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Edmonton’s tech community says EEDC is hurting not helping

A photo of Edmonton's skyline taken in September 2018.
A photo of Edmonton's skyline taken in September 2018. Eric Beck/ Global News

Edmonton’s tech entrepreneurs aren’t happy with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and the support the agency provides the industry.

Council’s executive committee was given examples in spades on Monday.

The founder and CEO of a University of Alberta startup that provides credit card payment systems for cannabis companies told reporters the system is broken.

“They have no idea how to build tech business,” said Kam Nemec of GreenGreen.

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“They’ve essentially pushed down all of the responsibility onto Innovate Edmonton. Then under that falls… Startup Edmonton, and TEC Edmonton, so it’s basically arms-length agencies of arms-length agencies of arms-length agencies creating more layers of bureaucracy and more distance between actual entrepreneurs and services they need, and the City of Edmonton.”

What’s got the tech entrepreneurs upset is a proposal to move an innovation hub from the Mercer building, to the new Enbridge building downtown. The co-founder of Aris MD, an artificial intelligence company with worldwide reach, sees that as a $1.5-million mistake.

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“Of low-hanging fruit, one would be the decision to move Startup Edmonton to another location,” Scott Edgar said. “We’re not moving into a better location. They’re not moving into one that better meets the criteria they laid out in the report.

“They’re just making a lateral move.”

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Aris MD CEO Chandra Devam said she agrees.

“One of the main things in business is to say what problem are you solving, and then solving that problem — that’s the innovation,” she said. “But there isn’t a problem that they’re solving. We already have a home and [we are] not looking for a new one and we’re certainly not looking to spend taxpayers’ dollars to relocate something that’s already a win.”

“Entrepreneurs see a dysfunctional system and want to solve it,” Nemec added. “I think it’s part of our DNA. As a taxpayer of the city of Edmonton, I’m not in the business of subsidizing continued failure.”

Council’s executive committee ran out of time Monday to have EEDC respond, so the innovation corridor item will have to be dealt with another day.

READ MORE: Edmonton Economic Development Corporation names new CEO

However, Councillor Mike Nickel said he expects changes.

“You’ve heard the speakers challenge, very directly, all of the assumptions in these reports,” he said. “And these are the entrepreneurs [that] are basically saying, ‘Get out of the way. Let us do our job and help facilitate getting the ideas out into a value proposition.’ That’s where we need to be.”

Devam said what the city should concentrate on is supporting entrepreneurial promotion, especially linking Edmonton with Silicon Valley in northern California as well as to trade shows around the world.

Watch below: (From Oct. 10, 2018) Edmonton has been quietly become a leader in artificial intelligence and other tech. Now it will host a prestigious summit.

Summit is boost for Edmonton’s tech community
Summit is boost for Edmonton’s tech community

“Tech is one of the large areas in business that’s really flourishing right now and keeps flourishing and builds large companies quickly and valuable companies,” Devam said. “So that’s a great place to start.

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“Companies should be brand ambassadors to the city, not the city an ambassador to us.”