Entrepreneurial scene in focus as Startup Canada Awards come to Edmonton
'Entrepreneurship and innovation are alive and well in Edmonton.'
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The Startup Canada Awards are coming to Edmonton for the first time Tuesday, and organizers say this recognizes the city’s growing prominence as a hub for entrepreneurs.
Randy Yatscoff, former CEO and president of drug-development company Isotechnika, will receive the lifetime achievement award at the event, which is for the prairie region.
The award is given out for “outstanding impact and enduring legacy" in Canadian entrepreneurship.
“It’s an honour to get the award, but it’s really about the people that I’ve worked with and mentored, it’s all the people I’ve worked with over the past 35 years,” he said.
Now the executive vice president for business development for TEC Edmonton, Yatscoff pushed to bring the national awards to the city for the first time.
He said Edmonton is a growing centre for start-ups, something he attributes to strong governmental support and growing enthusiasm for start ups.
“Entrepreneurship and innovation are alive and well in Edmonton,” he said.
That wasn’t the case when entrepreneur Shaheel Hooda, who will get the entrepreneur promotion award for his efforts to boost entrepreneurship, moved back to the city in 2002.
Despite growing up and getting his start here—he was helping with family businesses at 8, did his undergrad degree and bought his first business here—he soon left for stints in Toronto and the U.S.
He never thought he’d come back, but got recruited to take over a local company. He remembers it as a “very lonely time” to be running a startup in the province.
“When I came back being a tech startup guy was not necessarily a good thing,” he said.
“The attitude before was like, ‘These guys don’t really have anything to do, they’re just hanging around in a basement.’”
Despite advice to move to a bigger centre, he stuck it out in Edmonton, heading up companies like CodeBaby Software and chairing the A100 Tech Entrepreneurs, which mentors the next generation of entrepreneurs.
During his time he’s seen Edmonton go from off the radar to a success story as far as startups are concerned.
“We have this proud culture of wanting to give back, there’s this altruistic nature that’s engrained in us,” he said of the secret to the city’s success. “It’s an exciting time.”