CRED and Board of Change Tech Panel

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“Is BC Poised to be the Next Tech Hot Spot?”

The tech sector is now larger than all the province’s resource-based industries combined –– to the tune of as much as $26 billion of BC’s GDP, and more than 165,000 jobs.

“Tech is a real success story,” said Liz McDowell, Executive Director of Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED), in praise of B.C.’s third-largest economic driver. McDowell was speaking at a Board of Change panel at SAP‘s Yaletown offices.

CRED studies the B.C. economy in search of ways to develop and grow in a way that preserves the province’s environment and livability, while enhancing residents’ way of life. CRED’s latest study is titled “Is BC Poised to Be the Next Tech Hot Spot?”

The technology industry is booming in British Columbia, and a rising tide lifts all ships: the CRED study stated that when tech benefits, so do other industries.

To discuss the findings of the CRED study, four of Vancouver’s tech-scene heavy-hitters took part in the panel for Board of Change:

  • Michael Delage, B.Sc., MBA, VP Technology and Corporate Strategy for General Fusion
  • Amielle Lake, CRO and Founder of Tagga
  • Bill Tam, President and CEO of BCTIA
  • Ray Walia, co-founder of Launch Academy

Tech jobs, on average, pay more than jobs in other sectors: $1,440 per week vs. $870, according to the CRED report.


Combined, the sector adds more per dollar earned back into the provincial GDP than does the resource industry. If, proportionally, we actually caught up to the United States, BC’s tech industry would be pumping nearly another $10 billion into the GDP.

The products of the tech industry can help us clean up the environment, or prevent us from screwing it up in the first place, said Delage.

However, to take our tech industry to the next level, the panel concurred with the CRED report: British Columbia must increase government support and investments in talent development. We must increase access to venture capital while reducing barriers to recruitment.

Funding for new BC tech ventures remains challenging. Lake suggested the obvious and still-pragmatic stopgap: “Bootstrap as much as you can.”

Delage pointed out that “tech is not constrained by consumable resources,” which makes the start-up path easier. There are 9,000 tech companies in BC as of 2012, according to the CRED report; add 31,000 more if you count start-ups who haven’t yet hired employees.

The report notes that not only do we have fewer venture-capital firms in Vancouver, but the ones we have lack Silicon Valley-calibre experience. They just don’t know when to pull the trigger: sometimes bad ideas are obviously bad, but it takes experience to recognize a diamond in the rough. Walia noted, “Valley money is smart money,” bringing with it not just a chequebook but the ability to advise the companies it funds.

Tech has natural allies in other industries, but In terms of cross-industry partnerships, Walia said that “people don’t like to invest in things they don’t understand.”

One result is money from already-established industries that now has nowhere to go. Lake said that the wealth generated by the resource industry is “sitting on the sidelines,” rather than getting invested in technology that will improve not only the resource industry itself, but the province as a whole.

A root problem here, Tam said, is understanding: “The tech industry really did grow out of the resource industry…. tech doesn’t just stand alone.” As energy prices fluctuate with stomach-churning speed, now, said Tam, is the time to invest in productivity-improving technology.

Read the full article here.