Tech Triangle Biz Dev
A keen eyed reader of our blog sent this article along from last week’s K-W Record:
Municipalities asked to invest [more tax dollars] in attracting new businesses
Given the recent theme around here about Waterloo Investing Trends, the timing of this story is excellent. I’m a big fan of the Communitech concept, as well as the Tech Triangle effort. Looks like Communitech’s annual budget is $1.8 million, which comes in the form of membership dues, corporate sponsorships and grants from various levels of government. $150k a month doesn’t seem like a rich budget although it is larger than the management budgets of a lot of Canadian institutionally-backed VCs — every Canadian venture capital fund with less than $90 million under active management likely has an annual operating budget smaller than Communitech.
I’ve always thought that the regional associations could attract more corporate sponsorships if only they promoted them a bit better. Up until a few months ago, you could not find the names of the “Titan Sponsors” on the Communitech website without dedicating at least 10 minutes to cycle through every page. And these sponsors had commited $8k-$10k a year and up to support the association, yet few members would have known. Recently, in response to some feedback, the weekly news emails and now the website actually showcases these names on the homepage. But not before the association had lost several longtime supporters, such as CIBC, RBC and our own firm, Wellington Financial (although everyone remains a member). Open Text was also once a Communitech Titan sponsor, and Jenkins is on their Advisory Board, but you no longer see their name on the website as a Titan sponsor, either (although they did sponsor the May 2006 Tech Leadership Conference Job Fair, as did our firm, for example).
This has been the challenge. There’s a difference between dedicating corporate funds to a charity and a marketing effort, and the associations across Canada like Communitech fall into the “marketing” budgets of those three financial institutions.
While the corporate sponsorship names were replaced, it appears that they were replaced by sponsors with a head office in the area. Now that is a great sign, as the membership can only grow stronger with additional local support. And there are lots of effective ways for any local firms to support the local tech ecosystem, it doesn’t just have to be money.
But regaining $30k or $40k in annual sponsorship funding from three or four longstanding corporate suppporters would certainly pay for part of the staff increase being sought from the local municipalities.
It is harder to draw the link between the drop in Waterloo VC funding post January 2003 and the machinations at Communitech, or their loss of key financial institution sponsors, but there certainly appears to have been a dramatic increase in the resources of the association since January 2003. Let’s hope these positive developments will translate to even more great new tech firms in 2008 and beyond.