GameChangers: Ken Bautista passionate about Edmonton entrepreneurs

WATCH ABOVE: Shaye Ganam sits down with Ken Bautista  – one of the people behind Startup Edmonton, who is now taking on a leading role with Edmonton Economic Development Corporation.

GameChangers is a monthly series by Global Edmonton’s Shaye Ganam about people, projects or businesses that have changed the face of the city. If you have a suggestion for the series or feedback for Shaye, please email.

To see previous stories, click here. 

EDMONTON – Edmonton should be called the city of E’s – energy, economy and entrepreneurship. We have them all in abundance, according to Startup Edmonton’s CEO Ken Bautista.

“Edmonton is in a really great spot right now. We have always been an entrepreneurial city, its always been the kind of a place where if you have an idea you start something.”

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Bautista has helped a lot of those ideas become reality, as one of the people who founded Startup Edmonton in 2009. It’s a grassroots non-profit initiative that helps businesses get off the ground.

“I think a lot of people think about entrepreneurship equals you needing a business degree or you have to have business skills. And if you don’t have that, it becomes the barrier to starting something,” said Bautista.“I have an education degree from the U of A, and so when I was starting my company I had to figure out things the hard way, but I relied a lot on mentorship and the people around me… and really that’s what we want to do here.”

Bautista said it’s easy to find information online on how to start a business –  but the real barrier is finding feedback from more experienced mentors. He describes Startup Edmonton as the a way to create collisions between founders and investors, artists and mentors, hackers and developers – bringing together people and ideas. Bautista said he wanted to take the ideas he observed in cities like Vancouver, New York, San Francisco and bring them back to Edmonton.

Since launching five years ago, Startup Edmonton has worked with 50 businesses, and helped create a thriving start up community in Edmonton.  Among those businesses – Poppy Barley, a custom footwear company that is making waves in the fashion world.

WATCH: Women of Vision: Justine and Kendall Barber of Poppy Barley

Bautista has known for years that our city is home to some creative and innovative people and companies – and he thinks the rest of the world is now taking notice.

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“This is a really great place with some really smart people, that are building some incredible things – and thats happening in Edmonton,” he said.

Bautista is one of those people. Just two years after graduating from University of Alberta, the Edmonton Journal named him on its 2001 30 Under 30 list. In 2009, Avenue Magazine included him among its Top 40 Under 40, and in 2011 Alberta Venture Magazine named Bautista one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People.  That’s just a few of his many honours and awards.

“Ken is a remarkable leader with an endless energy for all things entrepreneurial and community,” said a post on his LinkedIn page by Meghan Dear, CEO and Founder at Localize. Startup Edmonton helped Dear launch the tool, which helps people find local food in Edmonton grocery stores. Labels on shelves display a grade for how local an item is based upon a number of criteria, and shoppers can scan a barcode for more information.

“What’s most amazing about Ken’s leadership is his ability to create other leaders,” Dear said.

“His insights, mentorship, support, and frankness have fostered a resilient community of startups in Edmonton, both within Startup Edmonton and outside of it.”

The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation recently acquired Startup Edmonton, and made Bautista the director of entrepreneurship. He said he wants to use the expanded role to encourage businesses to think big: things that start here don’t have to stay here.

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“How do we take the thinking that we used when we started Startup Edmonton and apply it to a city as a whole? I think of the city as a startup city.”

READ MORE: Edmonton one of Canada’s hottest places to start and grow a business

His final thoughts?

“Entrepreneurship is really, really hard and it’s not for everybody,” said Bautista. “But when you’re around other entrepreneurs and other sort of smart, creative people, then that motivates you to keep going because they’re doing it too.”


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