(BIV) BC Tech: The 20-Year Overnight Success

As seen in BC TECH 2013 Magazine

The technology industry in British Columbia is an overnight success; it took 20 years, but it has become one of the most resilient and innovative sectors in our province.

B.C. possesses a keen entrepreneurial spirit and a reputation for technical ingenuity, from geological simulators for mine exploration to advanced robotics for timber production to social media town halls for community outreach. Technology has transformed how we improve our business competitiveness, connect our communities and communicate.

Since 1993 the tech industry in B.C. has grown five-fold, from $4 billion in revenue to over $20 billion today. It is a cornerstone of the provincial economy and the third-largest contributor to our Gdp. There’s ample evidence that what’s happening in B.C. isn’t a flash in the pan; it’s based on the technology sector’s proven track record of reinvention and ability to weather the economic ups and downs.

Technology now represents a $9 trillion global market opportunity – a sizeable prize, in which B.C. accounts for less than one-quarter of a per cent. We can seize this vast market opportunity, but it demands a fundamental shift in how we think and act.

We will need to increase access to venture capital and skilled talent, create meaningful partnerships with academic institutions and our governments. We need policies, actions and strong partnerships that will result in the hyper-growth of small tech companies into global leaders.

It will take the engagement and efforts of every British Columbian to choose, adopt and promote B.C. technology first. Imagine the growth our industry could have if every citizen, business and government adopted a home-team advantage attitude.

The World Bank consistently ranks Canada as one of the most favourable environments to start a business. Vancouver was recently rated among the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world. More British Columbians work in startup companies than anywhere else in Canada. Our supportive ecosystem has resulted in a flourishing number of tech companies – almost 9,000 today. These tech firms have created thousands of stable, well-paying jobs and have pumped new life into B.C.’s innovation ecosystem.

The challenge is to accelerate growth of these startups to become mid- and large-sized businesses. Mid-sized companies possess the level of resources and wealth necessary to expand export activities, attract skilled talent and investment and grow our provincial economy.

Young, fast-growing companies are known as “Gazelles.” The Organization for Economic Cooperation and development defines these as small businesses that are less than five years old and have experienced over 20 per cent growth in each of the past three years.

Over the past two decades our province has produced its share of Gazelles, such as MdA, Westport, Electronic Arts and Crystal decisions. More recently, companies like Avigilon, hootSuite, Global Relay and QuickMobile are well on their way to becoming B.C.’s next billion-dollar enterprises. These Gazelles are attracting the attention of the world, bringing investment and skilled talent to our province.

If we are to seize our share of the growing $9 trillion global market opportunity, we must accelerate the growth of many more Gazelles. This means focusing our efforts and attention on the acceleration of our companies by bridging entrepreneurship, money, talent and know-how. It means channelling our competitive spirit to seek out and conquer new global markets. And it means directing the resources available to activities that will achieve our ultimate goal: recognition of British Columbia as a global technology powerhouse.

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As seen in BC TECH 2013

click here to download a pdf of the magazine