Becoming Canada’s Premier Startup Hub: Vancouver Has the Talent, but Does it Have the Hunger?

On November 1, a group of CTOs quietly got together in Vancouver to discuss the state of the nation.

Not really a surprise that they were quiet about it. CTOs are generally busy trying to hit deadlines, leaving little time to collaborate externally and share insights into the common problems they all have scaling their technology.

CTOs Uncorked was an invite-only meetup of the CTOs behind some of Vancouver’s most successful consumer technology companies.

A Thinking Ape, Hootsuite, Indochino, MetroLeap, and Mobify participated—to name but a few.

The meetup was organized by recently exited Canadian entrepreneurs David Quail (sold Uptake to Groupon), along with former Metabridge executive director Michael Blonde. Blonde recently started a gig with HootSuite, while Quail and Lee are looking to return to Canada to start their next companies in Vancouver.

The Uncorked threesome feel that while there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, it’s never been harder. It may be easy to raise money, but speed of execution is key and there is a serious shortage of talent for hire.

This scenario has got them thinking that there has never been a better time for Vancouver to establish itself as the next consumer startup hub. Why? Vancouver has the necessary raw talent (and at a lower cost), is a short flight from Silicon Valley, and people want to work here.

According to Lee, all in attendance agreed that Vancouver has unfair advantages over other Canadian tech hubs, including a pool of outstanding designers and engineers. But they also agreed that while the raw talent was present, most engineers in Vancouver aren’t a good fit for startups. They lack both the risk tolerance needed to commit to a startup as well as the “do-whatever-it-takes” mentality that startup employees require.

One CTO pointed out that Vancouver’s startup scene just isn’t visible or cool enough. While there is a huge number of small startups, there aren’t enough big, well-known and successful startups to enable startups to pass what he called the “hot chick” test. (The test is when an engineer tells a young female at a bar where he works and she’s impressed).

So does Vancouver have what it takes to raise its profile and truly become North America’s next consumer startup hub? Quail, Lee, and Blonde think so. And they want Vancouver to think big in order to win big.