Momentum in Vancouver’s tech scene is creating a forward-thinking economy filled with new jobs, high-tech solutions, and opportunities never seen in the city’s history, which means Vancouver-headquartered, global tech companies like ACL are benefiting.
Last year, we took on a strategic, minority investment of $50M from Norwest Venture Partners for the first time in our bootstrapped history in order to accelerate our growth agenda while maintaining our roots here. As we head into 2018, here are some of thing things that I am thinking about for both my own organization specifically, and also for BC’s Technology sector in general
Diversity and Inclusion
The issue of diversity and inclusion has been talked about for years now, but C-Suites and Boards of tech companies wishing to differentiate themselves in the highly competitive local talent scene will do more than just “talk” this year. They will set up formal education and training programs on topics like unconscious bias and inclusive workplace behaviour, establish formal goals and tracking mechanisms to make leadership and Boards accountable, and set clear goals and strategies for diversity in recruitment pipelines.
Growth in the Mid Class
With over 106,000 workers, BC’s technology sector employs more people than the Oil, Gas, Forestry and Mining sectors combined. However, less than 2% of B.C.’s 10,000 technology companies have more than 100 local employees, meaning most of the city’s companies are smaller sized startups. In 2018, expect groups like the BC Tech Association to put additional emphasis on growing the “mid-class” through programs emphasizing investment capital, executive and Board recruitment and development, and global go-to-market capability to help grow the number of B.C.-based businesses that are building with the intent of KEEPING them here as opposed to selling out.
Technology is borderless and for our sector to hit meaningful scale, we need to accelerate the level of collaboration between government, educational institutions, investment capital, and tech companies—both within B.C. and beyond. In 2018, I expect to see our sector play a significant role in cross-border initiatives like the Cascadia Innovation Corridor and Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster Consortium. These clusters will help grow the innovation power of our region by increasing the collaboration of organizations that may have worked more independently in the past. We are way stronger as a pack than we are operating in silos.
The reality for many B.C. headquartered tech companies is that a substantial portion of their operating costs are local, while the majority of their revenues are from outside of Canada and even North America. For these companies, upward pressure on the Canadian dollar coupled with the growing nationalism of foreign governments makes it more challenging to remain cost competitive locally while minimizing revenue risk abroad. In 2018, this will put pressure on B.C.’s technology leaders to consider supplementing their local operations with foreign offices—and facing the opportunities challenges that expansion brings to their cultures and their bottom lines.
This year, Vancouver will continue to develop as the tech hub within Canada and beyond. The landscape will be competitive, but overall it will drive an innovative sphere for the province to thrive through collaboration and mentorship between the many organizations that have formed our sector to date. The trends and challenges of 2018 will be ones we face together, as a strong community.
Laurie Schultz is the CEO of ACL and is the Chair of the Board of the BC Tech Association.