Dan Gunn

  • Paula Parker posted an article
    BC's tech companies pivot, collaborate, and innovate to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. see more

    Source: BC Business

    Author: Raghwa Goptal


    Across Canada, our approach to flattening the curve has been a communal effort between our governments, communities, and private sector. And these efforts have been enhanced and accelerated by our country’s world-renowned tech sector.

    In B.C. specifically, we’re seeing our tech companies pivot, collaborate, and innovate to provide hands-on support to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. The most prominent example is AbCellera, who secured a whopping $175M investment from the federal government to identify antibodies that could be used to create a treatment for COVID-19. The B.C.-based Digital Technology Supercluster has also stepped up to the plate, funding several local projects through their COVID-19 Program.

    But as we expand our scope outside the Lower Mainland, it becomes clear that our province’s COVID-19 relief efforts have received a significant boost from all of our regional tech communities, most notably in Vancouver Island.

    Victoria’s tech sector, which accounts for $5.22B in economic impact for the region, represents one of the country’s fastest growing tech hubs. Since this pandemic began to take hold in early March, some of the city’s top tech companies have quickly mobilized to provide direct support to hospitals, governments, and Canadians across the country.

    StarFish Medical, Canada’s largest medical-device design company, is working with the Federal Government to manufacture 30,000 ventilators in an effort to curb expected medical device shortages across the country. Fellow Victoria medtech standout, Telmediq, is leveraging their extensive reach across North America to give healthcare systems complimentary access to their software to provide distance support for patients and families dealing with COVID-19. And not to be outdone, one of Victoria oldest tech firms, ImmunoPrecise Antibodies, is working with the World Health Organization to develop coronavirus vaccines.

    Dan Gunn, the CEO of Innovate BC-funded VIATEC, notes that while some of the city’s biggest companies have tackled the pandemic head on, the entire Victoria tech sector has come together to share resources and experiences to help their peers navigate the changing landscape.

    “While our community has been apart physically, we have never seen it come together more in spirit,” says Gunn. “A sense of community is always important but during a crisis the value of coming together is even more tangible and appreciated."

    Continue Reading Original Article


  • Paula Parker posted an article
    Dan Gunn, CEO VIATEC sees silver linings during a crisis. see more

    Source: Times Colonist Author: Dan Gunn, CEO VIATEC

    A commentary by the CEO of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council. 


    Every morning, I watch our prime minister update the nation on Canada’s COVID-19 response. “Save lives by staying apart,” he pleads. That’s the least we can do.

    He goes on to say: “Everything we face will be directly linked to how people behave today.”

    I think we all know that this applies at the national level as well as at the street level of our neighbourhoods and community.

    Physical distancing is imperative to getting through this and it has its side-effects.

    Like many of you, my grandparents, great aunts and uncles endured monumental shared suffering due to the Great Depression and world wars. As I grew up, they went out of their way to help me understand how hard those days were and how it shaped them.

    Nothing brings people together like an external threat. We are all making sacrifices and it can be tough, but I can’t help but see some silver linings. The bonding power of shared suffering leads to a greater sense of unity. While we are physically apart, we are more together as a species, a nation and as a community.

    I’ve never been closer to my friends, neighbours and family. I’m having long conversations with my neighbours, I’m on the phone with my parents every few days and I’m logging many hours of video conferencing with friends, colleagues and peers every day. Compassion and empathy seem to be at an all-time high.

    As with the generations before us, this moment right now is shaping us. I spend a lot of time pondering what influence these weeks and months will have on nations, societies and our communities going forward. We are all doing things quite differently today and it will be fascinating to see what changes will stick and what needles will move.

    How much more will we work remotely in the years and decades to come? How often and far will people travel? How supportive of the concept of Universal Basic Income will we be? Will the short-term environmental benefits change our future behaviour?

    We love imagining a better future in my line of work, but help is needed now.

    I work with local tech companies. Switching to working remotely is likely easier for our sector than any other. We are already using video conferencing, chat channels and other platforms and have the right hardware to get connected quickly. We are fortunate to be built to adapt how we work, but I don’t think any organization was built to endure this type of uncertainty.

    While some companies are enjoying an increase in demand for their tools and products, most are still trying to figure things out. Sales and business developments have been turned on their heads, orders are being cancelled or slowed, our governments announce new supports daily and tech leaders are trying to assess how many staff they can hold onto and for how long.

    This uncertainty is challenging for our sector, but much tougher for many.

    At VIATEC, we are inspired by the Rapid Relief Fund that the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation and Times Colonist kicked off, and we are proud of those tech leaders that came to the table to offer hundreds of thousands of matching dollars to encourage donations.

    Thanks to the generous support of our members, the VIATEC Foundation had a busy year, contributing $300,000 to the Food Rescue Project in partnership with the Victoria Foundation, and another $130,000 in support for the Mustard Seed Food Bank, the Gender Equity Fund, the Greater Victoria Public Library, Junior Achievement of British Columbia and the Independent Media Producers Network Society.

    We have $10,000 left in our fund, and today, we are committing it all to the Rapid Relief Fund. Soon, we will set out on another campaign to replenish the fund.

    The VIATEC Awards is our biggest fundraising event each year. We recently had to reschedule to Dec. 10 and you better believe that we plan to leverage what we expect will be a very memorable night as a platform to enable and encourage the tech community to do what it can to help those in the community that need it most.

    In the meantime, VIATEC, as owner of Fort Tectoria, has waived the rent for the 25 startups that call our building home. We are deferring all membership renewals for at least three months, and we’ve made our online job board free during the crisis to help connect people with jobs.

    It is not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but, for a small not-for-profit like ours, it is consequential and difficult — and the least we can do.

    My elders imprinted on me what it was like to go through the hardest of times. I’m certain we will all be telling tales of this one to our future generations and, when we do, I hope we all can point to how we gave.

    While we are apart, let’s come together. Give if you can.



    Tax receipts will be issued. If you are open to receiving your tax receipt by PDF, please include an email address with your donation.

    • Online: RapidReliefFund.ca

    • Phone: 250-381-5532

    • Mail: Send cheques (made out to the Victoria Foundation) to RapidRelief Fund, Victoria Foundation, 200-703 Broughton St., Victoria V8W 1E2

    The Rapid Relief Fund was created by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation, and the Times Colonist to help people in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHEK Television, Coast Outdoor Advertising and Black Press are helping to boost awareness. Every dollar received from donations goes out as grants to the community.

    Donations are being distributed through the Victoria Foundation.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    There's a big difference between being a top tech city, and being recognized as a top tech city... see more

    Source: markstoiber.com ("Didn't see it coming" podcast)
    Author: Mark Stoiber

    Quick, name two top tech cities. San Francisco, and, ummm…


    Being a top tech city and being known as a top tech city are two quite different things. It’s an important difference, too. In a world where tech workers are in high demand, and cities are falling over themselves to secure tenants like Amazon and Facebook, being recognized as a tech city can have a very big bottom line impact, indeed.

    The difference maker, I believe, is brand.

    Here in Victoria BC, my hometown, we’re blessed with an exploding tech sector. Even better, we have an amazing tech city brand. At least part of that is due to the hard work and creativity of people like Dan Gunn, CEO of VIATEC.

    I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dan and unpack the elements of the Victoria tech city brand. Among other things, we dug into…

    • What’s in a name – and why Tectoria (the name created as an umbrella for everything from conferences to VIATEC’s building) is a great one,
    • The complexities of creating a tech brand in a city where virtually none of the stakeholders – tech companies – sell their products,
    • The brand power in Fort Tectoria – an HQ that is open to the public as well as VIATEC staffers and stakeholders
    • The connection between tech, spilled wine bottles, and inflatable killer whales,
    • Creating a consistent brand code, and ensuring that code is based on the true personalities that live it,
    • Why orange is cool, especially as light bulbs in windows of tech companies,
    • The power of metaphors in describing an industry that is often criticized for hyper-complex, unintelligible communication,
    • Origin stories, and why they work for VIATEC like they worked for Superman,
    • Why evangelists are so much better than ad campaigns, and
    • Why tech industry leaders are coming to Victoria to study how Dan and VIATEC pulled this off.

    I hope you enjoy the conversation. As you might guess, it’s jam-packed with brand information anyone can use – and there’s nary a tech term in the entire 30 minutes!

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    It requires collaboration, leverage, dedicated resources, long term effort and focus to... see more

    Source: LinkedIn
    Author: Dan Gunn - CEO, VIATEC

    What do I Mean by Return on Community?

    I bring up Return on Community whenever I'm asked why companies join VIATEC. As a private-public innovation hub that supports a community of 955 tech companies from startups to scale-ups, our success is determined by how much they understand and support us. Not all of them are members (yet) but, the ones that are understand that they have a shared interest with the entire tech community and it requires collaboration, leverage, dedicated resources, long term effort and focus to effectively address those interests.

    Let me give you a recent example. What I'm about to share would not have been possible if VIATEC, thanks to decades of membership support, was not ready and willing to move quickly.

    We just submitted a comprehensive funding proposal to the Federal Government for the Women's Entrepreneurship Strategy's Ecosystem Fund. A five-year program developed to strengthen capacity of organizations supporting women entrepreneurs by ensuring they have the business supports they need to start or grow a business.

    On October 26, at 8:25am we were notified about this program. I was in Kitchener at Communitech's Hub observing a cohort in their Strong Leaders Program. I was there to compare our current leadership programming, find new ideas and learn from other approaches. We're big believers in sharing our playbooks and learning from other organizations by visiting them....I'll save that for another article.

    Anyway, by 8:48am, that same morning (5:48am PST) I had forwarded the details of the program to our COO, Rob Bennett, and asked that we get started right away on a submission.

    VIATEC is focused on developing new projects, programs and partnerships aimed at supporting existing and future women leaders in our community’s tech sector. Currently, 34% of the companies in our accelerator program have a woman founder giving us a head start on most communities. The national average for women CEOs in tech companies is usually estimated at 5%, with only 1% of our top TSX companies having a woman CEO. It’s great to be above average but we intend to continue to support building on this advantage as a strategic priority. This also will get an article of its own soon.

    Given our current strategic priorities, we had to take a run at this. The deadline for proposals was November 22. Less than four weeks away. That is a very short amount of time to develop the kind of quality partnerships, program details and budgets that we pride ourselves on. To us, it was worth setting aside other key initiatives and focusing our efforts on putting together a submission that, if approved, will help support and, in turn, increase the number of women founders and leaders in our community.

    In the end, we submitted a doozy of a proposal. We're proud of it. It includes partners from Accelerate Okanagan (also our forming partners in creating BC's Venture Acceleration Program with Innovate BC), UVicUBC and the Alacrity Foundation. We benefitted greatly from Erin Athene's ongoing work (Ladies Learning CodeFlip the Switch event and the BLAST Program), consultation from Communitech's Fierce Founders program and our Board ChairBobbi Leach, even took time out of her busy schedule at RevenueWire to review and edit our submission.

    That is a big tent! Thankfully, our members have been supporting our organization for decades. That support means that we have a team of experienced program creators, proposal writers and partnership managers along with connections throughout our community, province and country.

    It's in the hands of the decision makers now and it is tough to gauge our chances. What I know is that, thanks to our community and member's support, we were able to put this together and without that history of them understanding the value of Return on Community and supporting us we wouldn't have had a chance.

    When it comes to a paid membership, the tip of the iceberg is the obvious "what's in it for me" R.O.I. stuff. Things like program accesscompany profilemember to members deals and discounts on training, job postings, workshops, space and events. While it is tangible and obvious, that alone is not enough and not nearly as valuable as the rest of that iceberg.

    The rest of the Iceberg is where the real impact is. It is the convergence of resources, relationships, reputation, social capital, financial leverage, expertise, accountability, long-term thinking, shared interests, community mindedness, capacity, curation and knowledge harnessed by an honest broker dedicated to finding and addressing the great consequential denominators among its members. That concentration of influence is the difference between the impact and potential of an iceberg versus an ice cube.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Biggest thing holding back the growth of our tech community is our ability to attract exp. talent see more

    Source: LinkedIn
    Author: Dan Gunn - CEO, VIATEC

    Getting Victoria's Tech Sector to $10billion by 2030

    VIATEC's strategic goal is focused on getting Victoria's tech sector from $4 billion to $10 billion in revenues by 2030. We call it the 10/2030 plan. We believe that the biggest thing holding back the growth of our tech community (just like everywhere) is our ability to attract experienced, senior talent. We need people who have scaled big, know what it takes and how to do it. 

    That said, those people are rare and have lots of options. Our companies have appealing opportunities for them but, in the eyes of those desired candidates, we do not have enough breadth and depth. As such, great candidates often look to larger cities where they feel more confident that there are a long list of viable companies that can use and would want their talents. It's a safer bet.

    To create more of the critical mass and awareness we need, the development of locally grown anchor companies are key. We call them Whales and are aiming to support the emergence of a $1b company with 1,000 staff. We would consider four new $250m or ten new $100m companies also a success. It's not so much about adding a $1b in revenue to the total as it is what companies like that can bring. The critical mass provided by bigger companies create attention, spinoffs and leadership that knows how to build great companies. This benefits every part of the ecosystem...big and small.

    The emergence of more locally founded and built anchor companies is a long-term goal. So, what do we do in the meantime? We set out to identify the highest potential leaders and companies and we provide them with advanced skills training.  We're not turning our back on medium size companies, lifestyle ventures or start-ups. We're focusing on building great leaders and every organization needs those. Programs that support our highest potential leaders and ventures will benefit the entire community. 

    Imagine our $4.06b tech sector and its 16,775 employees were one entity. That would make it a Fortune 500 company (or at least close). The vast majority of companies that size have programs designed to identify their top performers and their highest potential team members so that they can provide them with professional and personal development and training.

    That's what we want to do at VIATEC. Offer a Top Talent program to our members so that we can build the leaders we need to take us to $10b.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Victoria added 1,000 tech jobs to the labour force between 2012 and 2017 see more

    Source: Goldstream Gazette
    Author: Keri Coles

    Victoria named in top 10 Canadian cities for tech talent

    First time B.C.’s capital has made the list

    Victoria now ranks in the top ten cities for Canadian tech talent, according to a new report released Thursday by CBRE Canada.

    It is the first time B.C.’s capital has made the list, which analyzes the conditions, cost and quality of the labour market for highly-skilled tech workers. The rapid growth of Victoria’s tech sector and its momentum is being credited for the ranking boost.

    The 2018 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent Report, published by real estate company CBRE, notes that Victoria added 1,000 tech jobs to the labour force between 2012 and 2017 – a 16.1 per cent increase.

    While Victoria was ranked number 10, its overall score of 46.4 was almost half that of the city at the top of the list – Toronto at 87.3.

    The analysis was broken down into three indicators – tech talent employment, educational attainment and high-tech industry. Victoria was ranked 14, 10 and 6, respectively, out of the 20 cities analyzed.

    Victoria’s SaaS (Software as a Service) and high-tech manufacturing industries pushed its high-tech concentration to 3.6 per cent, well above the national average of 2.6 per cent.

    Tech is noted as one of the fastest growing industries in Greater Victoria, with a 48.3 per cent growth in high-tech industry from 2012 to 2017 and an estimated economic impact of $5.2 billion, according to Statistics Canada data.

    The report says the primary tech industries in Victoria are SaaS, ocean science, and advanced manufacturing.

    Early this year, B.C.-led Digital Technology Supercluster, of which Victoria is a part, was chosen as one of the funding recipients for the Government of Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative, created to facilitate and fund collaborative technology projects.

    It is expected to boost GDP in B.C. by more than $5 billion and create more than 13,500 jobs over the next 10 years.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The Victoria tech sector’s growth has outpaced its labour pool. It posted 30% growth the past 4 yrs. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Businesses struggle with labour shortages, bosses pitch in on frontlines

    The labour crisis that has held Greater Victoria in its grip for the last several years shows no signs of abating, and continues to force company executives and business owners to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty on the front lines.

    “It’s definitely all hands on deck,” said Al Hasham, owner of Maximum Express Courier.

    Hasham, who employs 35 people between his offices in Victoria and Vancouver, said he’s short as many as five employees right now. With the busiest time of year approaching, he is constantly looking for part-time and evening workers to pick up the slack.

    That has meant Hasham has been on the road a lot, delivering packages for Maximum clients as well as overflow from Amazon and Purolator. In between, he’s personally looking after the company’s overall operation.

    “The last few years it’s been tough,” Hasham said. The company has asked some full-time, permanent staff to take on additional weekend and evening work that would normally be farmed out to part-time and casual staff. “It really is all hands on deck ... we have to do whatever we can, but everyone is hurting.”

    Hotel Grand Pacific general manager Reid James is no stranger to loosening his tie and rolling up his sleeves as he and his executives have had to pitch in and clean rooms and take on other front-line tasks wherever necessary. This year, facing the prospect of another banner visitation year, Hotel Grand Pacific managed to hire early and retain enough staff to handle the crush of tourists at the height of summer. Other properties have not been so fortunate, James said.

    “People are doing more with less,” said James. “At some smaller properties, I know managers who are cleaning rooms and bussing tables.”

    James said the Hotel Grand has been forced to operate most of this year without a full complement of staff. At its best, the hotel had six vacant positions.

    “I’ve heard of some places where the vacant positions are double that, and some larger hotels where it’s as high as 40 positions,” James said.

    “We continue to struggle with the more skilled positions like the kitchen and in some areas like bellmen and guest services,” he said. “The good ones are hard to find and to keep.”

    Victoria businesses have been feeling the squeeze for some time.

    The regional economy has hummed along for the last several years, and Victoria has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. In October, it remained at 3.9 per cent, the second-lowest unemployment rate, behind only Guelph at 3.3 per cent.

    Despite solid net migration numbers to the province (in 2017 B.C. had a net gain of 20,000 people, 5,000 of those coming from other provinces), economic growth and demand for workers has continued to outstrip the labour supply.

    “Right now there is a real war for talent,” said Frank Bourree, principal of Chemistry Consulting, which works on human resources issues. “At the higher-paid professions, it’s not that bad. But in Victoria where there’s a construction boom and we have a burgeoning tech sector, it’s brutal.”

    Bourree said the problem is the demographic mix, not just in Victoria but across Canada.

    “Growing economies like Canada and the U.S. have an aging population, while countries like Spain and France have a much younger population. Spain has something like 40 per cent youth unemployment right now,” he said.

    Bourree said Victoria will have to continue to encourage older workers to remain in the workforce longer and tap into younger workers over the age of 15 to a greater degree. “And we can work on more in-migration from other provinces.” He noted that it falls to the federal government to act. “The feds opened up 40,000 more spaces for immigration this year with new programs, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we need across the country.”

    The province’s recently released labour outlook study showed there will be 903,000 job openings between now and 2028, including the creation of 288,000 new jobs due to economic growth.

    The study also revealed while most of the job openings would be in the Lower Mainland, 17 per cent would be on Vancouver Island, meaning 153,820 job openings.

    “While we do have a shortage, this isn’t a Victoria problem, this isn’t a tech problem. This is a global problem in the technology industry at least,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council.

    Gunn said the Victoria tech sector’s growth has outpaced its labour pool. It posted 30 per cent growth over the last four years.

    “As a result, our companies are having to look far and wide to find the talent they need to keep up with the opportunities in front of them,” he said.

    One arrow in the tech sector’s quiver could be a planned road show involving VIATEC, the City of Victoria and the South Island Prosperity Project, which early in 2019 intends to tour Western Canada to entice tech workers to the Island.

    Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi led a similar tour to Vancouver recently to entice workers from the mainland to head to Alberta, highlighting the fact the labour shortage is not isolated to B.C.

    “The nice thing is we can compete in many ways with our quality of life and cost of living, which in Victoria is quite low for the character and quality of life it offers on a global scale,” said Gunn.

    But it can be a tougher sale when some workers are looking at the relative cost of living and working on the Prairies.

    Rory Kulmala, chief executive of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, said that cost, housing availability and affordability makes it hard to compete for skilled trades.

    Kulmala said the shortage of labour may have slowed the pace of building in the region, but “I believe we have punched above our weight.”

    “Despite all that, we seem to be getting things done. There always seems to be another crane gong up,” he said. “The sector seems to have aligned itself to the tempo of how to work in this busy environment.”

    The construction sector still sees value in continuing its work to reach high school students early to get them to consider a career in the trades.

    There is plenty of room for growth in that area, as Kulmala notes only one in 70 students chooses to go into the trades.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    VIATEC puts their FREE tech expo on at the Crystal Garden Feb 23, 2018 from 11am to 6pm see more


    VIATEC puts their FREE tech expo on at the Crystal Garden Feb 23, 2018 from 11am to 6pm

    Victoria, BC (February 22, 2018) - Discover Tectoria is the Island's BIGGEST Tech Expo and it’s taking over the Crystal Garden from 11am to 6pm on February 23rd. This year’s showcase features 76 booths over two floors, a great lineup of panel discussions, science demos for kids, VR experiences, a “Jam Hut”, samples from Victoria Beer Week, the Spirit of Tomorrow car and more. The expo, organized by VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology & Entrepreneurship Council), will feature a:

    • Main floor Tradeshow
      (local companies demonstrating products, hiring talent and co-op students)

    • The Creativity Hub, sponsored by BC Public Service Agency
      (A collection of interactive tech displays, showcasing our city's most excellent creativity)

    • Startup Alley, sponsored by Work BC
      (get a sneak peek at the future of Tectoria)

    • The UVic Research District
      (see some amazing projects post-secondary students have put together)

    • The Innovation Theatre, sponsored by TD Canada Trust
      (a line-up of great talks and panel discussions - schedule TBA soon!)

    • The Combustion Chamber
      (Science Venture LIVE demos for the kids!)

    • Partner Row, sponsored by Royal Roads University
      (a group of incredibly useful organizations that serve businesses and the community).

    VIATEC is once again taking full advantage of the tri-district Pro-D Day scheduled on the same day and is encouraging parents to bring their kids to enjoy a full day of exploration.

    Youth get a glimpse into a future working in tech, post-secondary students and job seekers get to meet potential employers, local and visiting investors can check out some up-and-coming businesses, and tech companies get to showcase their products and services to thousands of attendees.

    “We created this event in 2003 to showcase the innovation taking place right here in Victoria,” explains Dan Gunn, CEO of VIATEC. “Discover Tectoria gives our local tech companies a platform where they can be seen and heard by investors, media, job seekers and youth. We are aiming to draw out 4,000 attendees, many of which will make up the leaders and vital team members of our community in the immediate and near future. There’s no better way to inspire our future tech workers than filling a space with all the opportunities, creative minds and unworldly inventions.”

    Simultaneously, VIATEC, the City of Victoria, the Capital Investment Network and NACO are hosting the Western Regional Angel Summit for a contingent of visiting angel and VC investors which kicked off on February 21 and runs until the February 23. Invitees are experiencing first-hand the city’s highly sought after quality of life, including how easy it is to travel to and from Victoria, the vibrancy of our innovative business community and the depth of our local deal flow. The trip will finish with a visit to Discover Tectoria.

    For the full Program and Exhibitor Map, click here.

    [Exhibitor Directory 2018]

    [2017 Video Recap]

    [2017 Photo Gallery]


    Dan Gunn




    VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council), started in 1989. Our mission is to serve as the one-stop hub that connects people, knowledge and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria technology sector (Victoria's biggest industry).

    We work closely with our members to offer a variety of events, programs and services. In addition, VIATEC serves as the front door of the local tech sector and as its spokesperson. To better support local innovators, we acquired our own building (Fort Tectoria) where we offer flexible and affordable office space to emerging local companies along with a gathering/event space for local entrepreneurs. www.viatec.ca

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The event features tech companies of all stripes and stages, from start-up experimental technology.. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Tectoria showcase opens tech sector to community

    Crystal Garden will be brimming with life, both actual and virtual, on Friday as Victoria’s technology sector pulls back the curtains for what has become its annual open house, Discover Tectoria.

    The one-day event organized by the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council will welcome up to 4,000 people of all ages into the showcase that has become a recruiting tool as much as it is about showing off the tech sector.

    “It used to be, back in 2003, that no one believed there was a technology sector in Victoria, so we had this thing that was an opportunity to see it all in one place,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of VIATEC. “But as the sector has grown and demand for people has increased - It’s morphed into a career-profiling, day-in-the-life kind of thing.”

    The event features tech companies of all stripes and stages, from start-up experimental technology firms to established gaming and engineering outfits.

    Almost all of them are growing and in need of people and investment to expand.

    Victoria's tech sector has set a new goal for itself — to have its constituent firms more than double their existing combined revenue to $10 billion by 2030. Currently, it collectively has just over $4 billion in annual revenues from its 904 companies and employs about 20,000 people.

    “There are big career elements at Discover Tectoria. Companies are hiring, picking up co-op students for work terms and even listing what kinds of things you should be taking in school if you want to work in their space,” said Gunn, noting the event is deliberately held on professional development days in the school district to encourage students to explore what’s possible.

    “Most students don’t know what a tech career looks like because you don’t see that on TV, but this is a chance to meet people face-to-face see what they make and find out how they got there.”

    It’s also a chance for anyone interested in the sector — be it someone considering a career change, just curious, media or policy makers wanting to understand the sector. “There are lots of people who have been hearing about the tech sector in Victoria don’t see it first hand because we don’t sell a lot of product here, so it’s an opportunity for the curious, no matter what age or stage of career to come out and get a better sense of it all,” he said.

    Discover Tectoria has 76 company booths on two floors, trade show, panel discussions, science demonstrations, virtual reality exhibits, a jam hut and samples from Victoria Beer Week. There is also start-up alley for new firms finding their feet, research projects from the University of Victoria, and interactive experiences to try. The showcase is open to all 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at Crystal Garden. There is no admission charge.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    “To find skilled and experienced talent has been difficult and it’s probably the biggest thing... see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Greater Victoria struggles to fill jobs

    Greater Victoria is facing an employment “crisis” and it will take a multi-pronged attack to deal with it, according to a human resources consultant.

    Statistics Canada reported the country had an unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent — a 40-year low — in December and that Victoria now has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.4 per cent.

    Frank Bourree, principal of Chemistry Consulting in Victoria, said inaction is not an option as businesses scramble to attract workers.

    “This can only be solved through immigration, workforce housing and better transportation and daycare, or it’s only going to get worse, because I don’t see the economy going south anytime soon,” said Bourree.

    His firm oversees Work B.C.’s employment centres.

    “It is a crisis. We have been tracking this for the last six years and our caseloads have been dropping dramatically, and they took a real dip last year.”

    Bourree said a booming economy that has raised most sectors and a shift in demographics as Baby Boomers continue to leave the workforce has played a role in exacerbating the problem of finding workers.

    “And in each of the sectors, we are not getting migration from other provinces anymore because they are doing well,” Bourree said. He noted that potential workers are also put off by the cost of housing in Victoria, as well as barriers such as lack of childcare spaces and overburdened transportation infrastructure. “Here, the workforce is in the West Shore and the work is downtown.”

    The biggest issue, however, is that immigration has not kept pace with the shrinking workforce, said Bourree, noting some effort has been made to open the gates. “It’s now easier to bring skilled workers, but harder to bring in two-year temporary foreign workers and to be honest, that’s what we need.”

    Victoria’s 3.4 per cent unemployment rate represents a slight change from the 3.3 per cent recorded in November, and is well off the 5.0 noted in December 2016. According Statistics Canada, the total number of people employed in Victoria increased to 193,300 in December, up from 186,600 in December 2016, while the Greater Victoria labour force grew to 200,100 from 196,500 the year before.

    While the unemployment rate is very low, it’s still well off the lowest Victoria has seen. In May 2008, the rate hit 2.8 per cent.

    “I would say [the lack of skilled workers] isn’t a 2017 or 2018 problem, but it’s been an ongoing challenge for the growing tech companies in Victoria,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council. “To find skilled and experienced talent has been difficult and it’s probably the biggest thing holding back growth.”

    Gunn said while the city — and tech sector in particular — has never focused as much attention on the problem as now, it still has to compete with a strong national economy that demands workers.

    Locally, the tech sector has seen steady demand for workers. The VIATEC job board has posted more than 1,100 jobs over the last year and has consistently had about 100 jobs on its board each month. “When the economy was overheating in 2007, we saw between 140 and 170 jobs, and we don’t want to see that again, so we have to keep working to attract more people,” Gunn said.

    Statistics Canada’s survey found that the biggest gains over the last year were seen in retail and wholesale trade, which boasted 26,500 jobs in December, up from 24,000 the year previous. The finance, insurance and real estate sector added 2,300 new positions and the accommodation and food-services sector added 3,500 positions.

    Those gains were offset by a decline in the business, building and support-services sector, shedding 4,600 positions since December 2016, and information, culture and recreation sector, losing 2,000 positions.

    Canada’s low unemployment rate was due to 13 straight months of job creation, but it has economists warning it could push the Bank of Canada to raise its key overnight interest rate by 25 basis points later this month to 1.25 per cent.

    Statistics Canada reported the largest employment gains in December were observed in Quebec and Alberta, with the former adding 27,000 jobs for a 4.9 per cent unemployment rate and the latter generating 26,000 jobs for a rate of 6.9 per cent.

    B.C. closed out the year with an employment growth rate of 3.4 per cent, with 83,000 additional jobs, with almost all of the gains in full-time jobs.

    In the 12 months to December, the unemployment rate in B.C. fell by 1.2 percentage points to 4.6 per cent, the lowest among all provinces.

    Job-creation numbers follow Canadian economic signals that have been positive for some time, said TD Economics senior economist Brian DePratto.

    “If you go back and look at the economic growth figures Canada was putting out late last year, early this year, we saw very, very robust growth across effectively all sectors of the economy,” he said. “I think to some extent we’re seeing catch-up activity from the output of the economy on the employment side.”

    Matthew Stewart, director of national forecast for the Conference Board of Canada, said he is concerned about a tight labour market going forward but added business should be pleased with wage increases shown by the statistics. “Slower, more sustainable job growth is in store for the year ahead,” he said in a statement.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    “Our companies are much better prepared for these swings and much more savvy in the strategies to.." see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Not all B.C. manufacturers taking advantage of low loonie, but some are making hay

    The Canadian dollar’s relative weakness to the U.S. greenback should have B.C. manufacturers in a stronger position than they currently are, according to the chairman of the B.C. Alliance for Manufacturing.

    Marcus Ewert-Johns said that while the manufacturing sector in B.C. is doing fairly well, it would be doing much better had it taken advantage of opportunities to trim costs, invest in operations and improve productivity when it had the chance.

    “The last time the Canadian dollar went low [the high 60-cent range to low 70-cent range], companies should have made capital investments — and most didn’t,” Ewert-Johns said.

    If they had improved their productivity, such companies would have been able to take advantage of the current climate, where the loonie is trading at below 80 cents US, he said.

    “Manufacturing in B.C. could be doing so much better if productivity was strengthened and a larger skilled labour force was available.”

    Currently, the Canadian dollar is trading at a price near 78.50 cents US. While the loonie has been rising against the greenback, this still puts B.C. manufacturers in an advantageous position.

    “If B.C’s guys are doing what they should be doing, when the Canadian dollar goes down, they do well,” Ewert-Johns said. “Most manufacturers are in a niche space, where they are doing something unique, and that means they have a global market as an opportunity so they are exporting.

    “If they are doing sales in U.S. dollars and their costs are Canadian, then it’s an advantage for them.”

    Victoria’s Sherwood Industries has been taking advantage of that opportunity for 28 years.

    The company, which manufactures pellet, wood and gas stoves and fireplaces, employs about 200 people at its 100,000-square-foot facility in the Keating industrial area in Saanichton.

    Sherwood is reporting a 23 per cent increase in sales, and has improved its bottom line as the vast majority of its sales are international and in American dollars. Fifty-eight per cent of all sales are in the U.S.

    Sherwood president Cherbel Yousief said the company has invested more than $4 million in recent years to improve its equipment and productivity.

    “We invested heavily and in the [economic] downturn. We slammed on the brakes and did some changes to the business model,” he said, noting those moves translated into a leaner company with more capital to invest. “We have never lagged behind other manufacturers. We invested heavily in automation. … We have always been on the cutting edge of productivity.”

    The result has been a company able to react quickly to changes in the marketplace, vice-president Stuart O’Connor said.

    “We have expanded our business and now we’re more efficient,” he said.

    O’Connor said they have focused heavily on expanding their gas business, which showed the greatest growth potential, and spent research-and-development money on new models to grab more of that market share.

    O’Connor said the company’s new production equipment also enables it to work on smaller batches — 18-20 units instead of hundreds at a time. That turns product out faster, cuts down on dead inventory and frees up cash.

    “Business models change and companies don’t want to have inventory lying around,” Yousief said.

    Victoria’s tech sector is also making short-term hay out of the relatively weak loonie.

    Scott Phillips, founder of Starfish Medical, which designs and develops medical devices for the global market, said its profitability is buoyed by the weak dollar.

    “But in the long term, if more talent drains to the U.S., it’s bad for the tech industry overall,” Phillips said. “So we wouldn’t welcome further weakening.”

    Phillips said the volatility of the Canadian dollar has made planning difficult.

    “For purposes of planning and investment, we are assuming an 80-cent dollar. But we have to build scenarios for other rates into our planning,” he said.

    Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, said dealing with currency fluctuations is just part of being a Canadian company.

    “Our local tech sector is heavily export-focused, so they have had to learn how to manage their operations to mitigate and leverage currency swings as much as possible,” he said. “Sometimes it provides an advantage and sometimes it is a hindrance, depending on your company’s particular markets and business segments.

    “One thing is for sure,” Gunn said. “Our companies are much better prepared for these swings and much more savvy in the strategies to deal with them than they were a few decades ago.”

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    It seems Victoria has its entrepreneurial wings at last... see more

    Source: Douglas Magazine
    Author: Pamela Roth

    Victoria Is a City of Entrepreneurs

    With angel investors arriving en masse this spring, and startups, popups and meetups infusing our lingo, it seems Victoria has its entrepreneurial wings at last. But don’t expect a copycat of Silicon Valley. This city has its own vibrant attitude...

    [Click to read more]

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Dan Gunn was one of the first presenters — he talked about magnetic cities see more

    Source: The Enterprise Bulletin

    Innovation alive and well at inaugural TEDX

    Dan Gunn, CEO of VIATEC, kicked off the event as the first presenter

    COLLINGWOOD - TED Talks (Technology, Education and Design) have introduced a myriad of thought-provoking discussions with topics ranging from changes in technology to social justice.

    It’s an exclusive event, with high-ticket prices and even higher aspirations.

    Collingwood got a taste of that as the inaugural TEDx conference filled the Gayety Theatre last week with a wide range of topics to spark discussion.

    And that’s just what organizers Chris Kelleher and Martin Rydlo were hoping for.

    “I think everyone is craving knowledge and wants something big in this town. We thought that this would be a hit, so we started plans about a year ago and have a perfect team of four dramatically different individuals. It was really based on the community, the growth of the community, thought leadership, discussions, networking and getting them talking,” said Kelleher.

    TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission: “ideas worth spreading.” It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

    For an entrepreneurial-minded town like Collingwood, this seemed to be a perfect fit.

    “I sort of got attached to this when I was overseas, and I met Martin when he first came to town about TEDx. We started a speaker series, and we started growing this and we just needed someone else to help us grow this,” Kelleher.

    Kelleher knew they had a nucleus but were looking for one more piece.

    “We met Brandon Houston — he’s run two in Chatham — and we all had this vision of growing this in this town. We all had a shared interest,” said Kelleher.

    Rydlo, director of marketing and business for the Town of Collingwood, felt that TEDx provided a perfect platform to bring together the knowledge leaders in the area.

    “What’s really interesting is the variety of speakers that TEDx allows you to have. There are so many great speakers here or people who have connections with great speakers,” says Rydlo. “In a lot of cases a lot of presentations rely on one keynote presenter. In this case, we are able to offer variety and diversity. I think, in Collingwood, we have so many opportunities in front of us, the variety of presentations is actually what is stimulating that audience right now.”

    Interest in the conference was surprising for Kelleher and Rydlo, having 900 people registered for a venue that held over 200 and interest from 40 speakers.

    “Dan Gunn was one of the first presenters — he talked about magnetic cities — and Collingwood is one of those places that he said I see a lot of things here that Victoria had 20 years ago when it was a magnetic city. That’s the opportunity that we have ahead of us, we have the opportunity,” says Rydlo. “There is something different that is happening in Collingwood. It is that magnetic energy that is drawing in more and more people that is letting us have events like this.”

    The idea seems to have worked.

    “Overall, I think that this town craved this. We have done these speaker engagements before with only one presenter. This is 11 and two performers so we get this variety,” said Rydlo.

    Both men feel that an event like this shows the true face of innovation in the area, which just a little over 20 years ago suffered devastating loses in jobs and expertise with the closing of the shipyards and an number of manufacturing plants.

    “And the community is just in its infancy of what it’s to become. Everyone thinks this is it ... it has just started,” says Kelleher. “We have an amazing sense of community, getting new ideas and thinking differently, people are just open-minded.”

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The annual three-day summit brings together international venture capitalists and established techno see more

    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.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    “I don’t think there’s any harm in raising your hand, but we’ll see what Amazon’s reaction is.” see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Katie DeRosa

    Langford to battle big US cities for Amazon's second HQ

    The City of Langford plans to compete with cities such as Denver, Chicago and Atlanta in a bid to house retail giant Amazon’s second headquarters. 

    Amazon has said it plans to invest $5 billion in a second headquarters in North America. It will eventually house 50,000 employees.

    Langford Mayor Stew Young said Friday that the municipality’s affordable housing options, business-friendly attitude and proximity to quality universities and colleges make it a viable place for one of the biggest tech companies in the world to set down roots.

    “I know there’s a lot of competition, but we just need to make sure we give it our best shot because it would help our community in the long run.”

    Young said 120 acres of land near the Leigh Road interchange — which he would rename Amazon Way — could accommodate the headquarters, which would have an initial footprint of 500,000 square feet and eventually expand up to eight million square feet over the next decade. He said the land is already zoned for commercial use.

    “A company this size will generate income and jobs for a very long time and it will be beneficial for the whole Vancouver Island region,” Young said.

    “When you look at the region, you’ve got Camosun College, Royal Roads, you’ve got good access to the labour pool and the talent that’s required.”

    One Victoria tech expert thinks the bid is a long shot.

    The 50,000 employees Amazon would need to work in the second headquarters is more than double the current high-tech workforce in Greater Victoria, said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council.

    “So it would take a heck of a lot of work to attract that many people and house them and find a way for them to plug into the community,” Gunn said. “We’d never say no to the opportunity, so if Amazon is interested, they should by all means give us a call. But I think that’s more than we can provide at this time.”

    Young acknowledged that Langford doesn’t meet all of Amazon’s criteria, which includes a metropolitan area with more than one million people and the ability to attract and retain strong tech talent.

    The company also wants the headquarters to be within 45 minutes of an international airport, close to major roads and highways and have access to mass transit.

    Amazon’s existing headquarters is a sprawling 33-building campus in Seattle.

    Gunn said even if the Amazon pitch doesn’t fly, it sends a message that Langford is actively courting tech companies.

    “I think there’s great opportunity for Langford to expand its tech footprint, because right now it’s quite small,” he said.

    Young said he has a team of business owners and municipal staff who are working on submitting the bid by Oct. 19.

    “The tech industry is best served by innovators that are bold and brash and ambitious, so you don’t know if you don’t try,” Gunn said.

    “I don’t think there’s any harm in raising your hand, but we’ll see what Amazon’s reaction is.”