By Nicholas Jeffery - Featured in APeeling November 2019
Vancouver is filled with talent and there are many brilliant start-ups here, but they are limited by how much they can grow because the global big money investors do not see Vancouver companies.
We are currently in the fourth Industrial Revolution and Canada has the wonderful opportunity of second mover advantage in both the Internet of Things and Associated Data Platform industries. Instead of starting from scratch or copying ideas which failed in other cities, City leaders can meet with global municipality leaders to learn what worked and what didn’t because Canadian cities are ten years behind their global counterparts in this technological space. This enables Leaders to find a new uniquely Canadian approach to future infrastructure advancement.
Attracting global investment dollars for local technology companies is possible because Canada is an English and French-speaking country with a smart, relatively small population, making it an interesting place to scale things before going to a larger market. When I look at Canada, I can see its similarities to Hungary, which is a technological testing ground for Europe.
In Vancouver, TransLink is already utilizing smart technology solutions to improve Vancouver’s public transportation system. If we create an ecosystem to encourage smart technological innovation for Canadian industries, like natural resources, it will put Canada in a good position on the global stage. To achieve this goal, the local tech industry needs money to attract the necessary talent.
If we can start to scale some of the local projects, I believe we can create a sustainable Investment fund in BC to foster growth in local technology companies. When I’ve talked with wealthy global investors, they are open to investing in Canadian companies because the market is a decent size, they speak English, and are fiscally and politically stable. Plus, Canada’s market is made up of different environments, regions, and cultures, which make it a good testing ground for all sorts of Telecommunications, Media, and Technology innovations in health, financial services, natural resources, and transportation.
The current problem is, Canada struggles to keep successful technology companies, along with investment dollars, in the country. Currently, tech companies can scale to a certain inflection point in Canada before they have to leave because there is not enough investment dollars. To scale, tech companies have to follow the money. If Canada wants to keep these wonderful companies here, it will take global investors to support the initiative, and this means, the industry needs to foster Canadian talent.
Canada and specifically BC has some amazing University programs producing talented people, however, these students leave the country because there are too few jobs and if they find one, it doesn’t pay enough to keep pace with the cost of living.
Canada seems to think not paying talent enough money is a unique selling proposition to attract foreign companies to operate here, which is one of the reasons big corporate companies don’t move here. If BC’s tech industry trains people but doesn’t pay them a competitive wage, they will leave and go where they will be paid better.
This is local businesses’ fault because if they can get away with paying somebody $10 when they should be paying them $20, they will keep paying them $10. It is a short-term gain rather than a long-term benefit. It’s like the chicken and the egg because if we don’t have global money coming here to invest in Canada, we can’t afford to pay competitive wages. If we don’t pay competitive wages, our talent will leave, limiting the industry’s ability to grow.
Impressario’s vision is to solve the lack of resources by attracting foreign investment and creating a sizable investment fund with the mandate to invest in local projects worth scaling. We need $250 million Canadian to start developing one of the largest technology funds in Canada focused on the Industrial Internet of Things.
The fund will put smart technology innovators onto a platform where they can be seen and heard by global investors. Global investors will be able to find interesting investment opportunities in smart Canadian tech companies.
The fund will have a strong link to local academia and focus on Western Canadian opportunities. It is a public/private finance initiative run here for here and has a mentorship module to help people scale their businesses with smart money.
We have already created a prospectus and built a team of leaders who are experts in technology and finance to help develop it. I believe this fund will have a positive impact on the Vancouver tech industry and enable it to compete on the global stage.
Nicholas Jeffery is a smart city expert, a founding member of Impressario Consulting a media man, technologist, and investment banker.