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Inside Vancouver Startup Week 2017

Startups are alive and well and thriving in Vancouver!

Global Influencer

Global Influencer
Global Influencer

Startups are alive and well and thriving in Vancouver!

Whether they are entrepreneurs just getting started, or ready to scale up, there is a reason why Vancouver is recognized as the #1 Startup city in the world (according to Forbes).

Vancouver Startup Week, run by volunteers, finishes Friday the 29th following a robust Hackathon weekend. The growth of high-tech businesses has been steadily rising over the last 10 years and the crowds at VSW show it.

With support from the provincial and Federal governments, startups continue to flourish. From the Federally sponsored Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRap) and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive (SR&ED) programs to the Provincial government’s BC Innovation Council, startups can expect to find resources and money available to support these early growth companies.

The BCIC is the largest funder of entrepreneurial support programs in the province. BCIC focuses on the support of technology startups and entrepreneurs through programs, sponsorship and competitions that facilitate technology commercialization.

Thirty-three Incubators/accelerators abound in the Vancouver hub providing resources from cowork space to startup workshops and financing.

Vancouver Startup Week launched in November 2014, becoming the first Startup Week of its kind in Canada. In 2016, VSW attracted more than 3,000 people to more than 80 different events. This year is bigger and better!

This week of startup-focused events is the premier ‘must attend’ venue for the entrepreneur. The venues cover the entire city of Vancouver from 8:30 am to late evening and cover a diverse topic range.

The 2-day Hackathon actually started last weekend and went non-stop from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon.

VSW started off with bitcoin and Fintech workshops and forums that were filled to capacity. Waitlists were the rule of the day but one could find their way into an event if you were persistent. Monday evening the New Ventures BC Competition winners were announced. BC’s top new startups had been competing for more than $300,000 in cash and prizes.

The $110,000 BC Innovation Council (BCIC) First Prize package went to North Vancouver’s Ecoation Innovative Solutions, a smartphone or computer platform that predicts the type, location and level of crop stress using plant signals, and communicates this information to growers. Crop loss is reduced as well as the need for pesticide use. This team also won the BC Resource Industry Prize package valued at $22,000.

Microbiome Insights, which provides clients with a deeper understanding of functions and interactions of microbial communities, took home second prize, worth over $60,000.

Other winners that shared $65k include:

On Tuesday I saw an innovative pitch by phone giant Telus. During Vancouver Startup Week, Telus invited Vancouver business owners the chance to enter an ‘elevator pitch’ contest by sharing on video how winning the grand prize of $100,000 will help them achieve their business goals and take their small business to the next level. It was a unique marketing tool with a fake elevator as the video recording booth setup at one of the city’s largest co-working spaces, The Profile. Arlene Dickenson, one of Canada’s Dragons Den icons was part of the judging team with results expected sometime in October.

Vancouver’s accelerators took centre stage for most of the week. Of the many that were sponsors of the VSW, Radius, Simon Fraser University’s social innovation lab just started their fourth cohort focused with a focus on health companies. Launch Academy, Vancouver’s leading accelerator hub managed by Hussein Hallak is a no-nonsense support for startups. This is not the place for complacency. These guys will tell you like it is. Their motto is emblazoned on their t-shirts, “Get Sh!t Done” and they mean business.

Hallak and I were participants in a startup forum at the New York Institute of Technology (Vancouver Campus). He told the participants, all MBA students, that “he doesn’t give a sh!t whether his clients like the mentors he provides” because they don’t know what they don’t know and entrepreneurs need to be challenged on a regular basis. He has a unique perspective on how to run an accelerator.

The NYIT was a welcome addition to Startup Week. They weren’t an official participating venue of the VSW but they showed that startups are an important part of the fabric of Vancouver and that there is a lot of support in the community.

Sara Morton, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Women’s Enterprise Centre told me she is pleasantly surprised by the increase in women seeking their help. This federal government sponsored program is in three BC communities. Since 1995, WEC has grown to become the leading business resource for BC women who own a business or are thinking of starting a business. They provide essential business services and resources, as well as referrals to many resources and other business service providers throughout the province.

I noticed an interesting change for two of the best accelerators. Spring changed its format from cohort workshops to a resource centre. New Ventures BC pulled its cohorts as well but now provide one on one coaching. I suspect the business model needed to be tweaked, as it must be difficult to keep cohorts filled several times a year.

An alarming aspect of the week that seemed to contradict its increase in numbers was the lack of a closing ceremony. This is usually a grandiose celebration of a week well done. After I was asked to be the keynote speaker for the event they called back and told me they couldn’t find a sponsor and cancelled it –really!

While I know from the buzz around town that Startup Week is wanted and needed maybe sponsors are not that easy to find which is a bit unsettling. Maybe there are just too many ‘opportunities’ for sponsorship.

Vancouver Startup Week is an exciting trip into the world of startup entrepreneurs with its’ collaborative workshops, presentations and social networking. It opens the door to the Small Business BC Summit next week and the west coast’s Small Business Month in October that celebrates entrepreneurs and all they bring to our economy.

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon should be turning the volume up. Their current quiet murmur is just not enough.