"My focus in Vancouver is on product and design, whereas in San Francisco it’s more on investors..." see more
Is Slack a harbinger of tech riches for Vancouver?
The arrival of Slack in Vancouver seems to indicate full steam ahead for B.C.’s tech sector. If things change south of the border, however, all bets are off.
The enterprise software phenomenon Slack [(app built by Victoria company, Metalab)] has been in its Hamilton Street offices for almost a year now. But with extensive renovations just complete, CEO Stewart Butterfield hosted a media unveiling this September. As only befits a seven-year-old company valued mid-2016 at $3.8 billion, the place makes most offices look very ordinary indeed. The Michael Leckie-designed space features brick walls and dark timbers, kitchen and bar, lounge areas with lots of throw pillows, gauzy balloon-like light fixtures and a six-metre wall at the top of the main stairs that’s covered in bright green mummified moss.
An evidently proud Butterfield characterized the Vancouver office, now employing 82 people, as his favourite, noting: “The San Francisco office has a great location. But it wasn’t entirely built out by us. So it’s much less us.”
That Butterfield would champion his Vancouver office is perhaps to be expected. The 42-year-old founder of Flickr, later sold to Yahoo, started life on a commune in rural B.C. with the original given name Dharma. You could say he’s emphatically homegrown. But his enthusiasm might also reflect the anticipation that, poised at the dawn of 2017, the B.C. tech sector is set to boom.
Slack isn’t the only driver of that potential phenomenon. Microsoft invested $120 million in its Vancouver facility this past year, where it eventually intends to employ 750 people. Hootsuite officially became cash-flow positive mid-2016, and its awaited IPO now seems likely for this coming year. According to numbers recently released by the province, the B.C. tech sector now employs over 90,000 people—more than mining, oil and gas, and forestry combined.
All of this activity can also be seen as part of a bigger plan, which is to expand the economic ties and coordination between Seattle and Vancouver. Separated by a snarled freeway and a plugged-up international border, the cousin cities have long attracted the attention of local planners seeking to bring their communities closer together. In September we got an emblem of that in the form of B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s and Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s signatures on an agreement to coordinate economic development of the technology sectors in both places.
The motive for American companies is clear. Canada has a speedier immigration environment than does the U.S. That’s important in a sector with a seemingly insatiable demand for engineers, many of whom are being schooled at the tech-friendly educational institutions of China and India. Getting them into Canada, by some estimates, takes less than half the time required to get them into the States.
Butterfield himself anticipates close to 40 new hires in Vancouver, including in “customer experience” and front-end engineering. “Engineering is the second-biggest team here,” he says. “And this is where most of the design leadership is, the core of the front-end development team. So my focus in Vancouver is on product and design, whereas in San Francisco it’s more on investors and executive recruiting.”
Executive recruiting may be easier in the San Francisco area because there would be much greater depth in people with experience in enterprise software companies in the first place. But it may also be easier because of the housing demands of people being hired at the most senior levels. Sure, a younger workforce—Butterfield looked to be the only person over 40 in the Hamilton Street facility—may be willing to live in small or shared quarters in what is widely considered one of the least affordable cities in the world. If you’re looking to hire senior people, on the other hand, who will likely be older and may well have families, then you need to have places for them to live that don’t cost millions of dollars.
But maybe real estate prices are, in the end, a red herring. San Francisco and New York, both thriving tech hubs, have more expensive downtown real estate than Vancouver. The risk factor for the Vancouver tech boom may come down to a piece of paper: the U.S. H1-B visa. A non-immigration work permit allowing U.S. companies to hire foreign nationals in specialized sectors including technology, the H1-B is capped at 65,000 persons annually. Were that head cap to be lifted, as it is rumoured it might be, a key Vancouver competitive advantage would fall away. And then the Slack-indicated tech boom might well be in jeopardy.
Butterfield isn’t worrying about that—not at the moment, anyway; 2017 is coming, and he thinks Slack’s drawing power will be ample to attract the people he needs. “Just look at how beautiful our office is!” he exclaims. Then, more seriously, he offers the following prognosis: “I think that being at Slack right now will be similar to having worked at Google from 2005 to 2007, or Facebook from 2007 to 2009, or Apple in the mid 2000s.”
If he’s right, a lot of people will be having a happy New Year.
Nominations for B.C.'s outstanding business women in private or public sector companies see more
2019 Influential Women in Business Awards: Nominations Open
It’s that time of year again! Business in Vancouver is seeking nominations for B.C.'s outstanding business women in private or public sector companies.
Our intention is to give worthy individuals the recognition they deserve as well as to use their example to inspire other Influential Women in Business to achieve similar success. Five winners and one Lifetime Achievement Award winner will be profiled in a February issue of Women in Business Magazine and honoured at a special awards luncheon in early March 2019. Each winner will share their leadership lessons to an audience of Vancouver’s business community.
Honourees are influential leaders in their industry and the business community at large, committing time and resources to mentor other women in business and contribute their expertise on corporate and not for profit boards. They are chosen based on the criteria of professional accomplishments, influence, and business community involvement. For more information about the awards process, visit www.biv.com/iwib.
DEADLINE: OCTOBER 15, 2018 AT NOON
NEW THIS YEAR: THE MICHELLE POCKEY LEADERSHIP AWARD
As a prominent lawyer and community activist, Michelle Pockey dedicated herself to making a positive difference in the world – from energy, mining, environmental and Indigenous issues to increasing the economic success and impact of women. Michelle worked tirelessly for 20 years advancing women in business, law, First Nations and non-traditional sectors. She was an inspiration to others every day of her life until her passing from cancer in June 2016.
To help support Michelle’s legacy and advance other women along their leadership journeys, Business in Vancouver and Minerva BC have partnered to recognize this exceptional female leader through the creation of the Michelle Pockey Leadership Award. This Award will give first priority to an Indigenous woman and single parents, and second priority to women pursuing law, justice, Indigenous or environmental studies. The Award is intended to support the successful nominee's tuition, housing or childcare in the pursuit of post-secondary education or entrepreneurship.
The Award and a donation cheque will be presented at Business in Vancouver's Influential Women in Business Awards in March 2019. For more information about the awards process, visit www.biv.com/leadership-award.
DEADLINE: OCTOBER 15, 2018 AT NOON
CrackerJackFlash posted an articleCrackerJackFlash unites strategic and visually driven services to help grow your business. see more
CrackerJack Marketing + Design has recently merged with JackFlash Photography + Video to create CrackerJackFlash: a one-stop-shop that unites strategic and visually driven services under one roof.
This combination of services is unique to Victoria because it offers a marketing “agency alternative” that is nimble and flexible enough to work with budgets of all sizes, getting straight to the talent you need most without additional layers. So whether you’re a budding start-up, or an established tech firm, CJ*F and its customized team of freelance associates can adapt to your project’s needs and have the experience to get your brand noticed.
And with the recent addition of in-house photography and video services, CJ*F’s founder Jack Adamson can take a more holistic approach towards visual execution, ensuring your story will truly resonate with your audience.
So if your company needs help growing its business through marketing, conceptual design and copywriting, photography or video services, CJ*F has an award-wining track record of generating stories that are more authentic and memorable in nature.
To learn more, call Jack at 250.580.SNAP or check out CJ*F’s new website today.
Vancouver developers are taking advantage of a growing market, spurred on by the high-tech sector see more
Developers plan to reinvent retail block on Fort Street
A large block of real estate in Victoria’s downtown core is changing hands.
Two Vancouver developers have purchased two large sites on the south side of Fort Street between Quadra Street and Blanshard Street with the intention of revitalizing and reinventing the retail block.
PC Urban has spent about $13 million for seven buildings covering more than 42,000 square feet — 829, 835, 841, 849 and 891 Fort St. and 850 and 856 Broughton St. — with plans to develop a mixed-used project. The Salient Group has picked up 10,000 square feet at 825 and 827 Fort St., which had been on the market for $3.95 million, with similar plans.
Anne Tanner, managing director of commercial real estate firm Cushman Wakefield, said the deals highlight the fact Victoria is no longer a well-kept secret and Vancouver developers are taking advantage of a growing market, spurred on by the high-tech sector.
Tanner said tech’s boom has meant there are more career jobs in Victoria to attract and retain young professionals and more companies looking for interesting downtown spaces.
The two deals “are exciting for Victoria because if you look at what the companies have done with buildings in Gastown, they want to reinvent these buildings similarly,” she said.
Both deals have just closed and there are no etched-in-stone plans.
“It’s at a drawing board stage,” said Robert Fung, president of Salient Group. “And it won’t be a single-building approach that we take, we have always been about creative, mixed-use communities and mixed-use dynamic downtown spaces. One way or another they will be rehabilitated, redeveloped and reinvigorated to be great spaces with great tenants on the ground floor in an area that has an amazing vibe.”
Fung said one of the reasons he was drawn to the area was the work done to revitalize the western portion of the block near Fort and Blanshard streets.
Fort Street Properties has invested heavily in its buildings, established new common areas and changing the retail mix to add energy to the block.
“The work they have done is spectacular. They have done the sort of work we greatly appreciate and it’s perfectly in step with the sort of vision we have for how the area will be built out,” said Fung, who said his firm prides itself on urban revitalization and heritage-base redevelopment.
Jayne Bradbury, co-owner of Fort Street Properties, said new interest in the block vindicates their decision to invest. “We see the purchases as a vote of confidence in upper Fort Street as a neighbourhood, and are looking forward to watching the changes unfold in the 800 block in the next few years,” she said. “We expect that the additional residential developments will be good for downtown businesses, including our tenants at Fort and Blanshard Streets.”
Fung said it’s too soon to say what, if any, residential component will be part of his plans.
Tim Sommer, senior vice president of capital markets for Cushman Wakefield, said there may be residential towers included in PC Urban’s plans for the larger site, which was owned by the Price family. That site is bordered by Fort, Quadra and Broughton streets.
Sommer said deals like this are in part due to developers being “squeezed out of Vancouver.”
“But they see a chance to participate in Victoria by buying these older buildings and being part of a resurgence,” he said. “And part of this is being driven by what’s for sale — there is supply available on this street right now and people see the potential.”
Fung said there’s a lot of upside in Victoria.
“One of the most exciting things is the economic shift to technology and the creative sector in the downtown,” he said, noting that is tailor-made for Salient’s style, which is to redevelop heritage buildings in places like Gastown and New Westminister. “It was synergistic to look at Victoria now because of where we are in our cycle and where Victoria is. And you have gorgeous buildings that need some TLC.”
Recent tenants along the Fort Street block include a fabric shop, a cabinet maker, a lock and safe store, and antiques stores. Some of the businesses, such Price’s Lock and Safe, have scaled back their hours in recent months, or have held closing-out sales.
A dozen VIATEC Member companies are showing the province how incredible Greater Victoria's tech is. see more
January 6, 2016 - Victoria, BC - The #BCTECH Summit runs from January 18th to 19th at the Vancouver Convention Centre West with the goals of showcasing BC’s vibrant technology industry, building cross-sector opportunities for businesses and exploring the latest ideas that will drive a competitive advantage for BC.
VIATEC is supporting the summit as an Innovation Industry Partner, bringing 10 VIATEC Member companies with them to show the province how incredible Greater Victoria's tech industry is. The following companies will be exhibiting with VIATEC in the main conference area:
- GlobalWide Media
- Iris Dynamics
- Priologic Software
- RaceRocks 3d
- StarFish Medical
- Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services
- Honourable Christy Clark, Premier of BC
- Eric Ries, Author, The Lean Startup
- Ambrosia Vertesi, VP Talent, Hootsuite
- T.K. Rangarajan, Corporate Vice President, Technology & Research, Microsoft
- Andrew Wilson, CEO, Electronic Arts
- And many, many more
- How to build a lasting tech company
- Capitalizing opportunities for BC
- Changing the Game: Digital and the transformation of entertainment
- Minds & Machines: The next industrial revolution
- Shaping the future of health
- And many, many more
A streaming event will take place at Fort Tectoria for those who can't make it to the event. Details to follow.
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.”