January 20, 2016
With big names like Hootsuite and Electronic Arts calling BC its home base, it would have been easy for the BC Tech Summit which took place on January 18-19, to focus on the success stories and to skim over some buzzwords. While buzzwords were aplenty with breakout sessions comprising panels and deep dives on big data, fintech, media, health, wearables and agritech, the BC Tech Summit delivered on giving attendees a slice of the existing landscape, and a glimpse of the future.
Top Five Highlights
- Building BC’s technology capacity from the ground up with education
- Computer coding is being added to elementary and high school curriculums. More institutions of higher learning, such as universities and colleges, are stepping up with their own venture capital funds, support for commercializing research and advocating STEM programs. Institutions from the Interior and Vancouver Island were well represented at the summit, along with Vancouver mainstays like UBC, SFU and BCIT.
- $100 million tech innovation venture capital fund
- BC announced a $100 million technology innovation fund that will be run by an experienced fund manager, rather than by an arm of the provincial government. The fund is intended to be invested over the next 15 years, specifically encouraging diverse startups. The model is intended to be a “fund of funds”, where capital will be allocated to venture funds. The province is still on the hunt for the fund manager, and there is much anticipation and speculation about who the province will be able to tap.
- Demos galore and B2B exposure
- While big names in software, media and biotech were highly visible as sponsors, a broad selection of accelerators and startups had spots at the trade show, including robotics and life science innovations. Entrepeneurs had opportunities to pitch at Venture Capital sessions, as well as setup B2B meetings. With increased government support, it would be interesting to see how BC startups can gain quicker access to resources and markets, particularly in the B2B arena, where historically there has been less media exposure.
- Talent, taxes and time zone
- The BC tech sector employs more than 86,000, which is more than the primary sectors of mining, forestry, and oil and gas combined. The province intends to continue to support and promote tax credits, as well as championing BC advantages.
- Regulation needs to catch up or back off
- With many startups pushing forward disruptive technologies, particularly in fintech and sharing economies, there is a clear need for government and regulators to take a stance in whether to incorporate new technology under regulation or “deregulate”.
The comprehensive strategy by the province drives home that BC should not only act as an outsource hub for companies like Microsoft or Facebook, or navel-gaze within Vancouver with the same players in the startup and venture capital scene; the direction forward is to build capacity in all areas of technology across the province.
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