A thriving technology sector is pushing society forward at an unprecedented rate, changing everything from the way businesses are run to how problems are solved.
Innovation is at the heart of all this advancement, whether in terms of artificial intelligence, robotics or clean technology, and British Columbia has become the base for many of those innovators.
“For a long time we’ve been told the maxim that you need to be in the Silicon Valley to build a serious startup,” says Jake Tyler, co-founder and CEO of Finn AI. “That’s being challenged more and more these days.”
Finn AI, an artificial-intelligence-powered, virtual-assistant banking platform with offices in Vancouver, works with financial institutions around the world. It’s shown tremendous growth over the past year, doubling its staff and raising $14 million from investors.
“What we found and love in Vancouver is access to a great talent pool and a supportive startup community with a healthy mix of people who have done it before and with enough access to capital,” Tyler says.
Having a strong community isn’t enough by itself to encourage and support innovation, though.
“The challenge we have is ensuring that we take advantage of this to build big, successful, global product companies rather than simply renting out this talent resource to others.”
B.C. Tech Summit
Tyler is one of the speakers at the upcoming B.C. Tech Summit, the largest annual innovation event in Western Canada, and part of a session on the lessons other upcoming leaders can learn from the province’s fastest-growing companies.
“We’ve still got a long way to go, for sure, but hopefully our experience so far offers lessons for the next group of founders and can help make the case for them to build their business here in Vancouver,” Tyler says.
Learning from others and supporting tech innovation is exactly the focus of the summit, which runs March 11-13.
This is the fourth year it’s running, and every year the conference is hosted by the provincial government and Innovate BC, a Crown agency.
“Our tech industry in B.C. is really booming,” says Tomica Divic, vice-president of operations at Innovate BC.
The conference showcases that boom by highlighting B.C.’s vibrant technology industry and brings together technology leaders, industry executives, investors, senior government officials, researchers and students.
“Our goal is to put on an event that is going to educate and inspire people to pursue careers in technology, adopt technology in their businesses and network to meet the people they need to help their businesses grow,” says Divic.
More than 3,000 delegates are expected to attend the event this year and participate in three days of workshops, master classes and networking opportunities.
Striving to support each other
Brittany Hamilton, director of service operations at Bench, is also speaking at the session called “Lessons from B.C.’s Fastest-Growing Companies.”
Bench, a bookkeeping service, has grown exponentially over the past few years. Hamilton started at the company as an intern five years ago, when there were fewer than a dozen people working there.
Now Bench has nearly 350 employees. In the past four years alone, revenue has spiked 4,373%.
“Bench has, of course, faced challenges and growing pains,” says Hamilton.
“With tech booming in British Columbia, there are hundreds of other companies facing those same challenges.”
That’s why it’s crucial for Hamilton to be a part of the panel, she explains.
“Tech is transforming B.C.’s economy, and we should strive to support each other and contribute our knowledge and strengths wherever we can.”
The B.C. Tech Summit is being held at the Vancouver Convention Centre March 11-13, 2019.