For years people have been talking about Waterloo and its success as a technology and innovation hub. International delegations, community leaders and politicians have come to see how they can duplicate the regions success. The tour is usually a walk through Communitech, the Accelerator Centre in the R&T Park, a tour of UWaterloo including Conrad Centre, Velocity, REAP & FELT Lab, Stratford Campus, Laurier University and of course the Perimeter Institute.

The recipe seems simple:

1 Heavy Serving – Innovative Academic Programs
1 Dash – Government funding
1 Liberal Splash – Private Sector involvement – Sponsorship and Investment
Several Handfuls – Driven Innovative Students

Mix all ingredients together in a region and magic will happen.

Unfortunately, like so many recipes, the ingredients does not “a cake make”!

The sum is greater than it’s parts. The secret sauce of Waterloo’s success is three-fold:

First: Inexorable support by and for one another!

Yes, there are politics and fiefdoms and people don’t always like to play nice together. That is human nature, everyone has their moments, but when push comes to shove to shove the people of the region rally. From the least to most influential, from the start-up to the investor, the people of Waterloo Region believe and support one another.

Second: Open to Growth – Open to Sharing – Open to Learning.

Invitations to events are extended to those well beyond the region, the province and the country. Many of these events are free and when there is a charge it is nominal. Alumni are involved, heavily in supporting, mentoring and giving back.

Third: Nobody is selling!

Waterloo is about collaboration and delivering value.  Nobody will sell you on their product, service or app.  No-one ever gives the hard sell, sign up now, salesman pitch. Those who do… well they just quietly and quickly are knocked off the radar.

Success in life is based on your talent to give to those around you. Not your talent to take from them!
–Loui Byrdziak

So for those communities who want to learn from best practices of Waterloo.  I suggest the following:

  1. Rally the troops near and far.
  2. Believe in the vision.
  3. Be open.
  4. Be humble.
  5. Ask the community what it wants and deliver.
  6. When help is offered, take it.
  7. Stop hard selling your services! Start giving and see the value in the long-term relationship.
  8. Stop working within bureaucratic confines.
  9. Get over your fiefdoms – Collaboration is key!