Disrupting the Disruptors

For the technology industry, the idea of disruption has often been used in the positive sense. The COVID-19 pandemic, though, has disrupted every facet of our society, including the technology industry, in ways that do not feel positive. It has slowed down our progress and sped up our fear.
But as many tech innovators would attest, great ideas are born in difficult times. As Sundar Pichai recently said, “Google was founded right before the dotcom crash and built in a moment of severe, I would say, scarcity.” For the technology lawyers profiled in these pages, helping companies navigate these times of scarcity is their bread and butter.
The pandemic has certainly created a sense of disruption. Capital markets have become even more challenging to navigate where tech IPOs were already rare. As corporate lawyer André Perey says, “A lot of technology company founders would be seriously asking themselves whether they would want to have to deal with that enhanced level of volatility in the value of their companies going through this kind of crisis.”
Once the effects of the pandemic on the wider economy become more clear, stable business models will also appear less stable, as customer spending takes a hit.
Restrictions in physical movements, both for employees and foreign talent, will also hurt tech. And the increased focus on research collaboration, while laudable in many ways, holds increased risk for companies that move too fast. “It’s extremely important to have great clarity regarding what joint ownership entitles you to do,” says intellectual property lawyer Panagiota Dafniotis (How AI is Changing the World). And privacy concerns about consent and surveillance are not going to disappear (How Technology is Reshaping Privacy).
But, as Pichai can attest, innovation thrives on disruption, and Canadian tech companies are suited to benefit. Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo are all IT hubs, says immigration lawyer Evan Green, and Canada’s Global Skills Strategy program deserves much of the credit for that (Attracting Global Tech Talent). “I think M&A will really pick up because you will have companies that don’t have cash flow,” says tech lawyer Deborah Weinstein (Financing Tech Growth).
So, while the disruption will not be easy, it is also an opportunity for Canada’s technology lawyers to provide value. Let’s not let it go to waste.