The Origins of ABCtech
ABC Tech formed its roots initially as a network for Kinkaide Enterprises Inc.
The KEI Network Explained
originally written May 2006The KEI Network is comprised of people with small business interests and a global perspective. The "Network" started in 2001 as a small business advisory for KEI (Kinkaide Enterprises Inc.) KEI was building an investment portfolio of early stage InfoTech and Global Manufacturing companies in the Edmonton area. The Advisory was comprised of a half-dozen people who had experience and knowledge that KEI lacked. The Advisory drew in members as others expressed interest in "new starts" and participating in the assessment of investment prospects. Today the Network exceeds 500—soon to exceed 900 with a pending merger with another Network. Over 80 are drawn to Network dinner meetings each season.
Birth of the Advisory. At birth, the group served as an Advisory Board and simulated a "real board" experience for small start-up enterprises. Leaders of the new-starts brought progress reports and problems to the Board. The "advisors" set some rules early: they were not Directors, not investors and not to hold shares in any of KEI's holdings. The group met monthly when KEI was actively investing, but shifted to "once a season" as the group got larger and "investment action" slowed down; that is, once KEI was fully invested and fully engaged in overseeing the development of the portfolios.
Evolution of the Network. At one point it became apparent that the group was transforming--meal-fare changed from "water and crackers" to "coke and wraps." Then one of the stalwarts of the Network, suggested that we meet over dinner at the Royal Glenora and that we each pay for our own dinner. Nobody baulked. New companies continued to come forward and we would hear about their plight and promises. When the group grew to a dozen, I was confused as to why everybody kept on coming AND now paid for their meals; “How many of you have met someone tonight who you would like to meet again before the next meeting." Everybody raised their hand. I observed, "The KEI Advisory is dead. The KEI Network is born."
Membership is by referral and quite informal. No fees. No obligations. No hard marketing. It's an experience/opportunity/resource exchange; people looking for synergy and prepared to RSVP and pay for dinner. Newcomers arrive on referral—people wanting to meet others interested in small business development. The KEI Network database of 450 includes dozens of companies that have presented at dinner meetings, given us a Marketing Moment , a Prize Draw., a pre-dinner Seminar or contributed to the KEI Network Bulletin of Gives-N-Gets.
The Network is a community in progress including start-ups that are directed our way from all across the Region: start-ups in need of: advice, management, customers, talent, money, a referral or a partner. The Network is rich with contacts and resources. What KEI gets is an early sniff at prospective investments, entrepreneurial talent and a current read on the issues, resources and lessons learned in the Network. Members of the Network screen prospective presenters, and play a "match-maker" role knowing who needs what and who has what to give. Such information is essential for new businesses to grow and that have little in the way of resources or experience. The Network also serves as a legion for semi-retirees who want to stay engaged, maintain and expand their networks. We periodically entertain joint Network meetings with other Networks/Associations for further enriching community contacts. It is through these joint undertakings, tht mergers are entertained…and the Network continues to grow and radiate.
Maintaining contact helps provide continuity for the Network and involves keeping in touch with former presenters and updating their status. Communications are maintained through a weekly emailing of the KEI Network Bulletin, that is activated about 6-weeks before each seasonal dinner. The Bulletin of “gives-N-gets” relays member requests/offers to give/get resources, advice, contacts, views and news. The electronic Directory of Network members is carefully protected; no one wants to get spammed.
What’s next? Network participants have mused, “Where is this going?” The personal trust invested in the Network has spawned increasing interest that this Network of enterprises, entrepreneurs and innovators may be a counterpart to the 20th Century success of the Chamber of Commerce. If so, can KEI’s Network experience be replicated? Is there an appetite and a need for Networking among others, elsewhere? Those who say “Yes!” share the view that to commercialize innovation, knowledge and enterprise, Networks are essential. They have been harvested through conduct of a series of “founder” meetings between Edmonton and Calgary leading to the formation of an Alberta Council of Technologies. The KEI Network is soon to morph into the Edmonton Chapter of the Alberta Council of Technologies.