Home Regular Contributors John Liston Starting Up in the New Year

Starting Up in the New Year

John Liston

Happy New Year. Let’s see if we can’t keep our focus on things with optimism and hope attached. The rearview mirror in our vehicle is tiny compared with the windshield for a reason; we are meant to spend our time looking forward. Let’s make 2022 the best year yet!

In a meeting with Premier Kenney in July, he challenged businesses to do some work advocating for tech start-ups, assisting them in find financing to build out our tech ecosystem.

Alberta Enterprise Group went out to learn more and see how we could help. Enter an absolute ball of energy called Zack Storm, co-founder of Startup TNT. It turns out he was well ahead of us. A Ph.D. from McGill, Zack found his way to Alberta, and went looking for people who wanted to join him in learning about, and investing, in tech startups.

Thanks to folks like Zack, co-founder Tim Lynn and their team, Edmonton is the fastest growing tech community in North America according to CBRE and it shows. We’re scaling – and this is an Edmonton story and an Edmonton approach to business that embodies who we are as a community. Down to earth. Approachable. Accepting. Open minded. Scrappy. Resourceful. Grassroots. Other cities are now learning from Startup TNT and there are now Startup TNT groups in Calgary and Saskatchewan.

The Business in Edmonton community has jumped in and gotten involved in TNT and we hope involvement will grow. Blaine Labonte, a Junior Achievement Laureate, is a past summit participant and active angel investor in the community. Sam Pillar, Innovation award winner, is a past summit keynote speaker. His company embodies the success story they seek for startups that raise money at the summits. Keep an eye on past summit winners Drugbank, True Angle, Honest Door and Pulse Medica – some of them could be as big as Jobber in a few years’ time.

I participated along with 75 investors in the most recent Summit. It was an incredible experience, and I learned so much about angels, venture capital funds and tech companies. I realize that tech is just a tool to solve problems, and it really broke down my intimidation around the whole ecosystem.

This is about private investors helping private entrepreneurs in their natural environment. They started with 25 investors pre-committing $5,000 each and have now raised $5.4 million for 34 companies from 189 investors in 22 months. They are building an investment pool that is sophisticated, active, and community minded. There are first-time angel investors alongside some of the most sophisticated tech investors in Edmonton. Some of them have now participated in four summits (pitch competitions) and now share their wisdom and approach with newcomers. This is how our startup community should function.

No one else is going to build the business environment that we seek. Entrepreneurs must build it themselves. We can build world class tech companies right there in Edmonton and we can use all our existing resources to do it. Startup TNT encourages business leaders from traditional backgrounds to re-invest their capital and their expertise into a new generation of Edmonton entrepreneurs that are building an innovation-based and knowledge-based economy.

There is no lonelier journey than the entrepreneurial one. Business owners and leaders make lonely, difficult, stressful decisions almost daily.  What Zack and team have created is a culture of support. Their motto is: Have Fun – Make Friends – Build Companies. Does it get more Albertan than that?

Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) puts Alberta businesses first by sharing information, advocacy and building bridges to new markets. AEG members are business owners, senior executives, investors and entrepreneurs representing firms in every major Alberta Industry. AEG members employ over 100,000 Albertans and generate billions in economic activity each year.