Vancouver Tech Startup Ecosystem Poised for a Big 2014, Experts Believe

Vancouver continues be a hub of innovation across tech sectors and 2014 is poised to build on city’s momentum.

“2013 was a pretty exciting year for the overall tech industry,” says Andrew Lugsdin, a partner in BDC Venture Capital’s IT Fund. In Vancouver specifically, he notes that several growing tech companies are starting to gain high-profile exposure, such as HootSuite, while others are making significant progress on an international level, citing BuildDirect as a strong example.

“HootSuite certainly set the bar high in Vancouver, but I think there are a lot of companies in Vancouver right now that are making some unbelievable inroads,” Lugsdin, who joined BDC VC in 2001, told Techvibes in an interview.

Geoff Catherwood agrees. A partner of BDC VC’s Energy/Cleantech Venture Fund, Catherwood is confident that Vancouver is home to companies that are truly world-class. One company he’s particularly excited about is D-Wave, a Vancouver-based quantum computing firm that has lured talent from around the world for its market-leading technology. In typical Canadian fashion, D-Wave has been modest about its innovation, but Catherwood, who’s been with BDC VC since 2001, argues that BC houses startups just as high-quality as anything coming out of Silicon Valley.

“Western Canadian companies can compete on the world stage,” he says.

Lugsdin, who believes that there is a “next wave of companies coming through” in 2014, credits the city’s roster of high-quality accelerators as a major factor. “Over the past couple of years we’ve seen new infrastructure built to better support companies at their earliest, most fragile stages,” he says, such as LX Ventures, Invoke Labs, Launch Academy, and GrowLab—the latter which BDC VC supports via their convertible notes program. As a result the quality of companies in Vancouver is increasing, which is “making a big impact.”

Although some argue there are now too many accelerators in Canada, Lugsdin affirms that the organizations are beneficial to Vancouver and suggests 2014 could sprout more. “It’s a relatively new model and we’re still learning lessons but generally I think it’s a positive boost for our ecosystem to have these accelerators,” he says. “And there’s still room for more, particularly specialized ones, perhaps focusing on areas like healthcare and cleantech.”

One of the things both experts have observed that makes Vancouver stand out is its unique presence of design talent. Often overlooked, design is an important component of any startup at any stage, and in Vancouver there’s more collaboration and integration with designers than in other startup hubs in North America.

“I think that 2014 is a year where BC tech companies will surprise people with big announcements,” Catherwood says. “A lot of companies here are flying under the radar, but many of these well-kept secrets are ripe to break through.”

Photo: Evan Leeson