Hey America…

Disruption Innovation anticipating listening

… just wanted to let you in on a conversation I had this morning. It was with a very successful, Cambridge University educated Asian gentleman whom I will call Shahal. We met virtually through a mutual friend. Prior to Skyping with him, I did – as is par for the course in my world – the customary digital due diligence. He certainly passed the “sniff” test and perhaps he did the same with me and we arranged a call.

It was pretty evident on the call that not only did he pass the “sniff” test he was in the top-tier of venture creation, acceleration, capital and was an articulate and successful businessman from one of the largest cities in the developing world but in reality a citizen of and participant in the world’s innovation community.

He was calling to see if Canada generally and Calgary specifically was a place he wanted to create his newest venture and accelerator. He was involved at the leading-edge of enterprise software, Internet of things and host of other innovations and technologies which we discussed at length. He knew his stuff.

In short, he and his firm would be an economic development agency’s dream. In fact, our excellent and forward-looking Economic Development agency, Calgary Economic Development, was leading the initiative and had passed him to me because he wanted a ‘feet on the street’ view of the entrepreneurial, technology and business landscapes. He wanted to kick the tires a bit.

Our conversation blew my mind.

The net of it was that when the inevitable time came to discuss the “issues” south of the border he made his position abundantly clear. He said, “if we were having this conversation a year ago, it would have been a short one. I would have made the decision to move either to the Valley, New York, Boston, or London.  Canada – with respect – would barely have made my radar”.

Today the game was completely different. His globally mobile workforce and capital sought only one thing: A place of tolerance and respect for new people and new ideas.

The US was no longer that place in his mind, his partner’s mind, his wife’s mind and more importantly his teenage children’s minds. His children, he said, always dreamed of the US as the “end game” for success. Like the proverbial dream of many Indian and Asian children in decades’ past, the US stood for the best of what we could be.

In a blunt and shockingly rapid manner, that dream is gone for the smartest and most mobile capital and workforces in the world.

So, America my friend and neighbour, your policies of intolerance, division and nationalism will begin to hit you hard and fast. The world – especially the massive and rapidly growing nations of Asia and Africa – will not spend its new-found economic chips at your table.

They are beginning their new game at the birth of an innovation epoch that will transform the world. And while you are the current holder of the majority of global economic cards, you will soon find that there are fewer and fewer players at your table.

I reminded Shahal that our winters were cold, that our energy-centric economy was struggling to diversify, our taxation is high and our regulation is not to be sneezed at. But our social contract was formed on diversity, pay-it-forward, community building thinking and we will lead the way in shaping how a global workforce will collaborate to change the world.

It was a good call, America.

As I clicked off the Skype call, my thoughts turned to how many more ‘Shahals’ were out there in this world – and more importantly – who were they calling.

America, you are starting to be un-friended.  Just saying.

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