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Shopify CEO says Canada must overcome “go-for-bronze” culture at BetaKit Town Hall

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses Tobias Lütke's views on the need for Canadians to aim higher and be more ambitious in their innovation and entrepreneurship efforts. It also covers the debate around the federal government's proposed changes to capital gains taxes and their impact on the tech ecosystem.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Tobias Lütke's Perspective

1. What are Tobias Lütke's key criticisms of the Canadian innovation ecosystem?

  • Lütke believes Canada suffers from a "go-for-bronze" culture that lacks courage and ambition
  • He cites examples of Canadian exports that ultimately benefited others, such as beaver pelts, oil and gas, insulin, and AI
  • Lütke argues that Canada needs to be more ambitious and distinct, rather than trying to emulate the U.S.

2. How does Lütke view the role of government policy in driving innovation?

  • Lütke believes innovation does not come from government policy, but rather the government "pushes from behind once the markets test something of merit"
  • He compares the proposed increase in capital gains taxes to taxes on cigarettes, suggesting the government is trying to discourage innovation

3. What does Lütke think needs to be done to elevate the Canadian tech ecosystem?

  • Lütke believes it is a "common project" that requires all stakeholders (government, startups, and the public) to work towards the goal of elevating the ecosystem
  • He encourages Canadians to focus on what makes the country unique, rather than trying to emulate the U.S.

[02] Debate on Capital Gains Tax Changes

1. What were the differing views on the proposed capital gains tax changes?

  • Lütke criticized the changes, arguing they signal a discrepancy between the government's stated goals and actions
  • However, entrepreneur Ali Asaria suggested the "whining" about capital gains makes the tech industry look like it exists in a bubble, and that most Canadians support the tax hike

2. How did other panelists view the government's priorities?

  • Jocelyne Murphy argued the government was right to focus the federal budget on housing, which is a top concern for the next generation of innovators
  • She called on the tech industry to better support and advocate for young Canadians

3. What did the panelists suggest the tech ecosystem should do to make Canada more appealing?

  • Ivan Zhang said the ecosystem (not just government or VC) needs to work to increase the "pros list" for startups, workers, and investment in Canada
  • He noted it is currently "hard to stay in Canada if you want to be the best in the world at something"
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