Venture capitalists get closeup look at work of Greater Victoria tech firms

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy

Venture capitalists get closeup look at work of Greater Victoria tech firms

Greater Victoria’s high-tech industry will be throwing open its doors to a record number of international visitors this week as the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council kicks off Experience Tectoria Wednesday night.

The annual three-day summit brings together international venture capitalists and established technology firms to see first-hand what has shaped and supported the sector, which the industry group said generates $4 billion annually in combined revenues.

“We started this in 2012 and the whole idea was to make sure really important people around the world got a look and understanding of what we’re doing in the city,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of VIATEC.

This year, they are bringing 46 visitors to the city to tour through established and start-up firms.

“It’s a record number and rather than have them locked in a room and facing pitches [from new companies] we wanted to give them a complete sense of the vibrancy and opportunity here,” Gunn said.

The event is designed to focus on the more established and successful firms in Victoria and to make sure local tech leadership feels the full benefit of the summit.

It include tours of local tech firms with hosts who have grown companies in the city. Greater Victoria tech leaders will have a chance to take part in an executive training seminar designed to give them the tools they will need to expand their companies.

Gunn said that seminar is part of preparing companies for the push to grow the sector to its goal of having its constituent firms more than double their existing combined revenue to $10 billion by 2030.

Greater Victoria’s tech sector has about 880 businesses and employs more than 15,000 directly. It also counts another 3,000 consultants and 5,000 others who work in tech jobs within larger firms and government. VIATEC’s membership has more than doubled to 560 members over the last two years.

Gunn said as the sector has grown the message it sends during events such as Experience Tectoria has evolved.

“We used to talk a lot about start-ups and investing in those, but what we realized is we haven’t been conveying the long history of success and impact of the local tech industry,” he said. “So this year we are focusing more of our time to introduce the [venture capitalists] to some of our more established and most successful companies.

“It will give them a sense of what’s possible and why it happened here and that way it’s easier for them to see how they might participate or how a small company might grow into something of consequence here.”

Also a part of this year’s summit are a screening of the film She Started It, which followed young women over two years as they tried to build new companies; a series of origin stories from local entrepreneurs; and a F**k-up Night, where people share stories of failed projects.

VIATEC runs Experience Tectoria at this time of year to use the Rifflandia Festival as a backdrop, and another example of the vibrancy of the city.