VIATEC posted an articleThe tech sector in Greater Victoria has a total economic impact of $5.22 billion and employs 16,775 see more
VIATEC releases Economic Impact Study of the Technology Sector in Greater Victoria
There is a total economic impact of $5.22 billion and the sector employs 16,775 people.
VICTORIA, BC (October 15, 2018) - The Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC), has surveyed local technology companies and commissioned an independent researcher (Alan Chaffe, senior economics lecturer at the University of Victoria), to collect and analyze the data - releasing a brand new Economic Impact Study.
The study shows there has been a growth of 30% since the last study was released in 2013:
The technology sector in Greater Victoria has a total economic impact of $5.22 billion and employs 16,775 people.
The tech sector contributes significantly to employment and economic output in both the local community, as well as throughout the Province of British Columbia. Growth in revenue and the number of technology firms for Greater Victoria outpaces the national average.
Greater Victoria is home to a vibrant, diverse, and successful technology sector that has been a major driver of innovation and economic growth for the BC economy. The technology sector in Greater Victoria has experienced significant growth over the past decade—with industry revenues (direct impact) increasing from $1.0 billion in 2004 to $4.06 in 2017. This represents a more than fourfold increase over this period.
The combined direct ($4.06 billion) and indirect ($1.16 billion) economic impact of the technology sector in Greater Victoria for 2017 was $5.22 billion—a 30% increase from the $4.03 billion estimated in 2013. The technology sector is responsible for a substantial portion of the region’s employment. In 2017, there were 16,775 employees in the sector.
The technology sector in Greater Victoria is expected to continue to grow. The number of technology firms in Greater Victoria is expected to increase, reaching over 1,000 before 2020. VIATEC recently adopted a strategic plan focused on supporting the region’s tech sector in growing to $10 billion in annual revenues by 2030. Based on the findings of this study, it is expected that this goal will be achieved if not surpassed in that time frame.
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.
Our Focus Areas are: Regional and Sector Promotion, Networking and Connections, Talent and, Education and Mentoring. www.viatec.ca
A comprehensive analysis that compares the BC tech sector against other sectors in the province see more
2018 BC Technology Report Card
Together with their partners at KPMG, BC Tech Association has released the latest installment of our BC Technology Report Card for 2018, a comprehensive analysis that compares the BC tech sector against other sectors in the province and against tech sectors in other jurisdictions.
A few key highlights:
- a 3rd straight A for BC's tech sector vs other industrial sectors in BC
- for the first time an A vs the tech sectors of other provinces
- a steady B- grade on economic inputs - no erosion since the last report but a clear call to action for more targeted initiatives related to talent and scale-up success.
“Growing 30 per cent sounds like a lot, but honestly I think the sector’s potential was higher..." see more
Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy
Greater Victoria’s tech sector still booming, but recruiting a challenge
Victoria’s high-tech industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the past five years, but it’s still likely under-performing, according to the head of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council.
Dan Gunn, chief executive of VIATEC, said the sector might have grown 30 per cent since 2014, but it could have grown bigger and faster.
“Growing 30 per cent sounds like a lot, but honestly I think the sector’s potential was higher than that,” he said. “We under-performed and we under-performed for one specific reason — we haven’t been able to find enough skilled and experienced talent.”
Gunn was reacting to a new economic impact study commissioned by VIATEC and written by Alan Chaffe, senior economics lecturer at the University of Victoria. The study, which VIATEC will release publicly on Monday, shows the tech sector has a $5.22-billion annual economic impact on the region, with combined annual revenue of its 955 companies of $4.06 billion, and employing 16,775 people directly.
“We were under the impression and pretty confident we were at $4 billion in revenue based on the level of activity since our last study, but it’s great to have that reaffirmed,” said Gunn. “We are confident of the numbers and we know there are a number of ways we could have used higher numbers to get a big story, but we wanted something accurate and conservative.”
The study, which predicts there will be in excess of 1,000 tech firms in the region by 2020, suggested the sector is on target to meet its goal of combined annual revenues of $10 billion by 2030. “We wanted to set a big, hairy, audacious goal to motivate the sector,” said Gunn. “This study revealed that not only is that attainable, but highly likely that we are going to hit that level of growth before 2030, which is fantastic.”
But it also comes with problems. Gunn said that kind of growth likely means as many as 15,000 more people working in the sector, leading to the questions of where those people will be found and how they will be housed when they are here.
The study pointed out housing availability, affordability and a skills shortage have been limiting factors to growth among the region’s tech firms.
Gunn said the region needs more breadth of opportunity — more companies and larger companies offering a variety of roles in order to attract talent.
But despite the challenges, the study revealed a highly optimistic sector in the region.
It noted the firms responding to the VIATEC survey estimated total revenues are expected to increase by nearly 13 per cent this year alone, while 77 per cent of all respondents indicated they expect to hire additional staff over the next two years.
If that happens, total employment in the technology sector would be expected to hit 18,280 by the end of 2019.
The study suggested that optimism is because of Greater Victoria’s quality of life, access to an educated workforce and close economic links within the Pacific Rim.
Gunn said studies like this are important both within and outside the sector.
“It shows the sector the value of what they are offering in their community, and seeing if they are ahead or behind pace,” he said. “And it gets the attention of policy makers to understand the value of it.”
Gunn said despite its growth and increasing profile, tech remains a pretty quiet industry, taking up anonymous real estate in the second floors of downtown buildings.
“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.
B.C. government announced today nearly $600,000 towards a partnership with key technology industry.. see more
Source: Province of BC
The B.C. government announced today nearly $600,000 towards a partnership with key technology industry partners to study the labour market needs in the tech sector.
Led by the BC Technology Association (BCTA) and the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), this technology Sector Labour Market Partnership project, worth nearly $600,000 to date, will help the government and project partners gain a better understanding of the current and future labour needs in this diverse and fast growing sector. As part of this project, the partners are also developing a comprehensive labour market strategy which will result in recommendations on deepening the talent pool for in-demand jobs in B.C.
Since last October, BCTA and VEC, with support from the government through the Sector Labour Market Partnership Program, have been engaging with technology employers, educational stakeholders and the broader technology community to gain a better understanding of the labour needs in this sector. To help the industry take this important project further, the Province has recently committed additional support so they can complete a detailed labour market analysis and develop a strategy with key actions to address the sector’s labour market priorities.
After the announcement, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour Shirley Bond, and Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Amrik Virk, as well as project partners, met with programming students at the Lighthouse Labs Victoria campus, located in the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC) offices within the Fort Tectoria building in Victoria.
The project announced today is part of the government’s commitment to deepen B.C.’s technology talent pool through a variety of actions, including improving access to timely and relevant labour market information, as outlined in the #BCTECH Strategy. The 10-year strategy includes a $100-million BC Tech Fund to improve access to capital, as well as initiatives to increase talent development and market growth for tech companies to drive innovation and productivity throughout the province.
In 2014, the B.C. government launched the Skills for Jobs Blueprint to re-engineer its education and training programs so British Columbians can get the skills they need to be first in line for jobs in the province.
The Sector Labour Market Partnerships Program is funded through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement. The program helps employers understand and respond to changing labour market demands, and ensures that training and education programs in B.C. are aligned with industry’s labour-market needs and priorities.
Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training–
“The technology industry is an important part of our province’s economy, creating thousands of jobs and investments in B.C. To keep B.C.’s economy strong, diverse and growing, we need to ensure that technology employers have the talent they need to expand, and that British Columbians have the skills they need to work in this growing sector.”
Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services—
“Through the #BCTECH Strategy, we are committed to providing British Columbians with the tech skills they need to enter the marketplace and contribute to the growth of B.C.’s tech sector. Our strategy responds to industry’s needs: providing coding in K-12; expanding co-op programs; and adjusting the training and education in post-secondary institutions. Ensuring students and adults have the right skills means they can contribute through a variety of exciting fields such as creating a greener earth in clean tech or improving lives through life sciences.”
Ian McKay, CEO, VEC –
“Vancouver's economic growth, the fastest of any city in Canada , has been driven largely by its emergence as a global technology hub. The entrepreneurs in our city are creating businesses that attract local and global talent. The talent in our city has in turn attracted some of the most innovative companies in the world. However, the companies we speak with every day simply can't get enough of that talent to sustain their rapid growth and reach their full potential. The LMP strategy will help Vancouver and all of British Columbia overcome this challenge and reach our full potential, as a leader in today's fierce race for talent and as the global centre for technology and innovation.”
Bill Tam, president, BC Technology Association –
“Talent is what fuels the B.C. technology industry. Building a solid foundation of human capital, whether home grown or globally sourced, is among our critical success factors. With growing concerns on the availability of talent, we’re pleased to be partnering with the province, the Vancouver Economic Commission and our industry colleagues on this Labour Market Partnership project.”
Jeremy Shaki, founder, Lighthouse Labs –
“Lighthouse Labs is committed to providing the industry specific training needed to support B.C.’s and Canada's growing tech industries. We’re proud to have graduated over 300 developers directly into B.C.’s talent pool in just over 2 years via our main Vancouver campus, as well as bring bootcamp education to the rapidly growing B.C. innovation hubs of Victoria and Kelowna. Training and fostering developer talent will continue to play a critical role in the success of our growing tech ecosystem. We're delighted to support the B.C. government’s initiative to work with industry to directly support the growth of the technology economy.”
Ryan Stratton, founder and CEO, Craftt, Lighthouse Labs mentor-approved –
“The craft beverage market is growing fast in B.C. Last year we created Craftt, a cloud native app designed for breweries to help manage their operations and logistics. We’re now working with 34 breweries across Canada and the U.S.
“I joined the VIATEC Accelerate Tectoria program in 2014 and they were instrumental in helping me launch Craftt. One of our toughest challenges has been sourcing talent. Programs like Lighthouse Labs are helping to reduce this employment gap by training junior developers with practical, real world skills.
“Like many other sectors, mentorship is a critical part of fostering talent in the technology sector. I’ve been working as a mentor for Lighthouse Labs students since they introduced the program in Victoria because it’s important to make the time and help shape future developers entering our community. It is impressive to see what these students can learn in such a short period of time.”
- British Columbia is a tech-driven economy. The various technology subsectors are: information and communications technology, cleantech, engineering, life sciences, and digital media.
- The technology sector directly employs more than 86,000 people, and wages for those jobs are 60% higher than B.C.’s industrial average.
- In 2013, the technology sector added $13.9 billion to B.C.’s GDP.
- B.C.’s 9,000 technology companies combined generated $23.3 billion in revenue in 2013.
#BCTECH Strategy: https://bctechstrategy.gov.bc.ca/
Sector Labour Market Partnerships Program:www.workbc.ca/sectorlabourmarketpartnerships
BC Jobs Plan: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/bcjobsplan/
B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint: https://www.workbc.ca/Training-Education/B-C-s-Skills-for-Jobs-Blueprint.aspx
B.C. 2024 Labour Market Outlook: https://www.workbc.ca/Statistics/Labour-Market.aspx
While our tech boom is no longer a phenomenon, the sector keeps growing... see more
Source: Remi Network
Author: Rebecca Melnyk
As government moves to new Class A assets, tech companies snap up vacated, older stock
In an old two-storey brick building, once old home to the Victoria Stock Exchange, a start-up has moved into its new office digs. Previously situated in Langford, B.C., educational technology company RaceRocks 3D relocated to the Exchange Building in downtown Victoria to be closer to clients, save money on space and live in the rhythm of a prosperous tech haven.
“We’re right downtown with a lot of other creative people; there’s a lot of talent,” says Scott Dewis, chief executive officer of RaceRocks 3D. “We see the founders and staff of other companies at lunch walking around the street. It’s a vibrant place for an entrepreneur.”
After scouting 16 other local office spaces with Colliers International, the company found its home, knocked down the walls and created an open-floor plan with a kitchen. Now they have long-term plans to stay put in the area.
Startups like RaceRocks 3D Inc. are a common feature in Western Canada’s second oldest city. While the tech boom there is no longer a phenomenon, the sector keeps growing and is now part of a $4 billion a year industry. Dave Ganong, managing director at Colliers International (Vancouver Island), remembers back to 2000 when American company JDS Uniphase acquired Victoria-based optical-component supplier SDL Inc. for $41 billion in what was one of the biggest tech mergers in corporate history.
“The foundation of the tech industry has been there for 20 to 25 years or more,” he says. “But what’s happening is it’s becoming this incubator hub that is not just trendy, but sustainable.”
Victoria has a long history as a lively business centre, with miners and adventurers flocking there during the gold rush of 1858. Once a calm village, Victoria evolved to become a city where lots were said to go from $25 a piece to $3,000 each, immediately following the influx of gold-seekers. Eventually, government and tourism generated the greatest economic impact for the region.
Until the tech sector started creating a buzz. Now, more and more buildings fill with start-ups and early stage entrepreneurs every year. About 900 tech companies populate the city, employing a workforce of about 20,000 and growing. Local conferences accelerate the global reputation of Victoria and attract investors. Demand for new office space among the industry has now outpaced government in the downtown core, specifically in brick-and-beam buildings which tend to be Class B and C assets.
“There’s a building boom in the office sector in the downtown core where we’re doubling the size of our Class A inventory in the next 18 to 24 months,” notes Ganong. “That’s half a million square feet of space coming on—a massive increase. 75 per cent of that space has been preleased to the government or private sector, but what happens from this is we’re seeing a lot of vacancies coming up in Class B and C space where the majority of demand comes from the tech sector.”
Ganong has seen an exponential increase in leasing to the tech sector over the past three years, moving from 100,000 square feet to an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 square feet in 2016. This doesn’t take into account other competitors.
Developers and investors are also buying more on spec (some with tech companies in tow), looking to create flex office space where desks and common facilities can be rented.
Dan Gunn, chief executive officer at The Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC), a not-for-profit incubator accelerator, says his program’s success has resulted in a move to the downtown core, into a 100-year-old, 16,000 square foot building on Fort Street.
“We have 18 private offices of varying size and another 24 open desks that companies can rent at an affordable price,” he says. “We opened the building in September 2014 not knowing what to expect. The building was full in a matter of months.”
To accommodate demand and sector-specific needs, large buildings are being gutted for purpose-built use. For instance, the 20,000 square-foot Summit Building on Fort Street once stood completely vacant, but was fully revamped and open to tenants in September 2015. Several companies wishing to share a building can do so and expand as required.
Besides the flexibility and character of these older buildings, companies are also putting roots down due for lifestyle offerings.
“More and more companies trickling in from the rest of Canada are quite often going there through an acquisition or because one person leading a development team wishes to move their family to Victoria,” says Marc Foucher who brokered the RaceRocks 3D deal.
The proximity to qualified students graduating from local colleges and universities is also key. Change.org, the world’s largest online petition platform, is in the midst of renovations in its new office on the second floor of 1221 Broad Street and plans to recruit local talent. After the company wanted to expand its engineering team, it realized more room was needed. The landlord offered them a temporary space while they await finishing touches.
“Once we move downstairs, we’ll have plenty of room for growth and more meeting rooms,” says Chris Campbell, principal engineer at the Victoria location.
Campbell says the company, headquartered in San Francisco, figured that expanding its engineering office in Victoria was more affordable in terms of cost of living and office space. But it is also relatively easy to find suitable employees in the area.
The city no longer relies on tourism’s “shoulder season,” as Gunn calls it, between May to September, but a year-round tech economy that supports a large number of retail assets like the 11 craft breweries, independent coffee shops and North America’s second-highest number of restaurants per capita, behind San Francisco.
“Retail leasing agents who used to find it a challenge in the downtown core are starting to see some activity that is almost on par with the increases we’ve seen in the tech sector office leasing market,” says Ganong, adding that another factor here is tourism—an industry that could experience its best season ever this year.
In less than a year, Ganong says his company has seen storefront vacancy drop a full percentage point from where it peaked north of 10 per cent. The city has also been supportive in granting bonus density to start populating higher density residential development in the downtown core, which helps populate more retail activity.
“There is some sort of convergence here that is happening,” he says. “I’ve lived in Victoria for 33 years and some of my colleagues have lived here all their lives. They are even starting to feel something here they’ve never felt before.”
Mr. Gunn’s abilities are being further tested with Rock It, the 4.7-metre-long rocket car... see more
Source: The Globe and Mail
Author: Shannon Moneo
In late August, Dan Gunn and his posse are expected to go to the Burning Man festival in the “Gunn Ship,” his large motorhome, which will be towing a custom-made rocket car.
“I can’t wait to talk to the border guards,” says Mr. Gunn, chief executive officer of Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, better known as VIATEC.
Burning Man is a nine-day gathering where the temporary Black Rock City rises in the Nevada desert. In its 30th year, Burning Man draws more than 60,000 people to a showcase for out-of-the-box art and in-your-face experiences. During Mr. Gunn’s 2016 visit, his fifth in a row, he and two cousins plan to set up a well-provisioned camp for those in need. “We’ll have lots of coconut water, lots of electrolytes. We know what to cook, how to stay in good shape.”
The flame-shooting rocket car he invented will be one more piece of Burning Man handiwork in a field of hundreds.
When he’s not partaking in the searing mash-up of counterculture and creativity, Mr. Gunn, 44, is masterminding the expansion of Greater Victoria’s technology sector from VIATEC’s headquarters downtown. “Our job is to grow companies, facilitate networking, find investors,” he says. “My job is to have really big ideas and a team that can execute them.”
Mr. Gunn grew up in Keswick, Ont. In 1994, at 22, he was elected to nearby Georgina town council, where he served for three years. After a 1998 visit to Victoria, Mr. Gunn returned in 1999 to attend Royal Roads University, from which he graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree in entrepreneurial management in 2000. A few weeks later, his VIATEC vocation began with a seven-month contract as an e-commerce co-ordinator. That job soon morphed into e-business co-ordinator. Mr. Gunn next became VIATEC’s director of IT and communications, then chief operating officer. “I found ways to make myself valuable to VIATEC,” he says.
In 2005, he became chair and CEO of VIATEC. At that time, Mr. Gunn managed two staff. Today, he oversees 12, with five more employees expected by year’s end.
Under his tenure, numbers have headed north in other domains. “The year I took over, VIATEC’s revenues were $400,000,” he recalls. Between 2001 and 2004, the organization lost $135,000. Lately, VIATEC has posted about $2-million annually in revenue, monies that come from various services and programs for VIATEC’s 300-plus members.
“I’m very lucky that I’ve found a job that I’m so passionate about. I’ve found the elusive place where you can do what you love and still make a living,” he says. A light workweek is 60 hours – a heavy one, 80 hours. For Mr. Gunn, it feels like 20 hours a week. “I might be helping a tech company in the evening, but it feels like I’m working with a friend.”
Since joining VIATEC’s 14-member board about 18 months ago, Jennifer Jacques has come know Mr. Gunn. “Dan has incredible energy. He is always working on something, has a terrific sense of humour and has a contagious enthusiasm that infects everyone around him. He keeps his colleagues, and the VIATEC community, motivated,” says Ms. Jacques, plant manager for Schneider Electric’s Victoria site. “When you lead an organization with the kind of passion that Dan does, there is an inevitable intersection of your job and your life.”
Married since 2005 to Jeanie, an events manager at the University of Victoria, and father to son Max, 5, Mr. Gunn’s job-life intersection includes his three-piece, alt-rock band, The Long Shadows, for which he’s vocalist and lead and rhythm guitarist. “We like loud distortion, loud guitars and we like to shout,” says Mr. Gunn, who began playing guitar at 10, and who at each childhood birthday was given a new instrument.
Heavy on Jack White and The Black Keys, The Long Shadows are maturing from a cover band to one that performs originals and is mulling over a name change. But it’s a careful evolution. “I want the band to be a point of creativity and not a point of pressure. We’re very protective of what we’ve created,” he says. “Our practices are three-hour experiences but we can spend 45 minutes talking about our lives.”
Colin How plays bass and sings with The Long Shadows. A vice-chair at VIATEC and managing partner at consulting company How Creative, Mr. How has been close friends with Mr. Gunn for five years. “Dan’s found his sweet spot that’s lined up with passion and purpose.”
He credits the seemingly bullet-proof Mr. Gunn, and his team, with VIATEC’s viability. “On just about every metric where we want to evaluate VIATEC, we’re meeting or exceeding benchmarks,” says Mr. How.
The pair, along with drummer Todd Hooge (owner of Metamend Search Marketing), would love to play more, beyond occasional company gigs and impromptu practices at Mr. How’s downtown office. “All of us are musicians who work. If we had a suitcase full of money, we’d just make music,” Mr. How says.
But for now, they’re a pretty good cover band, made better by Mr. Gunn’s creativity and ability to add on-the-spot, humorous commentary over the music. Yet, when the three strong personalities get together to write an original song, paralysis surfaces. “There’s that awkward moment, where we’re all standing in front of the canvas and wonder, what do we do,” Mr. How says.
His five words to describe Mr. Gunn: “Fun, passionate, purposeful, honest, quirky.” When asked what Mr. Gunn’s shortcomings may be, Mr. How’s response, which he says is true for everyone: “Any strength overused can become a weakness.”
Mr. Gunn’s abilities are being further tested with Rock It, the 4.7-metre-long rocket car designed and built by him, with help from a University of Victoria engineering student. A fan of classic cars, he got the idea for Rock It while watching parades and noticing that the floats had mostly devolved into dressed-up trucks.
With a $10,000 budget, a large golf cart is being stripped to its chassis, outfitted with a foam exterior, hard-coated with polyurethane, hollowed out for the light and sound system and painted a copper colour. A floor of glued pennies will add sense to the Steampunk influence. “It’ll all be worth it when you look at a 10-year-old kid and see his eyes get wide,” says Mr. Gunn, who also plans to parade Rock It at regional music festivals this summer.
If Mr. Gunn’s creation doesn’t trigger a veto from the border guard on the journey south to Burning Man, Rock It will be shooting fire out its top and lighting up the desert sky. “When you tell people that you want to build a giant rocket to take to parades, people get behind it,” he says.