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Credit: City of Vancouver

Long known for its natural surroundings, Vancouver is gaining a global reputation for another kind of ecosystem that helps young companies flourish

Matrix: Startup CityVancouver has some glowingly successful startup stories, including Slack, the fastest-growing business software of all time, Broadband.tv, the world’s third-largest video streaming site, and Hootsuite Media Inc., maker of the most widely used social media management platform. Among those Douglas firs is a growing cluster of promising saplings, nurtured by what a recent report calls a healthy environment. According to Startup Genome, a network that draws from global business data, surveys with thousands of company founders and research from organizations that support entrepreneurs, Metro Vancouver’s startup ecosystem ranks 15th worldwide.

The report is driven by one question: where does an early-stage startup stand the best chance of building a global success? Cities and regions are rated on such factors as company performance, access to funding, number of experienced engineers and market reach.

“I think Vancouver has a very strong startup vibe compared to the rest of the country,” says James Maynard, president of Wavefront, a Vancouver-based organization that helps young companies with early-stage development, growth and building  international ties. “We might not have the scale; there’s issues of availability of funding because of the size of the city and the nature of our business composition. But I think overall it’s got a lot going for it.”

Vancouver, which beat the only other Canadian contender, Toronto-Waterloo, by one place, ranked last in the top 20 for the exit values of companies that have been acquired or gone public. (Not one over US$1 billion?) Maynard argues that exits aren’t necessarily a good measure of success, though. “That’s really a double-edged sword,” he says. “Is it a good thing to have an ecosystem that helps companies get bought up instead of building head offices and delivering value back into the community? We need to create cohorts of companies that are not just focused on exits and returns, but also on that balance that you can drive financial returns and also drive for growth and be headquartered here in Vancouver.”

Ecosystem graphicSource: Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017. all funds in U.S. dollars

Salary graphicSource: Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017. all funds in U.S. dollars