Trudeau Says Canada Needs More “Swagger” to Promote How Awesome We Are

You know your startup has reached massive success when the Prime Minister of Canada shows up at your annual conference.

Earlier this month, Shopify Inc. company partners and developers converged for a forward-thinking conference, Shopify Unite, which took over Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works on May 8 with a packed day of innovative programming. To end on a high note, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Shopify CEO Tobias Lutke sat down with tech expert Amber Mac for a discussion focused on supporting Canadian talent and innovation and creating more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs – ever-important pillars of our economy.

When it comes down to it, Prime Minister Trudeau says Canada needs “more swagger” in promoting our homegrown innovations and “how awesome we are” to a global audience – something Shopify definitely doesn’t lack.

Canadian-born e-commerce giant Shopify Inc. was the country’s first Internet startup since the dot-com crash to reach a billion-dollar valuation. The platform now powers more than 600,000 stores globally, turning the dreams of new entrepreneurs into businesses. While Shopify is a Canadian success story, the sad reality is that it’s rare and we could definitely score more points as a country in generating more capital in our home and native land for our startups. Trudeau highlighted the appeal of Canadian innovations to overseas investors. “As soon as we come up with a really great idea, someone with really deep pockets comes up from the States or somewhere else in the world and says, ‘Oh great, I am going to incorporate that into my platform,”‘ said Trudeau. “How to get Canadians to scale up and how to get Canadians companies to become leaders that drive their own ecosystems like Shopify is a big challenge that we have.”

justin-trudeau-millennials-prime-minister-trudeau-shopify-unite-young-professionalsTrudeau says changing this starts by recognizing the “extraordinary advantages” we have in Canada with things like the great quality of life and great vibe (which many of us can easily take for granted). “There is a diversity and an openness here that means if you come up different and have a different approach on things, you can be valued and drawn on to a greater degree than organizations that look for homogeneity and don’t end up getting that spark of juxtaposition that ends up generating things,” said Trudeau. Diversity, like that which characterizes Canada, helps fuel innovation. As Lutke highlighted, the multiculturalism offered at Shopify – which is Ottawa-based – gives the company better decision-making abilities and is something that has lead to their success

In terms of stepping up our game, Trudeau stressed how Canada is well positioned to excel on a global playing field. “We are a country that has always had far too many resources than we have had an internal market to be able to support them,” said Trudeau. “We have always – from the time of fish and furs – needed to trade with the world and that has left us global in our thinking about trade. We are the country that has the largest number of trade deals in terms of percentage of global GDP around the world. That means that we are naturally well connected to draw on and play in a global economy.”

Small businesses, said Trudeau, need to come up with solutions to plug into that world in a natural way because we don’t have the huge audience here in Canada compared to countries like the United States. Speaking of our friends south of the border, Trudeau also stressed the importance of collective success across the country and contrasted the stereotypical American dream with the Canadian dream. “The American dream is ‘I’m going to succeed; I’m going to be a millionaire; I’m going to be a billionaire.’ In Canada, with our ‘peace, order, and good government;’ with our earnest, good neighbour approach, sometimes we really lock in that, if we do well and our neighbours do well, then we will all do well together and our own success comes from everyone having the opportunity to succeed.”

We do, however, need to do more to ensure that both our talent and our innovative ideas can flourish in Canada. The good news? “We are doing a better job at having the confidence (confidence we have every right to have) on the world stage right now,” said Trudeau – believing we have the chops to play on the world stage is the first step in making major moves.