I have no doubt that the tech industry is a driver of the B.C. economy and my attendance at the B.C. Tech Summit recently confirmed it.
B.C. Stats recently reported that the technology sector employs 4.9 per cent of B.C.’s workforce, more than mining, oil and gas, and forestry combined. The average weekly earnings of tech workers are 75 per cent higher than those of the average worker, and the number of jobs is higher than ever before at 101,780.
The opening plenary was inspiring and I was excited to see the direction that the B.C. government is taking to continue to make the province a global leader in the tech industry.
With a focus on Talent, Capital and Markets I’ve seen first hand what the targeted investments and programs that BCIC do to help grow companies in B.C. The recent grand opening of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation in Kelowna is a prime example of how fast the tech sector is growing. One day in the near future I hope to see the grand opening of a Penticton Technology Centre.
Over 5,500 people attended the summit with 262 companies exhibiting and 200 speakers talking about the most important topics in technology. One of the highlights for me and every attendee I talked to was an engaging talk by JB Straubel one of the founders and CTO of Tesla.
Tesla is changing the world in many ways. Kelowna entrepreneur Lane Merrifield, a co-founder of Club Penguin and now co-founder of the educational engagement platform Freshgrade gave an inspiring talk that you don’t want to miss. Many of the talks can be found online here: https://bctechstrategy.gov.bc.ca/bctech-summit-web-casts/
There were too many things I saw and conversations I had at the summit to fit into a column, but a couple of highlights for me was having a half an hour conversation with Stephanie Simmons an SFU researcher working on building a Quantum Computer, a morning run with the president of BCIC Carl Anderson where we talked about how the government is working on improving how they procure technology with the B.C. Developers Exchange, and hearing the story of how Shannon Susko built and grew several companies. Shannon even sent me a couple of copies of her book The Metronome Effect that describes methods for companies to grow with predictable profit. It’s a great read for entrepreneur’s in any industry and I’m working on implementing the methodology in my own rapidly growing company.
It wasn’t all business, I was able to sign up for a 15 minute demo of EA Games Virtual Reality Star Wars Battlefront. I almost fell over when I did a barrel roll to shoot an asteroid. I met a young tech worker and he told me a story that I hear over and over again at my #techbrew events and throughout the Okanagan. Workers are frustrated at the high cost of living in Vancouver and are looking to places like Penticton so they can buy a home, raise a family, and live a healthy and active lifestyle. His girlfriend has a job lined up at the new hospital tower in Penticton and he was excited to hear that there is a thriving tech industry in the Okanagan. With the quality of talent that is moving here I predict more and more companies will open branch offices or move their companies to the Okanagan. Companies like Freshgrade, Yeti Farm Creative, WTFast and many more have proven it works. It’s an exciting time to be a tech business owner!
The next #techbrew event takes place on May 19 at the Barking Parrot in Penticton from 6 to 9 p.m.
Keith MacIntyre is a tech columnist for the Penticton Western News and the owner of Big Bear Software Inc.