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!
It requires collaboration, leverage, dedicated resources, long term effort and focus to... see more
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), UVic, UBC and the Alacrity Foundation. We benefitted greatly from Erin Athene's ongoing work (Ladies Learning Code, Flip the Switch event and the BLAST Program), consultation from Communitech's Fierce Founders program and our Board Chair, Bobbi 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 access, company profile, member 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.
Biggest thing holding back the growth of our tech community is our ability to attract exp. talent see more
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.
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.
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.
VIATEC puts their FREE tech expo on at the Crystal Garden Feb 23, 2018 from 11am to 6pm see more
DISCOVER TECTORIA TO SHOW OFF LOCAL TECH WITH ONE-DAY EXPO
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.
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
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.
“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.
“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.”
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...
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.”
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.
“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.”
“Tech has now arrived, it’s proud and showing off a bit more.” see more
Source: Capital Magazine
Author: Andrew Duffy
Victoria’s tech industry breathes life into downtown
Victoria’s downtown core, which has been much maligned over the years as a dead zone where retail went to die, is very much alive and thriving these days — and it owes a portion of its renaissance to the region’s soaring technology sector.
The high-tech sector, which boasts annual revenues in excess of $4 billion and is considered the city’s most valuable industry, has found a solid fit in the city’s downtown, filling in upper-floor and hard-to-rent offices. And the city seems to have responded in kind, flourishing with new retail offerings, cafes, pubs, restaurants, services and a host of new residential buildings.
While no one in the tech sector is about to claim full responsibility for the life breathed into the downtown, it’s hard to avoid linking the fortunes of the two.
“Tech has been a huge economic boon to downtown,” said Marc Foucher of Colliers International Victoria. “There are 380 tech firms operating in downtown Victoria alone and they are employing people who walk out for coffee every morning, eat lunch downtown, shop after work, go to yoga.
“I’m not at all surprised that retail is coming back downtown. There are more shops, more vacant retail fronts are being leased up and following on that are the number of condos and rental buildings going up in Victoria. Tech is not responsible for all of it, but it plays a role.”
According to Colliers’ most recent retail market overview, tech, tourism and increased downtown residential building have resulted in the retail vacancy rate dropping to 5.45 per cent at the end of last year compared to 8.53 per cent at the end of 2015.
And Colliers’ last office-tenant demand profile study in 2015 showed that of all lease deals done in the region, tech and digital media accounted for 49 per cent, with government deals accounting for just 23 per cent.
In the downtown core, tech accounted for 90,000 square feet of space leased in 2015 while government leasing accounted for 111,000 square feet.
Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, known as VIATEC, said tech companies have been downtown a long time, but they are just now starting to make their presence felt by the sheer weight of their numbers.
“The difference is the success they are having now and the size they are now,” said Gunn, noting there were more than 300 firms in the core five years ago. “Tech has now arrived, it’s proud and showing off a bit more.”
He believes the establishment of VIATEC at the highly visible Fort Tectoria (777 Fort St.) and shared-space tech buildings such as The Summit (838 Fort St.), 844 Courtenay St., 955 View St. and SpaceStation (517 Fort St.) have provided natural hubs where tech workers can get together and experience a sense of community.
“We wanted a retail street-level presence so people could identify and see the evidence of the tech sector,” said Gunn of VIATEC’s return to the downtown core in 2014. “Until then, tech had been largely invisible.”
There’s no missing them now, and Gunn said that will continue as young companies who want to succeed have learned they need to be in desirable locations, close to amenities and on transit routes to attract and retain talent.
“Having a good place to go for lunch or a beer, the amenities for day-to-day life are key considerations,” he said. “Downtown cores are appealing to tech companies and staff because of all they have to offer.”
Tobyn Sowden, chief executive at software developer Redbrick, said they have always been a downtown company, starting in Market Square and now occupying a large open-floor space on a second floor on Store Street.
“We were attracted to this building because we knew we could really customize it to meet our needs, and we worked with some amazing local designers and contractors to do just that,” said Sowden. “We are adamant about helping to promote a great work-life balance, and with so many of our team members walking, cycling and sometimes even running to work, being centrally located downtown is extremely important to us.”
Sowden said the company feeds off the new energy downtown and the downtown seems to be doing the same in reaction to the influx of tech companies.
“The amenities around us have multiplied and expanded since we opened up shop in 2011, and though we have a weakness for the amazing coffee shops and pubs nearby, we can't take full credit for their growth,” he said. “That said, I don’t think we can live without them; at the very least, our productivity would suffer without all of the coffee and lunch options at our doorstep.”
Catherine Holt, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Chamber, said the tech sector has played a big role in creating the new vibe downtown. However, she is quick to point out it’s not the only factor.
“Visitors and new downtown residents is what is re-invigorating downtown and absolutely the tech sector is a big part of that,” she said, noting the tech sector may not sell a lot of product or service here, but its workers do spend a lot of money in the city.
A portion of Victoria's Airport has been transformed into the “Tectoria Innovation Station" see more
“Tectoria Innovation Station” to launch at the Victoria International Airport
Ribbon cutting to take place February 20, 2017 at 11am
VICTORIA, BC (February 15, 2017) - A portion of Victoria International Airport’s Arrival Rotunda has been transformed into the “Tectoria Innovation Station,” a new interactive exhibit heralding Greater Victoria’s long history of innovation and entrepreneurship and the thriving tech sector that developed as a result.
The installation features a mad scientist's laboratory complete with transparent video screens and detailed historical accounts of our region’s innovations all surrounded by intricate pipes, gauges and switches to catch the attention of passersby and draw them in for a closer look. It was developed specifically to give the local technology sector added awareness, airport guests an added experience, and potential talent and investors a place to go for more information, whYYJ.ca.
VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology & Entrepreneurship Council) and the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA), have spent the last 10 years informally exploring ways to work together to spread the word about our top local industry, technology. ”When we heard that the Victoria Airport Authority had a potential area that we could utilize to build an intriguing interactive exhibit we jumped at the chance,” Dan Gunn, VIATEC CEO explained. “We quickly started developing concepts on something that would be out of the ordinary and soon after opened discussions with potential funding partners.”
“Technology plays such an integral role in our local economy,” says Geoff Dickson, VAA President and CEO. “We’re pleased to partner with VIATEC and showcase this interactive display. It’s a great way for us to support Victoria’s technology sector and to provide our passengers and the public with a unique experience and opportunity to learn about the positive contributions it makes to the region.”
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and South Island Prosperity Project (Prosperity Project) were intrigued and agreed to dedicate some of the funding they had received from Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) to the project.
”It takes a village to raise an economy and we are very grateful to the Victoria Airport Authority and our funding partners for making this possible,” acclaimed Dan Gunn. “With 1.85 million visitors walking through the gates at one of the world’s greatest airports, we are fortunate to be offered the opportunity to build a presence at the primary gateway to our community. Tourism is our best draw and once people are hooked on our island lifestyle many of them want to stay. We believe this exhibit will give the ones that want to move here, the info they need to understand how they might find a job or, better yet, invest in or create a new company here.”
"We're proud to be part of the team that brought this project to life,” said Emilie de Rosenroll, Executive Director of the Prosperity Project. “The Tectoria Innovation Station is a way to raise the profile of our local entrepreneurial culture, and it will help the Prosperity Project connect with new companies and established entrepreneurs through the whYYJ.ca website."
“The Tectoria Innovation Station is one of several joint projects that the Greater Victoria Chamber has undertaken over the past three years to support trade and investment,” said Catherine Holt, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. “Thanks to funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada and stakeholders throughout the region, we have been able to bring the right people together to see outcomes, like this one, that will resonate within our community and economy for years.”
The unveiling will take place on February 20, 2017 at 11am in the Arrivals Rotunda of the Victoria International Airport. Following a few announcements and a ribbon cutting, media and the public are encouraged to take the first steps through the installation.
ABOUT THE DESIGN
With the vision statement that, “Innovation, entrepreneurship and technology has shaped Victoria’s present, past and inspires our potential going forward.” VIATEC sought out local designer and fabricator, Russell Papp, to bring a “Mad Scientist’s Lab” theme to fruition. Russell is well known for projects around town including the Phillip’s Beer Wagons and some of Tourism Victoria’s exhibits last October.
Airport visitors will get to peer into portals containing Holografyx Showcase video displays, press buttons and gears, and flip through drafting table designs containing bits of Victoria’s rich, innovative history. From aviation, to shipbuilding, ocean sciences and education. The first video features short overviews of AXYS Technologies, FTS and Viking Air. The drafting table features are opening with historical overviews of key elements of our economy, and VIATEC is encouraging locals to submit suggested additions and corrections, so that the exhibit is ever-changing and improving. A feedback form on the whYYJ.ca web site will make it easy for people to provide suggested edits and updates.
Your readers, listeners and viewers are welcome to learn even more about how to connect with, join or learn more about the local tech scene by attending Discover Tectoria on February 24, 2017 from 11am to 6pm at the Crystal Garden. www.discovertectoria.com
Marketing & Events Director, VIATEC
e: email@example.com, c: 250-896-7668