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While even small businesses now have global market opportunities, they now also have a whole world of competitors, he noted. They also face a product cycle in IT especially that has shifted from years to months.

"It's changed the rules, but it doesn't mean we can't learn those new rules," Bendis said.

The need to adapt readily was also echoed by a local voice. "If intelligent communities around the world share one thing, it's that we're dedicated to constantly re-inventing ourselves," Moncton Technology Group head Doug Robertson said.

New economy picks winners, losers