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How Montreal Can Become The Top Entrepreneurial City In The G20

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At the beginning of September, as Sherpa Delegate, I will lead a delegation of 35 young Canadian entrepreneurs, who have been selected to participate in the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit in China. They will join some of the top 500 young entrepreneurs of the G20 nations to recommend policies to foster youth entrepreneurship and tackle youth unemployment.

Among these 35 Canadians, 16 are from Montreal. This fact clearly reflects that there is currently a boom of new entrepreneurs in this city. As a business person myself, I witness a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Montreal hosts many startup events and hackathons, and boasts an increasing number of incubators and co-working spaces.

In the last three years, I have had the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs from various countries, through my active involvement in a global youth movement, called the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance. This international experience has made me realize that Montreal has everything it takes to be among the best cities for entrepreneurs in the world. Like an unpolished diamond, it merely requires some efficient government measures.

Technology has enabled even smaller entrepreneur-led businesses to expand into global markets, which can be a powerful driver of growth.

We need to implement concerted strategic policies on federal, provincial and municipal levels, to make Montreal a high-standard international entrepreneurial city. Policies that take into account the following points:

Firstly, Montreal is the second biggest university city in North America, after Boston. The government should tap into this strong suit in order to make it an entrepreneurial city. We need a clear strategy that encourages and supports the creation of university-based incubators and accelerators in partnership with the private sector, institutions and foundations.

University students in Montreal should have the opportunity to start businesses throughout their studies, with the support of and resources from their institutions. As a target, I propose to increase the number of university students involved in entrepreneurship by 50 per cent in five years, and students' R&D investment/collaboration with entrepreneurs by 50 per cent, to complement formal entrepreneurship education.

Secondly, many young entrepreneurs want to go global and do business with other cities, provinces and countries. Technology has enabled even smaller entrepreneur-led businesses to expand into global markets, which can be a powerful driver of growth. We need to devise a joint game plan on federal, provincial and municipal levels, to adopt policies and incentives that support young entrepreneurs as they assess their activities and expand into external markets.

For instance, inclusion of young entrepreneurs in trade missions led by our mayor, premier and prime minister, training of diplomats and trade commissioners in the realities of young entrepreneurs, encouraging Montreal incubators to collaborate with those of other countries, and creation of co-working hubs and incubation services for early-stage exporters in diplomatic missions (to trade offices, embassies and consulates).

Finally, Montreal is an open, creative and multicultural city, with a great quality of life. Let's make our city the number 1 destination in the world to start a business! Entrepreneurs are a rare breed. We need to attract them. I suggest federal, provincial and municipal collaboration to implement long-term visas and fast clearance for entrepreneurs. A landing pad for entrepreneurs, in conjunction with university-based incubators and the private sector, is also required. On August 26, 2016, the Obama administration proposed a rule aimed at attracting thousands of the world's best and brightest entrepreneurs, to start the next great companies in the United States. I think our federal government should be inspired by this initiative.

The city of Montreal plans to release an orientation paper on its international relations in the coming months. I sincerely hope our municipal administration integrates "Montreal as an international entrepreneurship capital" into its vision.

Winston Chan is an entrepreneur and former Chairman of the Federation of Young Chambers of Commerce in Quebec.

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