Since 2016, Lighthouse Labs has run a satellite campus in B.C’s capital city, Victoria. While this island city is known for its laid-back culture, history, and breathtaking coastline, almost invisible to the eyes of locals and tourists is the thriving tech industry.
You may be wondering how a small city like Victoria could have such a thriving industry. Education, culture, and livability are some of the factors that set Victoria up for success. Victoria has a population of 367,770, and home to two universities and a college. At any given time, 45,000 or approximately 10% of the Greater Victoria Area is being educated. Universities and colleges lead to research, which leads to the subject matter experts and thought leaders who have shaped the tech industry.
In addition to having the academic resources available to develop an innovative industry, Victoria is also a highly desirable place to live. Victoria has Canada’s mildest climate, you’re never far from the ocean, and you’re surrounded by views of mountains wherever you go. Best of all, you can golf, surf, and ski all in one day. This combination of education and livability is the perfect storm that fostered the tech community we have here today.
Government has played a big role in nurturing the tech ecosystem in Victoria. The ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology is largely focused on economic development, and fund the BC tech summit every year. It is the ministry’s mandate to grow the B.C tech sector, champion innovation, nurture small businesses, and support economic development throughout the province of B.C.
A key government player in the tech industry is The BCDevExchange– one of Canada’s top 100 employers, located in the heart of Victoria. The DevExchange is a self-service web app that speeds up how government accesses the software solutions it needs. Historically, procurement in Government has been challenging and time-consuming. The BCDevExchange uses codewithus and sprintwith us to reduce the barriers for small companies to start getting government contracts.
With the BC Government located in Victoria, many small companies here are now getting government contracts. BCDevExchange collaborates and shares their code openly, and have found that the problems they are solving, are problems that other governments have too. The projects completed via the BCDevExchange are creating a ripple effect across other governments in Canada, and around the world.
According to the 2018 economic impact study, the tech sector in Victoria has a total economic impact of $5.22 billion, and employs 16,775 people (almost 5% of the population). One of the most influential organizations in the tech industry is VIATEC (Victoria Innovation Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council). VIATEC is a not-for-profit membership organization with a mission to serve as the one-stop hub that connects people, knowledge, and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria Tech Sector. Incorporated in 91, the organization now has over 300 members. Viatec founder and CEO Dan Gunn describes the Victoria tech community as Collaborative, Purpose-Driven, and Diverse.
Because Victoria is such a small city, the customers of Victoria tech companies rarely actually live there. At face value, this may seem like a disadvantage, but Gunn says this has actually been one of the biggest advantages for the community. Not competing for market share among a small population has created a collaborative environment for entrepreneurs and leaders to share, connect, and ultimately help each other thrive.
The BCDevExchange is the perfect example of Victoria’s collaborative environment. Government problems require innovative solutions. The BCDevExchange platform allows companies to work together to solve government problems. For example, Freshworks Studios and Sierra Systems joined forces on a government mining project that builds better systems to share information, save time, and keep mines safe.
In the beginning, tech was all about making stuff. Today, Victoria tech companies are leading with why. This shift in perspective has changed tech culture for the better. The BCDevExchange has taken on projects to solve problems in all areas of government, including predictive wildfire services, and building a VON network that acts as a single source of truth for verified organizations. Other notable companies in Victoria that are reflect this purpose-driven attitude are Benevity, Change.org, Locelle and Momentum Dash.
Many tech industries develop clusters. Take Silicon Valley or Houston for example - both of these regions have developed clusters of businesses and organizations in a similar field within tech. Victoria, on the other hand has remained relatively ‘unclustered’ and maintains a diverse population of companies. Victoria’s tech-mosphere is home to everything from Aerospace and Ocean Sciences to performance marketing and gaming companies. This unclustered infrastructure contributes to the industry's collaborative nature, and keeps things interesting.
The number of tech companies in Victoria is projected to reach over 1000 by 2020 and Viatec has their sights set on getting Victoria’s tech sector to $10 billion in revenues by 2030. Throughout this growth, Victoria is determined to preserve its tight-knit, collaborative community.
If you like brunch, surfing, and technology, you just might want to plan your next visit out to Victoria. Check out the VIATEC events page, YYJ Tech and YYJ Tech Ladies slack channels to experience it for yourself, or consider kicking off your own tech career from this island hub with our Bootcamp or one of our part-time programs.