Tacking Vancouver's Tech Ecosystem Growing Pains - How the VEC is supporting the startups that are shifting BC's economy.

Tackling Vancouver’s Tech Ecosystem Growing Pains

We are delighted that the Globe and Mail has chosen to celebrate Vancouver’s burgeoning tech scene.

Just as the article points out, we are “awash in startups poised to go public;” many of Canada’s biggest and most recent ‘exits’ (e.g. Plenty of Fish & Recon) have occurred here, and tech giants like Sony Pictures Imageworks and Microsoft are setting up shop in one of the most liveable cities in the world. With this influx of investment, talent, and new companies (Vancouver clearly has much more on offer than just quick access to beaches and mountains), BC’s economy as a whole is shifting.

To add to that (and because we like a good statistic) Vancouver’s tech sector is home to 3 out of the 4 Canadian unicorns, employs over 75,00 people, and attracted over $580M in venture capital in 2014.

We are clearly a top global startup ecosystem, 18th in the world according to a recent study, which may be locally known, but it’s time to start spreading that message globally.

Not so long ago, our nascent technology scene was limited to software development, wireless, and IT solutions. Now, in 2015, our definition of the technology industry has grown to be inclusive of established and emerging sub-sectors including, but not limited to: web, devices, analytics, security, fintech, mobile, and even quantum computing. This diversification is one of the reasons why the industry is growing at 6% year on year and precisely why the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) prioritizes technology as one of Vancouver’s key sectors.

As the Globe story identifies, there are some hurdles to be overcome to sustain this growth. The first is investment attraction and the second is closing the talent gap.

To foster a healthy climate for investment, whether local or international in origin, we’re constantly talking to and collecting data on our companies, determining the kinds of smart capital they are looking for, and partnering with industry associations and capital networks to connect them to the right kinds of investors. We likewise work with investors to understand their areas of focus and concern, and help them discover opportunities that might have been off their radar.

As the economic development agency of the City, the VEC is addressing the talent gap by making our tech ecosystem attractive to the full range of top talent: from junior developers to CEOs. Events like HTML500 and TechFest, which we partnered on, have helped show talent just how many jobs there are and how Vancouver’s technology ecosystem can transform your career. We are helping Vancouver’s tech companies to fill the 15,500 vacancies coming up over the next 5 years. We believe the growth and success of these companies over the coming years will deliver the polished and experienced leadership necessary to launch the next generations of tech startups. The momentum is building.

Whether we are inspiring others to make Vancouver their home or promoting the innovation of our local startups, sharing the Vancouver story is also one of our primary functions. In fact, we’re taking the this story to countries around the world through trade missions, marketing campaigns, and hosting incoming delegations from around the globe.

But we are far from finished. September will bring to Vancouver one of the largest startup events in the country, Vancouver Startup Week, which is a weeklong event bringing together entrepreneurs, talent, investors and organizations. Most excitingly, we’ll be launching our first-ever global talent attraction campaign (details to come!) in an effort to tell Vancouver’s story to an international audience.

Watch this space!

Image source: Lighthouse Labs