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An Open Letter to Calgary Technologists

Dear Calgary Technologists;

Hang on, because we are on our way to creating a phenomenal innovation ecosystem and becoming a leader in it. But there is still work to do.

There have been a number of articles written lately about Calgary’s growing technology sector. Which is great for our city. However, I have noticed that many of them fail to actually tell the entire story of our ecosystem. Most include a number of gaps and generalizations about the Calgary market. As a longstanding member of the Calgary tech sector and champion of its growth and development, I felt the need to write this letter and provide details on the missing information.

It annoys me to see the national tech industry—media included—writing and talking to Calgary like an older sibling patting us on the head for growing-up and joining the other Canadian cities who are innovating. All without knowing about, or giving any credibility to the shoulders that the current Calgary tech companies stand on. Innovation in Calgary has been incredibly prolific for several generations, it has simply been in areas like industrial technologies that nobody publicizes because it’s not sexy.

Calgary is responsible for some of the most significant advancements in natural resources innovation and has transformed the global energy sector with the technologies it has developed. But beyond energy, homegrown innovation in Calgary abounds, but people just don’t write about it.

For example: Benevity, the global leader in online workplace giving with clients like Apple, Google and Coca-Cola, is one of Canada’s largest and most successful tech companies that basically nobody has heard of.

Another example is Leankor, a global company that works with several Fortune 500 companies. They are both Calgary born and have nothing to do with energy.

We acknowledge that Calgary is in an economic transition. The city, like other areas of Canada that were highly dependent on energy prices, has gone through a difficult few years. And I fully expect to continue to see further declines in the energy industry over the coming decade. However, unlike any other place that I have lived, Calgary is the most entrepreneurial city that I’ve found in Canada. And it has the highest earners per-capita, which is great news for us because the transition away from energy is continuing to occur, and more entrepreneurs and capital are migrating to ideas that leverage our energy expertise, but crossover to adjacent sectors and opportunities.

I can confidently say that today Calgary’s innovation scene is very diverse, professional, and global, and the capital that is funding these companies is local. There’s also a vibrant VC network starting to form with local firms like the newly announced Panache Ventures mixing with existing local capital pools and, increasingly, foreign investment.

I guarantee that Calgary will be one of the top centres for innovation in Canada over the next 25 years, because it already is. We are just working on reaching our full potential.

Finally, government is helping, but they are not the answer. The real story in Calgary is community. This transition is being pushed by the business leaders —of other industries—in an effort to fortify the local economy against the disruption that is occurring in energy. This is Calgary’s real story and why it is going to be a huge player in the years to come.

The best example of this grassroots push is with the RainforestAB initiative. Taken directly from the RainforestAB website, the community says it best, “Rainforest Alberta is an informal organization of people working together to improve Alberta’s innovation ecosystem. We want Albertans to know that they don’t have to move away to invent, prosper, and move their ideas forward. To that end, our goal is growing the same invisible infrastructure that underlies successful tech communities right here in Alberta.” This is powerful and it’s working!

Sincerely,

James Lochrie
Founder and Former CTO & CPO of Wave Accounting
Current Investor and Proud Supporter of the Alberta Technology Ecosystem

Photo by Riley Sharp on Unsplash

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