Capital region’s tech sector to launch charitable foundation

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy

Capital region’s tech sector to launch charitable foundation

The capital region’s largest industry is about to make a little more noise.

Victoria’s high-tech sector will announce Friday at its annual awards show that it will launch a charitable foundation, partly to demonstrate the impact the sector has on the broader community.

“We’ve been looking at this for more than 10 years now,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council. “Most of our members are doing a great deal for the community, but because very few of them sell products here, they are not doing it for marketing reasons and it can be somewhat invisible.”

The VIATEC Foundation, which is to be launched in partnership with the Victoria Foundation, is designed to focus the social conscience of the industry.

“We felt it was important to capture a lot more of what is already happening — the donations, time, volunteers and support being provided by our members so we can look at it annually, report on it and encourage increased participation by the rest of our members,” Gunn said.

“And if we can focus them on some key areas, we think we may be able to create some unique programs,” he said, noting that will make the sector more visible and that participants can accomplish more as a collective.

VIATEC's 558 members have shown they can make a significant difference when they pull together. Over the last 13 years, they have raised just over $2 million for the Mustard Seed Food Bank.

“VIATEC will be quite interesting. They are such a force in the community that if they group together to do something wonderful for this community, you know it will have an impact,” said Sandra Richardson, chief executive of the Victoria Foundation. “They are very entrepreneurial and deal with a different demographic, and they look at the larger challenge. It’s not just about giving this year and then moving on.”

Gunn said that eventually, the VIATEC Foundation could operate on its own. But for the first year, as it goes through a Canada Revenue Agency application process, it will be run under the auspices of the Victoria Foundation.

“It makes sense because they have the infrastructure and administration in place. But this is a foundation for our members and by our members,” Gunn said. A board will be established to direct the foundation’s focus and its philanthropy toward VIATEC-determined priorities.

Richardson said the cost for using Victoria Foundation administration will be minimal, and none of the money donated to the VIATEC Foundation will be used to pay for it.

In terms of funding and donations, Gunn is hoping tech companies will see the value of pooling resources.

“Our hope is companies will take their philanthropic intent for the year and dedicate it to the VIATEC Foundation. So when someone wants [that company’s support], they can say you can fill out an application online,” he said, adding that dealing with community requests will be easier.

“When you are known as a supporter of the community, you end up seeing a lot more asks — and they increase every year. Our members typically don’t have staff to deal with that full time,” Gunn said.

“At the same time, we will be able to capture the impact we’re having and encourage more of it. We can show the impact the tech sector is having beyond the economics.”

Gunn is hoping to be able to announce the first contributors to the foundation at the awards show on Friday.

He is also hoping some companies might consider a “founder’s pledge” that would fund the foundation through small equity stakes in their companies. For example, it could be a one or two per cent pledge that would be realized should the founder exit the company or the firm is sold.

“We have been reluctant to ask for that, but if [tech companies] are willing to pledge a portion of future gains, that would be an ideal outcome,” Gunn said.