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The derivative economy

One of the key challenges for innovation and entrepreneurship in Canada is that so much of the economy is ‘derivative’, and especially dependent on innovation and entrepreneurship that took place elsewhere and has now been imported into Canada. Many Canadians have no familiarity with a real entrepreneur or innovator.

Two examples that illustrate for me just how significant this challenge is, are Dragon’s Den and The Conference Board. Both are franchises, developed elsewhere and brought into Canada.

In the case of Dragon’s Den, it was first developed for Japanese television, then brought to the UK and subsequently to Canada. In a rare twist, it went to the US after Canada (rebranded there as Shark Tank), and they actually imported two of the key stars from Canada (Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec) to ‘seed’ the panel. Maybe this is just a good illustration of how dependent Hollywood is on Canadian talent that passes for Americans.

The Conference Board is a particularly stunning example of this issue. It is unquestionably a leading think tank in Canada, and yet it does not own its own trademark, and uses its name under license from the US owner. “I think, but do not own my brand” must be their motto. Can you get more perfect illustration of the ‘derivative’ economy than that?


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