VentureLabs® sparks global startup growth and engagement

Entrepreneurship and academics are coming together in the new VentureLabs® facility in downtown Vancouver. A member of BCIC’s BC Acceleration Network, VentureLabs® is a technology business accelerator supporting startups from Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Emily Carr University or Art + Design, and from our community.

The new entrepreneurial hub positions VentureLabs® well to achieve its commitment to creating world-class, sustainable and scalable growth companies, according to Ian Hand, Executive Director. “Since we partnered with BCIC and started delivering the Venture Acceleration Program, we’ve been able to create a lot of impact for the companies we’ve worked with,” he says. “With the new space, we are looking forward to doing more of that and in an internationally connected way.”

BCIC recently spoke with Ian about noteworthy Vancouver innovators and, avenues for entrepreneurial support and how institutional partnerships are powering new ventures.

How has your tech community changed over the past five to ten years?

The BC startup scene has become stronger, with more startups and more programs. It’s evident that passion for entrepreneurship in the local ecosystem has really never been higher.

We are living in a highly entrepreneurial era, where technology innovations enable venture creation and government has created a value system and policy framework that supports and values innovation and entrepreneurship.

Can you talk about some of the challenges of growing a firm here?

Access to capital is one item that frequently comes up. Fortunately, the federal government is helping to address the issue through the Venture Capital Action Plan and support like funding for investor education initiatives of the National Angel Capital Organization and it’s member angel networks.

There’s also a perceived challenge in finding senior talent such as deeply experienced executives in senior marketing or management roles for high-growth companies. However, until startups have a validated opportunity and significant resources in the form of financing, they’re usually not in a position to recruit a highly experienced industry CEO or other executive. Founders must first build value and then the judgement can be made as to whether continued growth requires enrichment of the management team or not. Investors often help inform that decision, and founders need to be open-minded regarding further de-risking the business and accelerating growth.

Do the companies you work with cater to any industry?

VentureLabs® is a multi-sector technology accelerator. But a lot of our companies are based in science and are intellectual property-based. They are different than many Internet ventures that are based on rapid web-based iteration; many firms are based around physical products and lab-developed processes.

Tell me about some of your leading innovators.

All of our entrepreneurs are amazing for different reasons. A few that come to mind right now are:

  • VeloMetro, founded by Kody Baker and John Stonier, is working to build a sustainable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly transportation system.
  • Optigo Networks, lead by Ping Yao, is bringing security to IoT technologies in smart buildings.
  • PHEMI Health, recently named one of Canada’s “Companies-to-Watch” by Deloitte, provides privacy, security, governance and enterprise-grade management for company data.
  • LungPacer is developing a therapeutic solution for preserving diaphragm muscle strength in critically ill ICU mechanically ventilated patients.

What have you seen to be the common attributes of successful VAP companies?

Key among these attributes is a shared vision, persistence and a team who works well together to deliver a product that customers want. A successful company needs to become an effective ‘decision-making machine’ to solve thousands of small and large problems rapidly on the road to success.

Can you tell me something unique about your tech community that most people won’t know?

VentureLabs® is partnered with Ryerson University (Digital Media Zone) and University of Ontario Institute of Technology in a Pan-Canadian NRC Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP) partnership and with Zone Startups India and Hanhai Zhiye internationally. This means that BC startups can now access business development resources and investment sources across Canada and around the world.

Beyond your organization, where do your companies typically go for support?

NRC IRAP, NSERC Engage and MITACS internship programs, as well as co-op programs and the BCIC Innovator Skills Initiative are all excellent programs that growing BC tech companies can access to accelerate their success.

What is in your vision for the future VentureLabs® and tech in Vancouver?

VentureLabs® is working to to make Vancouver the best place on the planet to launch and grow a technology startup. We’re also working to make it easier to collaborate with BC university research expertise, talent and international business development partners.

Learn more about technology in British Columbia at the #BCTECH Summit 2016 – January 18 + 19, 2016.

“#BCTECH: A provincial view” profiles BC Acceleration Network partners who are driving growth of the tech sector across the province. Tech is booming in BC – but in very different ways in different regions. Read about the people who are building businesses, creating jobs and embracing innovation in our spotlight series.

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