• Dom Ohl posted an article
    Innovation commission to support B.C. commercialization, jobs and economy see more


    Innovation commission to support B.C. commercialization, jobs and economy

    Technology entrepreneurs and businesses throughout British Columbia will be better able to access provincial funding and support through Innovate BC, the Province’s new innovation commission.

    The British Columbia Innovation Council Amendment Act, introduced in the legislature today, proposes to expand the mandate of the BC Innovation Council. The Crown agency will be renamed Innovate BC.

    “Innovation is the lifeblood of a successful economy, and your government is working to ensure the benefits of our tech and innovation sector are felt by people in all regions of our province,” said Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology Bruce Ralston. “By making Innovate BC a single point of contact for entrepreneurs and businesses across B.C., we will ensure people get the help they need to create good jobs and benefit from the opportunities of the emerging economy.”

    The innovation commission is a component of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. Green Party caucus, to provide a single point of contact for tech businesses throughout the province looking to build capacity, reach global markets, attract new investment and access startup capital. Recognizing its potential to support B.C. tech, the provincial government has adopted the concept as part of its efforts to help B.C. innovators thrive.

    Innovate BC will be B.C.’s primary agency to promote company growth, resulting in jobs, increased revenue and economic development, and ensuring that all regions of the province benefit from the opportunities of the emerging economy.

    “Innovate BC will help entrepreneurs seize the exciting opportunities of the 21st-century economy,” said B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. “This key B.C. Green platform commitment was developed through consultation with tech sector leaders. Their creativity and ambition are deeply inspiring, and I am delighted to support them as they drive B.C.’s economy. In addition to supporting the thriving tech sector in our cities, Innovate BC’s provincewide mandate will help link tech with our resource centres so that communities across the province can benefit from these exciting opportunities.”

    The Crown agency will also provide tech entrepreneurs provincewide with tools, resources and expert guidance, and support Indigenous entrepreneurship by working with the First Nations Technology Council.

    Innovate BC will absorb all the programs and services currently delivered by the BC Innovation Council, in addition to expanding its mandate. These changes will ensure that B.C. is more competitive nationally and globally, and can attract additional investment to scale up the provincial tech ecosystem.

    Innovate BC will make recommendations to government on how to best create science, technology and innovation policy that promotes the commercialization of B.C. technologies.

    “With this expanded mandate, we are excited to continue to power our province’s economic engine through the exchange of innovation into traditional and emerging industries,” said BC Innovation Council president and CEO Shirley Vickers. “Across B.C., we’ll serve as a single point of contact for both tech companies and enterprise that need programs and funding that support company growth and competitiveness.”

    Innovate BC’s board of directors will have regional representation when it is announced this spring. In collaboration with the board, the B.C. government will work with industry stakeholders to review programs that support the tech and innovation sector provincewide. BC Innovation Council staff will be absorbed by Innovate BC.

    Quick Facts:

    • In February 2018, Alan Winter was appointed B.C.’s first innovation commissioner as an advocate for the tech and innovation sector in Ottawa, the Cascadia Innovation Corridor and abroad.
    • The commissioner will strengthen national and cross-border relationships and help leverage federal funding programs in support of B.C.’s tech and innovation sector to benefit B.C. innovators and employers.
    • Innovate BC and the innovation commissioner are separate entities, but they will work together closely to ensure alignment of efforts.
    • The Government of British Columbia and the State of Washington have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the Cascadia Innovation Corridor to grow cross-border innovation.
    • The BC Innovation Council was established in 2004.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Gunn estimates VIATEC fields 60 calls a year from small firms thinking of relocating to the city. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    People come to Victoria for many reasons: temperate climate, west coast air and lifestyle, the small-town feel of the city and a spectrum of cultures that mix around the edges. But for young technology firms looking for a place to establish themselves and grow, or mature tech companies looking for an outpost, it’s not the craft beer, festival culture or green-tinged lifestyle that hooks them.

    It’s the talent.

    And Victoria appears to have plenty of it.

    Clayton Stark, who runs gaming studio Kixeye, said the chance to get truly great talent is one of the reasons the California-based company established its Victoria location in 2012.

    “Not all creative and technical people are created equal and because we have less competition for the A-players here it is within the realm of possibility that you could get an A-player,” Stark said.

    He noted top-flight engineers and developers in a place like Silicon Valley can cost a company millions of dollars. “The value of emerging talent in emerging markets like ours can be so much higher.”

    But landing that talent is tough when a company is competing with the likes of Google or Apple, which have immense resources., the San Francisco-based site that provides a tool to help campaigns attract attention and support, saw the possibility to tap into Victoria’s wealth of engineering talent when it opened its office in August 2014.

    “They were looking to expand in Silicon Valley, but there’s a lot of competition for engineers,” said Chris Campbell, who runs Change’s Victoria office, made up almost entirely of engineers.

    “We said why not consider a Victoria office? We know a team of guys we could probably get to come as a group.”

    And they did. Last year Change started with six and it has grown steadily to 18, and could be 25 people by the end of the year.

    “Talent is what led to the office here for sure. We’ve had a lot of success in recruiting and management finds that very encouraging and is looking at doubling down its efforts to recruit in Victoria,” Campbell said. He added the lower overhead cost of office space compared with Silicon Valley and a competitive dollar don’t hurt, either.

    Some of the talent comes from the schools. The University of Victoria, Royal Roads and Camosun College combine to bring just under 40,000 students here at any given time. But some of the talent simply finds its way to the Island.

    Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Advanced Technology Council (VIATEC), said after 10 years of getting the light to shine on the Victoria tech scene, people in the big cities are starting to take notice.

    “We are starting to get some of that momentum,” he said.

    Gunn said technology has grown into to a $4-billion industry in Greater Victoria, employing more than 15,000 people directly,

    Gunn said he is now seeing people come to Victoria based on its lifestyle, climate and livability and worrying about what they’ll do once they’re settled. “They have chosen the life they want and then they’ll find the living,” he said. “A lot of people just move and then plug in to the city, and see what’s available or going on.”

    Lifestyle was a key consideration for Vecima Networks, which moved its headquarters, executives and research and development department to Victoria in 1997, while leaving its manufacturing division in Saskatchewan.

    “Our culture has always placed a high emphasis on work-life balance. Victoria offers excellent opportunities to our people in that regard and our strategy in locating here has been by and large very successful,” said chief executive Sumit Kumar. “Talent retention has been an area of strength for Vecima. We view being situated here as contributing greatly to leveraging that strength to build teams of highly engaged and productive people.”

    For Silkstart, a four-year-old Vancouver-based firm that develops websites for associations to improve their service to members, the move to Victoria 18 months ago was both for lifestyle and a chance to grow using the local talent.

    Shaun Jamieson, the firm’s chief executive, said after years working for Abebooks/Amazon, he wanted to build the company here. “It’s hard to find good people, but there are really good people that are here for a lifestyle reason. They want a place to raise kids or they are into the outdoors,” he said. “I felt I could build a good company here.”

    The company, which recently completed a round of financing for more than $500,000, will soon hire its eighth employee, and the plan is to grow here. “The lifestyle here is totally different than Vancouver,” said Jamieson, noting short commutes, cost of living and down-to-Earth people make all the difference.

    “There are people who want to move to Victoria and the only thing preventing them is getting a job, so if there is a tech shop that can hire a tonne of developers people will move here from Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver,” he said.

    Gunn said VIATEC has started actively attracting small firms.

    Gunn estimates VIATEC fields 60 calls a year from small firms thinking of relocating to the city.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Victoria is reaching across the border to strengthen the city’s economy. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Victoria is reaching across the border to strengthen the city’s economy.

    This weekend, a 31-person trade mission led by Mayor Lisa Helps will be in San Francisco to showcase Victoria companies, meet potential clients, promote Victoria as a destination and work on academic partnerships to create research opportunities.

    The team includes B.C. Technology Minister Amrik Virk and representatives from the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC), Greater Victoria Development Agency, Tourism Victoria and the post-secondary education sector.

    The budget for the trip is $34,000, with the city’s share $5,000.

    “We’re hoping to highlight the already strong connections between Victoria and San Francisco,” said Helps, noting high-tech and tourism have for years been closely tied to the Bay area.

    But Helps is also going recruiting. Building on a provincial initiative that saw a B.C. booth at the Calgary Stampede imploring former residents to come home, Helps said they will be taking a come-back-to-Victoria message to Canadian workers and entrepreneurs in the area.

    “We will be saying for those of you who are Canadian and living down there come home and bring your business back to Victoria, to British Columbia,” Helps said.

    She will also be showing off the city’s draft economic action plan, and hopes the plan to establish a business hub at City Hall will show potential businesses, investors or start-ups that the city is committed to helping business grow.

    The city’s high-tech industry sees the trip as a chance to cement relationships and reach out to those who missed the recent Experience Tectoria event.

    “We are using this trip as a way to connect with those who couldn’t make it this year to open their eyes to the investment and partnership opportunities in Victoria’s tech sector with the aim to bring them to the city in the coming year to meet local entrepreneurs and see first hand the innovation in our tech sector,” said VIATEC's Executive Director, Dan Gunn.

    Paul Nursey, chief executive of Tourism Victoria, said they saved up sales calls for this trip.

    “We have lots of reason to go to San Francisco, primarily for sales meetings,” he said. His group will meet with convention bookers and meeting planners by day and join the trade mission for functions in the evening.

    Nursey said he’s selective about trade missions as they require discipline and strong focus to have any kind of success.

    “This one made a lot of sense for us,” he said. “San Francisco is a very important source market.”

    Gunn agrees, noting “trade missions are hard to get right.”

    “We’ve learned over the years to set aside all the time required to support the planned agenda while hustling to fill all remaining gaps with one-on-one relationship building meetings to maximize on the opportunity,” he said. “Trade missions offer unique benefits due the many connections a large group can bring when they all go to the same place at the same time.”

    During the visit, Helps will host a luncheon and expects to meet with representatives from Apple, tech campus Rocketspace, venture capital firm Blumberg Capital, and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

    There is also a reception for 80 influential Bay area business people that will feature discussions with Jeff Mallett, co-founder of Yahoo, and James DeGreef, co-founder of GenoLogics Life Sciences Software and chief executive of ChatterBlock.

    The trade mission team will get together this fall to outline results of the trip.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Mayor Lisa Helps will lead ‘Team Victoria’, a 31-person, multi-stakeholder trade mission to San Fran see more

    VICTORIA, BC On Sunday, Mayor Lisa Helps will lead ‘Team Victoria’, a 31-person, multi-stakeholder trade mission to San Francisco, California. The team will include the Honourable Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, and representatives from the Greater Victoria Development Agency and Greater Victoria’s high-tech, tourism, business and education sectors. Together, they seek to build and enhance strategic relationships with key influencers of North America’s epi-centre of innovation and technology.

    “Two weeks ago we unleashed Victoria’s draft economic action plan Making Victoria – Unleashing Potential, and now we’re taking it on the road,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “I’m thrilled to be leading this diverse and influential group of leaders to San Francisco.”

    The trade mission provides an opportunity to showcase and grow Victoria’s local tech companies, with the goal of attracting investment and talent to the region, and building investor and entrepreneur relationships. Over two days, ‘Team Victoria’ members will meet with potential clients, promote Victoria as a destination, and work to build academic partnerships to foster research opportunities and job development networks. 

    “British Columbia is committed to growing our economy and strengthening our technology sector,” said Minister Virk. “San Francisco has a large Canadian talent pool that we are going to continue to engage, to build and strengthen our industry, seeking growth and partnership opportunities that will enhance our tech strategy. Our similar markets, low corporate tax rates, and a strong angel investor community makes our province the place to invest.”

    In addition to the scheduled partner meetings, Mayor Helps is hosting a luncheon. Guests include representatives from Apple, Rocketspace, Blumberg Capital, and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. Rocketspace is a premiere technology campus in San Francisco, exclusively designed to help entrepreneurs, start-ups and corporate innovation professionals succeed. Blumberg Capital is an early-stage venture capital firm that specializes in providing seed funding to technology companies. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute is a partnership of business with labour, government, higher education, and philanthropy that works to support the economic vitality and competitiveness of the Bay Area and California.

    "We are thrilled that our three-year Trade and Investment Program, launched in 2014, can serve as a catalyst to make this initiative come together in alignment to all stakeholders,” said Dallas Gislason, Economic Development Officer for the Greater Victoria Development Agency. “The fact that this effort achieved such strong buy-in region-wide is very telling about the importance of the San Francisco area to many sectors of our economy here at home."

    On Tuesday evening, close to 80 Bay Area influencers will attend the ‘Team Victoria’ reception at the Aquarium by the Bay, where they will have the opportunity to network with trade mission members and enjoy a “Fireside Chat” with Jeff Mallett, co-founder of Yahoo! and James DeGreef, co-founder of GenoLogics Life Sciences Software and CEO of ChatterBlock.

    “It is vital that we continue to build relationships in San Francisco and the Bay Area. It's only a two-hour flight away and provides the world's largest concentration of tech investors, advisors, partners and customers,” said Dan Gunn, Chief Executive Officer for VIATEC. “We will be meeting one-on-one with existing key contacts to keep them up to speed on the opportunities in our local tech scene while leveraging the group of community leaders on the trade mission to draw out potential new partners that are interested in building stronger ties to our local innovators and entrepreneurs.”

    ‘Team Victoria’ members plan to hold a report-back session later this fall to outline opportunities and relationships that developed from the trip. The estimated budget for the trade mission is $34,000. Each team member is contributing towards the cost, with the City of Victoria providing $5,000. 

    Create Prosperity Through Economic Development is a key objective of the City of Victoria’s strategic plan for focus and investment over the next four years. The trade mission to San Francisco supports this objective and includes some members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity. Established in April, the Task Force has developed Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential, a draft economic action plan to grow Victoria’s economy. The draft plan is available for public input until September 30. For more information:

    Greater Victoria Development Agency Quick Facts:

    Greater Victoria's largest industry is high-tech, with an economic impact exceeding $4 billion annually. Many local firms rely on global connections to grow their business and create jobs. These companies directly employ 15,000 Tectorians.

    Tourism is Greater Victoria's second largest industry with $1.9 billion in economic impact and over
    22,000 jobs.

    There are over 40,000 students enrolled in the region's three post-secondary education institutions.
    Each year several co-op students get placements at companies in the San Francisco/Bay Area. Companies like Google, Oracle, Tesla, HP and others provide unparalleled opportunities and
    connections for local students.

    - 30 -

    BOTTOM: ‘Team Victoria’ Delegation Members


    For More Information:

    • Mayor Lisa Helps    
      City of Victoria
      Cellular: 250.661.2708    
    • Tasha Schollen
      Communications Director
      Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services
    • Dallas Gislason
      Economic Development Officer     
      Greater Victoria Development Agency
      Office: 250.360.3478 Cellular: 250.812.0510
    • Dan Gunn
      Chief Executive Officer
      Office: 250.483.3214


    The ‘Team Victoria’ delegation includes the following people:

    • Mayor Lisa Helps, City of Victoria
    • Councillor Margaret Lucas, City of Victoria
    • Jocelyn Jenkyns, Deputy City Manager, City of Victoria
    • Kerri Moore, Manager of Strategic Relations and Business Development, City of Victoria
    • Honorable Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services
    • John Jacobson, Deputy Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services
    • Nick Facey, Chief of Staff for the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services
    • Dallas Gislason, Economic Development Officer, Greater Victoria Development Agency
    • Kathryn Dafos, Project Coordinator, Greater Victoria Development Agency
    • Dan Gunn, CEO, VIATEC
    • Rob Bennett, COO and Program Director, VIATEC
    • Paul Nursey, President and CEO, Tourism Victoria
    • Rob Ringma, Director of Sales, Tourism Victoria
    • Geoff Dickson, President and CEO, Victoria Airport Authority
    • Brent Sternig, Director, Research, Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization, University of Victoria 
    • Terry Cockerline, Director, Alumni Relations, University of Victoria
    • Curran Crawford, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria
    • Tom Zsolnay, Associate Vice President of Alumni and Development, University of Victoria
    • Margaret-Anne Storey, Software Engineering Program Director, University of Victoria
    • Jody Kitts, Development Officer, Engineering and Science, University of Victoria
    • Gloria Darroch, Program Manager, Co-op and Career Centre, Peter B Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria
    • Evelyn O’Connor, Senior Account Executive, Victoria Conference Centre 
    • Monika Lebedynska, Senior Account Executive, Victoria Conference Centre
    • Owen Matthews, Wesley Clover and Alacrity Foundation
    • Richard Egli, Managing Director, Alacrity Foundation
    • David Miller, Cube Global Storage
    • Rajkumar Padmawar, President and CEO, ASASoft
    • Will Fraser, CEO, Referral SaaSquatch
    • Karl Swannie, CEO, Echosec Systems Ltd.
    • Jim Hayhurst, President/CEO, Pretio Interactive
    • Bob Husband, Managing Partner, Arbutus Cove Enterprises
  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Greater Victoria’s economy should grow this year and do nearly as well in 2016. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Greater Victoria’s economy should grow this year and do nearly as well in 2016, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada.

    The board’s autumn metropolitan outlook forecasts the region’s economy to grow by 1.4 per cent this year and 2.6 per cent next year after a weak 2014, when the economy grew by just 0.6 per cent. “As a provincial capital, Victoria has struggled in the face of provincial government fiscal restraint.” said the board’s Alan Arcand.

    “The local economy has grown little in recent years, but things are looking up.

    “The provincial government is in a stronger fiscal position, which bodes well for the outlook in Victoria’s largest sectors: non-commercial services and public administration.”

    The report suggested Victoria’s manufacturing sector, led by the shipbuilding industry, would again be a driving force.

    The board forecasts growth of about seven per cent in that sector alone this year.

    Bruce Carter, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, who has often disagreed with the board’s findings, said this report seems to have a better handle on the Victoria economy.

    “But they are putting a lot of weight on shipbuilding. I think our [manufacturing] sector is deeper than that,” he said, pointing to the industrial manufacturing being done on the Saanich Peninsula at places such as Viking Air and Nicholson Manufacturing.

    “In 2014, we were ranked 13th [among Canadian cities] and this year we should be 10th. Our economy should grow by 1.4 per cent [and] that’s twice the growth of last year. That’s good and the trend line is in the right direction,” Carter said.

    He said Victoria could outpace the board’s predictions if it gets some improved growth in the public sector and a bigger bump from a very strong tourism year.

    “[Tourism] is so highly visible, as it’s reflected in people downtown and people in restaurants, so I think it will have more of an effect on consumer confidence than they are allowing for in this report,” Carter said.

    The board believes Victoria’s public administration sector is not out of the woods and could contract by 1.2 per cent this year, the sixth straight annual decline. However, it forecasts recovery in that realm for 2016 with 2.1 per cent growth.

    The non-commercial services sector, which includes health care and education, is expected to bounce back this year with 1.8 per cent growth after a two per cent contraction last year.

  • Silkstart Importer posted an article
    "This place has a very entrepreneurial attitude.” see more

    Source: Globe & Mail
    Author: Sean Silcoff

    Burgeoning tech companies are on the rise in Canada, attracting funding and IPO buzz in hubs across the country. The Globe & Mail's occasional series explores how each locale nurtures its entrepreneurs, the challenges they face and the rising stars we’re watching.

    Owen Matthews found the perfect way to convince his father, Ottawa tech pioneer Terry Matthews, to invest in a startup in his home base of Victoria: The company, Echosec Systems Ltd., can track social media postings by their geographic origin, so to demonstrate the power of the tool, the younger Mr. Matthews showed his father what had been posted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram in the vicinity of his house. What showed up during the demonstration eight months ago shocked the billionaire: 15 pictures, including one of his grand-daughter, on his property. The first thing the elder Mr. Matthews did was track down the posters to get them to remove the pictures. The next thing he did was invest. “I like this tool, it clearly has a lot of value,” he told his son, who noted that the technology is already used by military and law enforcement agencies.

    While Terry Matthews is known as one of Ottawa’s most prominent tech investors, he and his son have also poured money and time into Victoria, another government town with a surprisingly buoyant tech ecosystem. Victoria does not have any big tech companies, but it has enough small and medium-sized firms that the sector – not government or tourism – is the top employer in the metropolis of 344,000 people. The Victoria Advanced Technology Council says there are 900 technology companies employing 15,000 people in the area, generating $4-billion in economic impact. “Most people go to Vancouver and miss Victoria because it’s a cute government town,” Owen Matthews says. “But this place has a very entrepreneurial attitude.”

    Mayor Lisa Helps argues that Victoria’s climate, abundance of restaurants, local beer and coffee, rental units and pleasant lifestyle options (“work here ends at kayak o’clock”) make it a magnet for startups. “What works in our ecosystem that makes us unique is small companies that grow rapidly and punch away above their weight on the world market,” she says.

    It’s certainly helped by the Matthews family: Owen Matthews, 43, came to University of Victoria to study computer science and psychology and never left, starting a telecommunications software company in 1998 and selling it to Vancouver’s CounterPath Corp. in 2007 (the Matthews family owns close to 30 per cent of the stock).

    He’s since helped develop the local startup scene by convincing several government and industry bodies, along with his alma mater and father, to fund the creation of the non-profit Alacrity Foundation, dedicated to helping nascent entrepreneurs get on their feet.

    Owen Matthews argues that the first six to 12 months of an entrepreneurial enterprise is too early for serious investors to commit financing. So the foundation offers training, space, mentorship, access to industry players and expense money to help get B.C.-based business and engineering graduates on their feet as entrepreneurs. The idea is that if they flourish at Alacrity, there may be investors ready to jump in after a year.

    Sure enough, several companies that have graduated from the program have landed seed investments, from the Matthews family and others. They include telecommunications software startup Tutela, online marketing firm Pretio and Echosec.

    Karl Swannie, a former partner of local geospatial technology firm CloverPoint who heads Echosec, argues that “you have to be good in Victoria to survive. Your software has to be good enough to make it off the island. Because if you don’t do well, you die.”


  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    We decided to crunch some numbers about the size and scope of Greater Victoria’s tech sector. see more

    Click here to download.

    We decided to crunch some numbers (actually, we went out and spent time surveying local companies and then commissioned an independent professional researcher to collect and analyze the data using a rigorous methodology) about the size and scope of Greater Victoria’s tech sector.

    Well, the numbers are in, and we’re astounded by the results.