Start me up!
Inspiration and networking are just a few of the exciting perks of Vancouver Startup Week
By Sarah Applebaum, Associate
Vancouver Startup Week (VSW) 2016 officially kicks off today. Event invitations have been zipping around, and everyone’s wondering who’s going to walk away with the top prize from the BCIC New Ventures BC competition.
I’ll get to catch up with friends and colleagues for a drink or two, cuddle with a puppy that’s up for adoption and, if I’m lucky, get inspired by a big impact idea. It all sounds like fun, right? Right.
But events like VSW are about more than (re)connecting with friends and colleagues and showcasing all the awesome tech companies in town. Perhaps most importantly, it’s an opportunity to take a step back to see who’s playing in our pool—and if they’re sinking or swimming.
Vancouver is home to a number of companies (once small start-ups themselves) that are now practically household names—Lululemon, Shoeme.ca, Hootsuite, DWave, Slack, and others. However, as a startuup/tech hub, I would argue that Vancouver is still trying to figure out who it wants to be when it grows up. We can’t figure this out in a bubble and we need to look at what has made other regions successful and long-lasting hubs for entrepreneurship and innovation.
This year’s theme – Connecting Vancouver to the World – couldn’t be more timely. [Forgive me for the following…] Vancouver is frequently criticized for forgetting that the rest of the world is out there—I think we’re sometimes distracted by beautiful views, an exploding craft beer scene and dreams of fresh powder in the mountains. Yet, we do have a robust and diverse entrepreneurial community and a strong talent pool fed by world-leading academic institutions. At Pangaea Ventures, we have a pretty extensive global reach with both LPs and portfolio companies on three continents; but we also like to look locally for investment opportunities. The most common criticism we have, and often hear, is the myopic, small-picture thinking of many local entrepreneurs when looking at their market opportunity—though this more of a Canada-wide phenomenon.
Building stronger connections with other startup ecosystems and new markets is good for everyone involved. Strong connections with more markets creates more opportunities for growth for existing companies, makes it easier to hire and retain top talent and, hopefully, gives start-ups more visibility into both the market opportunities and the competitors that may be hot on their heels.
Wearing my investor hat, the greatest complaint I hear is that “THERE IS NOT ENOUGH CAPITAL IN VANCOUVER.” Whether true or not, events like VSW help attract investors from elsewhere in Canada, Silicon Valley and beyond to meet with innovative startups, forge relationships with accelerators and incubators, and compare notes with other investors. All of which, hopefully, lead to more investors looking at Vancouver as a place they want to do business.
My most important takeaways for an event like Vancouver Startup Week is that it’s an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the powerhouse that is the startup community in Vancouver. It’s an opportunity to feature game-changing innovators both on a local and broader scale and let people know that startups in Vancouver aren’t just in the software game. We’re building companies that hope to have massive impact in the areas of manufacturing, diagnostics and patient care, energy and agriculture—just to name a few.
I know I’m looking forward to the multitude of events on the agenda and hope to see both new and familiar faces amongst the expected 3000+ VSW attendees!
As part of Vancouver Startup Week, the CVCA is hosting two events: