Earlier this year Bloomberg Businessweek proclaimed Vancouver to be “the new tech hub”. The publication notes that Vancouver has experienced a major increase in the number of technology startups and an influx of tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, SAP, and Saleforce.com which recently opened development offices.
“Vancouver is absolutely a legitimate tech hub,” agrees Tyler Douglas, chief marketing officer at Vision Critical, one of the leading Vancouver-area startups. “It’s a gorgeous city that’s close to the Silicon Valley. There is an abundance of smart and tech-savvy talent and we have stellar universities and schools. This helps explain why we are seeing a lot of hot new start-ups as well as larger tech companies coming north to expand in Canada.”
Vision Critical has played an important role in the Vancouver tech hub story. The company was named one of a “Holy Trinity” of successful startups in the Vancouver area by Cantech Letter, and is a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The company provides a cloud-based customer intelligence platform that helps large enterprises build communities of customers that provide ongoing, real-time feedback and insight. Since its founding in 2000, Vision Critical has grown to over $80 million Canadian dollars in sales. Today, the company has more than 650 employees across the globe.
The other two members of the Holy Trinity are HootSuite and BuildDirect. Hootsuite is a social media platform that lists 70 of the Fortune 100 as clients and has more than five million users sending three-million-plus messages per day on its platform. BuildDirect is an online provider of building supplies that sells products from 130 manufacturers and captures more than $100 million in sales.
What attracts these and other cutting-edge startups to Vancouver?
Douglas says that Vision Critical decided to locate in Vancouver in part because of the energy of the city.
“Vancouver offers a combination of talent, lifestyle, beautiful surroundings, diverse culture and a strong technology ecosystem. When surrounded by fast-paced high-growth tech companies like Twitter, HootSuite, Facebook and so on, there is an energy that benefits the entire community,” he says.
Another advantage to Vancouver is Canada’s relatively relaxed visa rules. The United States government limits H-1B visa for highly skilled workers to 85,000 per year and demand for jobs is so high that applicants must enter a lottery system. Canada on the other hand offers a visa to any skilled worker with a job offer.
Though Vancouver is off to a great start as a tech hub, it has a long way to go to catch up with Silicon Valley.
According to Jeff Desjardins, a Vancouver-based serial entrepreneur, Silicon Valley still has more than 10 times the number of tech employees and 20 times the number of venture capital deals as Vancouver.
But Vancouver is moving as fast as it can to bridge that gap. A regional ranking provided by ProfitGuide.com indicates that nearly half of the 60 fastest growing companies in Vancouver are technology companies in fields such as software development, IT products and services, and pharmaceuticals.