While Canada is well-known worldwide as a resource-based economy, the fact that the oil and gas industry has been undergoing significant decline, while the tech industry has been creating jobs, means that many areas in the country are now looking to diversifying their economies.
In a special episode of The Disruptors highlighting the Prince Edward County startup scene, co-host Amber Kanwar sat down with First Stone Venture Partners’ Conrad Guziewicz and Mauro Lollo to find out why they decided to build an incubator in a municipality surrounded by farms and vineyards.
“The local community had approached me about diversifying their community, and they approached us about providing us funds to mitigate our risk. So we built a venture fund that takes money in early startups to create innovation in rural Canada,” said Guziewicz.
So far, First Stone has invested in about a dozen startups. But as companies that work in PEC experience growth, Kanwar asked how rural communities can ensure that valuable talent stays in the area.
“You grow up in a rural community, it’s a great lifestyle and a great place to grow up. But there’s just no employment. But there’s no employment outside of traditional things that happen here which are seasonally-oriented,” Lollo said about the challenge. “We lose entrepreneurs to the bigger cities.”
Lollo added that creating a business accelerator in an area like PEC was a start to tackling this brain drain problem facing rural communities.
“The quality of life here is substantial. We are in a setting that is a marina-based setting; we’ve had entrepreneurs come here by jet-ski and come to work that way,” said Guziewicz. “We have a region that has the largest freshwater dunes in North America, and we have some of the most outstanding geographic features here.”
Watch the whole interview below: