Opinion

Letter from the editor: The four questions

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We’re in the midst of Passover, the Jewish holiday. The dinner, known as the Seder, includes a ritual in which the youngest person asks what’s called the four questions. They all stem from one question: why is this night different from all other nights?

In that spirit, here are four questions on a range of topics that I was curious about this week including a cameo question from our Ottawa reporter, Murad Hemmadi, who was on assignment in Vancouver.

With all the talk about Lyft and Uber’s IPO, how is Lightspeed faring so far?

There’s been plenty of negative chatter about the Uber and Lyft IPOs over the past few weeks. Contrast that with Montreal’s very own Lightspeed, which has quietly entered the public markets without a hitch.

The Montreal-based software-as-a-service firm listed at $16 a share when it first went public, up from its initial target of between $13 and $15. As of Friday’s close, the stock was trading at well over $24 a share.

For every tale of a company wanting to stay private longer, it’s nice to see a good-news story about the public markets serving their role. In this case, Canadian investors get a chance to share in the wealth whether through their pension fund, RRSP or individual investments. The biggest winner: Quebec pensioners, whose institutional investor, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, owns over 40 per cent of the shares outstanding according to the Globe and Mail.

The Logic’s readers are bullish on Lightspeed. Since going public, the company’s ratings have doubled on The Logic Sentiment Index.

Why was Bell shut out of the 600 megahertz 5G spectrum auction?

The company’s official line was that it “decided not to acquire” spectrum because it doesn’t need the lower-end 600 MHz frequency to deliver 4G and 5G services. It also pointed out that its main U.S. peers chose not to own any 600 MHz spectrum.

This may very well be true in urban areas, but the lower frequency was appealing for rural service. Sources have told me that Bell did place bids, and its competitors were surprised to see it get shut out. But the company does have a network-sharing agreement with Telus, which won several licences, and it still has cellular towers, which work with 3G and 4G bands, in rural areas across the country.

The big winner of the auction? Freedom Mobile, the wireless brand of Calgary-based Shaw Communications, which secured 11 licences, covering a combined 22 million people. It wasn’t just that Shaw managed to grab those bands of spectrum. It’s that it also likely inflated the price of the open spectrum for its biggest competitors. Namely Telus, whose president and CEO Darren Entwistle wasn’t shy in pointing out the average price paid by the national carriers in the open auction was $1.08 higher than what was paid by those in the set-aside portion.

There are still two more spectrum auctions to come at higher frequencies.

What story would you like to report on that you haven’t yet?

It’s not common practice for an editor to share what they’d like to work on ahead of time, but if I had to pick, it’s the recent entry of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) into Europe. President Xi Jinping calls the BRI the “project of the century.” The ambitious foreign policy and trade effort meant to spur development, goodwill and economic integration has now made its way to Italy and, soon, Switzerland.  

What does the growing Chinese relationship with European countries mean for the west?

It’s easy to forget amidst the SNC-Lavalin affair that Canada’s relations with China remain at rock bottom.

Canadian consultant Michael Spavor and on-leave diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in early December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, who faces extradition to the United States. The two Canadians remain in prison, and China has continued to exert diplomatic pressure via other means, cutting of canola shipments on an unproven sanitary pretext.

You can’t solve Canada’s biggest tech and innovation challenges without deciding what role Canada will play in the geopolitical landscape, and how the country views China’s ambitions. I doubt this will become an election issue, but it would be great if it did.

From Murad on assignment in Vancouver this week:

What happened to Vancouver’s Silicon Valley North?

A list of top Canadian tech public offering prospects from four or five years ago would have been filled with Vancouver names: Hootsuite, Vision Critical, BuildDirect, Shoes.com. Today, “Silicon Valley North” trails Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo and Montreal among Canadian tech destinations attracting foreign media attention and the biggest venture capital deals.

Maybe what Vancouver needs is a clearer tech identity. Governments and business groups in Washington and British Columbia are working to build the brand of the “Cascadia Innovation Corridor” that spans the border, and the links between Vancouver and Seattle’s booming tech sectors will be crucial. “You have to put your flag in a sector, and own it,” Brandon Lee, Canada’s consul general for the Pacific Northwest, told me this week. “Like Israel owns cyber and Boston owns life sciences.”

The Cascadia corridor’s backers have picked a few different sectors to focus on, among them fintech, retail, life sciences and digital technology. All have at least one current champion based in Vancouver.

Think of bookkeeping platform Bench; Article, the enormously fast-growing furniture e-commerce firm; Stemcell Technologies, which Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Booth told me last year wants to be the anchor for a local biotech ecosystem; or CryptoKitties creators Dapper Labs.

That’s a solid squad to mount Vancouver’s second campaign for Silicon Valley North status.

While Murad was in Vancouver, the rest of the team celebrated a big night for The Logic at the SABEW Canada awards.

The ceremony, run by the Canadian chapter of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, honours the best business journalism in Canada.

The Logic Daily Briefing won Gold in the best newsletter category. And, reporter, Zane Schwartz won two Gold prizes: Best Scoop for his story on the Canada Infrastructure Bank and Best Young Journalist for his body of work throughout the year.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to be recognized, but the journalism only matters if it has an audience, and for that, we thank you.

In case you missed it, I interviewed Roger McNamee, author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, on the power of Big Tech. The event held in Toronto was sold out—clearly there was a lot of interest in what McNamee had to say.  

And, for all those The Logic readers in Alberta, I’ll be in Calgary on May 11 with a distinguished panel of journalism heavyweights to discuss “Covering Alberta in the next federal election.” Tickets are still available and I’d love to meet you if you’re in town.

From our table to yours—whether you’re celebrating Passover, Easter or the return of Game of Thrones—have a great long weekend.