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Vancouver’s Strong Universities Play a Key Role in Growing Tech Scene

Aug 28, 2019 By Crissy Campbell

Vancouver’s tech scene is changing. What was once an industry dominated by small start-up companies is now morphing into an industry with the big tech players. Amazon is opening up an office in the old Canada Post building and will be hiring 3,000 workers in the next few years. Apple is reportedly moving into a new downtown Vancouver development across the street from Amazon. 

And the good news doesn't stop there.

Over the past year, many Silicon Valley tech companies have planned to set up headquarters or are hiring in Vancouver, including Asana, PostMates, Lyft, Streak, Tile and Zenefits.

As to why they're moving here, CJ Prober, CEO of Tile explained in the Georgia Straight that it has to do with Vancouver’s "rich talent base" and optimum location that "operat[es] on the same time zone and [is] reachable by a direct two-and-a-half hour flight" from San Francisco.

The article also explains that another key reason companies are moving here is because of Vancouver’s universities and the quality of the graduates coming out of these universities.

On what Asana saw in Vancouver, site lead Niranjan Ravichandran is quoted in the Georgia Straight:

Some of the really salient things that stuck with us for Vancouver was that there’s a really strong market and talent quota. There are such a lot of startups with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. There are also really good schools, and there are lots of engineering graduates from those schools, like SFU, UBC, and BCIT. Those were our primary drivers."

In addition to the increase in technology companies, Vancouver's recognition as a top tech talent source is also growing. The city moved up 13 spots to #12 when ranked against 50 North American markets in the 2019 Scoring Tech Talent report, an annual report by real estate firm CBRE, making the biggest jump in the report.

This, again, was in part due to its strong universities. Forbes mentions Vancouver’s universities as a key reason for the jump:

Vancouver made the biggest jump in CBRE’s rankings, to No. 12 from No. 24, in part due to its strong universities. Yasukochi [CBRE’s director of research and analysis] said the Canadian city is a top candidate to break into the top ten thanks to the added benefit of proximity to established tech strongholds on the West Coast."

Centre for Digital Media's Director Richard Smith argues, 

We have long known that a strong post-secondary environment is a key element in an 'innovation cluster' or 'creative cluster' strategy. Numerous researchers have pointed to the benefits of cultural diversity and physical amenities along with a highly educated work-force and a rich set of secondary services (accounting, legal, finance, human resources) that are present in knowledge-rich environments.

In the case of Vancouver, many of the post-secondary institutions—including the four partners in the Centre for Digital Media—have invested heavily in programs, courses, faculty, and research initiatives that support growth and innovation in digital firms. That this investment is paying off is a testimony to those who saw the opportunity—and the need—to build up Vancouver’s capacity in these areas over two decades ago and continue to support and build on that success."

And Vancouver’s technology scene sees no sign of slowing down. Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, which facilitates and funds technology projects throughout Canada, is headquartered in Vancouver, leading to job creation and economic growth. The development of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor—a cross-border initiative to link Vancouver, Seattle and Portland—and the possibility of a high speed rail to connect Vancouver-Seattle-Portland are both huge growth potentials for the city.

Vancouver has a strong talent base and history in digital entertainment and innovation and we are seeing increased demand for digital media talent and expertise in varied industries. There are more companies, start-ups and investment in spaces 'where digital-media and any-industry meet' and there will continue to be a need for new and innovative solutions in industries like tech, finance, healthcare, natural resources and entertainment" says Dennis Chenard, Centre for Digital Media’s Director of Industry Relations. 

Technologies and tools will constantly change but people who know how to problem solve, create solutions and use technologies for enhancing, expanding or reinventing industries will always be in demand. Vancouver, and the Centre for Digital Media are well positioned and ‘the place to be’ for those wanting access to top talent and to stay ahead of the curve."


Why so many Silicon Valley companies are moving to Vancouver

2019 Scoring Tech Talent Report

Vancouver, Portland Leap In Ranking Of Best Cities For Tech Jobs

Resource For All Organizations Involved in Vancouver’s Tech Scene