“Action is hope. There is no hope without action.” – Ray Bradbury
As CEO of the BC Tech Association, my predictions for 2020 focus on hope and action.
At BC Tech we are optimists who believe that British Columbia’s future is bright. Looking ahead we see the opportunity to build a prosperous future for all of BC, with our economy rooted in knowledge, creativity, technology and innovation. In this bright future British Columbia is the best place to grow and scale a technology company and a province where every industry, every business, every community and every student accesses technology as a tool to fully realize their potential.
On that note, here are my predictions for 2020. They are based on what we know, what we hope, and most importantly, what we and the tech community are working to action together:
Prediction #1: 2020 will be a year of change vs. more of the same
We will see more deliberate, intentional economic development policy for BC from governments, integrating the goals of economic growth, addressing the climate imperative and fostering a thriving society. In some areas this will involve small steps of experimentation with something new, in other areas it will involve bigger strides to accelerate what’s already working.
What excites me most for BC as we embark on this new path is the growing momentum that’s building. We know we can shape the future we want for BC and we can do it quickly and effectively because the key building blocks are known and already working in other parts of Canada and globally.
Prediction #2: 2020 will be the year we get serious about scaling up
BC has long had a thriving startup tech sector but we’ve struggled to scale enough small startups into medium sized companies with 200+ employees. The majority of BC’s tech companies have 10 or fewer employees, and between the 2016 and 2018 BC Tech report card, KPMG found no growth at all in the number of tech companies with 50-plus employees.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees can produce new ideas, products and solutions, purposeful employment, fast growth and engaging workplace cultures — to name just a few of the many economic and social benefits they deliver — but they are not at the scale where they can provide long-term economic strength and stability. They are not yet the anchor companies with 200+ employees that are vital to an economy. The word anchor is intentional – there is good research to show that once a company reaches 200+ employees it is much more ‘sticky’ to its local community and even if it were to be acquired, unlikely to be transplanted elsewhere.
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What’s exciting is that this call to action – to get serious about building more scaleup success – has been heard.
The BC Government and Innovate BC, the crown agency that connects BC innovators with BC Government funding, tools, resources and support have announced the 2020 BC Tech Summit will be laser-focused on Scaling Up for Global Growth.
At BC Tech our new HyperScale program (made possible by funding from Western Economic Diversification) is helping high-growth tech enterprises scale to become the next generation of B.C. anchor companies. HypeScale’s customized mentor approach means that CEOs, founders and executive teams can focus on the issues that are most critical to them at any given time and its short, highly focused seminars are led by global experts.
Prediction #3: 2020 will bring a marked increase in technology adoption
Most of BC’s economic output comes from small and medium sized businesses in non-technology industries. While BC’s tech sector is thriving it is still comprises less than 10% of BC GDP. The big opportunity is to build a tech-enabled economy all across BC.
Small and medium sized enterprises are less likely to adopt technology and this is a leading cause of Canada and BC’s relatively low productivity compared to other OECD countries. In an era where the working population is aging and talent is becoming harder to find, all companies will increasingly need to adopt technology if they want to continue to grow and stay competitive.
We need to find more effective ways to support SMEs to understand what technology can do for them and develop pathways to adopt technology. That’s why BC Tech launched our HyperTech program which offers seminars, collision days with tech startups and digital audits to drive business efficiency. Our first events of 2020 are in Surrey and we’ll be delivering the program in partnership with a number of other municipalities and Boards of Trade throughout the year.
Prediction #4: BC’s tech talent pool will expand to become more diverse and inclusive
BC’s tech sector has lagged behind on gender equity and other measures of diversity. But there are reasons to believe that we’ve reached a tipping point with leaders growing impatient with the lack of progress. Impatience can be a powerful impetus to act!
At BC Tech we’ve committed to double the number of women on our Board to 34% by October 2020 and to continue to improve from there. We launched our #WhatWorks: Women in Tech Series to move the dial on diversity and inclusion by equipping hundreds of women with strategies for shaping successful tech careers. The response to the series, launched last September, has been so remarkable that #WhatWorks has been extended beyond its original December closing date through March 2020.
BC Tech is working further upstream as well. Our collaborative, community-led HyperTalent program is connecting more than 100 teachers from rural and urban school districts with educational seminars, tours of leading technology companies, and hands-on experiences. This is building awareness of the kinds of tech careers open to students, and connecting the curriculum to real-world examples of the opportunities.
In addition, as part of HyperTalent’s mandate to facilitate building a strong, diverse, and inclusive talent pool to help tech companies scale in BC, the program will expose more Indigenous youth to the tech sector through 12 internship positions with leading technology companies. Students will gain hands-on work experience during these four-month internships, along with support in resume writing and interview skills.
So there you have it: 4 hopeful, action oriented predictions to kick off the year and the decade!
As always, making predictions is an interesting and challenging exercise, but it only has value when it is followed up with the action that enables those predictions to become reality. At BC Tech we’re unapologetically passionate about our vision for the future of BC. To realize it we know action is needed and that’s why BC Tech is taking action.
But a vision as big as this one will only be achieved in partnership with many others across our big-hearted technology and innovation ecosystem. The collaboration and alignment we’ve seen in recent months has been inspriational: to say we’re excited about what lies ahead is an understatement!
Jill Tipping is the President and CEO of the BC Tech Association.