Winnipeg’s tech community is riding high lately, buoyed by a big shoutout from online technology industry news leader Tech Crunch in an article titled “How Winnipeg focused on local strengths to create a tech hub in central Canada.” The story describes how the city has built a growing technology scene through the close connections of its industry leaders, educational institutions and government. Specifically mentioned was Manitoba Technology accelerator, which spawned Skip The Dishes, one of Manitoba’s biggest tech success stories to date.
EDW sat down for a chat with Manitoba Technology Accelerator CEO Marshall Ring to talk about how his organization is working to grow more success stories and why it’s important to be an ambassador for Winnipeg.
What is Manitoba Technology Accelerator?
Manitoba Technology Accelerator works with Manitoba’s most promising technology innovations and takes those ideas and transforms them into businesses that are investible, that earn revenue and provide jobs for our community.
Can you provide an example of one of your success stories?
People will be familiar with one of our clients, Skip the Dishes. They came into our program with two employees and now there are over 200 and still growing. We were recently proud to announce that there was an acquisition of over $100-million with the intention of keeping the jobs here in Winnipeg. This is now a city where technology companies can grow. The Skip the Dishes announcement was a really strong progress step for us. There was an outside company that came to make an investment into Winnipeg. Previously, we’ve been investing into companies but it’s been Winnipeggers and Manitobans investing. Now when you look at that type of acquisition it’s foreign money coming into our market to drive growth here and really establishing us as an international location to start and grow businesses.
Why is Winnipeg a great place to do business?
Winnipeg has a lot of great advantages for doing business, especially when it comes to starting companies. The most obvious one we encounter is that we’re one phone call away from anybody and Winnipeggers are so gracious with their time and really willing to contribute, give advice, leverage their networks and provide their connections. For a startup who doesn’t have that track record or depth of management skills, being able to reach out to the leaders in our community and say ‘we need some help’ and know that we will get it, is the number one reason why we are doing so well here in Winnipeg.
Time and time again we here people talk about the collaboration and connectivity of Winnipeg’s business community. What does that mean to you?
When I think about the collaboration and connectivity of Winnipeg’s business community, I think about the types of businesses that we are starting here. We have med tech, we have IT, we have advanced manufacturing and here (at Manitoba Technology Accelerator) being a microcosm of what’s happening in Winnipeg, there’s great cross-fertilization of ideas. People are willing to share and help each other. Together, they make progress faster. All these different perspectives come together, lend their best thoughts and it’s that good to great type of concept of getting more people on the bus all with a focus of growing Winnipeg-based businesses. That’s where we see this collaboration and connectivity really paying benefits.
When you’re travelling around the world and someone asks you about Winnipeg, what do you tell them?
What’s interesting now is as our clients are starting to grow and get international reach, my travel schedule has also expanded. I’ve been in Europe, China and the U.S. recently and when we go to different cities it’s really interesting to see how the business culture is different. We’ll go to meetings and meet three or four other people and they don’t know each other and they’re a bit competitive. And I think back to how it works here in Winnipeg. We’re a big enough city where you can get anything done but we’re still small enough that we know everybody and everybody’s working on the same team. We don’t compete amongst ourselves. We’re trying to build global companies so when we bring people together with the idea that the market is global, that’s where we find this great collaboration.
Why is it important to be a Winnipeg ambassador?
I’m really happy to hear that more people are saying we should be ambassadors to Winnipeg. I reflect back on maybe five years ago you’d hear mosquitoes and cold weather. I don’t think that anyone I hang out with says that anymore. When we talk to other people, we’ve got such a compelling story to tell now. We’re talking about building hundred-million dollar companies. We’re talking about the great activity going on at The Forks and downtown. Everybody should be an ambassador because we’ve just got a lot of material now.
This interview was edited for length.