Vancouver is Now Startup City

Downtown opens its doors to flocks of investors as part of the second annual Startup Week.

September 10, 2015

By Jenni Elliott

Did you know 15,000 new jobs are forecasted for Vancouver’s tech sector over the next five years? Add that to the 75,000 Vancouverites currently working in technology and we’re cooking with gas.

Based on these numbers, it seems savvy that the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) has teamed up with Microsoft and the BC Innovation Council to put together a week chock-a-block with business events designed to encourage startup entrepreneurs to flock to a city already voted “most conducive environment” for startups in 2014.

We chatted with VEC’s Sean Elbe to find out which of Startup City’s lineup you can’t afford to miss. If Sean’s word isn’t enough for you, check out the full calendar listing here.

How did Startup City come about?
Last year, a group of grassroots volunteer committee members came together to pull off this full week of programming designed around startups and the technology community. They had 80 events with over 4,000 participants, so it seemed obvious VEC should bring it back this year.

Other cities already do this. Why did Vancouver join the gang?
Every day we support green companies, technology companies, social-purpose companies… It was a no-brainer for us to take part in this.

Are you seeing a rising trend in startups since the “most conducive eco-system” award?
I think it was definitely the beginning of an increased appreciation for entrepreneurship in Vancouver.

Are they mainly tech?
We don’t see this as exclusive to tech; we see many small businesses enabled by technology but not funded by it. You might have seen that Vancouver has the fastest-growing economy of all of Canada’s major cities—that’s over the next five years during a predicted recession. That’s what sets us apart.

Do you see Vancouver becoming the next Silicon Valley?
I think anyone that prints that headline tends to get slammed on social media [laughs]. We have such a large amount of tech workers here—you can’t ignore that. But when you think about Vancouver, you think about real estate, tourism, and the natural-resources industry. It’s safe to say Vancouver isn’t what we thought it was.

Does the Wavefront investor event actually have willing investors in the room?
Yes. Over the course of the four days, we are going to have just under a hundred companies connecting with double that number of investors as part of our Startup Alley program. It’s a highly curated environment where folks in the room are looking for money and other folks are looking to invest.

We are working with the provincial government and the Canadian consulate in Seattle to bring in investors from the U.S.—specifically the Pacific North West—meaning we have some really exciting investors that aren’t typically up here.

Most fun event on the calendar?
I’m biased because we are working with a group called Tinkerine, which I love. They are an amazing organization that does these workshops that show you how to 3-D print and build drones.

Most informative event?
We have two fantastic leaders in our tech community—Matt Switzer from Hootsuite and Alexandra Greenhill from MyBest Helper—who will be interviewing three of our rising stars in the technology community. These kids are awesome. You always get the same old people talking in the tech community, but these young leaders are going to bring some new ideas and fresh thinking to what’s happening in Vancouver right now.

Most popular event?
Probably the BCIC New Ventures awards ceremony kick-off party and the Canadian tech showcase closing party.

Top three speakers?
Toby from Shopify; Dhaman Rakhra (winner of the Hult prize, a global award for social entrepreneurs funded by the Clinton Foundation), and Marianne Hudson, who is the executive director of the Angel Capital Association from the States.
 
Could I give you a fourth? Nicholas Badminton is a futurist who used to be with Freelancer.com; he’s going to talk about the future of work. His keynotes are always really exciting.

Startup City
Monday, Sept. 21 – Thursday, Sept. 24
Vancouvereconomic.com

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