British Columbia was not always a technology hub. Just a couple of decades ago, the region was mostly known for mining and forestry companies. Today, Vancouver is among North America’s most respected startup hotspots—and the heat is only rising.
What’s kept BC from evolving, however, has been exits: every time a startup becomes successful, it seems to sell, typically to a non-Canadian firm. And when this happens, we tend to bleed talent and miss out on economic benefits.
Sometimes founders reinvest their windfall back into the local scene. Often they don’t.
So what are Vancouver accelerators doing, then? They’re aiding fledgling companies, sure. But if these startups are destined to flee the nest as soon as they can fly, are we not helping Silicon Valley more than ourselves in the long run?
Enter Hypergrowth, a BC Tech Association program targeting second-stage startups with the goal of bolstering BC’s tech ecosystem by fostering a new generation of regional anchor companies. It’s about maturing an infantile ecosystem.
“The current system still provides opportunities for these companies to grow and be successful,” explains Mike Hilton, Director with Microsoft, one of the programs founding and financial partners. “But with help of Microsoft and other partners, we can help them grow faster and become anchors sooner.”
Last week, Hypergrowth graduated its second cohort of companies: Arkit, Picatic, TalentClick, ThinkCX and Wiivv. Startups today, anchors tomorrow—that is the goal for these companies. And that starts by applying everything they learned during the six-month program.
Hilton, who was one of several advisors to the latest cohort, says that “to go to the next level, you can’t just do business as usual.” The companies that go through Hypergowth, he says, adopt new sales strategies and rethink how they operate their companies. “This program is designed to give these startups the tools they need to grow internationally while staying in BC.”
Of course, these startups can still leave. But Hypergrowth aims to prove that there is an ecocsystem in BC “to support them at all stages of their lifecycle,” Hilton notes.
“We want them to understand the ecosystem is here, the capital is here, the education is here—the combination of all that means this is a great place is grow, start, and maintain a global technology company,” he says.
Global Relay, Hootsuite, Avigilon. There are several large BC tech companies already. And hopefully they stick around and continue to grow. But the province, as BC Tech CEO Bill Tam put it during Hypergrowth’s graduation ceremony, is seeking “a herd of unicorns”—referring to a proliferation of billion-dollar startups.
We want more. We need more.
And when we get them?
“With enough momentum, there becomes this gravitational pull,” says Hilton. “The ecosystem breeds new entrepreneurs, new capital. It’s the snowball effect. It’s how Silicon Valley came to be.”
As Hypergrowth prepares for a third cohort, the snowball keeps rolling.