21 Sep 2016 (CBC) Has Vancouver’s booming tech sector turned us into Silicon Valley North?
Content provided by CBC News
New ranking of fastest growing companies in Canada show several are in Vancouver… and they’re all web-based.
Vancouver tech companies have come out on top in a new ranking of Canadian businesses. But, despite the wave of good news for the industry, some say it’s still too soon to call Vancouver Silicon Valley North.
Based on submissions sent to business publication Profit, Vancouver companies Canada Drives and Buyatab are two of the top three fastest growing companies in the country — and both are online businesses.
The top ranked start-up, Shoes.com, also calls Vancouver home.
Despite this news and an influx of major players like Amazon and Microsoft expanding into the city, tech investor Boris Wertz says the growth of Vancouver’s tech sector isn’t unique.
“I think we’ve done well, but I wouldn’t say that we’ve done better than anybody else,” he said. “We’ve just ridden off a trend of tech becoming more important.”
He says the industry has grown at a healthy pace relative to the size of the city, much like larger cities such as Seattle or Toronto.
As someone who splits his time between Vancouver and San Francisco, he says it’s challenging to compare any city to the unique nature of Silicon Valley.
“It’s the best tech ecosystem in the world,” he said. “You can’t really copy the Valley. You can’t really compete with the Valley. They’re on a different level.”
Instead, he suggests the city and province focus on its competitive advantages as a livable city with high-caliber talent.
From 6 to 200 employees
It’s those qualities that drew companies like Canada Drives to Vancouver.
Born in Salmon Arm, B.C., founder and CEO Cody Green started the online auto financing company in Saskatoon after working as a car salesman.
Two years ago, with six employees in tow, he decided to move the business and chose Vancouver.
Now 31 years old, Green says he knew it was a “great city to live in” but hoped it would give his company a competitive edge.
“We also wanted to tap into the rich tech sector in Vancouver as we knew technology was going to play a big part in our growth in the future,” he said. “This seemed like a natural place to do it from.”
Two years later, his downtown Vancouver office is buzzing with nearly 200 employees sprawled across two floors.
He says he hasn’t had time to reflect on his success but knows he has no intention of leaving the city.
There are challenges though, as Green admits recruiting high-level professionals like engineers has been very competitive, making it tough to grow the business.
B.C.’s technology minister, Amrik Virk, says he is trying to address those concerns, which are shared by other tech companies in the city.
He says the province has introduced mandatory skills like coding in elementary and high schools while providing financial support for paid internships at the post-secondary level at tech companies.
The government is also looking to introduce a new $100 million fund for B.C. based start-ups in the next couple of weeks, and is trying to help open doors to foreign markets.
All of this will take time, says Virk, but the boom in the tech industry will likely make it hard to ignore.
According to figures released by the provincial government, tech now employs more people than the mining, oil and gas and forestry sectors combined.
As for the Silicon Valley North comparisons, Virk says B.C. won’t be branding itself as that anytime soon. He’d prefer the province emphasise its unique characteristics and just be known as “B.C. tech.”
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