.
MINDFUL, BUT NOT AFRAID
For anyone else who’s been through the trial and error of aligning, investing in or partnering with the wrong people or organizations, building sandcastles in the wrong boxes; It’s okay, I’ve managed to do my fair share of it over the first two years of business. But can we talk about it? Openingly? This is still a relatively new tech ecosystem, and it doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 65-years-old. No one has it all figured out.
When someone walks into a boardroom, coffee shop, bar or wherever and presents a solution that seems too good to be true… It is. Any innovative founder and product manager knows this because they know just how challenging and how much work goes into problem-solving.
Failure and aligning with bad deals create shame. Shame stops the flow of communication and allows predators to take advantage of new ecosystems and people.
Through being cautious in protecting our intellectual property and other resources, yet also mindful of not becoming exclusionary; our success and the growth of our technology and innovation impact will be felt.
Perhaps being mindful but not afraid is a balance, not a perfect equation.
SOCIAL INNOVATION AND ENTERPRISE COMES NATURALLY
We got this! I feel Alberta changing for the first time in a way that isn’t… anticipatory.
My clients and fellow founders reflect a new kind of entrepreneurship and a different kind of business sector. It’s one I haven’t felt before here. I see fellow founders strategically focusing on social innovation and fostering diversity of thought, people, and technology in their strategy.
Many of us measure our success and bottom line not just through revenue and return, but on the quality of a balanced life and the pride of solving life-changing problems for people.
We have the opportunity to look at the diversification of the economy with a similar lens to that of diversity of people, it takes all kinds to achieve success. Not one industry or type-cast leader.
And for those of us in the millennial generation (okay, I might be the tail end of GenX), looking back at what the boomers produced and did before us here, and feeling constantly underwhelmed by our own scale and revenue… evaluation and value is about more than dollars. We live in a different timeline.
In the age of social media, we know that appearances often overshadow substance, and it’s easy to become entangled in the pursuit of views that lead nowhere. It makes my job tricky because sometimes the ROI is measured in metrics based on that very engagement.
Frankly, it could become much too easy to take people’s last dollar in exchange for “likes.” But, true change-makers aren’t always liked; they are respected based on the value and impact they have on the world.
Our tech sector’s story will be reflected in our knowledge, skills, products and the collective ability to solve problems for people across the universe with authenticity and humanity while diversifying our practices and de-colonizing our hearts and minds. Not for metrics or followers but so we can flourish as humans and be … HAPPY.
If we stick to solving problems, not chasing likes or moola around, then none of us will have to spend our last dollar on PR, there will always be cash-flow to go around, and most importantly, our region’s story will be easy to tell with pride. No spin, no anticipation, just facts and proof of delivery.
Who exactly said that quippy quote about PR?
Some guy named Bill Gates.
So, there you go. He might be a good client for someone, if you’re looking…