Predictions, eh? Asked to write about what I expect in 2021 I found myself wondering just how badly wrong I’d got it wrong for 2020! Turns out not so bad after all.
I was definitely right with prediction #1: 2020 was indeed a year of change vs. more of the same and prediction #3: 2020 brought a marked increase in technology adoption. But I didn’t predict a pandemic!
Covid was a humbling force majeure in every life in 2020, whether you were terribly affected or found new opportunities for growth. It ripped through every business, every community and turned upside down our lives and our understanding of ‘normal’. And yet.
Covid also turned innovation and experimentation from a nice to have into a need to have – an essential skill for every person, business, family and economy. In our heads we know that we won’t discover a better path unless we’re willing to explore other paths. But we don’t actually switch paths until we hit a roadblock. We innovate when we need to, and we innovate fastest when we really need to.
With that in mind here are my predictions for 2021.
Prediction #1: in 2021 we will embrace the opportunity to build back better
There’s power in a rebuild season. Jostled out of the status quo we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to think different and to take some bold steps. In today’s world, cautious is the new risky. Now is a time to take bold steps to innovate, to experiment and to invest. The best innovation is grounded in simplification. Focus. Focus. Focus. Get clear on what matters more and do more of it. Get clear on what matters less and do less of it. Identify your top up-and-coming talent and give them stretch assignments. Get serious about diversity and inclusion, set stretch targets then deliver to them, no excuses.
Prediction #2: in 2021 we will invest to ScaleUP BC’s tech sector
BC has a thriving tech startup sector that isn’t yet meeting its scaleup potential. The 2020 KPMG BC Tech Report Card found that there has been no growth at all in the number of medium-sized tech companies with 50-100 employees. Of the 11,000 tech companies in BC only 220 employ at least 100 people and a mere 22 employ 500 or more.
The great news is that there’s a solution to effectively tackle this scaleup gap and it is one that is already delivering great results in Ontario, where the key innovation agencies launched a Scale-Up platform in 2019 funded by the federal and Ontario governments. The call to action in the 2020 KPMG BC Tech Report Card is for the federal and BC governments to fund ScaleUp BC platform. A business-led initiative this partnership of 11 key innovation program delivery organizations would deploy targeted impactful programs and services to tech communities across BC to accelerate the scaleup of 800 technology companies and create an additional 10,000 jobs.
In Fall 2020 the federal government acknowledged that BC’s economy needed better funding and a new plan for growth by announcing the creation of a BC Regional Economic Development Agency. While details have not yet been released, I am hopeful technology and investment in the tech sector are part of this strategy.
The early signs are also promising from BC’s new majority NDP government with Minister Ravi Kahlon on the record acknowledging the importance of finding consistent funding to support the province’s tech community: “We need to think long term; it can’t be short term” and embracing the goal to get BC its fair share of federal funding to support the sector to scaleup.
Prediction #3: 2021 will be year we realize tech is more than a sector, it’s a competitive advantage
The lack of technology adoption is a leading cause of Canada and BC’s relatively low productivity compared to other OECD countries. To build the resilience of our economy we need to change this. We must enable British Columbia businesses whether large or small to understand technology and to develop and deploy technology roadmaps.
If you haven’t considered if there are technology tools that could help your business, you’re missing out. If you haven’t considered if your business could learn something from how tech companies operate, you’re missing out. And if you don’t know where to start, BC Tech can help. Supporting non-tech companies, large and small to understand technology and adopt innovation is a large part of what we do. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a personal level, 2020 beat me down then taught me who I am. Someone who believes the future offers more opportunity than threat. Someone who believes in people and our ability to do more, be better and succeed at what we put our minds to. Someone who can see clearly the path from where we start to where we need to be and isn’t afraid to take the first step. And someone who won’t stop challenging the inertia of the status quo to deliver a better future for British Columbians.
Jill Tipping is the President and CEO of the BC Tech Association.