15 Communities to Know in Vancouver’s Tech Ecosystem – William Johnson

William Johnson has known about Shopify since the e-commerce company was just a handful of people working from coffee shops and attending ‘tweetups’ (a group of Twitter users meeting up). 

After a decade of blogging about the tech industry in Canada, Johnson is now a full-time Vancouver-based writer focused on technology and business. He is currently the founder and editor of the Vancouver Tech Journal, a publication that aims to provide the most complete coverage of Vancouver’s innovation economy.

Launch invited Johnson for an exclusive webinar to speak with our current Maple members. Johnson outlined the top 15 people and communities in the Vancouver tech ecosystem. The list covers government organizations, accelerators, venture funds, grants and much more. If you are a tech startup either based in Vancouver or looking to scale your business in Canada, check out the complete list below: 

  1. Innovate BC
  2. HR Tech Group
  3. BrainStation
  4. BC Tech Association
  5. DigiBC
  6. Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster
  7. VR/AR Association 
  8. Foresight Canada
  9. Spring
  10. New Ventures BC
  11. Vancouver Entrepreneurs Forum
  12. Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
  13. Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation
  14. Vancouver Economic Commission 
  15. ACETECH

1. Innovate BC – Raghwa Gopal, CEO

innovate bc

Innovate BC is a one-stop service centre to connect innovators — large and small — with BC government funding, tools, resources and support. Innovate BC is a Crown Agency of the province of BC which offers a variety of programs that drive tech and innovation in the region. Some of their top initiatives include:

  • Ignite Program: The Ignite Program provides up to $300,000 to fund innovation projects in the areas of natural resources, applied science and engineering.
  • Digital Skills For You: Looking to hire someone 30 and under? You might be eligible for up to $25,500 maximum grant value to cover 100% of an intern’s salary, training and capital costs.
  • BC Fast Pilot: Up to $200,000 for regional companies to design, build and operate a pilot plant or a demonstration site to showcase their technology in real-world conditions.
  • Tech Co-op Grants Program: Get up to $20,000 in funding to hire a co-op student through the Tech Co-op Grants Program.  

Innovate BC also has specific networking programs for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to cope up with the challenges of the pandemic. 

2. HR Tech Group – Stephanie Hollingshead, CEO

HR Tech

In operation for 25+ years, HR Tech Group is a group of professionals working in tech companies producing BC Tech Salary Survey (compensation data gathered from relevant tech companies) and providing thought-leadership, news and benchmark data to keep members up to date. As a not-for-profit association HR Tech Group works with over 175 mid to large tech companies across BC and Alberta.

HR Tech Group runs three intensive Diversity and Inclusion leadership training programs, designed specifically for tech industry leaders, and a bi-annual conference based in Vancouver. 

3. BrainStation – Kyle Treleaven, VP

Brain Station

BrainStation provides digital skills training in the form of in-person or online courses covering data science, design, digital marketing, product and web development. BrainStation has worked with over 500 instructors from the most innovative companies, developing digital education that has empowered more than 100,000 professionals and some of the largest corporations in the world.

BrainStation looks to address the skill shortage to fill technology jobs in BC and is helping tech companies find the talent that they are looking for. BrainStation’s Demo Day is an event organized for their graduates who can showcase their projects to hiring partners and the community. Access all their courses here

4. BC Tech Association – Jill Tipping, CEO

BC Tech

BC Tech helps firms grow and scale into anchor companies that drive both BC’s tech sector and the economy. BC Tech provides the place and the programs, and advocates for the policies that help the tech community, collaborate, learn, and grow. 

BC Tech has been lobbying the federal and provincial governments for a combined $41M investment to implement the ScaleUP BC platform. This strategic investment is projected to support over 800 BC technology companies, create 10,000 jobs and grow the economy for BC.

BC Tech and KPMG publishes the ‘BC Tech Report Card’ every two years highlighting British Columbia’s tech sector, with data on revenues, GDP contributions, exports, wages, jobs, and talent pool. Tech startups and entrepreneurs who are looking to scale globally must check out their HyperGlobal, HyperScale AI programs. Scholarships and internships are also available. 

5. DigiBCLoc Dao, Executive Director

Digi BC

DigiBC, the Interactive & Digital Media Industry Association of BC is a member-supported, non-profit organization based in Vancouver. DigiBC represents the creative tech sector which is made up of interactive, visual effects, animation, video-gaming, and VR/AR industries. Their members include world-class companies such as Electronic Arts, Sony Imageworks, Animal Logic, ILM, The Coalition (Microsoft), Atomic Cartoons, WildBrain Studios and many others. You can sign up to their newsletter to keep a track of all the cool stuff happening in the digital and creative tech space in BC.

Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster based in Vancouver is one of five Superclusters across Canada. Funded by the Government of Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative via the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) “the Supercluster” aims to bring together small to medium enterprises, multinational organizations, large companies, research organizations and post-secondary institutions to fuel economic opportunities and position Canada as a leader in digital innovation.

The organization serves as a great platform for smaller businesses to connect with large companies and to reach out to potential partners and customers. You can access all their programs here

7. VR/AR Association – Dan Burgar, President & Founder

VRAR Vancouver

Did you know, Vancouver is the 2nd largest VR/AR ecosystem in the world! The VRARA Vancouver chapter is the leading voice of Virtual & Augmented Reality in BC and represents brilliant minds across the VR/AR/MR ecosystem, from original content creators & creative distributors to innovative hardware companies and ambitious researchers. VRARA Vancouver works across the globe with other VRARA chapters, giving you world-wide reach and potential. 

With a membership you will get exclusive access to the VRARA network, connect, collaborate and work with key players in the VR/AR ecosystem in Vancouver and beyond. 

8. Foresight Canada – Jeanette Jackson, CEO

Foresight

Foresight is Canada’s cleantech ecosystem accelerator, working towards identifying,  commercializing, and adopting the clean technologies needed to support the global transition to a green economy. Foresight specifically works for the energy, water, carbon, bio and agri sectors.

Foresight’s industry challenges connect corporate leaders facing sustainability hurdles with market-ready cleantech innovators, while their acceleration programs include Kickstart, Launch, CxO Growth Program, Community of Innovators, Climate Ventures and Workshops. 

9. Spring – Keith Ippel, CEO

Spring Activator

Spring is a global incubator, accelerator, and advisory firm that empowers entrepreneurs, impact investors, and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to create, launch and grow thriving innovation and entrepreneur communities.

Spring’s core programs are focused on developing early-stage entrepreneurs and activating impact capital while working with clients to design and deliver a full range of innovative solutions for local contexts. This includes incubation, acceleration, funding readiness, impact investor training, and growth programs. They also offer special expertise in food innovation and offer programs such as investor readiness training and IMPACT startup visa program

10. New Ventures BC Angie Schick, Executive Director

The New Ventures BC (NVBC) Society recognizes, encourages, and develops entrepreneurship and innovation in BC. NVBC offers education, mentorship, networking, cash prizes, grant funding, and recognition to support BC’s technology sector.

The New Ventures BC Competition, presented by Innovate BC is a startup competition which runs over a span of 6-8 months each year with more than 200 participants. Prizes worth $250,000 are awarded to the winners of the competition. All other participants get access to mentorship and assistance from NVBC. Applications for this year are closed. Take a look at all past winners here

11. Vancouver Entrepreneurs Forum Paul Koros, Chair of the Board

Vancouver Entrepreneurs Forum Society (VEF) is a networking forum for technology entrepreneurs in Greater Vancouver. The VEF provides a hybrid platform for entrepreneurs within the technology space. Hosting around 8 events in a year on various topics such as angel investment, cloud computing, wearable tech, machine learning, cyber security, mergers & acquisitions, cleantech and digital media VEF aims to bring like-minded people together. Individual or corporate memberships are available. 

VEF kicks off each event with a series of ‘Lightning Pitches’. Up to five presenters are given 100 seconds to promote their venture, funding initiative or collaboration goals. Priority is given to early-stage companies seeking funding. You can apply to pitch here

12. Greater Vancouver Board of TradeBridgitte Anderson, President & CEO

GVBOT

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade works towards impacting public policy at all levels of government while working towards the prosperity of the global economy. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade runs a variety of programs, including symposiums, networking events and community fundraisers.

Their signature programs include Leaders of tomorrow mentorship program, Company of young professionals, Diversity and inclusion leadership council and Scale-up centre for SMEs

With a strong history and respected advocacy program, the board of trade works with all three levels of government to bring key policy decisions that affect business and economic prosperity. Learn more about how you can become a member

The Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation supports the growth of BC’s tech sector, champions innovation across the economy, nurtures small businesses, supports economic development throughout the province, and promotes BC internationally as a preferred place to invest and do business. 

The ministry is currently engaged in a number of projects including BC’s economic recovery plan, which helps businesses adapt and grow, through initiatives like helping businesses connect to customers online, and delivering grants to businesses that have lost revenue because of the pandemic. 

14. Vancouver Economic Commission – Eleena Marley, Acting CEO

Vancouver Economic Commission

Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) provides programs and support to local companies while attracting investment, and conducting and publishing industry research. As the economic development agency for the City of Vancouver, VEC aims to build a prosperous, inclusive, zero-carbon Vancouver economy, competitively positioned in the global market. Technology, digital & interactive entertainment, and green economy are the major sectors that VEC works on. 

VEC helps local businesses access capital at all stages of fund-raising by organizing business-to-business matchmaking, hosting deal-flow events and connecting companies to other funding opportunities. Read VEC’s 2021 Corporate Plan which highlights some of the economic development goals and priorities. 

15. ACETECH – Peter Payne, CEO

ACETECH provides tools, resources, and programs to help tech CEOs, leaders and their companies grow by providing access to best-in-class programs, learning, and thought leadership. 

ACETECH’s core programs include CEO roundtables, leadership training and their annual Whistler Summit where hundreds of leaders get together with speakers from all across the world. 

Johnson also mentions some other notable organizations worth checking out in BC such as The forum, Life Sciences BC, VentureLabs, Angel Forum Vancouver, Founder Institute, [email protected], Quantum Algorithms Institute

“This presentation would obviously have Launch Academy, if you guys already didn’t know Launch Academy!” says Johnson as he wraps up the webinar.

About William Johnson

William Johnson is a Vancouver-based writer focused on technology and business. He is currently the founder and editor of the Vancouver Tech Journal, which aims to provide the most complete coverage of Vancouver’s innovation economy.

William’s writing has been featured in outlets including BetaKit, BCBusiness, Maclean’s, The Globe & Mail, Daily Hive, Ottawa Magazine, and University Affairs.

You can reach him at [email protected] or on social media @notionport