Twenty organizations, big and small, 
that are quietly – and not so quietly – shaping our province with one good idea.

Just how much innovation can you find in a single province? After three years of searching, we can tell you that it seems almost limitless. Maybe there is something in the B.C. water that brings out the strange mix of dissatisfaction, brilliance and courage that leads people to try to change the world. Whatever it is, it’s certainly here – and in abundance.

To tell the truth, creating this list for the third year in a row scared us a little bit. Would we really be able to find anything we didn’t uncover last year or the year before? Many of the organizations we’ve featured in the past are as innovative now as they’ve ever been, but did we really want to roll out the same old names and tell the same old stories yet again? What’s innovative about that?

So we set a challenge for ourselves this year: find new organizations with genuinely new innovations. Yes, a couple of the names from the past are once again on the list, but only because these organizations did something in 2010 to take their innovation to the next level. By the same token, there are some incredibly innovative B.C. companies that are absent this year, including luminaries like MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, Westport Innovations and Lululemon (see Past Innovators, pages 83-84). While we had nothing to add to their stories of accomplishment in 2010, we are confident they will continue to innovate – and when they do, we’ll be there to tell their stories.

Innovation is not something that can be easily measured; it defies scientific breakdown. However, it’s still our goal to curate our list in a methodical and logically consistent way, while including stories from as many sectors as possible. With the help of our panel of 12 innovation experts (whose biographies can be found below), we sorted through a long list of 50 credible candidates before finally narrowing that list to 20.

The Innovators Methodology

Our definition of innovation is simple. Innovation is a new idea put into action that creates a significant benefit. We chose four criteria that organizations had to meet to be considered for the list:

1. The innovation is based on an ambitious, imaginative idea 

2. The innovation has been put into action in its intended market

3. Something about the idea or how it is being used is new to the market

4. There’s evidence that this innovation has had a significant benefit to both the organization and its market

This year, we decided not to include organizations that have appeared on our past lists unless there was something substantial to add to their story of innovation.

To find B.C.’s most innovative companies, we started with a province-wide online survey, inviting organizations to tell us why they should be considered. Next we gathered a panel of 12 volunteer advisers, business leaders and experts plugged into a range of sectors who could suggest organizations to include and help debate the top contenders.

The final list was chosen by the BCBusiness editorial staff.

The Innovators Panel

David Allison is president of Braun/Allison Inc., a real estate development branding and marketing strategy firm based in Vancouver, with clients around the globe. Allison is a director of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and sits on the Acquisitions Committee at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Rick Antonson is the president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, as well as vice-­president of the board of directors for Pacific Coast Public Television. Antonson also served as an ambassador during the 2010 Winter Olympic & Paralympic Games. 

Karimah Es Sabar is senior vice-president of business and strategic affairs at the Centre for Drug Research and Development. Es Sabar was previously president of LifeSciences B.C. and serves on a number of boards and advisory committees, including the Vancouver General Hospital. 

Yuri Fulmer is chair and CEO of FDC Capital Partners. Previous positions include president and CEO of Mr. Mike’s Restaurants Inc. He chairs the board of the United Way of the Lower Mainland, and is a director of the Vancouver Foundation and vice-chair of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Vancouver. 

David Ian Gray is the owner and principal of DIG360 Consulting Ltd., a Vancouver-based retail consulting firm. An expert on market strategies and retail trends, he chaired a business sustainability session at the 2010 GLOBE conference in Vancouver and was an ­adviser to the Sustainable Brands 2010 conference in Monterey, California. 

Jacqueline Gustafson is a senior manager at KPMG LLP. Before starting at KPMG in 2005, Gustafson was an engineering manager at VAE Nortrak Ltd. She is currently a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the BC Technology Industry Association and the Victoria Advanced Technology Council. 

Brent Holliday is the technology practice partner at Capital West Partners, a mid-market mergers and acquisitions adviser, and a former partner at Greenstone Venture Partners, a venture capital fund he co-founded in 2000. Prior to his career in VC, he co-founded and ran an Internet software company. Holliday is on the board of the Victoria Advanced Technology Council and writes the Tech Talk column for BCBusiness.

Salil Munjal is a partner at Yaletown Venture Partners, a Vancouver venture capital firm. Earlier in his career, Munjal was a corporate lawyer at Torys LLP, where he focused on mergers and acquisitions, before becoming CEO of Leitch Technology Corp. 

Dean Prelazzi is the Director of ICT, Wireless, and Digital Media at the BC Innovation Council. He is a technology marketing instructor at BCIT, a member of BCIT's commercialization advisory committee, a mentor with New Ventures BC, and board member of the Kids Up Front Foundation. He has 14 years' experience in technology companies in Canada and the U.S.

Joel Solomon is president of Renewal Partners and chair of Renewal2 Investment Fund. Through Renewal Partners, Solomon has invested in companies such as Happy Planet Foods and Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD). Solomon is also a founding member of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and is on the board of the Tides Canada Foundation. 

Tony Wanless is CEO 
and principal of Knowpreneur Consultants, a supplier of content marketing strategies and materials. A founder of seven entrepreneurial ventures, Wanless has also acted as the communications co-chair for the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of B.C. and was a consultant with the Business Development Bank of Canada. He writes the Game Plan column for BCBusiness and blogs for bcbusinessonline.ca. 

Boris Wertz is the founder and CEO of W Media Ventures. He is an experienced Internet entrepreneur and investor and is currently a venture partner at Action Capital Partners and a director at Suite101.com. Wertz was previously CEO of Nexopia.com and the COO of AbeBooks.


Get Recognized!

Did we miss your story? To have your 
organization considered for future 
Innovators lists, please email us at 
bcb@canadawide.com. And check out 
our website – bcbusinessonline.ca ­– 
this fall for our 2012 Innovators survey.