BIV 25th Anniversary: B.C. tech: past, present and future

Content provided by Business in Vancouver

B.C.’s technology industry has grown fast and gone far in the past 25 years – and will go a lot further, says Bill Tam, president …

Tech come a long way since 1989. It was 25 years ago that Tim Berners-Lee first conceived what has now become the modern web.

In the ensuing 25 years, the Internet has changed everything. As British Columbians and Canadians, we’re now among the most prolific consumers of Internet and digital technology.

A recent study by the Internet Association found that Canadians are the No. 1 users of social networking and we’re No. 2 in the world in the amount of time we spend online.

The Internet revolution has also fuelled the growth of the B.C. tech industry. Since 1989, B.C. tech has grown more than seven-fold, from $3 billion to over $23 billion today, propelling the technology industry into one of the leading industry sectors in the B.C. economy. Over 84,000 people work in the technology sector, eclipsing the number of jobs in mining, forestry and oil and gas combined.

We have cultivated one of the most dynamic, entrepreneurial tech ecosystems anywhere in the world, with built-in advantages – a strong tech infrastructure, a vibrant startup community, a wealth of ideas and innovation and proximity to major tech markets.

Even with this strong foundation, there is still much work to do. In the recently published 2014 BC Technology Report Card, KPMG outlines the importance of renewed focus and investment in the tech sector to realize the full opportunity for British Columbia. Increasing the size of firms and cultivating more mid- to large-sized anchor companies are among the highest priorities.

Twenty-five years ago, there were only a handful of anchor tech companies – companies such as Alpha Technologies, Glenayre, MDA and MPR Teltech. Today, the number of anchors has grown to several dozen and

includes companies such as Avigilon, Build Direct, Global Relay, Hootsuite, Vision Critical and Westport.

Over the next 25 years, we’ll need hundreds of anchor companies in British Columbia – and the BC Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) is committed to making this a reality. Several years ago, we launched our Centre4Growth program – a virtual accelerator focused on harnessing the collective strength of the BCTIA network to accelerate the growth of companies and our industry as a whole.

Centre4Growth has supported over 400 companies, which have on average grown by 42% with a 94% survival rate. Together, these companies represent the future anchors for B.C. tech.

Building on this success, the BCTIA will be opening an innovation hub that will serve as the gathering point of the B.C. tech community and as a place where the next generations of anchor tech companies can connect with coaches, mentors, post-secondary researchers, industry resources, customers and partners to accelerate their growth.

The hub will serve as an essential catalyst and become a beacon of innovation and company growth for B.C. tech. We have the essential underpinnings to create a tech powerhouse in British Columbia.

With strategic investments and collective will, the best is yet to come.

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