Skip to content

An Interview with Dr. Sarah Lubik on Principles of Innovation, Talent Retainment, and China, India, and Canada (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/06/15


Dr. Sarah Lubik is the Director of Entrepreneurship, SFU Co-Champion, Technology Entrepreneurships Lecturer, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Concentration Coordinator, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She discusses: the principles of an innovation culture; retaining talent; and Canada, China, and India.

Keywords: Canada, entrepreneurship, generational differences, innovation, professional women, Sarah Lubik, SFU, technology.

An Interview with Dr. Sarah Lubik on Principles of Innovation, Talent Retainment, and China, India, and Canada: Director of Entrepreneurship, SFU Co-Champion, Technology Entrepreneurships Lecturer, Entrepreneurship & InnovationConcentration Coordinator, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Then with the broadening of the horizon for looking into various business models as how to build the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, what are some principles that we should take into account if we’re wanting to build that culture of innovation aside from those implied from this discussion?

So, modern universities focus on diversity, inclusion, and experimentation.

Dr. Sarah Lubik: Absolutely.  One of the other principles is going to be teams, if you call that a principle or not, but back to the original point: statistically you’re probably not going to make an amazing professor also an amazing entrepreneur.  They exist, but they’re not common.

You’re not going to make a grad student do his or her entrepreneurial venture by themselves. A CEO or a CTO needs a co-founder of their company. That’s where you want those diverse skill sets. So, you want to teach entrepreneurship as something team-based rather than something about just yourself and ideas you can’t take forward alone.

So, building those communication skills and those cross-disciplinary skills early is incredibly important because most people, once they get out of school, they realize quite quickly that not everyone went to business school or engineering, etc. You need people with other skills and they probably don’t think like you.

Not everyone spent four years in engineering or business. Yet, we’ve spent four years in a world where everyone thinks like us. That can be a shock to the system, especially when you’re doing entrepreneurship.

One of the things we often hear from people who started a company is that they need to build a team, but the team needs to understand each other. They need to be able to work effectively with each other.

But you get different work principles and even languages when you’re in different disciplines. So, learning about how to thrive in a diverse team is one of the key things that we work on here.

Another core value is the ability to go out of the world with confidence and to want to go out into the world.

First, make your assumptions about what people want and where problems lie, but then be aware that you need to validate your assumptions and that is not looking for people who agree with you, but also, looking for people who don’t. It is also a challenge.

Because we’re humans and we like to be right.

The final core value is that to be a good entrepreneur, you need to be looking at solving problems that matter and curious mindset deeply understand them. So often, you get entrepreneurs, or would be entrepreneurs, who are interested in solving problems, but because they don’t know much about the problem they’re not humble enough or knowledgeable enough yet to realize what they don’t know and still need to find out.

If they can get a surface impression of a problem, say you’re interested in homelessness and want to help find a solution, it turns out to be a complex problem, and that your solution would make sense for you, but makes absolutely no sense for that community, or for that user.

So, that ability to step back and learn to understand problems and where you might take a wicked problem like climate change or homelessness and deeply understand one piece of it and how that fits into this bigger system and how that might be addressed. But you may also realize that you’re probably not going to solve that entire global problem by yourself, so need to either be really specific about the part of the problem you can solve, or figure out how to be part of something bigger.

2. Jacobsen: Another issue is retainment. So, if a university, a province, territory, or a country at large develops a culture that is inclusive and diverse, provides the ability and citizens with the willingness to work in teams on various projects, then the businesses begin to flourish from small to medium and large.

The transportation between countries is much easier than at any other time, too.

Lubik: Wow! I’m still recovering.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] Yes, point taken. Even with that an individual can travel more or less, compared to 50 years ago, some recent time, it’s easy to travel. So, an entrepreneur and innovator could go to another country and begin a business there.

For instance, the United States has these H-1Bs. So, these probably are what are called the genius passports. People that would previously have stayed in the United States and created multi-million dollar businesses there have gone back to India and China, for examples.

Who are two major countries that the United States gets some brains from, they’re now creating those multi-million dollar businesses within their country that they were born and raised in.

So, it’s a loss of not only talent but also potential innovation and revenue for whatever local industry they have in the United States at large. Another principle that I wouldn’t call secondary, but I wouldn’t necessarily associate it with the other ones because it’s distinct in a way.

So, how do you encourage innovators and entrepreneurs to stay with a particular university or country?

Lubik: It’s a good question. What would make someone stay? I have a couple of colleagues who recently enrolled here. They came here. They loved the culture and the system of SFU. They liked the community.

They like the willingness to be learning and working for meaningful change in the education system and community. They also love the lifestyle of BC, where we get to live, how beautiful it is, and how nice the people are. So, we have a built-in advantage of people wanting to live here.

It’s lovely. The culture is great. It also has had its problems, it’s not Silicon Valley, etc.

So, how you get people to stay here? It totally depends on the person. But some of the things that I’ve been hearing lately, especially as I talk to people across the country about what do we need for entrepreneurship and improved innovation, are around our specific resources and being near things you can’t get elsewhere.

So, for example, if you’re a material science company, you can get access SFU’s facility called 4D labs, it’s a material science facility where industry members use the equipment, work with the students and with cutting-edge researchers.  It’s like having your industry lab but without having to pay for it yourself.

So, there aren’t many places where you can go and get that access to that knowledge, and not many resources. If you start a company here, leaving could be more challenging because you’re going to have to wield those resources yourself.

Another thing that can make people say, and I feel like my culture is my word of the day, is being part of something you believe in.  Beedie put on an event about how to grow large companies in Vancouver. and we asked a number of CEOs who had grown multi-million dollar companies in Vancouver, “How do you get people to stay? It’s an expensive place to live, no start-up company can necessarily pay what a Google or an Amazon could?”

They said, “You have to create the vision. You have to be able to sell the culture. You have to be able to sell being part of something that is bigger than what you are.”

There are companies in Vancouver creating solutions to problems people want to solve, and having a big enough community of leaders in one place can be attractive. How are we going to help with the stress in the workplace? How are we making life better for people in Downtown Eastside? So, being brought into a culture where you’re making a difference, that seems to be worth staying.

We also have a fantastic quality of life, because we are lucky in Canada, we have these systems, whether they are flawed or not, that takes care of people.

having that relatively safe, peaceful place to live with meaningful work appeals to a lot of people.  Then, of course, having those special resources to work with, and creating places where you can work on things that matter, We’ve got a lot going for us.

Another piece that’s come out of the work we’ve been doing in the federal government is talent. As a company or an entrepreneur, you want to be where the great talent is, and the Vancouver area is increasingly known as a place to get fantastic tech and entrepreneurship talents.

For entrepreneurship, that can be incredibly attractive. So, you want to make sure companies know they can access these resources, hire enough talent. You want that lifestyle that attracts more talent. Then these make the area competitive for Canada.

But we also have to take steps to make sure the talent can afford to stay, too.

3. Jacobsen: At the same time, Canada has maybe 37 million people, when compared to the United States’ 325 million people. India and China coming around a billion and a half each. So, their talent pool that they can pull from internally is much bigger.

So, they have a lot more leverage internally with respect to that. Canada’s main strength then would be in the way that it can pull people in based on the quality of life or even basic freedoms that they may not have in their host country, possibly.

Lubik: Yes, we can speak more for the West coast at this point, but we’re right up from one of the biggest markets in the world. We are a short trip from some of the biggest markets in the world. We’re often called the Gateway to The Pacific.  We’re a jumping off point to some of the world’s largest markets and with it becoming easier and easier to telecommute or travel, that better access is a benefit to Canada at large.

But we also have to realize that while we’re a great place to have a company, we also have to help companies access those large markets because our local one isn’t big enough if you what you want to grow is a large company.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Director of Entrepreneurship, SFU Co-Champion, Technology Entrepreneurships Lecturer, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Concentration Coordinator, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: