China trade trip illuminating for Victoria technology firm

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy

China trade trip illuminating for Victoria technology firm

Justin Love had a plan in mind when he decided to join the City of Victoria’s recent trade mission to China and Japan, but over the course of a whirlwind 10 days through four cities, that plan turned into a new direction for his business.

Love is the president of Limbic Media, which combines technology with art to create interactive installations such as its flagship product, Aurora.

Aurora, the company says, “creates light shows that are controlled by sounds from the surrounding environment.”

Love is now considering positioning the firm to take on the challenge of the Chinese market. “We intended to [deal with] manufacturing on the trip and now I’m pivoting to doing business development in China,” said Love,.

He noted that whatever notion he had of the visit to China before he arrived went out the window when he was actually there. “The opportunity and scale of projects there is incredible. I could see us doubling our business in the next couple of years.”

Love, who already had a manufacturing relationship with a Chinese firm before the trip, had intended to focus on that when he arrived, but he said he was open to all possibilities.

“I went without any preconceptions,” he said, though he admits he was taken aback at the pace of business. First meetings quickly gathered steam and instead of being meet-and-greet sessions they turned into concrete plans.

“We will be working on a project with one of the companies next month; things really happened quickly,” Love said, laying much of the credit at the feet of the City of Victoria and the B.C. trade office. “Something that might have taken a year or two happened in a week.”

That’s the general idea, said Lisa Helps, who was leading her second trip to China as Victoria mayor.

Helps said she enjoyed watching several Victoria tech firms showcase their products to an eager Chinese market and expects there could be a number of deals signed as a result of the trip.

Helps said her presence and support from the city may have helped move things along. “I think it allowed more business to be done.

“My take is this was overwhelmingly positive. It really exceeded expectations,” she said. Over the course of 10 days, they managed to take meetings in order to increase the export of local innovation in clean tech, manufacturing, education, film and tourism.

Helps said the mission also allowed the South Island Prosperity Project to enter into discussions with a municipal group in Shanghai that could offer lessons and guidance to Victoria in establishing itself as a “smart city.” The smart city concept seeks to use data and technology to improve living conditions.

Helps acknowledges that people are often skeptical of trade missions, but she said with the region pushing to develop more exporting companies that can target China, these kinds of trips pay off handsomely.

However, at one point she sang a different tune.

As a city councillor, she complained in 2012 that then-mayor Dean Fortin was leading a mission to China, and asked if Victoria taxpayers were on the hook for it and why the city wasn’t dealing with its own problems first.

Helps denies she has changed her tune. “I wasn’t saying no trade missions, I was just saying you have to have your own house in order before you go trotting around the globe,” she said.