A little more than 2 years after David Crow launched the BarCamp unconference meme in Canada with a mighty yawp, it looks like this “community thing” is catching on in Toronto’s technology scene.
The National Angels Organization has found religion, the Financial Post picked up the excitement, the Toronto Board of Trade loves being host to the energy of DemoCamp, Peter Evans and the crew at MaRS are great supporters of the community, John MacRitchie and the Ontario Centres of Excellence is actively engaged, the organizers of the Mesh Conference are kindred spirits and provide an important platform, Greg Wilson and the University of Toronto are onside, Rick Segal, Austin Hill and other VCs and Angels are joining in, Interactive Ontario sees the value and many other established institutions of the technology and business community are taking note of one of Toronto’s main sources of tech excitement.
The community is an open platform for collaboration, where the interests and resources of a diverse set of private industry organizations, educational and public sector support institutions can be pooled for shared benefit.
So who’s not getting it?
More after the jump…
I’m sad to report that the City of Toronto has yet to engage Toronto’s emerging technology community in a truly meaningful way. The ICT Toronto committee asked people from the community (myself included) to participate in advising their initiative, the last visible rump of which is represented by Toronto Technology Week. The City never quite figured out the difference between a community and an industry association and those involved were distracted by the competing agendas of several old-school tech industry associations. Some members mused at one time of creating a new Mega-Association and spoke gleefully of “drowning puppies” as the means to get there. I kid you not.
The Toronto Technology Week concept, a “week long festival of technology” remains interesting in theory. However, Toronto’s tech community is NOT rallying behind it for a number of reasons. Time to face reality: here, here, here, here and in many other more private conversations.
The protagonists behind TechWeek fail to understand what makes a great tech community and cluster tick and how to solicit real contributions from its members. Most critically and fatally, they have no way of separating the wheat of tech awesomeness from the chaff of wannabe pretenders and bottom-feeders. Without that judgement, community gardening is impossible.
Without a Golden Compass of Tech Awesomeness and lacking the community’s trust and buy-in, I’m afraid the ICT Toronto project is doomed to failure. If the City is serious about growing a vibrant tech cluster, it will not continue down this path towards failed mediocrity and will take a moment to re-evaluate its approach in the face of a profound lack of enthusiasm in the tech community.
Fortunately, the Community is Open and it is Creative, and the City of Toronto can join it at any time. But the City first needs to humbly acknowledge that it cannot claim any form of leadership in an area, like technology, that it clearly and admittedly does not understand.