Canadians need to come together to take our startup community forward

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The Globe and Mail | by Sir Richard Branson | June 15, 2017

From my first steps as an entrepreneur, I have felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better. I have followed the general rule that frustration can be an enormous driver of change if you are good at spotting the opportunities sitting at the centre of a problem. Whether it is the travel industry, health care, the entertainment or leisure sector, this strategy has always worked for me.

Entrepreneurs are better placed than anyone when it comes to spotting these problems and turning them into opportunities. As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, it is time to fully realize the country’s potential to become a global powerhouse of free enterprise and innovation.

Unsurprisingly most of you agree with this. The newly formed Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative (CEI) has just produced a report entitled Entrepreneurship: Canada’s Golden Opportunity which reckons more than 70 per cent of Canadians think your country is a good place for a startup business. However, the number that needs fixing is the fact only 40 per cent of people are interested in becoming an entrepreneur. Of those, half of them doubt they could ever succeed.

See: 2017 Annual Alternative Finance Crowdfunding in Canada Survey

Fear of failure and access to funding are two of the biggest issues putting people off taking the bold step to go it alone. For those even considering making that first move, these reasons probably feel like two giant immovable redwoods.

My experience is one can carve a path through that forest and create responsible lending solutions for those looking to start out on their own. We can find more ways to fund and guide entrepreneurs to nurture the future of the Canadian startup scene and help to grow these businesses into international companies of the future.

“As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, it’s time to realize the country’s potential to become a global powerhouse of free enterprise and innovation,” said Initiative supporter Sir Richard Branson.

For example, in the United Kingdom, our own not-for-profit Virgin StartUp, has found ways to lift the initial burden entrepreneurs face. Virgin StartUp has provided funding to over 1,800 entrepreneurs with £21-million ($35.7-million) in support. It has also provided thousands of hours of mentoring and business advice to entrepreneurs to help guide them through their infancy years. This is part of a British Government-backed startup loan scheme (Start Up Loans Company) which has provided over £300-million to micro-businesses across Great Britain since its launch in 2012.

I’m excited about the launch of the Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative founded by Ruma Bose. I am especially thrilled we can play a major role in its first program to amplify Canadian entrepreneurs if you have a business seeking support I encourage you to visit entrepreneurshipcanada.ca for the details.

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with both social and investment crowdfunding stakeholders across the country. NCFA Canada provides education, research, leadership, support, and networking opportunities to over 1500+ members and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding industry in Canada. Learn more at www.ncfacanada.org.

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