Welcome to Nova Scotia, Stay out of my way ….

Ever look around and suffer from unexplainable frustration at the current business climate? If you look at the greater picture businesses here tend to stifle their own growth through infighting and an overall lack of vision. Lets open our minds, think outside the box and maybe make some money while were at it.

Co-opetition. Competitors working together to succeed and grow a market. It happens in places like Toronto, New York, Moncton, St. John’s…why not in Nova Scotia? For the second year running, the Atlantic Canada Marketing Conference blocked one of the most high-trafficked, well marketed technology news sites in the region from reporting on the event? One would think such an event would look to embrace any media coverage it can get?

The theory of myself and a number of peers is that the AIM Conference is simply an exaggerated business development tool for a select few companies to promote themselves – when enough peers agree, something must be right. This insulated and small-town approach is what has held down the Nova Scotia IT sector from truly growing. Small companies fight for the scraps they can, looking ever inwards to their navels and missing the broader world sitting on their doorstep.

Nova Scotia companies, arrogant in their surroundings of living in the regions largest city, would do well to look at their neighbor to the West in Moncton, Fredericton, St. John and north to St. Johns where companies have found ways to work together and look eagerly beyond the borders to grow their businesses.

Well that is all for now, I am quite busy working with a forward thinking, growth oriented company who wants to make money (and in some senses they are competitor to my business). Business Calls!


  1. At the risk of being shot down, shut out, and frowned upon: I could not agree with you more. Learning from your peers and co-opetition is the only way to stay ahead in today’s game.

  2. To expand on the previous commenter, the only way for east coast IT to compete with Silicon Valley North, Silicon Valley, and the East cost tech corridor (Boston, NYC, etc), is to work together towards collective goals the are mutually beneficial. To become independent, walled garden, organizations, is only going to harm the basis of the industry.

  3. I am the producer of AIM.

    Each year we have people contact us and ask for free tickets to the conference by virtue of being special in some way. We review these on a case-by-case basis.

    In the case of TechEast, we first looked at the Alexa rating of the site. Seeing that it’s rank was over 3.5 million while the rank of the conference site itself is significantly higher at around 900 thousand, we couldn’t see the virtue in coverage by a website that appears to get much, much less traffic than the conference site itself. Despite Mr. Snells claims of importance, the numbers suggest TechEast does not have the eyeballs. Even Halifax’s Coast Magazine which has an Alexa rating under 400 thousand offered to swap banner space for tickets in Halifax the year we were there.

    With regard to the claim that the AIM conference is for a group of friends to support their businesses (etc.), we had over 30 speakers, many of them competitors, some of them competitive with our own company. It simply isn’t possible to put on a conference if the size and calibre of AIM by inviting only ‘your friends’ and excluding competitors. More to the point, I welcome Mr. Snell to buy a ticket as most people do, so that he can take part in future AIM events. The conference is very affordable at about half the price of similar conferences in larger centers – and because of this a challenge to pull off in this region. He should be grateful for the learning and networking opportunity instead of complaining about the lack of free tickets.

    I hope in the spirit of open communication you preach you will leave this reply up on your site.

    Rob Swick
    AIM Conference Producer

  4. Well, I’m amazed to say the least that someone from AIM responded to my blog entry. I am also amazed at the response provided to my blog post. While some of it is on topic some of it strays just a bit.

    To address the comments made by Mr Swick:

    Just to point out, I never asked for FREE tickets. I just wanted to write a story, take some pics and promote the event. No one ever contacted me to talk about Tech East’s interest in the event.

    As for reliable statistical data. Alexa rankings are highly inaccurate and unreliable, no professional organization would take that data seriously. I think more people believe in the tooth fairy than they do the Alexa data. So I would urge you to re evaluate your methods for assessing opportunities to sources which are credible and accurate. Just to point out , I have even read where other search organizations have called this service among other things.

    It’s always better to ask than assume.

    I leave the second comment alone for the most part and wait to see if anyone else has any feedback on the issue. What was said was “the AIM Conference is simply an exaggerated business development tool for a select few companies to promote themselves”. I haven’t seen or heard much to dispute this to date.

    In regards to buying a ticket, I tried to buy a ticket. I contacted AIM with some questions and received no response. I was willing to pay but was ignored.

    Anyways this blog entry was originally written after speaking to companies and people in this region not only about business itself but what was being done in this region to grow. All the info in my blog entry was gained from talking to people in this region and I really can’t change what people think. It’s obvious some people don’t want the current business climate changed as they are comfortable in their little box.

    That is all.

  5. Further to Mr Swicks Alexa comments I found a Quick Quote from WebsiteMarketingPlan.com regarding Alexa:

    “You are correct that Alexa gets its rankings data from browsers that have the Alexa toolbar installed. That’s a fairly small sampling, as well as a skewed one, as many Web-savvy individuals feel that having the toolbar is akin to having spyware on your system. Because of this, any info you get from Alexa needs to be taken with a grain of salt.”

  6. Although the AIM conference may do well, arguably from what I’ve heard, at providing marketing instruction; they might do well to consider adding a Communications or Public Relations component and providing media with coverage – free. No other recognized conference charges media. As for the comment on Alexa rankings – also check out WebPro World and the SEO discussions around Alexa – few buy into Alexa other than a “rough sampling” while looking at TechEasts traffic stats, seems to me AIM Conference would’ve had some good coverage.

    New Brunswick, PEI and NFLD all know how to play together. It is why they are seeing rapid growth. NS IT organizations remain suckled on to the teet of government and can’t lobby for fear of losing funding – because they don’t encourage collaboration or lobbying for effective policy change, thus failing their membership. All other Canadian IT associations are proactive. But that’s another issue.

    The AIM conference appears to be selective, rather than inclusive. From the feedback I got from peers who attended and others, I’m glad I didn’t spend the money. There; I’m guaranteed to not get an invite next year! 🙂
    – Webconomist.

  7. Hi Robert and friend,

    To your central point that the AIM conference is somehow exclusive, with over 30 speakers including many who are direct or indirect competitors, I still don’t understand this.

    We select a LARGE number of speakers based on providing a diversity of topics, knowledge, and voices – that’s what people want. If we did as you suggest, and barred large number of companies from speaking or exhibiting we could not possibly succeed in this market. Some people are disappointed that they weren’t chosen to speak: even with almost 50 sessions we simply have more applicants than we have places.

    This item is called “Welcome to Nova Scotia, say out of my way”. You should call it “Welcome to Nova Scotia, where there will always be some people complaining about what you do, no matter how good it is or how much effort you put into it.”

    Putting together a large conference like this in a small and fragmented market is not easy – it was a big gamble in time and resources to get it going. Companies who have had a high profile at both (only TWO conferences – hardly a conspiracy) like ISL and Bristol were ones who took that gamble with us. They have no lock on any profile and neither has ever made any effort to encourage us to discourage or refuse other companies from attending. No effort – nada, zilch, zero. We invited direct competitors of both companies last year including Extreme Group (who declined) and Hawk (who came) among many others.

    I met with two visiting representatives of eBay Canada yesterday who at first thought I said we had fifty people come to the first conference and not two-hundred-and-fifty. They were shocked, and I think impressed. We’re proud of making this happen here where there was no major event like it before… and that other parts of Canada are noticing enough to send high quality speakers here, many for the first time like David UK from Heavy.com, Yahoo on everything from SEM to Mobile Marketing, Simon Jennings – a Canadian pioneer of the industry, etc – for someone to sit in a huff and miss out on these because they have some sort of grudge against one or two companies – is their own loss.

    And Webconomist, you don’t NEED and invitation to attend. You just go Online and buy a ticket. Buy early – you’ll get the best rate. And we’ll be happy to have you there as we are with every delegate that takes time out of their week to come and learn and share ideas, and network like everyone else.

    This being the case, and with all the effort that goes into pulling off this diverse event, we know it can always get better. And if even a small group of people are thinking it somehow doesn’t have anything for them it is disappointing and something we want to hear. If you two would like to meet to suggest how we can make the conference more interesting for folks like you, I’d be happy to listen. This is the last post I will make on here about this. I know you have my email address, so write me directly if you want to meet.


    PS: Good luck with your own event this fall Robert. If you need any speakers, let me know.

  8. I’m not sure how many of those speakers fall into the competitor category for AlphaSearch, It is my understanding that AlphaSearch has arrangements with some that include the sub contracting of Internet Marketing services? So I’m told, you can correct me if I am wrong.

    And my title is bang on, a lot of businesses here choose not to work with others for fear they will some how end up out of business. And well to address what you said yes, Businesses here complain …. A LOT!

    I don’t think any one has a grudge against anyone here, I don’t anyways. I just write it as I see it and as it’s told to me.

    I have no suggestions for the conference, but I would appreciate better communications, I seem to have been brushed off for some time (since last years conference) and I’m not sure why. Through Tech East my only goal is to promote the region, what it has to offer and whats happening.

    I’d be happy to have a coffee with anyone, anytime and anywhere.

    Thanks for the Good Luck, The event should be great! We will be taking LOI’s from people interested in doing work shops at the event. Details will be on the TechOpen site soon.

  9. Well one more post since we’re down to legitimate meaningful details….

    In terms of your title – I agree there’s something to that. There are many “clubs” here in NS that are hard to break into. We see it all the time. The Tourism club is a good example – Nova Scotia’s tourism industry desperately needs all the help it can get, but it’s been very hard to get their awareness… and this isn’t just coming from me, it’s a common topic of conversation even among those who work on the inside. This is sad – it hurts the province greatly – and for such an important industry is a highly visible example of poor leadership in an area where leadership and new ideas are very much needed.

    It’s just the wrong title for focusing on AIM – by a mile. And it’s part of the problem your talking about. AIM is practically the opposite of it, with so many different competitors rubbing elbows and a tiny 2-person company producing it. Which is my problem with your posts – and my problem with a lot of bloggers. You say you are unbaised but sling mud at something very constructive for the region and the province. We managed to get Yahoo and eBay and Heavy.com and MSN, and Canada.com…. to come here and we brought many of the regions leading companies together. This had not been done before. The Ice Awards get the same kind of thing tossed at them – even though Extreme Group (who started it) are totally arms length from it now. (I don’t know the history – I was in Montreal until recently.) It’s easy to criticize, harder to actually perform – especially with the criticism that gets heaped on those who take initiative, such as Ice or AIM.

    If you WANT TO contribute in a way that is productive – you can start by getting your facts straight and not slinging mud at others who are doing what you say needs to be done.

    Regarding your suggestion of backroom deals (or whatever). In the past year we’ve only worked with 3 of the companies who spoke at the conference. If we’re making deals for companies to speak, we must be very poor at it. The fact is we don’t. We obviously need sponsors but outside of that we pick the most interesting and relevant speakers.

    And I think I’ve said this before but if you feel shunned somehow, it’s probably because there is a ton to do and having a small team our communiciations are not perfect. Entering our third year, we have a bigger team and much more planning time and it’s a pleasure to say we’re already well along in planning for 09 – close to 5 months ahead of last year’s schedule – and with better systems in place. These things take time and effort. You’ll find that out with your own event I am sure. And I’m sure you will appreciate those who appreciate the work that goes into it, and the good for all who attend.

    Maybe we need to make that coffee a beer.



  10. @Rob, speaking of facts, let me first clarify the Ice Awards. Extreme did NOT start the Ice Awards. It was entirely the creation of myself (Giles Crouch) and Paul LeBlanc, who happens to be the founder and CEO of Extreme. At the time Extreme was doing work for me, I called Paul and we realized we’d had the same idea. So we sat in a park and worked on the idea. I then spent 3 months driving around the Maritimes and talking to Creative Directors and agency owners to assure them it was NOT an Extreme event. This was a vitally important distinction to getting their buy-in. Both Paul and I backed away from the awards after year 2 on purpose and left it to various committees.Extreme just happened to win awards in later years cause they do excellent work. That’s the facts. Bother Paul and I put our own cash and time into Ice, and we didn’t get that cash back. And we did the first year without a cent from government and gave $500 or so to the IWK.

    As for mud-slinging; Robert did good to get conversation going, pointing out certain realities. Like the Tourism Club, there is also the Executive Hockey Club an informal club of business men and entrepreneurs where some serious networking gets done. No immigrants play on those teams, and thus get no business. The CFA concept is alive and well.

    You make some valid points Rob. We all need to stop petty infighting and work together. There’s Fusion Halifax and Citizens for Halifax as examples of a “start” to better co-opetition and collaboration. There is a “perception” by many that AIM is an event serving the interests of a few. It’s “perception” sadly, that often wins over reality today, Ice being another example. We have some smart people round here, some good groups. We need to work smarter, better, closer and people and companies need to stop building walls or we’ll stifle future growth.

  11. I’m not going to go on and on and on and on and on …

    Webconomist covered a few good points and to wrap up this i’ll just say:

    I’m not slinging mud at anyone, I merely observe, listen and then blog. I write on topics that motivate me, interest my readers and are potentially of some benefit.

    I occasionally attempt to take part, help where I can and in the case of the AIM Conference my emails went un answered for a second year.

    At the end of the day there are not too many people with a voice in this region and well I’m not one of them. If I have an opinion I will more than likely share it.

    I prefer coffee over beer, Carlitos on Quinpool Rd has some of the best coffee in Halifax!

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