As seen in CKNW News.
Written by: Claire Allen
VANCOUVER, BC APRIL 22, 2016 — Vancouver is becoming a tech mecca!
Don’t believe me? Maybe you should take Brian Wong’s word for it.
“I would say Vancouver’s got some of the smartest people and some of the best institutions for educating in technology and in business. And because of the environment and there has been some success stories that can help fund further innovation, there’s a lot of stuff that’s happening. I would say its nascent, it’s going to continue to grow, and we’re only in the early days.”
You may be asking yourself: who is this Brian Wong and how is he qualified to discuss the BC tech industry?
Well, Brian Wong is the co-founder of Kiip, a mobile app rewards platform that lets brands and companies give real-world rewards for in-game achievements.
Wong was born and raised in Vancouver and co-founder Kiip in 2010 along with his two friends, Courtney Guertin and Amadeus Demarzi.
Long story short, at the age of 19, Wong became the second youngest company leader to ever receive funding from a venture capital firm. Kiip is currently active on more than 1,100 apps played on 75 million devices, sends out reward notices for over 500 million moments monthly, and gives out 11 rewards per second.
Kiip’s clients include McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Ford… and he did this all before the age of 21.
So, Brian Wong is an example of one of many local tech success story. And the world has been noticing.
Bloomberg Businessweek has called our city “the new tech hub,” a place offering “world-class talent and few immigration headaches “as well as “great views in a convenient time zone.”
In 2015, Premier Christy Clark announced a $100-million technology innovation fund to fuel the venture capital market in the province.
“Today I’m announcing a new $100-million B.C. Tech Fund, and that tech fund will be there to support these small companies become medium size and then big companies that are going to lead tech all around British Columbia. Because this should be a tech hub for the world, for talent to come to and money to come to all around the world.”
Currently, Vancouver has three of Canada’s four tech “unicorns”.
According to statistics, the BC tech industry includes nearly 101,000 tech professionals, with some 75,000 working in Vancouver and more than 7,000 companies across B.C.
So what kind of impact has the B.C. tech industry had on our economy?
For that answer, we turned to Bill Tam, CEO of the BC Technology Industry Association.
“The amazing thing is, over the past decade tech has been one of those under the radar success stories here in the province. It’s been the fastest growing segment of the economy for the last decade, it’s grown notionally at roughly twice the rate of the province overall, and its added the last 10 years 3,000 new jobs. So in an environment where we’re increasingly kind of seeing terrific talent coming out of post secondary institutions, [and] great companies that have chosen to make Vancouver either their first home or their second home.”
He says the city is packed with success stories, both global and local, from Microsoft and Sony and Amazon to Sierra Wireless, BuildDirect, Clio and Bench.
“It’s really created a groundswell of opportunity for people looking for the next place to work. And I think the government has been a terrific partner in seeing and recognizing this, and investing correspondingly, and making sure we can take full advantage of the opportunity.”
So, who is entering the BC tech sector? Tam says he sees a split.
“For sure we see people who are coming out of university who are set on finding their own pathway to change the world. And lets face it, in tech, and various sub sectors like clean tech and sustainability and all of that, you can’t find a more energizing environment from which you can do that sort of thing. So for sure we have a natural draw from people who are working to change the world.”
But he says it’s not all fresh faced grads – and that thinking you’re “too old” for tech is a mistake.
“What’s amazing is that even for people that are further along in their career, what tech represents if for all of us to be inventors and tinkerers, and you know to have our own impact. So you are seeing an increasing number of people mid career thinking about what they would like to do next, and maybe having worked in one of the more traditional industry sets, starting to come out to try and experience what tech is all about.”
Tam says there’s plenty of training and re-training opportunities available for those who want to learn code or get into tech. Some are in traditional post secondary institutions, like SFU’s programs for management technology – while others run private coding camps and academies like Lighthouse Labs or CodeCore.
“So we’re seeing a number of people who are dipping their toes in the water saying maybe this can be the next chapter in their career.”
Paying it Forward
The BC Technology Industry Association has been interested in the growth of tech in BC so much that they started the Centre4Growth.
“A few years ago, what we determined was needed was for us to put the full weight of the BCTIA community, the tech community here in British Columbia to try and grow the next generation of successes. All the companies that are dotting the landscape here. And the best way to do that is to bring the expertise that have been there before and to set up one of the top drawer mentorship programs along with support mechanisms to help these companies to scale to big operations.”
As you heard Bill say, BC’s tech sector is growing at twice the rate of the province overall. So, if you’re interested, how do you get in on the action?
“One of the things I often tell people who are looking at careers here is talk to as many people as you possibly can, because everyone is open to a conversation. And its not just our organization, but countless others who open their doors and make sure they provide the support vehicles and introductions to other people who’ve been there before. And I think entrepreneurs and would-be people that are seeking to enter into a career in tech to take full advantage of the openness by which this community operates.”
So if you’re looking to change your career, consider tech! It’s only getting bigger as Bill Tam mentioned, there is room for everyone!