B.C.’s Tech Industry in 2014

The year ahead will rejuvenate the Lower Mainland’s tired tech scene and its strained startups

The new year can be a fresh start for worn-down tech entrepreneurs and their strained startups. In fact, a new year can rejuvenate an entire city, and that’s what I believe will happen to Vancouver in 2014. I think it’s going to be driven by four developments, which combined lead to my one ultimate prediction: 2014 is going to be a magnificent year for innovation, technology and startups in the Vancouver area.

1. HootSuite keeps growing at an insane clip

This social media company is like a teen athlete in the middle of a growth spurt: it boasts an appetite that can’t be sated. The firm will keep gaining users and continue to hire new people.

HootSuite was founded in 2008 in what at the time was an unproven and still-emerging space. Many of its competitors fizzled within months of launching because social media was hard to monetize, but HootSuite soldiered on and last year doubled its headcount to 400 and gained nearly four million new users, becoming one of the world’s most popular third-party clients for managing social networks. I predict that by the end of 2014 HootSuite will double its number of employees and surpass 11 million users.

2. More coding schools launch, cultivating a new wave of developers

Tech startups in Vancouver compete aggressively for the best developers in town because there aren’t many to go around. That’s partly because it isn’t easy getting trained in the science of coding here.

One day I hope it’s taught in elementary schools, but as it stands, most students don’t get a feel for programming until they hit university. While we wait for the government to bring its education curriculum up to date, I believe that this problem will be partially alleviated by the advent of local coding academies designed to foster hirable developers in just a couple of months. Inspired by the likes of Bitmaker Labs in Toronto, two local boot camps have already sprouted: Lighthouse Labs and CodeCore (see sidebar, below). And I wouldn’t be surprised if more launched this year.

3. Vancouver solidifies its leadership in wearable-tech innovation

The city is already bursting at the seams with quality companies in the space: Fatigue Science and its Readiband; Physi-Cal Enterprises and its Mio products; and Recon Instruments, to name but a few. Fatigue is poised to become tremendously popular among professional athletes (the Vancouver Canucks are already big fans), while Mio and Recon products are some of the best available for those looking to quantify themselves. Basis Science and Pebble, two popular wearable-tech companies in Silicon Valley, also have roots in Vancouver.

With these promising companies continuing to innovate—and new ones launching—Vancouver will solidify its position as Canada’s hub for the best wearable technology.

4. Vancouver is recognized as the most popular destination for foreign entrepreneurs using the government’s new startup visa program

Foreign entrepreneurs can launch their startups anywhere in Canada under the federal government’s new startup visa program, but I’m confident that Vancouver will be their most common choice.

Aside from being breathtakingly beautiful, our fine city is consistently ranked among the most livable in the world, which is always a high priority for foreign families. Beyond that, Vancouver has one of the oldest, deepest and strongest tech ecosystems in the country, not to mention its proximity to Silicon Valley.

Robert Lewis is president of TechVibes Media Inc. and editor-in-chief of Techvibes.com.