RBCx wants to help entrepreneurs get more 'at bats' to build big, viable organizations.
Even a self-described optimist like Sid Paquette sees a glass half empty when it comes to the growing presence of global tech giants in Canada.
To be sure, the head of RBCx welcomes the influx of venture capital funding from international investors in recent years. And he will tell you it’s a testament to the country’s innovation ecosystem and a positive signal for Canada’s future prospects.
“You don’t make huge investments in Canadian talent if you think our ecosystem isn’t world class,” says Sid. “We’ve got a diverse talent base, some of the best educational institutions in the world, and strong incentives that make Canada an attractive place to set up shop and grow.”
Growing international interest in all things Canadian has helped raise the country’s stature on the global stage and contributed to the significant growth in tech employment across the country, according to CBRE.
Still, foreign investment only goes so far to reach Canada’s full potential according to Sid who joined RBCx from one of the largest venture funds in Canada, where he led investments in technology and start-ups. To fill the glass, he says, the country needs more home-grown companies to scale globally.
“Right now, we’ve got relatively limited examples of Canadian companies creating the kind of growth you see from global firms that are taking full advantage of our human capital. We need more big wins for Canadian tech companies.”
A number of pieces are in place to make this happen according to Sid. “Our IP creation incentives are some of the most favourable in the world. Canada also provides a great climate for research and development activities, as well as company creation and hiring. The challenge is to help our entrepreneurs capitalize fully on these opportunities, get them the skill set, the mentorship, the ‘at bats’ to build big, viable organizations.”
To do so, the Canadian ecosystem needs to get better on the commercialization side. Sid would like to see intellectual property laws revamped to make it harder for multinationals to scoop up made-in-Canada innovations, which “in a lot of cases were paid for with public dollars through incentive programs.” He also suggests “baking incentives into the system” to keep talent in Canada and, at the same time, find ways to “streamline” the immigration process to help newcomers settle faster in the country.
Banks can do a better job in growing the country’s tech and innovation ecosystem too. “Any of the big banks can provide capital,” says Sid. “But we should better leverage the capabilities of those lending the capital.” That’s the aim behind RBCx, which recently combined forces with RBC Ventures to find new ways to create value for tech entrepreneurs – at all stages of growth — and help them scale their operations.
The new RBCx entity makes a lot of intuitive sense, given the synergies between the two operations explains Sid. “The Ventures team builds, buys, invests or partners with a bunch of companies. In many cases, they operate those entities, and have access to all sorts of fantastic talent – from development to marketing – to help them scale. On the RBCx side, we have venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, operators, and board members from the tech world. So we’re coupling all this expertise, networks and skill sets into one team.
Importantly, he says, the formation of RBCx has helped the bank to carve out a unique space in the marketplace to “build Canadian organizations into game-changing global organizations.” Especially now, as the tech sector is experiencing valuation pressures, Sid says it’s critical for the country’s startup community to have access to industry veterans, like-minded founders, and a broad network of advisors who can help steer them through this cycle.”
Moreover, he points out, as Canada’s makes the ambitious transition to a net-zero economy, the need to inject new ideas and innovations into the economy has never been greater. “Humanity cannot wait 2,000 years for natural evolution to ultimately help reverse some of the damage that’s been done. Those things need to be rectified through better processes, better systems, and all of that is going to be technology driven.”
The market has reacted positively to the evolution of RBCx. “They get the message, and the intrinsic value behind it.” RBCx begins its new chapter in a position of strength, with a team of 500, an estimated 4,000 tech banking clients and “strong” stable of tech start-ups including Ownr,Mydoh and Dr.Bill.
And so when RBC Stories asks Sid about the growth prospects of Canada’s tech ecosystem he responds without hesitation: “I’m super bullish.” You can almost hear the glass fill to the brim.