• Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Over the course of a whirlwind 10 days through 4 cities, Love's plan turned into a new direction... see more

    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.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Owen Matthews sees China as a solid investment. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Chinese trade opportunities loom large for Victoria firms

    Despite slower economic growth in recent years, China remains a market full of potential for Canadian companies. And for some Victoria firms, it may represent a massive missed opportunity if they don’t get into the game.

    Owen Matthews sees China as a solid investment. Matthews is chairman of the  Alacrity Foundation, which provides mentorship and guidance to start-up firms and engineers in order to create new tech companies.

    A single city, Shanghai, with a population of 24 million, is better funded and has more wealth than Canada, he said.

    Matthews, who is also a partner with investment firm Wesley Clover, said companies have the potential to be valued higher there given the availability of capital and the room for growth.

    “Not being part of that in some way is a huge missed opportunity,” he said.

    Matthews, who has just established a branch of the Alacrity Foundation in Shanghai, said China is starting to open up and the country is more open to technology partnerships in particular. But he warned it’s important for Canadian entrepreneurs to find a Chinese partner who they can trust.

    “You have to have people you can work with, whose interests are aligned so when the Victoria company does well somebody there also does well,” Matthews said, noting that partnership is key as it can mean the feet on the ground in China will protect the firm’s interests.

    The seven year-old Alacrity Foundation may be able to do some of that for Canadian firms. The non-profit entity, supported by industry and government, has branches around the world, including Turkey, India, France, the U.K. and now in China.

    Matthews said each of the Alacrity branches gives interested companies an insight into global markets.

    With its arrival in China, Alacrity’s network has trusted feet on the ground in Shanghai that can help open doors, or offer advice.

    The mayor of Victoria hopes local firms are looking at the opportunity in China. Lisa Helps, who returned from a two-week trade mission to China in late October, told a gathering of local business people this week that Victoria firms are well positioned to take advantage of China’s potential. She said she believes the $22,000 trip was a huge success and has laid the ground work for trade deals to be signed with a country that is continually changing and opening up.

    “The central government is focused on growing its economy in a sustainable manner and they need the innovation and technology we have here,” Helps said

    Matthews said having the Victoria mayor join local firms on trips to China can open a lot of doors.

    “It’s a great endorsement,” Matthews said. “It makes a big difference in China. Their assumption is government is a very important player in our economy. Having a mayor shaking hands beside a tech company goes a long, long way.”

    It can also help the tourism industry, said Paul Nursey, chief executive of Tourism Victoria, who was in China at the same time.

    Nursey said Victoria has seen strong growth from China — 20 per cent each year over the last few years — but it can do better.

    “We have a great brand and a great product,” Nursey said. “But we are being more deliberate in targeting overnight stays.”

    Nursey said Tourism Victoria has changed its sales team to be more digital savvy, and able to converse in China, as they go after a more lucrative slice of the Chinese market — the individual traveller rather than packaged tours. That’s a segment growing as a result of an emerging middle class. “Now it’s about the hard work on the ground and pitching, it’s a sales proposition and we have refined our sales approach,” he said.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is leading a 19-member joint trade mission to China to “export innovation” see more

    Source:  Times Colonist
    Author: Carla Wilson

    Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is leading a 19-member joint trade mission to China to “export innovation” in October.

    In the past, Victoria mayors have gone to China with the objective of inviting investment to Victoria, Helps said at a Friday announcement.

    “That’s been fine. But what we are seeing right now in Victoria is a very, very strong economy. Very, very strong educational institutions. A very, very strong tourist summer and another one to come if all goes well. And an explosion in the tech sector.”

    The eight-day trip starting Oct. 14 is about “taking Victoria’s innovation and exporting it to the world,” Helps said.

    “There are opportunities for Victoria companies to deepen relationships and export goods and services in Jiangsu and Shanghai and, in particular, clean tech, green tech and other tech and financial solutions,” she said.

    The city is spending $22,206 for its participation on the trip. Helps will be accompanied by three city officials: Coun. Margaret Lucas, deputy city manager Jocelyn Jenkyns and Kerri Moore, manager of business development and strategic relations.

    They will go to Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, Shanghai, and Suzhou, one of Victoria’s sister cities.

    Other local private- and public-sector officials will be in China as well, some who head there every year. Tourism Victoria is taking a delegation, as it does annually, and the Alacrity Foundation of Victoria, the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University, and Camosun College are also sending representatives. Participants stressed the importance of bringing the Victoria mayor on the trip, saying in China that mayors are highly regarded.

    The Alacrity Foundation partners with Wesley Clover International group. It is opening an office in Shanghai this year as Alacrity makes investments in China and encourages investments in Greater Victoria technology firms.

    Richard Egli, Alacrity managing director in Victoria, said they have already attracted $8 million in investment from China to tech companies in B.C. One Victoria company received about $2 million. Alacrity puts up funding and brings in other investors interested in technology in local markets, he said. It also works to commercialize Canadian technology in new markets.

    Geoff Wilmshurst, Camosun’s vice-president of partnerships, is aiming to attract more students from Xuzhou, where the organization has a relationship with the local university and high schools. Camosun has a “feeder program” to bring high school grads here. It is aiming to expand its network of high schools to about 100 a year, up from about 10 per year now.

    Royal Roads is staging an annual global alumni summit in Nanjing. Helps will give a keynote address to 300 Royal Roads alumni from throughout Asia, as well as to regional political leaders.