Smart Choices

BC Business Magazine - - Editor's Desk -

In late Septem­ber, I went to a sold-out UBC talk by Mi­chio Kaku, the U.S. the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist and fu­tur­ist who man­ages to be a leader in his field, a best-sell­ing au­thor and a TV per­son­al­ity. While pre­dict­ing which jobs will sur­vive the rise of robotics and AI, Kaku high­lighted the dif­fer­ence be­tween in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal and com­mod­ity cap­i­tal.

Be­cause com­modi­ties like food and coal lose value over time, he con­tended, na­tions that rely on them for wealth will end up poor. “The coun­tries that are go­ing to be rich are those coun­tries that grab the link be­tween com­mod­ity cap­i­tal and in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal,” Kaku said, point­ing to China. “They’re us­ing their com­modi­ties to cre­ate a sci­en­tific class in China, be­cause they know that’s where wealth is go­ing to come from.”

On page 42, you’ll find an in­ter­view with a B.C. busi­ness leader who made the same con­nec­tion. Chip Wil­son en­tered a com­modi­tized in­dus­try, ap­parel, and reimag­ined it. With Lu­l­ule­mon Ath­let­ica, Wil­son saw the op­por­tu­nity to build a global cloth­ing brand that was as much about an idea—get­ting the most out of life—as it was about a qual­ity prod­uct.

Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of the lit­tle black stretchy pants he spun into a multibillion-dol­lar busi­ness, it’s an amaz­ing story. We need more en­trepreneurs like Wil­son: in­no­va­tors who see what’s com­ing, shake up en­tire in­dus­tries and help us avoid the com­mod­ity trap.

Speak­ing of prod­uct worth bil­lions, those so in­clined will have plenty of above-board op­tions now that recre­ational pot is le­gal in Canada. In “High Stakes” (p.21), we talk to sev­eral no­table fig­ures in the pro­vin­cial cannabis scene, which prom­ises to be a grower.

The two other lead­ers fea­tured in this is­sue hail from pol­i­tics, but their de­ci­sions af­fect B.C.’S eco­nomic fu­ture. Af­ter last year’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion, Pre­mier John Hor­gan and BC Green Party Leader An­drew Weaver struck an al­liance that lets Hor­gan’s NDP stay in power. The two friends have com­mon goals—to a point.

As Richard Lit­tle­more, who pre­vi­ously pro­filed Weaver for us in 2011, shows on page 36, No­bel Peace Prize–shar­ing cli­mate sci­en­tist Weaver doesn’t lack in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal. Hor­gan is no slouch, ei­ther, as Steve Burgess learned dur­ing a visit to his of­fice in Vic­to­ria (p.30). And it turns out that the duo’s part­ner­ship hinges on a com­mod­ity: liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas.

Where Hor­gan backs a pro­vin­cial LNG in­dus­try, Weaver has threat­ened to with­draw sup­port for the NDP mi­nor­ity govern­ment if it doesn’t hon­our B.C.’S green­house gas emis­sion tar­gets. You don’t need to be a ge­nius to see where this could be headed.

Nick Rockel, Edi­tor-in-chief bcb@canadaw­ / @Bcbusi­ness

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