So Market Gravity, why Canada? Because it's 2017.

And Canada. It's time to grow.

A few months back when Market Gravity were exploring the opportunity to establish a permanent presence in Canada with a local office, we met with a number of senior innovators at some of the country's biggest businesses to understand their needs. One of them asked me a rather simple but interesting question: what makes Canada interesting to a boutique firm with offices in the UK and US?

Over the past few months I’ve reflected on my response and discussed with tens of people and the more I think about it, it’s the most important thought in my mind right now as we properly establish ourselves.

Canada’s reputation in the world has always been strong, safe, friendly, reliable and well, nice. There’s almost an infinite amount of jokes about it – especially if you have an obsession with shows like ‘How I Met Your Mother’.

There’s almost an infinite amount of jokes about Canada – especially if you have an obsession with shows like ‘How I Met Your Mother’.

But, I digress. Ultimately, apart from its dramatic scenery, Canada has never really seemed that interesting to the world. In 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday, I believe that story is changing. The country is finally making its mark on the world.

Canada has always been wealthy. It’s always been safe. It’s pretty much always been very boring politically (I imagine you would struggle to name five Canadian prime ministers).

During the 2008 financial crisis, Canadian banks were much less impacted than their US and UK counterparts. Whether down to regulation or their own appetite to risk, they had played it safe. With large oil reserves in Alberta, Canada has a certain amount of wealth but at the same time a consciousness of the environmental impact of extracting it.

So what's changing?

One of their biggest challenges has been a brain drain of talent leaving the country. Whether that’s iconic actors or comedians heading for Hollywood, tech stars taking flight to Silicon Valley or top talent being poached by other global institutions (think Mark Carney). Canada has struggled to hold onto its top talent.

While this isn’t always a bad thing, countries need this talent and the confidence to retain it.  It’s something I am starting to see too. Whether that’s the ubiquitous Drake sightings in Toronto and not just at a Raptors game, or tech firms choosing to base themselves around world class ecosystems like Communitech at Kitchener / Waterloo.

It could also be that the nation is making a mark on the world stage. As political leaders like Trump and May add a little fear, Canada is now the world leader in liberalism. Regardless of your politics, Justin Trudeau has transformed the country’s image on the world stage compared to his predecessor.

Canada- a world leader in liberalism has had it's image transformed on the world stage by Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

In the year Canada turns 150, the country will welcome a new wave of immigrants that provide great diversity. It is the #1 place to visit on the New York Times' 52 Places to Go in 2017  list and most importantly, it will finally give Tim Hortons’ steeped tea and maple donuts to the world.

To come back to the original question ...

... of why Canada is interesting to Market Gravity. After spending much of the last two years working with fantastic companies like ATB Financial and Atlantic Lottery, we want to be a permanent part of this ecosystem. We want to design and launch the best customer propositions for a new world of ambitious and confident Canadian companies. And we want to do that with world class Canadian talent based out of our new home in Toronto.

If you flew on an Air Canada flight during the latter part of 2016, you will likely have seen this wonderfully confident statement to the world. I can think of no better way to sum up how the country is made interesting, because the world needs more Canada.

 

If you’d like to chat about ideas you have to launch a new proposition, how to overcome innovation challenges you’re facing or about our move to Canada- get in touch with Iain.

iain.montgomery@marketgravity.com


The 'Secret Sauce' series: buzzumi

When recruiting for new innovation and proposition design consultants, Market Gravity look for something different. We look for an ability to inject an entrepreneurial spirit into the projects and propositions they’re working on. That ability is like a ‘secret sauce’ to us. It’s what makes our approach and the way we help our clients deliver projects different to other innovation and propositions design consultancies.

But how do we know if someone can inject an entrepreneurial spirit into a big company? Well. A lot of the team at Market Gravity are entrepreneurs in their own right. They’ve started their own businesses outside of Market Gravity – something the company advocates and actively looks for. They know the work it takes to get something off the ground. They are passionate about ideas in the same way as our clients are passionate about theirs. They’re able to draw on their experiences in client projects.

And because we love to share, celebrate and support our team’s entrepreneurial passions, we’ve created a series of blogs about them. This month we chatted to Kirsten McIntyre one of our Principal Consultants about a start-up she helped launch – buzzumi.

Hi Kirsten, tell me, what did your startup do?

It was a knowledge market place, where people could buy or sell time with someone to give or receive knowledge, information or training. So you could learn Japanese from someone in Tokyo from the comfort of your own home. The platform provided integrated video and learning tools, appointment booking and payment handling.

Where did the idea come from?

It was a venture that my former employer co-founded. Instead of investing cash they seconded me to work on the start-up for nine months as ‘sweat equity’. I got involved when it was a kernel of an idea, pitched as ‘an eBay for knowledge’ but with very little detail beyond that, and worked it up from there.

What did you find most rewarding about the experience?

Being involved in it from day one through to launch and getting to be involved in some many different areas. I worked on it from initial concept through to launch. This included my first experience of user experience and building wireframes, naming the business and developing the branding. We worked with developers in New Zealand to build it, preparing investor decks, planning the launch and getting our first customers signed up.

I was also working with a project manager who I have since married!

 

An 'eBay for knowledge'- buzzumi was a knowledge market place where people could buy or sell time with someone to give or receive knowledge, information or training.

What was most challenging?

Lots of things were challenging! Ultimately the start-up pivoted about six months after launch into something quite different after we failed to secure funding from investors. Instead the same technical architecture was re-purposed to provide a software-as-a-service solution to business customers. This was easier to scale without the need for significant up-front investment. The technology was used successfully by Big White Wall and Doctor Care Anywhere to launch their telehealth platforms.

Launching the original business was very challenging. Firstly, creating a market place is incredibly hard, it sounds obvious but it’s twice the effort. I’d definitely think carefully about doing that again in the future unless you already have easy access to at least one side of the market.

Our timing was off too in terms of the technology. The video technology we were using just wasn’t stable enough, delivering a poor user experience, which we ultimately couldn’t control.

Funniest anecdote?

At one point a (dodgy) decision was taken to approach psychics to get them to sell their services through the platform – definitely not an area that I would ever have envisaged myself getting involved in.

How has the experience helped you at Market Gravity?

Seeing the whole thing through end to end and how everything fits together helps me to see what’s important and what order I need to tackle things in, and which things I can park for a bit. For example, you need a stable proposition that works for customers and the business before you need to worry about branding and messaging.

The importance of focus and making decisions about what you’re not going to do is as important as deciding what you are going to do, and sticking to it. But conversely knowing that there could come a point when you have to completely change track if your strategy is not working, and being ok with that is really important. Although the business no longer exists, I’ve been able to draw from the experience and process and help clients facing similar challenges which is really valuable.

If you’d like to talk over any ideas you have to launch a new proposition or how to overcome innovation challenges you’re facing- get in touch.

Kirsten.Mcintyre@marketgravity.com

Find Kirsten on LinkedIn