Berlin blog: We need action to encourage startups to establish — and stay — in N.L.

Young Newfoundland and Labrador entrepreneurs have immense talent but the province lacks the infrastructure to support them, says Dana Parsons.
Matsi Modise, managing director of startuip support group Simodisa, speaks at the G20 summit. (Dana Parsons/Submitted)

Today I grabbed Berlin's S-Bahn to the coolest stop yet; I took the U2 from Zoo Station. If that sounds familiar, you might be a U2 fan like me. It was an indication of the cool things to come later in the day.

We heard from Barr Solomon Dalung, the minister of youth and sports for Nigeria. While Nigeria is not a member of the G20, they sent a delegation of observers to this summit. This shows the courage and tenacity of the Nigerian people, and their recognition of the importance of the digital economy for the future of Africa.

At the same time as Dalung's inspiring speech, the communiqué process was underway upstairs on the third floor of Haus der Deutschen Wirtschaft. The communiqué includes all the recommendations made by the G20's young entrepreneurs to help focus for policy development.

The three main priorities for 2017-2018 are (drumroll, please):

  • 1. Quality Tech Education:Ensuring the skills for new technological and business realities are fundamental.
  • 2. Smart Taxation Schemes: For venture scaling as well as investors; a separate taxation category could promote innovation. As well, a harmonized tax scheme would enable greater co-operation and investments among G20 countries.
  • 3. G20 Cross Border VISA Class for Entrepreneurs:Simplifying and motivating young entrepreneurs across G20 countries would enable shared resources and the development of tech clusters; greatly benefitting businesses. The G20 YEA calls for a G20 Entrepreneur VISA program to provide short-term, multi-entry VISAs by 2020.

What do these priorities mean for Newfoundland ?

Newfoundland has a strong culture of passion and perseverance. The three G20 priorities can and should be promoted in our own province. We have immense talent among our youth but we lack the infrastructure to support it. We need to realize the pace at which others are moving and accelerate our efforts.

I'd like to see the government of Newfoundland and Labrador use these recommendations to become tech leaders in Canada as opposed to laggards. We don't do enough to support the young minds and talent we have here, especially those who migrate here for education.

The founders of Hey Orca, a successful, St. John's-based startup, almost faced deportation because they worked for themselves and not for a business. They now employ 25 full-time NLers and are growing.

High tax burden for NL startups

Genesis Centre, located on Memorial University's campus, has just been recognized as a qualified innovation hub for the Start Up VISA Program. Now we need the resources to administer and promote the program. We have the power to recruit talent, and a partnership with local legal firms could help this initiative succeed. Let's mobilize government, education, industry, and our young minds like the Nigerians are doing.

Taxes, taxes, taxes … Let's just say Newfoundland and Labrador is not the most hospitable for startup businesses right now.

The Canadian delegation to the G20 summit in Berlin. Dana Parsons is in the middle row, second from left. (Submitted)

Everything from insurance taxation to high Canada Revenue Agency penalties impedes local start ups. I'm convinced that local government can make small incentives to assist those working in the province and lessen the desire to move to other provinces with better weather and a more hospitable tax environment.

Education — this is near and dear to my heart as the chapter lead for Canada Learning Code. We are way behind. My organization is run 100 per cent on a volunteer basis. We need government supports to reach rural students and business owners; to bring them into the age of technology. Every year that passes that we fail to do this we fall back five years in the global economy. Our resource-based economy has been managed poorly; let's not do the same with our knowledge potential.

N.L. can lead the country

Newfoundland and Labrador can become a Canadian leader. With our immense pride and resilience we have the ingredients for success, but action needs to happen immediately. There were four participants from Atlantic Canada in the 32-person Canadian delegation. I was the only one from Newfoundland and Labrador and I had to pay the entire cost of the summit to the tune of over $5,000. It was certainly worth it, but government supports could be put in place.

To apply for the next G20 in Argentina, contact Scott Andrews, manager of Futurepreneur NL. Among other great programs, Futurepreneur recognizes and supports the efforts of young entrepreneurs across Canada and leads the G20YEA efforts in Canada. For more information check out futurepreneur.com. To learn more about the G20YEA watch this video.

About Dana Parsons:

Dana Parsons is venture lead at the Genesis Centre and vice-president of the startup Brownie Points. She also leads Ladies Learning Code in Newfoundland and Labrador. This year, Dana was also invited to join 21inc's top 50 Innovators under 40 as a delegate from NL; she now remains active in the 21inc Alumni Network. She is also active in the Women In Technology peer group in the St. John's region. She has previously held positions as a director for TEDxStJohns, Happy City St. John's, and PMI NL Chapter.

About the Author

Dana Parsons

Dana Parsons is with the Genesis Centre.