“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.
There were robots and rockets and a talking glove, oh my! see more
Source: Times Colonist
Author: Michael Reid
Around Town: Geeking out at Discover Tectoria
There were robots and rockets and a talking glove, oh my!
It wasn’t just super-cool technological crowd-pleasers like these that made Discover Tectoria, the high-tech showcase that packed them into Crystal Garden on Friday, such a blast.
As one visitor remarked, almost as impressive as the high-tech doodads was that there were so many We’re Hiring signs displayed by dozens of local technology companies that participated.
While this family-friendly event did to some extent have the feel of a hiring fair, it was a predominantly educational and entertaining showcase for the region’s thriving tech sector.
“What is Tectoria, anyway?” was one question overheard from those not already in the know about the catchy moniker created by VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council) in 2011.
To quote its playful slogan, Tectoria, the umbrella title for the capital region’s tech sector, is “home to 100 killer whales and 1,500 killer apps.”
To describe the products and opportunites on view as mind-blowing would be putting it mildly, whether you were marvelling over the fun and games or the scientific applications.
Popular draws included Victoria Hand Project’s low-cost 3D-printed prostheses, used in developing countries where amputees have limited access to prosthetic care.
Another eye-catcher was Tango, the revolutionary glove designed to overcome the communications barrier between deaf and hearing individuals by using a glove equipped with sensors and a microcontroller.
A user’s hand gestures correspond to phrases or letters that, via Bluetooth, appear on a smartphone screen in a text format that can be output as a digitized voice.
Kamel Hamdan, Alaa Dawod and Abdul-Rahman Saleh head the development team for the University of Victoria project, working in association with Coast Capital Savings’ Innovation Centre.
Other highlights included LimbicMedia’s interactive blinking-light installation; VRX Ventures’ massive racing simulator; and the Holografx station’s Instagram photo booth.
“We’re creating a new prototype, our biggest screen at 49 inches,” said Anamaria Medina, a Colombia-raised electrical engineer who works at the Esquimalt-based company.
The tech firm develops innovative holographic tools used to showcase products, services and company logos, she said.
“We did the Instagram photo booth because this is what teenagers do now,” she said, pointing to giant hashtags and other social media tools.
Matthew McCormack said he joined a capacity crowd for an afternoon seminar on Victoria’s video game sector in the Innovation Theatre to learn about employment opportunities.
“I want to know how to get into the video game arts. What’s the best route to get my first job, to skip over working at the grocery store and get right to where I want to be working?” the Claremont student said.
McCormack, an avid gamer who plays Rainbow Six, a first-person shooter, and the futuristic vehicular soccer game Rocket League, learned being a fan isn’t necessarily enough.
“It’s a highly competitive industry. We don’t just hire you if you’re really into games,” said Eric Jordan, CEO of Codename Entertainment, with a smile.
“You’ve got to be really good at art, or marketing, or businesss or programming, depending on what we’re hiring you for.”
Jordan offered the crowd some pointers, including VIATEC’s Student Video Game Work Experience Program, which gives students a chance to work in a gaming studio.
Moderator James Hursthouse of DigiBC got a few laughs when he asked if “there is something in the water here” to explain why so many tech types come to Victoria.
“I think it’s where people want to live,” said Magda Rajkowski of Kano Apps. “It’s beautiful here, and there’s a lot of creativity.”
Even before you entered Victoria Conference Centre, it was hard to miss UVic Centre for Aerospace Research’s sleek carbon fibre-and-fibreglass drone parked outside.
“This is our workhorse, an aircraft designed to carry payloads, conduct research for companies or collaborators who want to test equipment,” explained operations manager Eldad Alber.
One software developer, for example, asked the team to design wings that would be flexible based on their software designed for such a purpose.
“Hopefully we’ll get more students interested in aerospace,” said Alber. “A master’s program for aeronautics is going to be available soon, so it would be nice to see more exposure and people applying for it.”
This week’s highlight is on Christina Seargeant. see more
Haro Ventures Mini Series: An Interview with Christina Seargeant
For the month of December, Haro Ventures is launching a mini series highlighting and celebrating awesome female leaders / movers and shakers in our tech community. We will be publishing one interview weekly to share insights into the roles, goals, and vision of these individuals in order to help us all grow a better understanding of who's shaping our community.
Between working as HR business partner with Workday and volunteering with Ladies Learning Code, VIATEC, and networking community PeopleOps, Christina is a quintessential (and busy!) member of our tech community. We were thrilled to sit down with Christina to learn about what she does with Workday, her childhood role models, what keeps her inspired, what mistake she’s most learned from, and her vision of diversity in our community.
- What is your role at Workday and how did you come into that position? / Your involvement with Ladies Learning Code?
I’m an HR business partner at Workday, supporting everyone from the frontline employees to the VPs of Workday Canada. We have an offices and teams that comprise 150 employees all over Canada in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. I’m meant to be the first point of contact for all things HR related and position myself as a champion for Canadian benefits and the different programs we offer in Canada.
I came into the role because Workday offered me the position during its acquisition of MediaCore in August 2015. I was the director of people operations at MediaCore, which meant I oversaw anything to do with people and general business operations including facilities, legal and some finance.
I got involved with Ladies Learning Code (LLC) just before the chapter launched in Victoria. I met Erin Athene at Discover Tectoria where she told me about the organization being based in Toronto with chapters popping up all across the country. I was instantly intrigued and wanted to help out. She needed to raise $1000 to get things started and kick off the first workshop. MediaCore wasn’t in a financial position to offer the funds but we wanted to help in other ways. When Erin started a Tilt campaign to rally the funds through the community, within just a few hours Dan Gunn of VIATeC said he would match any fundraised money up to $5000 dollars. I instantly called Erin and suggested we needed to change our goal from $1000 to $10,000 knowing how these funds would help us do great things for our chapter. In the end, we raised $11,000 and became the poster child chapter for LLC when it comes to harnessing community support. The companies we spoke with along the way were so interested in supporting us and loved what we were doing.
After that I took on the role of chapter lead with Erin. She manages our sponsorship, fundraising and community partners while I lead the workshops and logistics and make sure we have a programming pipeline for the year. We work with a number of other amazing ladies that have helped us make our Victoria chapter what it is today.
- What’s the most satisfying part of your role there?
The most satisfying part of working with LLC is definitely being able to support people who are otherwise unfamiliar with technology or don’t feel confident they could do well in that field. To see their confidence increase from the moment they walk through the door in the morning to when they leave the workshops at the end of the day is really empowering. We help people realize their goals, whether they’re looking for a new role in their current workspace or re-entering the workforce.
I’m personally passionate about helping people pursue their careers in technology, which is largely why my role at Workday is so satisfying to me as well. I love helping people take on challenges when it comes to career or the workplace, and I work with a number of managers that are really supportive and want to see good things for their employees. I especially enjoy recruitment because I get to be a part of helping to build a strong team, and the team we’ve created so far is so great.
- What did you want to be when you were a kid? Who were your childhood role models?
When I was a teenager I wanted to be a photographer. I actually pursued this dream and started a freelance photography business when I was 16 and which I still own and operate to this day. The reason why I don’t do photography full time, however, is because I don’t want my passion and hobby to turn into the source of pressure it might be if I relied on it to make a living. For me, it’s important to keep photography as a hobby business that’s there for me when I feel the need for a creative outlet. Im passionate about what I do as a career as well, but in a very different way.
As an only child, I played a lot of video games as a kid and would relish in that escapism it provided. As I look back now I think a lot of those characters I played as then could be considered my role models. They commanded their presence, their powers, chased demons, and created magic. They definitely had an ensemble of traits I aspire towards.
- What or who inspires you the most?
I think what I draw most of my inspiration from is our tech community. I think we have a number of really fantastic people here who are really passionate about making our industry as vibrant as it can be and I’m personally really interested in helping this community grow and flourish as much as I can.
In 2013, I founded a networking group in Victoria called PeopleOps. It stemmed from my interest in finding other people who are in HR roles in startups to learn from and grow with. I didn’t have a full grasp on what our community really entailed back then, so the amount of interest I received was really overwhelming. Lots of people responded saying “I’m figuring this out for the first time too”. We’re now at 65 members and run a vibrant and active Slack channel where we discuss the professional and developmental events we run on a monthly basis. We see people in HR grow and push themselves professionally while helping their respective teams grow and be successful. They want to be better to help their companies. Their passion is very inspiring and it inspires me to give back.
Much in the same way, LLC is a vibrant community of women who want to grow and learn and be a part of the community as both learners and mentors.
The passion both these groups show is very inspiring and reminds me to give it back.
- With F@#% Up Nights becoming a popular community event, we’re witnessing a positive trend of being open about your failures and mistakes. What mistake have you made that you wouldn’t go back in time to change if you had the chance? What did you learn from it/them?
What comes to mind for me isn’t a mistake, but something pivotal I experienced that yielded several learning opportunities: the work surrounding MediaCore’s acquisition. While overall I consider the acquisition a success, it wasn’t easy and there were many bumps along the way.
It was the case of a startup company being purchased by a public company in San Francisco that has many accolades and strong revenue and is a solid contender in the market place. As far as acquiring companies are concerned, it probably couldn’t have got much better. The whole process of being acquired and of exiting, however, proved to be quite difficult and taught me a lot.
It taught me about communication, how people deal with change, about self-balance, about advocating for employees, advocating for the company being sold and the company doing the buying. I learned that the due diligence process is extremely important, and about many intricacies that come with selling a company.
While I wouldn’t go back in time to change anything, I’ll definitely use the knowledge I gained to benefit me and the company I’m with the next time I’m involved in a similar process.
I look forward to the day when we do it all again.
- Do you see a positive trend of expanding the diversity in tech in Victoria?
I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us to create a more diverse tech community in Victoria. Things can always be better, and we could always be trending up. It can tend to be a matter of whether or not a community has the champions that are willing to put in the effort to make that happen, and I think that we do here in Victoria. More than ever, people are willing to have the conversation about what their companies need in order to attract diverse talent and engage them in a meaningful way. Change like that isn’t derived from one meeting to decide on strategy, but has to be a continuous conversation and continuous community goal.
There’s a ton to dive into here. A past that will tell a thousand stories, and during all of my... see more
Author: Wyatt Fossett
It’s early afternoon, and many entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts are moderately rested and ready for a long night of great music and amazing people at the Rifflandia Music Festival in Victoria, BC — the culmination of three long days of demos, pitches, and pub nights at Experience Tectoria. But first, the entrepreneurs are gathering for an event to conclude the entirety of the experience: a roundtable discussion about Victoria’s vibrant tech sector.
Experience Tectoria serves to explore and highlight some of Victoria’s brightest and most promising tech startups. VIATEC—an accelerator program—is the product of an amazingly underrated technology scene that lives on Vancouver Island. The Experience event provides an opportunity for investors and media to congregate around a demo night, funding pitches, loads of food, and plenty of mingling.
Overall, the event is about selling the Victoria lifestyle to a group of talented people that the city would benefit from.
When you walk through the streets of downtown Victoria, on a blustery day—one that started with a thick fog, and a curtain of rain —there’s a strong presence of history, and the quieter streets, in an otherwise bustling tourist town, feel welcoming. Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, dates back to 1862, and today (mostly due to vertical building regulations, and being surrounded by water) has a small population of roughly 80,000.
There’s a ton to dive into here. A past that will tell a thousand stories, and during all of my wandering, I was listening. Before the arrival of the Europeans in the 1700s, Vancouver Island was a thriving community of Coast Saalish People. Fort Victoria played a major role in the Great War, and the city has always been one of the first lines of defence for the Canadian Navy. But it’s now a peaceful and highly artistic city.
On the corner of Pandora and Wharf is the Swan’s Hotel, right near the bridge to the West Bank of Victoria. She’s old, and classic. Gathering in the penthouse suite—a three story dream with a full rooftop deck currently owned by the University of Victoria—are the who’s who of the tech world and their counterparts in investment.
Sean Silcoff from the Globe and Mail led the roundtable discussion that probed both visitors and locals alike about what makes Victoria a great place to be, an ideal city to start, or a top-tier location to move to.
Two consistent themes cropped up in a constant show of pride by Victorians, which perked up those in the room looking to invest in the companies there.
What makes Victoria so successful?
Living in the shadows
People often don’t realize that Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, and not the little sister of Vancouver as its perceived. One of the things that has helped Victoria grow, succeed, and make exits with their companies is this shadow. According to the Victoria Angel Micro VC Fund Analysis, exits in the past five years total $217 million, including companies like Mediacore, Go2mobi, EDOC, and Procura
A list arose during the discussion. One that included names like Santa Cruz, California; Boulder, Colorado; Austin, Texas; and even Canadian destinations like Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. There is one thing that all of these blossoming cities have in common: above everything else, they live in the shadow of a more “popular” town. And maybe it’s this sense of being ignored that make it a more fruitful atmosphere.
In a “sister-town”, rent is cheaper, most of them have large postsecondary schools, and the general population of the world isn’t paying any attention in their direction. As creators, it’s far easier to attempt the unpredictable when people aren’t looking at your activities through a microscope.
A step ahead in gender equality
The report also stated that the wage gap between men and women was at 18 percent, meaning that women earn just 82 percent of what men do in identical roles.
According to an internal compensation study from Viatec however, Victoria boasts a rapidly rising percentage of around 30 percent female representation in technology roles (this study is only available for purchase through VIATEC). Impressively still, more than half of startup management or senior roles are held by women, in what can only be described as those in the room “as the way it should be” — though the room, which was mostly filled with men, didn’t reflect the diversity that they were eager to brag about.
Taking a look back at the history of the Tech Awards in Victoria, four of the past five winners in the Executive of the Year category were women, and five out of the past six companies that won the pinnacle Company of the Year award have female CEOs.
On top of progression made in diversity, the wage gap is also monumentally only at three percent. Victoria has an immense stash of talent, and those in hiring roles seem to have the right mindset when it comes to hiring the best available candidate without bias.
But inside the room was a ten-to-one margin of men, and a twenty-to-one margin of people of colour. Victoria is ahead of the curve when it comes to diversity, but after these conversations and pats on the shoulder in celebration, it’s ironic that I was in a position to ask the coordinators of the event how they think they can make rooms like this more diverse.
Youth in revolt
There’s a tendency to view millennials as a nuisance, or the death of an established balance within business. But this isn’t something that is bred in Victoria’s culture. As old as the city may be, great schools like the University of Victoria provide strong and hungry youth. That’s exactly who’s responsible for shaking up a lot of this rusted system. And it shows in Victoria when startups likeBlastworks, Codename Entertainment, Flytographer, and Tellwell Talent are standing at an impressively young age pitching for investments, or winning big awards like the VIATEC Technology Awards.
Seats needs butts
“How do you get more people to come to Victoria, invest in Victoria, or stay in Victoria?” asked Silcoff.
The consensus was that people just have to come. Once. It’s hard to be put-off by a city that shows so much life, and art, and beauty. Just getting them to put their boots on the cobblestone streets of the second-highest rated creative city in Canada, according to Martin Prosperity Institute director Richard Florida.
In tandem with the beauty of British Columbia is the consistent government support. With a recently announced $100 million dollar venture capital fund, and near industry leading tax credits, there are financial benefits to living and working out of stunning BC.
A shrinking wage gap
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a report stating that Victoria, BC is the best place in Canada to work as a woman. Citing comparisons of income and unemployment, relative to the male population, Victoria scored first overall, and took the top rank in Economic Security, and Leadership.
Victoria’s wage gap between men and women was the smallest of the 25 major cities in the study that included Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Calgary, at just three percent. Among promising statistics in employment is the fact that Victoria was the only city in the study where women outnumbered men as elected officials, including holding five of nine seats on city council.
Given the fantastic statistics that support a strong atmosphere for women, there’s no doubt they can draw in more as the years go by.
Big names and golden tenants
A few people brought up the idea that most places known for their technology industry have one thing that put them on the map: a household name. As of right now, the downfall to the young entrepreneurs in Victoria is a lack of staying power. More than the majority of exits by these small, young tech startups have happened well before they needed to, and many times the culprit is wanting to move on and do something else.
Victoria needs a Google, Salesforce, Slack, or Shopify. A name and a logo in the skyline that instills a solid foundation of business. A company that puts Victoria on the map permanently. One flagship resident can work wonders for the popularity and relevance of your town.
Once that happens, it will no longer be a city that needs to convince you to show up, but rather a place that is begged to accept more tenants.
Victoria is a place I can confidently say is one of the most underrated tech cities in Canada (maybe even North America) and will soon be a go-to technology destination. Every burgeoning metropolis is seeking growth, and the good ones never slow down. So while Victoria has a lot of work to do, they’re in an amazing spot. By improving on their successes and solving their shortcomings, Victoria might just take over Canada’s tech community.
Victoria's unemployment rate 2nd lowest in country bolstered by job growth in tech, govnt. & retail. see more
Source: CHEK News
New numbers from Statistics Canada show the jobless rate in Canada moved up in July, as the economy shed more than 31,000 jobs, but BC, and Victoria in particular, are bucking the trend.
The Capital Region’s unemployment rate was now the second-lowest in the country last month, at 4.7 per cent, bolstered by job growth in tech, government and retail.
VIATEC CEO Dan Gunn said the Statscan figures showing 5,000 more people working in science and tech in the Capital Region, could actually be low.
“You have new companies starting everyday and they’re growing fast so the reporting can be slower than the actual reality,” he said, adding that Statscan’s labour force survey also fails to account for contract and freelance workers who make up a large part of the tech workforce.
And there was at least one surprising stat.
While the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation just reported the region saw housing starts reach a 15-year high through the first six months of 2016, the number of people working construction in Greater Victoria is down, with 2,700 fewer workers than in July 2015.
BC’s Construction Association president Manley McLachlan says it’s not for lack of demand.
“There’s lots of rationale for it. I would say that there’s still a huge demand, we know that, and I think the fact there’s 2,700 fewer people working here today, they’re probably working somewhere else,” he said.
“I’d suggest look up-Island, the John Hart dam is going strong, two hospitals under construction, lots of private sector work.So it’s a bit of an anomaly.”
At GT Hiring Solutions, Christine Willow says its also a case of demand outpacing supply, as the construction sector is just one of the industries looking for help finding workers.
“Companies like Labour Unlimited are coming to us and saying we will come and pick up the people and drive people to the site,” she said.
And she says from skilled workers, to entry level jobs in kitchens, employers are having a hard time filling openings across the board, leading to plenty of opportunity for anyone looking for work.
“There are very few sectors where I could say they’re not looking for people … I think now with 4.7 per cent unemployment, there are employers who are perhaps willing to make some concessions and do on the job training as well.”
But with unemployment higher for younger workers, McLachlan said it’s never been a better time for young people to consider building trades.
“We know we have retirements coming, two out of every three construction workers [in BC] is over the age of 45,” he said. “Those jobs will need to be filled, there’s huge opportunity.”
As an active contributor to Victoria’s game development community, Dylan was the first recipient... see more
Source: University of Victoria
“I could feel the electricity in the room … see sparks shooting with every idea generated.” Dylan Gedig and the UVic Game Dev Club helped create that energy. They put on the Victoria installation of the Global Game Jam, a worldwide event that brings together artists, designers, musicians, programmers and writers for 48 hours of collective creativity.
Alumnus and CEO of Codename Entertainment Eric Jordan knows working together like this is reflexive in Victoria’s vibrant technology sector. He brought VIATEC, DigiBC, OneBitLabs, KANO/APPS, InLight Entertainment, Electronic Arts Canada and Codename Entertainment on board to create a scholarship for computer science students who mirror that collaborative nature. As an active contributor to Victoria’s game development community, Dylan was the obvious first recipient. He shared this passion at UVic by volunteering with the course union and teaching coding to new students.
Dylan laid the groundwork for a career in video game development through UVic’s Co-op program. This scholarship gave him confidence for the next step. Under Eric’s mentorship, Dylan launched a video game publishing company and his first product will be released before his convocation ceremony.
“That recognition meant a lot to me,” he says of the scholarship. “I wouldn’t have started my own company if the local scene wasn’t so supportive. As a new member of that community, I’m excited to do what I can to help develop new talent.”
Stark, 46, senior vice-president at game studio Kixeye Canada, will be presented with an award... see more
Clayton Stark will do something today that he’s not entirely comfortable with — accept plaudits and an honour from a school that gave him a chance to take on the world on his own terms.
Stark, 46, senior vice-president at game studio Kixeye Canada, will be presented with an award from his alma mater, Camosun College, as its 2016 Distinguished Alumni during graduation ceremonies.
The outspoken technology leade admits he’s a bit taken aback and humbled by the award.
“My honest reaction was a big smile ... any kind of recognition is heartwarming, and this is an honour,” said Stark, sitting in his office at Bastion Square.
At Kixeye, Stark is responsible for technical strategy and execution for the company’s online video game platform, which reaches tens of millions of users around the world.
It’s a long way from his days learning mechanical engineering at Camosun between games of hacky sack and other recreational activities. Stark said he’s never forgotten the school and the pivotal role it played in setting him on his career path.
“I think it proved to me that I could go from point A to point B, where there was quite a gap between the two, and make a transformative change in a relatively short period of time,” Stark says. “It was the first great example that allowed me to think I could pretty much do whatever I set my mind to.”
Stark, who had no high school education, saw Camosun as the only means to getting a post-secondary education through its bridging program, an intensive six-month program that he said basically compressed all of high school into six months.
After that he took and graduated from its three-year mechanical engineering program.
The college helped him to establish confidence, which when married with knowledge allowed him to excel, he said.
“Camosun gave me some wonderful opportunities ... I had good exposure to a lot of things. I took the investment [in school] as the minimal viable investment to start a career.”
That led to work in oceanography, construction, energy management and software design and then into building top-flight technology and putting together strong tech teams.
He helped to create a company called Flock, which was acquired in 2011 by San Francisco company Zynga, in a deal designed to lure strong tech talent to Silicon Valley.
But Stark soon returned home to establish Zynga’s Victoria office, and in 2012 he joined game studio Kixeye and established that company’s first Canadian space in Bastion Square.
He laughs when he considers how often over the years he, as the Camosun grad, has been around boardroom tables and held court with MIT, Harvard and Yale graduates. “I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic. It isn’t really about requiring a particular pedigree, it’s what you do with it.”
When he talks with Camosun students, he said he tells them not to impose limits on themselves based on their level of education.
“The limits you set yourself are going to be your biggest problem, it isn’t what school you go to.”
Just when you thought you’d heard the last reminder that B.C.’s capital was once known as the... see more
Victoria’s secret is out — again.
Just when you thought you’d heard the last reminder that B.C.’s capital was once known as the place for “the newly wed and nearly dead,” a variation resurfaced online Thursday.
Vogue’s flattering article titled Why Victoria, British Columbia, Should Be Your Next Weekend Getaway also acknowledged that “an influx of creative, entrepreneurial types” has helped change the shape of a city with “about 900 tech companies, and counting.”
It also tipped its hat to the abundance of quaint hotels, boutiques, bars, bakeries, restaurants and outdoor opportunities.
But not before noting that Victoria once “seemed more like the kind of place you’d visit with your granny than hit up for a girls’ weekend.”
The Vogue spread marked the second time in a week Victoria’s unshakable reputation resurfaced. On April 3, the Toronto Star piece noted — stop the presses! — there are even skateboarders and tattooed types here.
Observing that Victoria, a long-overlooked Canadian cousin to hipster havens Seattle and Portland in conversations about the Pacific Northwest, “America’s capital region of cool,” Vogue notes we’re one of Canada’s sunniest cities.
Featured foodie highlights include Cliff Leir’s bakery Fol Epi and its Yates Street location’s Agrius restaurant, as well as Little Jumbo and its impressive food and cocktails.
While Vogue praises “the LoJo district” and the history of lower Johnson Street’s shopping area, focusing on Tonic Jewelry as well as Yates Street boutiques Nest & Cradle and Bernstein & Gold, it doesn’t overlook the “super-British vestiges of Old Victoria,” such as afternoon tea at the Empress. If you don’t want to “sleep where the Royals stay,” it suggests the Magnolia boutique hotel and Oak Bay Beach Hotel as other attractive options.
The London Chef’s West Coast, Best Coast fishing boat excursion is highlighted. It’s a crabbing and salmon fishing expedition followed by a gourmet seafood lunch at sea prepared by London-born chef Dan Hayes.
Being described by the fashion and lifestyle magazine as “Canada’s answer to Jamie Oliver” hasn’t gone to his head, Hayes said with a laugh. “It’s a huge compliment because what Jamie does for food worldwide is outstanding,” Hayes said. “I don’t think Jamie Oliver has a swelled head, either. I just cook food for people. I’m too dumb to do anything else.”
The Toronto Star article acknowledges Victoria’s sizable university population, its hip Hotel Zed and assets such as the Galloping Goose Regional Trail.
And it dispels myths about the city being “boring” by quoting Bruce Livingstone, the entrepreneur who moved here from Los Angeles and operates Stocksy.
“I tell [people] if you’re bored then it’s your fault,” he said.
Tourism Victoria CEO Paul Nursey said he is thrilled by the coverage resulting from an “engaging itinerary” they planned for five visiting travel writers last week.
“We feel great. It was a lot of hard work by my team and it’s great to see that work pay off,” said Nursey, who has no issue with “newly wed and nearly dead” references. “Sometimes you have to confront old perceptions to get people to write about the new reality.”
Vogue Magazine features Victoria, BC in their lifestyles section. see more
Source: Vogue Magazine
Author: Alyssa Schwartz
From Seattle’s ’90s grunge scene to the coffeehouses and food trucks that made Portland one of the most influential food cities in the country, the Pacific Northwest has for decades been America’s capital region of cool. Just north of the border, Vancouver, with its drizzly weather and craft breweries, is a Canadian cousin to those hipster havens. But Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, has traditionally been left out of all that cool talk.
Maybe it’s that the mountains and water that lie between Victoria and the mainland push all the clouds and rain and existential moodiness back toward the east (with an average of 2,183 hours of sunshine a year, Victoria is one of Canada’s sunniest cities); until recently, Victoria seemed more like the kind of place you’d visit with your granny than hit up for a girls’ weekend.
While Victoria’s long-held nickname refers to a place suited to the “nearly dead and newly wed,” those demographics are being overshadowed by an influx of creative, entrepreneurial types, largely driven across the Strait of Georgia by Vancouver’s skyrocketing real estate prices. Vancouver’s loss is Victoria’s gain: Today the city has about 900 tech companies and counting—it’s becoming known as Tectoria—and lots of gorgeous old brick warehouses, which now house stylish indie boutiques stocked full of local designs along with great bars, bakeries, and restaurants.
So lace up your walking shoes or hop on a bike—there’s really no need for a car in town—and discover how quaint, quiet Victoria has grown into the perfect spot for a cool Northwest getaway. Here’s the best of what to see, do, and eat while you’re there.
Eat and Drink
Cliff Leir built his first brick oven in his driveway in his teens; today he’s famous for the tangy, chewy baguettes and rye country boules he pulls out of the wood-fired oven at Fol Epi. Check out the bakery’s Yates Street location at night for dinner at Agrius for seasonal dishes such as roasted brassica shoots with pickled cipollini onion and egg yolk vinaigrette, and albacore tuna with oyster mushrooms and watercress. The bread plays double duty come dessert, after steeping in sweet milk for hours to infuse the flavor of toasted sourdough sorbet.
Inspired by old-time speakeasies, Little Jumbo feels both historic and thoroughly fresh, with its constantly changing cocktail list (try the Tiki Fizz, spiked with local producer Sea Cider’s Rumrunner) and shareable plates such as charred Humboldt squid with a kimchi and XO sauce kick.
Located in the attic of another restaurant, Perro Negro is the perfect hideaway “para picar”—to pick or nibble—on tapas such as croquettas, octopus with chorizo, and Spanish boquerones. Wash them down with a frothy Oaxacan sour (mezcal, tequila, citrus, thyme, black pepper syrup, and egg white) before moving on toBodega for more tapas and classic cocktails like a whiskey sour or negroni, reinvented with sherry.
What to Do
Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour is the starting point for a delicious day at sea with The London Chef Dan Hayes, Canada’s answer to Jamie Oliver. The chef’s newest offering, “West Coast, Best Coast,” is the tastiest way possible to explore the island coastline: After crabbing and fishing for wild salmon, Hayes prepares an at-sea lunch of ceviche and sashimi using your haul. (There’s also an on-board mimosa bar—not your typical day on a fishing boat.)
Venture over to the LoJo district: blocks of restored warehouses, shops, and hotels built during the gold rushes of the 1850s and 1890s. Today those brick heritage buildings are home to beautiful independent boutiques (look for the green “we are local” signs). Among the musts: Tonic Jewelry, where owner Honor Cienska crafts delicate earrings and necklaces out of silver, copper, and gold at the back of the store while you browse the collections of other local makers; stock up on small-batch anise fennel and rose-geranium soaps from local producer Soap Rebel at lifestyle emporium Nest & Cradle; the well-edited selection of designer fashion and denim at Bernstein & Gold lives up to the store’s tagline, “beautiful things and spa,” and then some.
New Victoria may have swapped her high tea for an Earl Grey–infused gin sour, but the super-British vestiges of Old Victoria are still enchanting. Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress is an elegant, century-old tradition worth keeping. Less than two miles from the center of town, Government House is the official residence of British Columbia’s lieutenant governor, the queen’s representative in the province (yes, the monarchy has a role in provincial and national-level government in Canada). Wander the grounds to explore the 19th-century stables, carriage house, and other service buildings, or just enjoy the beautiful gardens and views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Olympic Mountains.
Where to Stay
Tucked away on quiet Courtney Street, the Magnolia is an elegant 64-room boutique hotel steps from the Inner Harbour. It’s a tough call whether the best amenity here is the onsite spa or Curated Trails program, a collection of themed insider guides that will point you toward Victoria’s many hidden gems. Book a complimentary bike and head out on the “Bikes, Beans, and Blooms” route, which meanders through romantic local gardens and also visits a number of local coffee roasters. To sleep where the royals stay, check in to the Fairmont Empress, the city’s 108-year-old grande dame. Slightly further afield is the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, a posh waterfront resort in Victoria’s ritziest residential area, about four miles from town.
Millennials fleeing Vancouver for cities with more affordable housing, threatening city’s tech economyInterest from Vancouver has hit an all-time high for Victoria. see more
Source: Bloomberg News / National Post
Author: Katia Dmitrieva
March 14, 2016 - Kevin Oke had a Vancouver millennial’s dream job, working as lead designer at a video-game company whose clients included Atari and Ubisoft Entertainment SA, but he still couldn’t afford a house. So he left his native city.
“Housing in Vancouver is insane — it was insane when I left and it’s more insane now,” said Oke, who co-founded educational-software company LlamaZoo Interactiveafter moving to Victoria in 2014. “If you’re trying to do the startup thing full-time, it would have been really difficult with all the expenses.”
Oke, now 33, is part of the millennial retreat from a city where housing prices have skyrocketed at a faster pace than even in San Francisco, another North American technology locus. Rising costs are putting Vancouver’s vaunted growth engine at risk as the city hemorrhages people employed in tech and new media for more affordable locales, including Victoria and Kelowna. The flight of millennials from Vancouver is similar to trends found in other cities with soaring home prices.
Vancouver was ranked the third-least-affordable housing market in the world this year, after Sydney and Hong Kong, by consulting firm Demographia. It was the eighth straight year the city occupied a top-three spot.
The price of a typical Vancouver home rose 21 per cent to $775,300 in January from a year earlier, according to the city’s real estate board. That compares with a 14 per cent increase to a US$1.1 million median in San Francisco, according to residential-data website Zillow. Vancouver home prices have risen partly as a result of foreign buyers — from China and elsewhere — investing in property.
Rentals are hard to come by, and just as unaffordable. The vacancy rate of 0.8 per cent is one of the lowest in the country, and the average monthly rent of US$937 for a bachelor suite is tied at highest with the cost in Toronto, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Rents for newly built units and renovated basement suites are pricier.
As housing costs have risen, so have the number of people in their twenties and thirties leaving the city. The net number of people age 18 to 24 added to Vancouver’s population was the lowest ever last year, at 884, and the number of 25-to-44-year-olds decreased by about 1,300, the biggest decline since 2007, according to Statistics Canada.
That’s led startup leaders, including Ryan Holmes, founder of Vancouver-based Hootsuite Media Inc., to lament the loss of talent.
“Unaffordability is emptying Vancouver of one of its most valuable assets — young people who grew up in the city and who are invested in it,” Holmes wrote in a Financial Post op-ed in February.
Along with Ontario’s Waterloo region, Vancouver is often likened to Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Seattle for its startup scene. The city’s tech industry employs more people than oil and gas, forestry and mining combined, and it’s set to help lead economic growth among Canadian cities for the next four years, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Mayor Gregor Robertson created an agency to tackle the housing crisis, with a goal of delivering 2,500 low-cost units by 2021, among other targets.
That driver of growth may evaporate as talent exits Vancouver, said Christine Duhaime, founder and executive director of the Digital Finance Institute, which supports Canada’s financial-technology industry. She’s having a tough time filling a 2,000-square-foot (186-square-meter) open-concept office for startups in Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighborhood she opened this year because potential tenants say they’re leaving the city for Victoria, Kelowna and as far away as London and Singapore.
“We’re banging our heads on the wall,” she said. “Why aren’t they staying? Because it’s too expensive. Vancouver is going to lose its tech edge.”
One of the main recipients of the brain drain is Victoria, or “Tectoria” as it’s sometimes known, which opened a tech incubator in 2014 to accommodate the growth of what’s now a $4-billion industry in the city employing about 23,000 people. Billionaire investor Terry Matthews has injected capital into startups on the island, once known as the home of “newlyweds and nearly deads.”
“Interest from Vancouver has hit an all-time high for us,” said Dan Gunn, head of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council. “People in Vancouver are starting to look around and realize, ‘I may not be able to afford a home here.'”
Kelowna is another city seeing a recent flow of millennial housing refugees from British Columbia’s biggest city. The town of 123,000 is in the midst of building a six-story innovation centre for startups and Accelerate Okanagan, an organization that supports local tech companies.
Karen Olsson, chief executive officer for Kelowna-based software company Community Sift, says it’s getting easier to recruit people from bigger cities because they’re drawn to the lifestyle that includes farm-to-table dining, hand-roasted organic coffee and local beer.
“Kelowna is much more affordable — it’s a big piece of the sell for sure,” Olsson said. When she and her husband moved to Kelowna in September, they traded a 2,700-square-foot, $800,000 house in Squamish, a suburb 45 minutes away from Vancouver, for a 5-acre (2-hectare) farm in Kelowna that was $200,000 less and closer to downtown.
Now that he’s in Victoria, Oke, of LlamaZoo, said he misses Vancouver’s “shiny bustle” — until he leaves his apartment, a five-minute jog from the beach, and walks only 10 minutes to his office in space above a coffee shop that also houses a dozen other startups.
“I don’t know how many more good things I want to say about Victoria,” he said after ticking off myriad benefits of living in the city. “Then more people will come and push housing prices up.”
Giftbit accepted into Founders' Co-op family see more
Giftbit is a Victoria, BC company that helps large-scale issuers of digital gift credits (think brands like Starbucks, Amazon and eBay) and volume buyers of those credits (pretty much any digital brand that uses gift credits as a promotional incentive in their online marketing campaigns) work together to effortlessly transact, distribute and manage those campaigns. The team came to Seattle last fall to participate in Founders' Co-op "Techstars Seattle" class of 2015, one of two Canadian companies that joined them for that class. (They have two more Canadian teams in this year’s class of nine companies, one from Ottawa and one from Toronto, and are loving the easy cross-border flow of talent and ideas between Seattle and our neighbor to the north).
Founders' Co-op knew they wanted to invest almost from the moment Giftbit arrived in program, but they also knew they’d need a bigger raise than they had the capacity to lead. In addition to promoting their regional and cross-border startup ecosystem, another part of Founders' Co-op's mission is to develop entrepreneurial opportunities that attract capital from great investors outside the Pacific Northwest. Not only does this help them fund more strong companies here, it also introduces new investors to the Cascadia market and increases the overall availability of risk capital in our ecosystem. They introduced the Giftbit team to some of their favorite seed-stage funds in Silicon Valley — firms that had shown an appetite to invest in this region even at the earliest stages.
One of these firms — Freestyle — had already raised their hand by leading the Seed round for TrueFacet, a Techstars Seattle 2014 company also backed by Founders’ Co-op and Maveron. Freestyle partner Jenny Lefcourt is a friend (and fellow Stanford GSB ’99 dropout), and she dug deep on the Giftbit team and opportunity before deciding to lead the round and join the company’s board.
Founders' Co-op is thrilled to back another Canadian startup and Techstars Seattle graduate, and doubly thrilled to be doing so alongside a great, founder-led Bay Area seed fund with a demonstrated appetite to invest in the Pacific Northwest. Congrats to Jenny and the Freestyle team on another great raise, and to Leif, Peter and the Giftbit team on lining up such a great investor syndicate.