by our Head of Business Development, Andrew Browne and Head of Story, Leah Sarich (October 2020)
At Thin Air Labs building meaningful relationships is at the core of everything we do. Not just because we like hanging out with smart and interesting people, but
because we know with trust and collaboration, a group of unlike minds working together can solve the world’s biggest problems.
Our Head of Business Development Andrew Browne talks about how critical meaningful relationships are to building successful innovation ecosystems.
LS: What does being the “Head of Business Development” mean to you?
AB: To me it means coordinating the collaboration of dozens or hundreds of people to build something larger than the sum of its parts. It’s about bringing the right people to the table, communicating the right message about what we’re trying to do together and coordinating efforts towards that goal. It's all about people.
LS: How important is it to build ecosystems?
AB: It’s essential. In my work Directing the Calgary Innovation Coalition, I worked closely with the team at Startup Genome who measures the strength and impact of innovation ecosystems in regions around the world. One of the biggest drivers of success in regional ecosystems is local connectivity, so how easy is it for someone to move from person to person within a region and then global connectivity, so how connected that region/ecosystem is to others around the world. These two factors are key to creating the conditions needed to start and grow global scale ventures. So the more people we know, and the better relationships we have, the easier it is to negotiate the interests of the entrepreneurs we’re supporting. This helps us de-risk investments at the earliest stages of a venture's development.
LS: What should entrepreneurs know about working with Thin Air Labs?
AB: We partner with entrepreneurs. They’re not just clients, we don’t just work for them. It’s a much deeper and more integrated relationship than what you might expect from traditional venture capital firms or software agencies. We ask meaningful questions and listen intently to understand their biggest challenges. This allows us to think strategically about how to best help them grow and scale. We then pull up our sleeves and work alongside founders to execute their vision.
LS: What should investors know about engaging with Thin Air Labs?
AB: Our investment thesis is based on our belief that by offering the right support to the right founding team, at the right time allows early stage companies to mature quickly and get to scale faster. De-risking ventures in this way means spending more time working directly with entrepreneurs and less time seeking deal flow. This strategy seems to be resonating. Our inbound is crazy and we are attracting unique founders with a desire to build global scale ventures with massive human impact.
LS: A lot of people outside Alberta are now starting to see what we’ve seen and have been working on for a long time which is the massive opportunity that exists in this province. What do you think people outside Alberta need to know about the opportunity here?
AB: They should understand that Alberta’s current economy was built on hand-shakes, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. This culture can be challenging to break into, but unbelievably warm and collaborative once trust is built. It’s no secret that we have a lot of the ingredients necessary to build a great innovation ecosystem right here in Calgary, but what people were waiting for is a strong foundational ecosystem that they can add value to. That time is now.
The reality is the amount of activity, the amount of ventures, the amount of deal flow, the amount of money that needs to be poured into the ecosystem is far beyond what any one group is going to be able to deliver. So let’s embrace that and know that we all have to work together to build what’s next.