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Canada can't settle for bronze in business, says WIND Mobile founder

WIND Mobile founder Anthony Lacavera says Canada's entrepreneurs are "setting their sights far too low." He says we need to up our game in business or be left behind.
WIND Mobile founder Anthony Lacavera says Canada's entrepreneurs are 'setting their sights far too low.' He says we need to to up our game in business or be left behind. (Kathryn Hollinrake/Penguin Random House)
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When Anthony Lacavera founded WIND Mobile, he says he had one main goal in mind: to push down wireless prices for Canadians by bringing more competition to the market.

I grossly underestimated how strong Bell, Telus and Rogers' grip on the political process and the market really is in this country.- Anthony Lacavera 

He sold the company in 2015 for $1.6 billion, but considers that sale something of a failure — he'd been hoping to shake up Canada's telecommunications market at a much deeper level.and he says that his experience taught him that if Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs don't step up their innovation game across all sectors, we won't keep up with an ever changing world marketplace.

"I grossly underestimated how strong Bell, Telus and Rogers' grip on the political process and the market really is in this country," Lacavera, co-author of How We Can Win — And What Happens To Us And Our Country If We Don't, tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Ambition isn't a dirty word 

Lacavera calls the telecommunications industry in Canada an "oligopoly," meaning that a few big companies dominate. He says other Canadian sectors, like banking or energy, are in the same situation, which means that the big players don't feel the pressure for strong innovation in the market.

"I'm not suggesting that they cooperate on pricing — they don't," says Lacavera. "But there's really no incentive embedded to really innovate new products and services, because why would you do that when everything's just great the way things are."

Lacavera says his experience in the wireless industry showed him that Canada needs to push for more competition and innovation across the board — and make sure ambition isn't a dirty word in this country.

Anthony Lacavera says Canada's entrepreneurs should approach business like we play hockey: '"we expect to win… and we're disappointed if we don't win.' (pixabay.com)

Canada should approach business like hockey

"We are very competitive when it comes to sport," he says. "When we play hockey, we expect to win … and we're disappointed if we don't win. I don't understand why we don't bring that same mentality to our business culture."

Lacavera says the Canadian government's spending on innovation is also not as effective as it should be. 

"They are doing what we tend to do in Canada, which is, we don't like to pick winners," he says.

The world needs more Canada.-  Anthony Lacavera

Canada is in a great place today, with good educational opportunities,a good healthcare system and a strong social safety net, says Lacavera. But these factors, which are fundamental to Canadians' sense of self, are expensive — and to keep them at their current levels our businesses and entrepreneurs need to be more ambitious globally.

Even though that means competing more strongly with the U.S. and the world, says Lacavera, that doesn't mean necessarily taking a more American approach to business.

"We have some amazing strengths that we just need to export to the world," says Lacavera. "The world needs more Canada."

Listen to the full interview near the top of this web post.


This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.
 

Statements provided to The Current:

Rogers Communications:

"We support competition, it is vital to our customers and our economy. Today, Canadians can choose from many different wireless brands, including four facilities-based service providers in virtually every market. Last year alone, 3 million Canadians switched wireless service providers, that's over 8000 customers a day, so the fight to win the hearts and minds of Canadians is constant in this competitive market. Equally important to competition is investing in Canada's wireless infrastructure. Over the last 30 years, our industry has invested nearly $45 billion to ensure Canadians enjoy some of the best networks in the world  despite our small population and significant land mass."

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association:

"Canadians have many choices for wireless services, with more than three dozen wireless service providers registered in Canada, ranging from regional carriers to national carriers to resellers, with many offering service plans under different brands. It's a dynamic marketplace and these providers are constantly responding to Canadians' evolving uses of wireless services to provide consumers with a variety of options at different price points to meet their needs."

Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains:

On telecoms:

"Since day one, our actions as a government and our message to the telecommunications industry have been very clear: we want to see more competition in order for Canadian consumers to benefit from more choices, better quality services and most importantly, lower prices."

On the government's innovation policies:

"Our plan is working. The implementation of our Innovation and Skills Plan, including the newly launched Strategic Innovation Fund, the Innovation Superclusters Initiative and the recently deployed Global Skills Strategy, provides businesses with a stable and predictable environment favourable to long term growth and job creation. Since October 2015, over 600 000 jobs have been created, our economy is the fastest growing economy among G7 countries and Forbes recently ranked Canada as one of the top 5 countries in the world to do business in. We are building the economy of the future and we will continue to work actively to sustain growth and create high-quality, well-paying jobs for this generation and the next generations of Canadians."