I just came back from a holiday exploring some of beautiful British Columbia and of course just because of the nature of my work: building communities and ecosystems — I had to get a couple of causal intros to some startup people to say “Hi” to while driving around the amazing Okanagan and beyond.
I know B.C. is a huge province — I keep showing off the size of it to people in Asia, just thinking about the fact that Vancouver Island is the same land mass as Taiwan shocks me – but for the most part in terms of ecosystems I feel it is broken into 3 distinct pieces: Metro Vancouver, the Okanagan and Vancouver Island.
I’m definitely looking to hear from people in Prince George and Nelson, so give‘er.
Here are just a few of the people I either saw in person or had calls with while hiking the mountains – I thought it was a great trip, got a great impression (even during COVID) of what mindsets are like between the areas:
Todd Embley, who I have known since he was running Chinaccelerator in Shanghai, is running Founder Institute in Vancouver from Vernon. He told me he is building weapons grade entrepreneurs and the turn-outs for Intro Nights before COVID shows me there is a need and a demand to help build these skills as every day there are new people graduating, immigrating and lightbulbs going off that this needs to be constant.
Steve Wandler the founder of Metabridge is another cool person I met, feels like a brother from another mother. Building companies from Kelowna and hosting special events that spotlights the environment, the people and welcoming non-tech people into the circle like NHL players, Steve is doing the Lords’ work.
Another brother from another mother (obviously a theme amongst community builders) is Shane Austin from Okanagan coLab. Shane built a great co-workspace in Kelowna and is in the heart of it all. Shane is hosting online events so you can pop in and see what’s happening and connect with the “Serendipity Architect” himself.
And a big thanks to Grant Lawrence of Valhalla Capital. I met Grant in Vancouver last year and he’s been a great introducer of people as he expands his angel network around the world from Lake Country. Very interesting to hear about what he is doing as well.
Also quick shout-out to Dan Burgar, he is in Vancouver and is the ecosystem lead of the VR/AR space leading the VRAR Association Chapter here and has his own event coming up soon, and I love his enthusiasm and his network in this space I am very excited about as well.
I’d actually love this column to just be monthly shout-outs to all the B.C. tech ecosystem people and what they are doing since Canadians are way too modest.
I feel like I want to organize this type of ecosystem trip not just for myself but for a larger group as there is a lot of exciting cross pollination opportunities here. I remember joining 500 Startups’ Geeks on a Plane tour, where they took a busload of founders and investors outside the Bay Area to see what ecosystems looked like in South East Asia, The Middle East, etc., which I thought was very enlightening.
A strong ecosystem leader in the Bay Area, that wanted to spread the “gospel” and bring the band with them – to build something similar to that in B.C. would be amazing. I feel like the people I’ve met so far that have community and ecosystem in their blood can help make it happen. In Los Angeles there are different startup communities just an hour drive away from each other, you could say the Marina Freeway hits as many startup communities as the Trans-Canada Highway does.
I just scanned the ten startups in New Ventures BC competition and its interesting to see there are only 3 from outside Vancouver. Does this B.C. ecosystem need to have a tighter connection or is the province so big and lifestyle so different that it should just stay the way it is?
I’m looking forward to Vancouver Startup Week later this month, and will talk about the experience in this column next month.
Also a shout to the Afternoon T podcast with Chris Hobbs. Chris is interviewing Vancouver-based founders on what they are doing and it surprised me to find some of the companies are from Vancouver. I’ll be on the show soon too.
I’m interviewing some great people in digital entertainment on my own podcast called Sandwich Society and will be launching a new RISE podcast to keep everyone updated with startup happenings in Asia.
We are expecting 100,000 attendees from around the world at Web Summit Online in December — I hope to get a good amount of BC-based ecosystem leaders to join me, definitely reach out to me if you want to be part of something special I’m brewing here hopefully live.
What else is missing from the startup community here?