What happens when the cluster you helped create falls out of love with you? It is a question BlackBerry may be asking itself just a week after relaunching with a new name and a new phone.
According to a New York Times report, after years of being the beating commercial heart of Waterloo, Ontario, the company formerly known as Research in Motion is no longer the destination of choice for top talent. “BlackBerry is now a last resort,” it said.
And if that wasn’t tough enough for a former emblem of Canadian ingenuity, its position has been usurped either by US companies, “including Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft” or graduates launching their own businesses.
That may be bad for BlackBerry, but it may turn out well for the long-term creativity of the region. In Finland, where Nokia accounted for 4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2000, the phonemaker’s subsequent problems forced the government to rethink its approach to innovation. The Economist notes that it spurred a more entrepreneurial and start-up friendly business culture, with “300 founded by former Nokia employees”.
Perhaps the lesson for any authority from London to Santiago trying to create a version of Silicon Valley, is that a hub needs talented people, infrastructure to give life to their ideas and an ability to cope with the insanely rapid pace of change in the tech sector. And even if the lead innovator fails, others may well step in and carry on.
The writer is editor of the Management section