Some final thoughts on this whole small business / Dragonfly Affair thing ...
Some people may not have sympathy for poor Dragonfly Games. You can never rely on money or help from others, even the government, they say. You need to be independent and succeed or fail on your own merits.
I would counter by saying that you shouldn't offer assistance if you don't intend to follow through in a honest way. You shouldn't claim your program is reliable and then rescind it a year later. You shouldn't require a company to submit dishonest financial statements. You shouldn't force somebody to hire your wife.
Maybe the government shouldn't be in the business of actively helping business at all. Maybe they should just keep regulations and red tape to a minimum and get out of the way. That's a fair position to take ... I won't argue against that. However, I am personally not opposed to the government providing assistance.
I have friends who are better able to speak about these matters than I am, but that's okay ... I am going to offer up a couple of suggestions anyhow:
1) Programs should be simple and permanent. I know it's tempting to announce new programs before every election but it must be confusing and frustrating for businesses when they keep changing.
Tax credit or assistance programs should not be specific to certain niche industries, but general programs with clear guidelines that any small business can apply for. They should be managed by an independent board to keep politics out of it as much as possible. The board or a jury should select applicants based on some combination of factors such as need, probability of success, strategic industry, employment potential, etc. The program should be permanent, so that as businesses rotate through it, it will develop a track record. This will make manipulation or interference more apparent and harder to hide.
2) We need to get to the bottom of the Crocus debacle. It's still poisoning the venture capital environment. The current government's position has been to pretend it never happened and hope that people forget. They will, eventually. The noxious cloud of Crocus will slowly dissipate until one day the people investing in their RRSPs will once again be inclined to trust a Manitoba small business venture capital fund because they were too young to remember what it was all about when it happened.
But that will take too long. We need to cleanse this ASAP with a proper investigation or inquiry or something. Nobody has ever been held accountable for what happened, which means that the people who made it happen are still out there, which means that it could happen again, which means that people will not invest in venture capital to any significant degree, which is bad for small business n Manitoba.
AND maybe or maybe not ...
3) Scrap the NRC & BCC. I really don't know enough about this .. only anecdotal information suggesting that the research and incubation programs run by the National Research Council and Biomedical Commercialization Canada aren't very efficient. I'm all for research and development, but maybe there's a better way.
These are just my thoughts. I do not guarantee the quality of my thoughts. I absolve myself of any responsibility for the actions of those who read my thoughts. Reading my thoughts may cause dry mouth or liver disease.
Monday, 28 January 2013
Some final thoughts on this whole small business / Dragonfly Affair thing ...
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Monday, 21 January 2013
Let's suppose I had a small business in Manitoba. Let's call it Anybody Want A Gizmo? Let's suppose that I wanted to expand my gizmo business to include doohickeys but required additional funding to take that next step, and suppose as well that I was turned down for a spot on Dragon's Den. Who can I turn to?
Manitoba can be a tough place for an entrepreneur to do business. We hear a lot of talk about how innovation is important, and how growing small business is critical to Manitoba's economic future, but there aren't many stable sources of support and funding for budding businesses. "There are few places to turn for growth capital in Manitoba" Martin Cash, the Winnipeg Free Press business journalist, tells us.
Venture capital funds are a great source of financing for promising young businesses, and they are a great source of tax breaks for investors, but they are almost non-existent in Manitoba. There are a couple of small funds (GrowthWorks, Golden Opportunities -- which sounds more like a retirement retreat than a venture capital fund) but the Crocus calamity has forever tarnished venture capital in the minds of many Manitobans.
Crocus was by far the largest and highest profile fund if its type in Manitoba, such that it became synonymous with venture capital investing in this province. But even as the Crocus fund was incurring massive losses, it was being pumped by the Provincial Government as a great place for people to put their hard-earned cash. The end result of course was that the fund crashed and people lost money. If individual investors can't trust a government created and promoted venture capital fund, it's little wonder that there isn't much venture capital for small businesses around here.
With the lack of available venture capital, a business may need to turn to a hodge-podge of ever-changing government programs if they don't have the private connections to raise money. It seems that every two years the programs change ... probably so that every two years the government can send out another press release to announce another new program to help small business. Though the names of the programs may change, the entities that offer them generally do not.
One of the current programs, announced in 2011, is the Commercialization Support for Business Program, created by the Manitoba provincial government from a recommendation of the Manitoba Innovation Council which was appointed in 2009 by the Premier. There is also BCC (Biomedical Commercialization Canada) which is funded largely by the National Research Council and the Province of Manitoba. BCC affiliated programs with names like "Manitoba Knights" ostensibly help foster small businesses -- for a fee and a chunk of their equity.
Now another program is being pitched to supply start-up capital to entrepreneurs, as long as they "manage their progress through government-licensed incubators, such as ... Biomedical Commercialization Canada."
All of this is fine if it works and actually helps small businesses innovate and succeed commercially. I am sure sometimes it does, but as it turns out sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes things go terribly wrong. Let me tell you a story about one small local hi-tech business that not only didn't get the help it was expecting, but was driven into insolvency as a result of breaches of contract and extortion by the BCC and provincial government programs.
So grab yourself a cocoa and come back shortly for The Dragonfly Affair.
I recently painted a dragonfly ... I will share with you ...
Monday, 7 January 2013
Well this was a nice surprise:
A new city report, released this morning, recommends Winnipeg not lower the residential speed limit to 40 km/h. The report said many studies conducted throughout North America have shown that driver speed is affected by the context of the road and not by speed limit signs.When I wrote about the half-baked proposal at City Council to reduce speed limits (Speed limit proposal based on bad statistics) I had assumed it was a lost cause. Useless words floating off into space. We've seen time after time, like with the hand-held cell phone ban, how legislative bodies completely ignore facts and write their laws based optics or misguided impressions.
Oh I know my blog still won't make a difference, but there is a wee small chance that this new report will, given that, among other things, the report is not authored by a anonymous blogger.
More importantly, the report compiles data from a number of studies in other cities to draw it's conclusions, including the Edmonton study that was grievously misused to promote Harvey Smith's misguided proposal to lower speed limits.
I ended my other blog post by saying:
"What we need in this city is a common-sense approach to setting speed limits. Set speed limits at levels that reasonable according to industry standards and adjust as necessary for special cases like school zones. Let's not create misguided legislation based on inconclusive data and misinterpreted studies."
Perhaps with this new evidence that artificially slow speed limits don't work, our councilors will take heed and rethink their proposal, though that it still doubtful. Some people are simply immune to facts. I had a 15 or 20 minute conversation with Harvey Smith about this in September, and there is no budging him.
Good intentions should not trump good sense.
Thursday, 3 January 2013
Everybody knows that the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (the "LC") is a communist instrument to control our drinking behavior and limit our quality of life so that, like a bunch of deprived North Koreans, we plunge into a depressed malaise that prevents us from caring about life enough to bother rebelling against the government that is suppressing us in the first place. It's kind of like Stockholm Syndrome, except with beer instead of chains.
That said, Liquor Marts are generally well located across the city, and I have no complaints about the selection of wine and hard liquor. There are also independent wine stores that you can shop at, although they too operate within the firm embrace of the ever-caring and wise LC.
Beer, however is a problem. The LCs have a limited selection, and precious little refrigerated beer. Hotel beer vendors, of which there are none in my neighbourhood, have more cold beer but an even worse selection, and under archaic laws are required to operate in association with a hotel .. which is why there are none in my neighbourhood. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why independent beer boutiques should not be allowed to operate in Manitoba.
I went to a Festivus party recently, and brought with me a 750 ml bottle of Unibroue Éphémère. During the traditional Festivus Airing of Grievances, I expressed the following peeve of mine: that Unibroue beers are only available in Manitoba in these large 750 ml bottles. Unibroue makes some of the best and tastiest beer in Canada, but I'm deterred from buying it because each bottle of beer is a commitment.
Sometimes 750 ml is also more than I should drink in an evening. Many of the Unibroue creations have higher than average alcohol content. For example, Trois Pistoles, La Fin Du Monde, and Don de Dieu all have 9% alcohol. That makes 1 (one) bottle of any of those beers the equivalent of drinking 4 (four) 341 ml bottles of any average beer.
To make matters worse, the big bottles are plugged with a cork that's a bitch to get out unless you have a pair of Vise Grips handy.
All of these beer do come in regular 341 ml bottles. I know because I saw it with my very own eyes last time I was in Montreal. I bought a six pack for my hotel room. Can we get these here in Winnipeg? No.
Today MLCC tweeted (yes, they're on Twitter, aren't you?) that they were bringing in Collection Packs from Unibroue.
The Collection Pack is a variety pack containing a couple bottles of different brews (Trois Pistoles, La Fin du Monde, Maudite and La Fringante, according to Cody). This is fine and everything, but the point of a taster pack is to allow somebody to try different beers and find one or two that they like more than others. Once they find that flavour that they enjoy, they're forced to buy the becorked 750 ml bottles if they want to continue drinking it.
Apparently we used to have Unibroue 6-packs here but the distributor stopped bringing them in. This just raises the question about why our beer selections are being limited by a single distributor. How can our beer selection be at the whim of a faceless corporation? Why can't MLCC allow individual beer stores to import their own selection? Why do we even need the MLCC?
One of the quirky search terms that I found when doing my 2012 wrap-up post was "we want beer protest". I think this person may have been on to something. People, it's time for us to rise up and demand more! More choice. More freedom. More beer!
Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Continuing the tradition, here's a wrap-up of the year for anybody-want-a-peanut.blogspot.ca ...
To summarize: productivity has fallen. I had 20 fewer blog posts in 2012 versus 2011. However, with the new management philosophy here at the Peanut we do more with less, and in spite of the drop in posts we had a 25% increase in traffic. As a result of meeting our targets for the year I have awarded myself a massive bonus, and the rest of the staff was given 256kb USB 1.0 flash drives for their efforts.
In media-related things, I went on CBC Radio in March to talk about golf courses.
I was invited to a media night at IKEA prior to the official opening and got a glimpse of what it's like to be a journalist, with free-flowing champagne, smoked salmon on biscuits, special discounts and awesome gift-bags of swag!
And of course I was on Winnipeg Internet Pundits, this year more as a regular guest, taking to the airwaves approximately every four weeks.
New Winnipeg-ish blogs
The Power Of Words is written by former Winnipeg Police Sergeant James Jewell. James has written some outstanding posts with insight into the crime and the police service. Highly recommend you check this blog regularly.
Fellow pundit Greg Gallinger has an eclectic little blog greg.g. Some posts are little more than photographs, while others are more extensive, like his post on leaving downtown. Due to the minimalist nature of the blog I can't even tell if it's new this year, but it's new to me, so ....
Everybody knows Bryan Scott's photo-blog Winnipeg Love Hate, but Bryan also started a tumblr page this year cleverly called "Bryan Scott" that features fantastic photos of many other places in addition to Winnipeg.
With something like 68 posts in less than 3 months, and often lengthy ones at that, it's hard to keep up with WpgNewsReview. Arthur Mira does a lot of digging through 311 stats and other publicly available documents and provides some interesting insight in many of the posts. In others he may say things that you disagree with, like that thing about Theo Fluery which I won't mention again, but the blog is what it is. He doesn't try to be politically correct.
Twitter personality Stefanie Cutrona writes at stefspeaks. This blog is not affiliated by the Mafia.
Former Winnipeg Free Press journalist and newly minted Macleans magazine contributor Lindsey Wiebe started a tumblr page, which is primarily a photo-blog. We here at the Peanut wish Lindsey well in her new job in The Centre Of The Universe.
I'm sure there are more, but it didn't seem to be as active a year in the bloggosphere. If you know of any good new blogs by all means let me know.
Also, I should mention the Spectator Tribune -- a new Winnipeg-centric web publication, featuring former Free Press and Uptown writers, among others. Perhaps a glimpse at the future of journalism as mainstream papers slash their original content.
Top posts from the Peanut
Our most popular posts this year were*:
CMHR Part 1: Project Management
Waterpark: 7 reasons to say "no"
Put a steak in the Kane rumours
Firehall land swap absurdity
Moving the CP rail yards
*My Blogger stats conflict with my Google Analytics stats. As both are Google products this confuses me slightly. I don't trust either, but I went with the latter for this list.
Those were most popular in terms of hits. In our opinion, our best posts of the year were:
The Winnipeg golf course series:
Action Items Part I
Action Items Part II
Confusion Corner redesigned and unconfused
... and of course ...
The Adventures of Johnny Oduya!
directions to vimy ridge
ray rybachuk - Boy, this guy has really pissed some people off ... like whoever created this blog.
evander kane rumours
sam owns an acre of land on red river. the government dams the river. a lake forms behind the dam, covering sam's land. does the government owe sam anything? - I'm serious. This is a question on some stupid LSAT or FSAT or something, and every time I put this on my year-in-review post I move up the Google hit list. I now populate 3 of the top 15 Google hits for this question! How do I make it stop???? Next year, no matter what, I am NOT putting this in my year-end post.
cool helicopters - who doesn't love cool helicopters??
Quirky search terms
are you a peanut blog - Well yes and no. See, it's not about peanuts per se, but ... ah forget it...
boobs touch - Tell me more ...
do people who wear keeping it riel shirts know who he is - Good question. I ask the same thing about those Che Guevara shirts ..
draw a peanut fast - OK -------------------- >
fuck you montreal police - Ya, fuck you!
how about our crooked mayor in winnipeg???????? - Winnipeg small talk: "So ... how 'bout our crooked mayor?"
hugh mcfayden who is he and why pee in mouth - Only Hugh can answer that question.
leah hextall feet - ummm ...okay.
manitoba hydro good place for a terrorist attack - Hello, CSIS?
maths blog still model maths park model - .... what?
me to you bears - I don't even know where to go with this one.
rod black ruins figure skating - Rod Black ruins everything.
sin like a mother fucker in edc - Where is this edc place, and how do I get there?
the used condoms - New indy group?
what a fuckup - I'm a little bit insulted that this search found my blog.
we want beer protest - #EmptyNoMore
what does a yellow yield sign mean - I'm beginning to understand why drivers are so bad.
who are the hookers in edmonton what do they look like and what are their street names - It's good to do your research before you travel somewhere.
Have a great year everybody!
Slurpees and Murder - an A-Z poem.