What Sets Vancouver Apart from Canada’s Other Tech Startup Ecosystems

With the announcement that HootSuite had raised $165 million in its Series B financing round, the startup spotlight is shining on Vancouver once again.

The social media management dashboard born out of Invoke is the crown jewel in a burgeoning scene that has drawn raves as a hotspot for tech companies young and old (welcome to Vancouver, Facebook and Twitter). You’ve probably read one or two blog posts or articles trumpeting why Vancouver is the place to be for tech. We’ve even written one ourselves. The talent, the city, the outdoors, the visa perks – yes, it all makes for an enticing and optimistic location to launch your startup.

But one factor overlooked is why I believe Vancouver is primed to produce more than one HootSuite-calibre success story. In my mind, it’s our startup ecosystem – the network of incubators and accelerators and more – that makes Vancouver a unique place for tech right now.

I’m often asked how we at Invoke Labs deal with the “competition” from other companies and organizations like GrowLabLaunch Academy and Wavefront. But I don’t see it as competition at all, because we all serve a distinct and equally important purpose within this ecosystem.

Together we form a community that supports businesses while complementing one another’s offerings, with government funding plugging in to further bolster the startup environment. This network is a reflection of the maturing of the startup community and tech scene in Vancouver.

Each participant – each incubator or accelerator or business builder like Invoke Labs – offers something different to an evolving company.

For example, let’s say you have an idea for a startup or venture. It’s not fully formed or funded or solidified, but you feel it’s a game-changer. Some of you may find it useful to spend time at Launch Academy, as a place to access resources and people to experiment, shape and polish your idea.

Or perhaps you have your startup idea and you’ve made some progress towards your vision. Perhaps you’ve formed your team’s nucleus or you’ve talked to customers or you’re testing a rough prototype and have a solid concept of what you want to build. Invoke Labs is where we equip you with the team to build out your minimum viable product (MVP) and support you and your cofounders to create a successful company. Invoke Labs meets entrepreneurs where they are, helping them identify gaps, rolling up our sleeves in both hands-on development as well as the senior leadership team leaning-in and providing strategic advice and mentoring.

From a base such as that of Invoke Labs, companies have multiple options. For digital media companies, GrowLab is emerging as a Super Accelerator, leveraging its experience to power companies that have launched, established early traction, and are looking to drive the company to the next level.

If you’re a mobile or wireless product, Wavefront has a full range of offerings that include usability testing, access to devices, mentorship, connections and strategic business planning to take your company onto the global stage.

And all along the way, there are government programs to support young companies. Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) is a solid tax incentive program for all tech companies. There’s the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), a government body that provides funding and investment for innovation and new technologies. The British Columbia Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) has access to a variety of programs, including the Centre 4 Growth which help startups Increase revenues, expand into new markets, negotiate deals and assess opportunities. There’s also the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), which helps accelerate business growth through innovation and funding services.

Take a look at the map we’ve made that shows how a startup can evolve and succeed in this environment. To me, that’s what truly sets Vancouver apart. In the future, we’ll look at the expanding world of capital coming available to Vancouver tech companies.