Tech Startup In Vancouver – “It’s much easier to focus, there isn’t so much noise. The disadvantage is that you also don’t have as many people with experience in the tech industry. We know everyone there is to know in Vancouver, and that’s a few dozen people.”

Why not come straight to Silicon Valley?
“We looked at numerous options other than getting hired by a big company. We could have gotten green cards if we waited a few years. But in the meantime, we found Bootup Labs [a Vancouver startup accelerator and seed fund] that gives you $100,000 [to nurture your startup idea], and that’s also helpful with visas. Basically, if you want to come here, there’s no straightforward way to do it if you want to own your own company. People do it with some tricks, but Canada is a bit friendlier in terms of immigration and helping people start their businesses.

But you’re still in Vancouver and not the Valley. Do you think that puts you at a disadvantage, particularly since a number of companies are trying to solve the same information overload problem as Summify?
“It’s a lot smaller, naturally. But there are advantages, including that it’s much easier to focus, there isn’t so much noise. You don’t hear about people trying to do startups all the time. It’s easy to obtain talent, too. People are excited to work at a startup versus a telecom company or some of their other options. And if you take care of them, they stick around. There aren’t startups trying to steal your employees.
The disadvantage is that you also don’t have as many people with experience [in the tech industry]. We know everyone [to know] in Vancouver, and that’s a few dozen people.”

– Mircea Pașoi, 24, is the cofounder of Summify, a startup that summarizes the top news stories of the day for its users by scouring their social networks for clues. From pehub.com 14 Nov 2011, cited by ‘anonymous’ at VREAA 15 Nov 2011, as an example of people moving to Vancouver.

29 responses to “Tech Startup In Vancouver – “It’s much easier to focus, there isn’t so much noise. The disadvantage is that you also don’t have as many people with experience in the tech industry. We know everyone there is to know in Vancouver, and that’s a few dozen people.”

  1. It’s not that easy to find good talent. Many of my former colleagues and some employees have moved to Calgary or Ontario or even US. Very often, the stated reason is the impossibility to buy Vancouver real estate at reasonabe prices.

    “The disadvantage is that you also don’t have as many people with experience [in the tech industry]. We know everyone [to know] in Vancouver, and that’s a few dozen people.”
    That pretty much sums it up.

    “You don’t hear about people trying to do startups all the time.” – Maybe not much compared to Silicon Valley. But there are many wannabe startups in Vancouver that have no money, but want developers to do work for them in exchange for “equity”. Unsurprisingly, 99% of them never take off.

  2. From my experience Vancouver’s tech community is mostly driven by networking, most people getting jobs have cut their teeth in projects and businesses to prove their worth for future employment.

    When they state they “know everyone [to know] in Vancouver, and that’s a few dozen people” I think that’s likely taken out of context. They are likely talking about business contacts. If they’re talking about technical talent the pool is way bigger than this unless they’re obscenely picky or looking for a specific skillset.

    • I think it’s about business contacts and also technical talent. I mentioned it a few weeks ago, at the high end (skilled senior developers) there is a tiny pool of talent here in Vancouver. It wasn’t like this in the past.

      • There’s a tiny pool of available talent. Most “high end” tech I’m aware of have stuff going on and are near impossible to poach.

      • So we agree then.

        It is easier for Silicon Valley companies to attract top talent. Silicon valley itself is a brand known in the whole World.
        When you say Vancouver, nobody thinks of the place as a tech mecca. At best, it’s a place with mountains, cold ocean and overpriced real estate.

      • Yes but that’s not to say that Vancouver’s tech community, although small, cannot thrive. It has the environment to produce a group of stable self-selected tech and business people. It’s a different approach and in certain circumstances — with longer-term projects for example — may be beneficial to the retention issues faced in California.

      • You can say this about any Canadian city of comparable size. What makes Vancouver special?

      • My experience is that
        1) The pool of top talent is smaller than it used to be in the past
        2) Many top developers I know have simply moved elsewhere or are talking about moving elsewhere.

        I don’t see anything special or uniquely positive about Vancouver tech scene compared to other large Canadian cities.
        Sure, the tech community as it is can “thrive”, but so what? Others thrive more.

      • “I don’t see anything special or uniquely positive about Vancouver tech scene compared to other large Canadian cities.”

        I agree with this. It is part of the economy, should be way more. That said, geography does have an impact; Seattle has a tech scene too but also suffers from beggar thy neighbour from California.

        IMO speculative bubbles are a net detriment to an economy.

  3. is bootup real vc? not sure why tech couldn’t work better than it has in van. startup are nice but what you really want are cashcows – maybe like EA? not familiar. really, if you are thinking startup culture in van, i certainly don’t think tech. i think micro-cap resource juniors. the canadian capital mkts are the best in the world for resource issues. one could argue that van is/was the silly valley of junior resource ventures.
    jesse, what do you mean by beggar thy neighbor re: sea vs cal?

    • The majority of micro-cap resource juniors are experts in mining shareholders through dilution 🙂

      • oh yes i know. but at least according to folks i know, it’s still better than anywhere else. amaaaazing. and perhaps an opportunity.

      • Yup, there are definitely some opportunities. The crook-to-serious ratio is about 10:1, but you get that with junior anything, not just resource companies. Vancouver happens to be one of the global centers for this type of business.

    • “what do you mean by beggar thy neighbor re: sea vs cal?”

      From my experience tech VC money will tend to congregate in and prefer the Bay Area. Tech companies on west coast therefore tends to congregate in Silicon Valley (though there’s still a lot in LA) and Seattle has to find ways of competing with this critical mass. Getting funding in BC is even more difficult from what I have seen. Many VCs don’t bother, preferring to concentrate on jurisdictions they are familiar with. The different laws make a big difference.

      If I’m looking to start a venture BC and Canada offer some pretty decent tax credits and grants the US doesn’t get; these are designed precisely to allow companies to do more with less funding avenues. For most tech-heavy business ventures the border is a disadvantage; most of the customers are likely Stateside, as are vendors and talent with domain knowledge. Enticing talent to come to Vancouver, without an established industry network most of the time, is very (VERY) difficult. Games development seems to be one exception to this, with the EA MotherShip providing a decent talent hub for fostering smaller ventures.

  4. Vancouver will never be a strong tech incubation center. Cost of living is way too high for people to defer salary for sweat equity. Vancouver just isn’t a place for young dynamic tech startups.

  5. Formerly “As a Chinese myself”

    Some posts in this boards make it sound like high RE price destroyed Vancouver high tech industry.

    Let me tell you that Vancouver has never been a high tech hot spot, not today, not 10 years ago, not 20 years ago.

    Vancouver has always been a resource type of town. With no more trees to cut, it transfers to a service oriented town.

    If you spend some time to check the top 100 company in BC 20 years ago and today, you would find that it’s more or less the same, that most of them are foresty/mining/energy/retail. Probably only 10% or less are technology related, that is already with Telus/BC Tel considered as a technology company.

    14 years ago, one of my extended family members wants to come to Canada, he applied, he came, he looked around and he left. Today he is designing mobile chips for iphone, Motorola in USA.
    What drove him away: (1) high income tax (2) lack of job opportunity (3) small pay cheque.

    Anyone here remember about 15 years ago, HSBC was planning to move its Canadian head office to Calgary, why? not because of high RE price, not because of lacking of talent, because HIGH tax in BC. At the end, Glen Clark wrote them a cheque and begged them to stay.

    When people move, they move for opportunity mainly. Why some many techies wants to move to Silicon Valley although its RE price is much higher? Because there are abundance of opportunities there.

    I am not here to defend high RE price, I just don’t want to see that HAM is unreasonably being blamed for everything.

    • Correct. But the situation is even more negative now than it has been in the past. Overpriced real estate does not help.

    • that ham-i-am, that ham-i-am, i do not like that ham-i-am … how does this end again? look it up 😉

      dude, i am completely sympathetic to your pov and am convinced this place will only suffer if it scapegoats ham. capital was brought to van. it was an opportunity brought here from outside. it just ended up being used in all the wrong places. sadly, it is way.

      hey, i think this bd needs more posters like you. it needs a few i-am-ham and ham-i-am handlers. may be it’s like do the right thing on georgia … cuz that ain’t ever gonna happen on robson :o. dammit, could be a language thing.

      vreaa, maybe you need a mandarin mirror site and the rest of us need to learn some chinese – or at least the kids for sure should. well, everyone should at least sit through a viewing of hero without the subtitles. weirdo flash! qin king and the assassins in newfie bar singing this land is our land. weird boiling pot stuff.

  6. ‘Formerly’ -> This post has nothing to do with ‘HAM’, you’re the first person to bring it up in this thread!

    The post is as an example of somebody who has come and started a business in Vancouver. It cited by ‘anonymous’ after we pointed out we’re as keen to post bull anecdotes as we are stories of people avoiding Vanc because of high RE prices.
    Any personal stories from people profiting from the boom, comfortable with their own RE costs, attracted to Vanc despite RE costs, etc, are welcome.

  7. If I was working for a startup, I wouldn’t commit to a long-term mortgage on a home..

  8. “We know everyone [to know] in Vancouver”. Hubris.

  9. if your overall viewpoint is pessimistic then of course you see a dead high tech sector in Vancouver. Everything looks bleak, people fleeing the city, talent moving like the city is on fire.
    This is not the case:

    “Why video game creators are flocking to Vancouver”.
    http://money.ca.msn.com/small-business/insight/article.aspx?cp-documentid=24864153

    “Pixar pulls back the curtain on Vancouver studio”
    http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Pixar+pulls+back+curtain+Vancouver+studio/5547006/story.html

    “High-tech surge”
    http://www.biv.com/subscriber/13tech_high.asp

    and Vancouver is not the only city that needs tech employees…seems the short supply in Canada means we’ll have to hire internationally.

    • I work in the high tech industry.
      If not for the SRED government program that subsidizes costs, most companies would not survive or open shop in the first place.

    • “This is not the case”

      Unfortunately, It mostly is – 3 articles (one of which is 18 months old) don’t really paint a full picture of today’s market. My company too has had a very hard time finding senior talent locally, and cannot get anyone to move here either. Very tough, positions just stay open for ages. The only silver lining is that for senior and experienced people like me that already live here and are not leaving, there is no shortage of opportunities – for now.

      Further, I know of several software companies recently that have downsized significantly (moved jobs offshore), or have simply closed shop and left town completely, either taking the jobs with them or laying off. No articles unfortunately, our local papers don’t like to write about the bad news.

      4slicesofcheese is right – without SRED, there would be far less going on. Other than EA, Telus, and various government agencies, much of the high tech going on is early stage startup or small-but-not-yet-profitable.

  10. Umm, unless I missed something Bootup has been dead for a while. Nice idea, but the reality seems to have driven a stake through their heart.

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