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Vancouver has been consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. One would first think that Vancouver’s top industry would be tourism, or perhaps entertainment. Even as residents, one would not be easily aware that Information Technology is a blooming industry in Vancouver, nor that it is on the way of transforming Vancouver into a tech ecosystem that could compete with Silicon Valley.
Hootsuite’s presence is hardly ignorable when mentioning the tech industry in Vancouver. Hootsuite is a Vancouver-based tech company that has made its international success by providing a social media management platform. There are currently 10 million Hootsuite users all over the world, including 79 of Fortune 100 companies. In addition, social media giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, invest high hopes for Vancouver through their recent office establishments in the city.
This wave of excitement did not exist in vacuum. In reality, the presence of start-up tech companies has become so prominent that it is contagious. Currently, there are 600 digital media companies in Vancouver, employing 16,000 people, generating $2.3 billion annually. Successful Vancouver-based companies, such as Hootsuite, Vision Critical, and Mobify, often inspire and attract entrepreneurial minds to put their ideas into action by building their own businesses. At the same time, this kind of mindset has become so much more respected over the years that there is now collaborative effort from provincial and federal governments in fostering these start-up businesses, by providing capital and resources to help them prosper in Canada. In the long term, their expertise could further foster an active environment for the tech industry to reach new heights, and their success could be a huge attraction that continues to expand the virtuous cycle.
Likewise in Waterloo, community support is a big factor in creating an ecosystem that can accelerate the development of tech industry. Aside from the funds provided by the provincial and federal governments, the existence of tech hubs are a core aspect of tech innovation and growth. Communitech, the Accelerator Centre and Velocity dedicate themselves to providing funds and assistance for not only start-up companies but small-medium enterprises (SMEs) that want to innovate on their existing products and processes. With the recent entry of Microsoft into the Communitech Hub, as well as groups such as Canon, TD, Canadian Tire, and Manulife, SMEs are increasingly valuing the importance of a strong tech ecosystem in order to spark innovation and nurture relationships.
What makes these two cities have such strong tech ecosystems that mimic the world’s top tech sector? Co-operation among the people. It is the collaboration between the private and public institutions, including the innovation hubs that accelerate this growth. However, this type of co-operation requires top talent – and this is an issue that is increasingly being highlighted by both Vancouver and Waterloo.
Not only is there a local talent shortage, but that top local talent is continuously being pulled down south – to the Bay Area. With the huge wave of Vancouverite and Waterluvian companies in their early innovation, strong individuals with a knack for hands-on responsibility are required. These companies have small teams – often only 1-10! Their value is not limited to their technical expertise, but also their enthusiasm, passion and unique ability to be an expert in a variety of fields. Today, we need engineers to be marketers. We need marketers to be UX designers. We need developers to be CEOs. This is the type of unique nature of start-up companies: one which consists of autonomy and transparency, and promotes a friendly, laid-back attitude, whilst demanding innovation and creativity. Individuals with these qualities will shape the future landscape of the Canadian tech ecosystem – whether it is in Vancouver, Waterloo, or an ecosystem which is still just a seed.