Each month, the team at Switchboard Public Relations connects the dots between the trends, headlines and narratives informing the B.C. tech sector.
For October’s Connecting The Dots, the team examines the results of the municipal elections and what it means for the B.C. tech industry, shines a spotlight on BC Tech’s 2022 Technology Impact Awards and breaks down recent funding announcements and multimillion-dollar M&A action.
Vancouver election bodes well for tech sector
The Short: The ABC Vancouver political party dominated the October 15th municipal election, while referendum questions concerning the city’s core operating technology and funding for civic tech were supported by more than three-quarters of voters.
The Long: For the B.C. tech community, there’s more to the recent municipal election than the inevitable “Sim City” jokes that accompanied Ken Sim’s historic win as the first Chinese Canadian mayor of Vancouver.
With ABC candidates winning the race for mayor, seven of 10 spots on City Council, seven of eight spots on the Vancouver Park Board, and six of 10 school board posts, the Lower Mainland’s private sector should expect to see more tech engagement from and deployment by the municipal public sector. ABC Vancouver’s 93-point platform promises to “embrace technology and evidence-based policy to make City Hall more efficient and effective,” after all, and several of its candidates, including Sim, have extensive backgrounds in tech.
At the same time, Vancouver voters embraced tech-oriented City proposals put forward in a three-question referendum. More than 77 percent of the electorate voted “yes” to a proposal to borrow $173.5 million for transportation infrastructure and core operating technology, while more than 76 percent did likewise regarding a proposal to borrow $159.5 million to fund “transportation, community facilities, parks, civic facilities and technology, and/or other emerging priorities.”
Technology Impact Awards winners announced
The Short: Returning to the ballroom for the first time since 2019, the Technology Impact Awards (TIAs) Gala was held in-person at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Thursday, October 6th. Read more about the 2022 TIAs winners here.
The Long: The 29th-annual TIAs drew a sold-out crowd of over 800 people to the BC Tech Association’s celebration of outstanding B.C. companies that have made significant, positive impacts on the province’s tech sector.
This year’s TIAs theme was “Ambition,” with the Gala honouring 48 finalists across 12 categories. One of the evening’s highlights came when the four finalists in the Company of the Year – Startup category pitched their innovations to a panel of judges. VodaSafe, which uses the power of AI to transform water rescue and victim recovery, went home with $10,000 from BC Tech to fuel its growth. With their AquaEye handheld scanning sonar device, rescuers can search a nearly 2-acre body of water in less than 5 minutes, which would take hours if not days using conventional methods.
The evening concluded on an emotional note when Josh Nilson, founder of the iconic East Side Games studio, was presented with the “Person of the Year” award for his leadership in the local tech ecosystem and commitment to advancing diversity in tech, specifically for Indigenous peoples.
“I think I’m a voice right now in getting the word out that tech is for everyone, and for what I can do to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion,” Nilson said. “But most importantly, I think my job is just to hold the door open, so other people can come in. And then I’ll step back and let people that really can do it better than me have a huge impact and get the work done. And I’ll help amplify their voices and support them wherever I can.”
Rock Tech inks multibillion-dollar deal with Mercedes
The Short: Vancouver’s Rock Tech Lithium has finalized a supply agreement with Mercedes-Benz AG to provide high-quality lithium used in electric vehicle battery production.
The Long: Set to begin in 2026, the five-year agreement will see Rock Tech supply an average of 10,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium hydroxide per year. The total sales volume of the deal is estimated to be approximately $2 billion.
Calling the agreement “a major step forward in our plans to directly contribute to clean mobility,” Rock Tech CEO Markus Bruegmann said the company “intends to focus our efforts on providing lithium hydroxide that will help to bring Mercedes-Benz’s electric mobility ambitions into action.”
Funding flows into B.C. tech sector
The Long: The eight R&D projects being funded by Innovate BC include those managed by Daanaa, Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation (HTEC), Minpraxis Solutions, Nanovation Therapeutics, Terramera Softree Technical Systems, Flash Forest, and Browns Bay Packing Company. Founded in 2004, Innovate BC is an agency that delivers funds and programs to support the growth of the provincial economy.
Following a $40-million equity investment received from Goeasy in June, Canada Drives announced an additional $10 million CAD in equity financing from existing investors. According to founder and co-CEO Cody Green, this investment gives Canada Drives “enough runway to have us feel confident to keep executing on our business plan.” This latest round brings Canada Drives’ total funding to $150 million.