The 100 Mile Guelph Tech Diet

December 22nd, 2009
[ General ]

A few weeks back, our mayor here in Guelph wrote on her blog about IT in the downtown. There are several interesting thoughts in her post but I want to focus in on “Perhaps an IT Accelerator Centre right in the downtown is what we need to achieve two important goals – downtown revitaliztion and job creation”

I realize the mayor wasn’t being literal here, however, it’s the ‘outside saviour’ mentality that scares me. You can sense some of this in the comments as well, “Provide major incentives to IT corporations (Oracle, CISCO, Microsoft, google, Adobe) to open R&D centres here. I would say make a plan and go to them directly with incentives.”

Waiting on AC or some tech ‘knight in shining armour’ to ride into town with jobs and bags of gold coins is the wrong solution. Not to mention it’s disempowering, bordering on disrespectful, to us kids slogging it out in Guelph tech today. As someone who’s created jobs in Guelph tech, including recruiting people to move here to work, most outsiders don’t get Guelph. That’s not elitist as I assume the same applies to any city. My point is let’s at least start with the people already at the table. People who have already bought homes here, built companies here and made a long term commitment to Guelph. I once read a quote that character is formed by what you commit to. If that holds water then let’s start with the people who form the character of Guelph today.

We aren’t Toronto, we aren’t San Fran and we are not Waterloo. What worked in those cities may not work here. Does that mean AC, Microsoft, google etc should be kept out or not play a role? Hell no, they just aren’t a saviour we need to wait around for.

Instead of chasing outsiders, let’s go directly to existing local companies who have a track record of building tech in Guelph. Let’s go to companies like Innosphere,, RKD, Barking Dog, etc and provide them incentives and tools to take the next step on their journeys. What do those companies actually need? My guesses…

Be A Customer
These companies need projects. I’m not suggesting protectionism but local companies can help by taking a longer, harder look locally when it comes to spending their IT dollars. I’m looking at you City of Guelph. I have a hunch you’re spending something on IT next year. How much of that is going to local companies instead of choices that ‘no one can get fired for’?

You want strong, diverse, innovative tech in Guelph? Excellent, then put your exciting projects in the hands of local companies. Take a few risks on some companies that may not be the lowest bidder or strongest contender on paper. Give a company a project that may be out of their comfort zone. Help them add to their portfolio and their bottom line. Be the first customer. Think of it as the 100 mile tech diet, well maybe not 100 miles but you get the point.

I’ve long felt that we’ll eventually realize commuting doesn’t work. The problem is most individuals don’t feel they have any choice but to drive into Waterloo or Toronto to work in tech. We have the minds already in this town. The problem is most of them get into their cars and drive to another city to use those minds. Not to mention, buy their lunches, do their shopping, etc.

If you’re commuting, start looking into companies and the scene in Guelph. It may not happen overnight but there’s a job in town for you here. Or talk to me and I’ll help find you one or help you create one. Come out to events like DemoCampGuelph, Coffee and Code and participate. Find a way to contribute. This goes for companies as well. Find ways you can contribute and grow the Guelph tech ecosystem.

Grow Talent
If you’re running a company, start explicitly mentoring people in your company to build their skills up to running their own show someday. Put yourself out of a job by building your team up to take over your company so you can start your next company. Growing the next generation of tech talent is a race that changes daily and is far from won. I guarantee you that even the rockstar tech cities are worried about this one.