Startup Ranking Strong For Toronto but Slides for Vancouver

By: Yasmin Ranade

August 13, 2019

Startup Genome, which supports forward-looking regions to catalyze their startup ecosystems, has released its 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report. Startup Genome works with more than 300 partner organizations and global thought leaders to understand startup success factors, and its frameworks have become instrumental in building foundations for startups to grow. It’s not surprising that its focus has expanded to help develop ecosystems through data-driven strategies.

Vancouver’s rank in the global tech startup ecosystem has dropped by nine spots, now at 21. Toronto-Waterloo has climbed 3 spots and is now ranked at 13. “Among top global ecosystems, the places most hindered in the rankings by a gap in early-stage funding are Vancouver, Sydney and Hong Kong,” stated the report.

Are scaled-back funding and lack of a strong STEM ecosystem the leading causes for the change?

Laurent May, CEO Ready

I asked Laurent May, Head of Vancouver-based Ready, about the role of startups in Vancouver’s tech echosystem, and his perception of government and school investment in tech in the region. Ready is a payment system that allows you to view, split and pay a bill on your phone, and was born from a startup incubator, IQMetrix.

BC’s tech ecosystem is growing at a rapid pace,” began May. “Tech startups continue to pop up across the province while major players like Microsoft and Amazon are setting their roots in Vancouver. While the government is doing its best to support STEM industries in BC with recent investments like the $230,000 in funding going to the Play to Learn program and $250,000 in funding to First Robotics BC, it seems that government funding is struggling to keep up with the growing demand for financial support,” explained May.

“Within Vancouver’s tech ecosystem, we’re seeing an increase in tech talent each year, which indicates [to us] that post-secondary education has shifted its focus to better prepare the incoming workforce for the future.”

Jeremy Shaki,
CEO, Lighthouse Labs

I also asked Jeremy Shaki, CEO of Lighthouse Labs, about STEM funding in BC. “I think there can be more {STEM funding],” began Shaki, “but I think it really comes down to where it is placed. BC tends to punch above its weight and there have been efforts at increasing funding. However to stay ahead of some of those cities on the startup ecosystem, it all comes down to where money is strategically placed.”

What steps need to be taken to ensure Canada, particularly the west, maintains its rich tech talent pool and status?

May responded, “Canada’s taken great steps to build its talent pool. We have a growing number of programs that focus on diversity in tech, supporting minorities in pursuing STEM careers. In order to stay ahead of the curve, Canada needs to be investing resources into researching and supporting innovative technology and Canadian-born tech companies that are providing real solutions to real problems. The more robust our tech landscape, the stronger our talent pool will become.”

In terms of maintaining Vancouver’s rich talent pool, Shaki remarked, ”Vancouver needs to be more bold in investing in talent training and talent retention instead of constantly pouring money into Universities and Colleges as the catch all for talent development. Better funding for companies to upskill their current talent is a must as Vancouver has a large amount of residents who aren’t in the position to leave work to build new skills.”

Shaki added, “HR departments are struggling with how to convince CEOs that professional development needs to be a priority within companies, and so the government’s investment should be going further into providing better incentives for companies as well as working on educating those companies on the value of professional development to the city of Vancouver and the province of BC.”

Canadian startups are looking to other funding options for support.

“It’s a challenging place to be for Canadian tech startups,” explained May. “Many turn to family and friends to get their start, particularly if government funding isn’t available. We’re lucky that as our tech landscape grows, more resources are becoming available. Since 2013, we’ve gone from 20 to 70 – 100 new fintech companies being founded in Canada every year, which signals recent significant growth in what is already Canada’s fastest growing tech space.”

May added, “As seen in other countries like the US and Australia, Canada’s big banks have also stepped up to supporting, implementing formal structures connect with, support, and invest in fintech companies.”

“Current tech companies are also recognizing the value of supporting tech intrapreneurship, launching incubator programs to support new tech company growth,” shared May. “Ready was born out of ‘Sparklab’, IQMetrix’s internal incubator designed to find, fund and foster talent and ideas. Many tech companies are starting to recognize and support opportunities like this internally with startups taking to investing in the future by encouraging entrepreneurial thinking and investing in their own employees ideas or business models.”




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