Entrepreneurs: Lessons from ‘Own the Podium’

With the Vancouver Olympics on the horizon the Canadian Olympic Committee supported by the Government recognized a need to change the status quo – a need to disrupt the traditional methods and find a way to achieve the winning performances expected from the host country. The situation demanded an entrepreneurial approach based on opportunity and determination. The opportunity was hosting the games – the determination to win existed with the athletes but the momentum to surpass previous achievement came from the Own the Podium program that created an ecosystem promoting pride, confidence and results. It worked – in Vancouver the Canadian team set a record for the most gold medals won at a winter Olympics and collected more total medals than they had ever won in a single Olympics. The key was creating a culture that nurtured success and established that success as a new normal, an expectation. In the simplest terms a philosophy or mindset focused on making things happen- the essence of being entrepreneurial.

On an individual basis this program is a great example of breaking free of prison thinking and letting your determination take you through to success. But Own the Podium is far more significant than that. It is a great example of the collective creating the support system that produces individual success to the benefit of the entire country. We must do the same in the business world. Did you know that over 350,000 Canadians live and work in Silicon Valley? Why? Because the Valley offers the most highly developed tech ecosystem the world has ever seen. Do you also know that there is a worldwide competition for talent going on? Governments around the world are building programs to attract entrepreneurs to their countries. Canada has already introduced a fast track system to provide visas and a path to citizenship for entrepreneurs/innovators who can attract venture capital investment from Canadians. However if we can just keep our best and most brilliant home we can do well in this talent war and improve our prospects and results. We need to Own the Podium in tech development and in entrepreneurship.

We have a good start with programs like MaRS , Communitech and The Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School but we need the collective will and the support of government to build an ecosystem that is second to none and that brings out the very best from the natural ability that exists here. If one per cent of our total population representing a much higher percentage of our intellectual capital are living in California than we have the tools here but we are both losing them and underutilizing them. More or less like our Olympic performance prior to Vancouver. If we can do it in sport we can do it in business.


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