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In 1986, I left my position at the University of Alberta to enter the world of high-technology startups. Back then, there were no business support platforms that we enjoy today, such as Startup Edmonton or Platform Calgary. Canadians were cynical of the high-tech sector and assumed it was all in California. The media encouraged the perception that tech firms were unsuccessful in Canada. When local companies failed, they made the front page. The success stories were never in the press because everyone knows that negative news attracts more readers and sells more papers.

Fortunately, our province has come a long way since the 1990s. Alberta has changed and now we are in a prime position to capitalize on and influence the technical fields of health, biotech, agriculture, transportation and petroleum. I see the province’s potential to both become a global leader in the creation of next-gen tech companies and, at the same time, help provide government agencies and the
cornerstone companies that have driven Alberta’s economy for decades the technology they need to be competitive within the reality of the new global markets. I’ve experienced firsthand the benefit of active early adoption to both established companies needing innovation and startups.

What do I mean by “active early adopter?” Active early adoption occurs when established businesses look to fulfill the core needs of creating innovative solutions through working with startups rather than time and material consulting contracts. There’s an element of mentorship involved in these partnerships, with the more established company guiding the startup through adoption barriers and toward a globally competitive product. While simultaneously both altruistic and self-serving, it also fosters a relationship that builds far-reaching commercial success for both partners. In turn, startups get an early reference customer and help with marketing and domain expertise. The early adopter gets the technology they need before their competitors. The economy benefits from continuous adoption. The province has a diversified economy and more competitive legacy companies. Everyone wins.

Active early adoption has transformed innovation within US agencies. Many large tech companies are incorporating active early adoption into their innovation strategies. Incubators, such as TechStars, are founded by an early adopter model. We need to create a culture that implements early adoption at a provincial scale.

Our province has the vision and expertise to understand the technology available and the potential for building a new technical era. Continuous innovation will lead to greater diversity in Alberta’s economy and improve this world. Taking calculated risks and taking that entrepreneurial leap as active early adopters would radically improve our world and our province.

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