B.C. startups using tech to 'disrupt' traditional industries

VANCOUVER -- One technology startup is using artificial intelligence to save people who book online flights up to 80 per cent.

See Full Article

Another helps farmers boost their crop yields with a mobile app that manages operations from seed to sale.

A third new technology firm aims to replace conventional bank accounts with only a card and an app.

They're all samples of a boom in digital-technology startups in Vancouver that are revolutionizing traditional industries with tech savvy.

The companies are challenging old methods of doing business, and they're out to "disrupt" everything from travel to agriculture to financial services.

"You adapt or you die," said Ray Walia, CEO of Launch Academy, a leading non-profit firm that trains and mentors such startups.

The organization has helped entrepreneurs start more than 350 companies, raising about $57 million in funding and creating over 635 jobs across 15 industries. They include TripDelta, Farm At Hand and Koho.

Walia said employers outside the technology world must change the mindset that "bleeding-edge" advancements don't matter to their own industries.

"It's an economic stimulus for the entire country. Because it's those technology companies that are going to help those incumbents -- those dinosaurs -- stay alive and avoid the asteroid that's coming."

The youth-propelled trend is also flourishing in the technology hubs of Toronto and Montreal, and is considered most prolific in San Francisco's Silicon Valley.

About 84,000 British Columbians were employed by over 9,000 tech companies in 2014, according to the provincial Technology Ministry -- more than in mining, forestry, and oil and gas combined.

Earlier this month, Premier Christy Clark announced the province is betting on startups as engines for job creation by establishing a new $100-million venture capital fund to launch in 2016.

It's the first prong in a multi-year government strategy to enhance the industry's role in the provincial economy. Plans to attract new talent and open markets are expected to be announced in January, when the province hosts the B.C. Tech Summit, its largest-ever technology business conference aimed at mingling entrepreneurs with those in established industries.

Vancouver is home to more than a dozen "incubator" facilities and "accelerator boot camps," which provide crash courses for early-stage companies on taking technology ideas to market. Millennials are strongly represented, with many aspiring to hatch the next company valued at $1 billion -- broadly dubbed a "unicorn" in tech circles, or "narwhal" in Canada.

Hootsuite, Slack and Avigilon have already joined the Narwhal Club, while another 12 Vancouver companies are considered emerging. Ten others have been acquired by more established companies, according to Launch Academy.

Walia said innovative new business models are developing, with some entrepreneurs realizing product ideas with just a 3D printer, then turning to online freelancers for logo design and marketing.

Others write code in their basement and harness remote servers to increase efficiency and prevent disastrous losses of data.

Employees also collaborate from far-flung cities using social apps and video streaming, while avoiding overhead costs.

Those seeking venture capital have participated in American Idol-style pitch competitions that have sold tickets out the door and down the block in Vancouver's Gastown district.

Millennial startups are also often motivated by doing social good, the result of a hyper-awareness of pressing issues from constant immersion in social media. Many for-profit companies are incorporating philanthropy into their business model.

"If you don't adapt, you're not going to succeed," said Vivian Chan, who co-ordinates an accelerator program for wireless companies with Wavefront. "You can join the rest of the crew, or you're going to be left behind."

Chan said millennials are thirsty to run their own businesses, their way.

"It's the cool thing to do."

But rags-to-riches success stories such as Uber and Airbnb have put a halo over the current wave of startups, warned HeroX CEO Christian Cotichini, who has successfully built four companies over 24 years.

He predicted there will be a rise in failures of startups in the coming year, but suggested that won't be as painful as more notorious tech-industry crashes of the past.

Cotichini also predicts more millennials will dump the pursuit of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg-style rockstar status and instead focus on building a career out of their small, sustainable businesses.

Industries invented before the Internet are "de facto obsolete," he said.

"We're really on a super cycle of leveraging all this new technology to make our lives better."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • McKenna, Mulroney to mark 30-year anniversary of Montreal Protocol

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONTREAL - Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and former prime minister Brian Mulroney will be in Montreal today to mark the 30th anniversary of a landmark treaty to protect the earth's ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol was an international agreement signed in the city on Sept. Source
  • Purdue professor receives $5M grant for grain research

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University professor has received a $5 million grant to help develop hybrid grain seeds that will resist parasite weeds. Gebisa Ejeta received the four-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Journal and Courier reported. Source
  • Six Nations school launches app that teaches people to speak Mohawk

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A Six Nations school is doing its part to keep Indigenous languages alive in the most modern of ways — with an app. 'Our languages all have a beauty to them in their sound and cadence, and the melody they carry with them. Source
  • In Nova Scotia visit, Google exec urges countries to tap young talent

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX - One of the world's top technology executives is urging democratic countries to turn to youth in a bid to find innovative solutions to looming security problems. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc. Source
  • Blazing fireball lights up Arctic sky over finland

    Tech & Science CTV News
    COPENHAGEN -- A blazing fireball lit up the dark skies of Arctic Finland for five seconds, giving off what scientists said was "the glow of 100 full moons" and igniting hurried attempts to find the reported meteorite. Source
  • Apple pushes back release of HomePod speaker to 2018

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Apple said Friday it was delaying until early next year the release of its HomePod speaker set to compete with Amazon's Alexa-powered devices and Google Home as a smart home and music hub. The delay means Apple will miss the key holiday shopping season in the fast-growing segment of connected speakers. Source
  • Germany bans children's smart watches with listening app

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BERLIN -- German regulators have banned certain types of smartwatches marketed to children, saying the devices have been used to listen in on school classrooms and run afoul of Germany's surveillance restrictions. The Bundesnetzagentur, or Federal Network Agency, said in a statement issued Friday that watches that would allow parents to "listen unnoticed to a child's environment" constitute an unauthorized transmitting system. Source
  • Bonn climate talks end with progress despite U.S. stance

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BONN, Germany -- As the first glimmer of dawn appeared across the Rhine River, delegates stumbled out of an all-night negotiating session at this year's global climate talks, expressing satisfaction Saturday at the progress made toward creating a comprehensive rule book for fighting global warming. Source
  • Climate-hit nations say UN talks offer little help for soaring losses

    Tech & Science CBC News
    From Fiji to St. Lucia, small island nations have taken every opportunity to flag the growing risks of climate change to their land and people at UN talks in Bonn — but their cry for help has fallen on deaf ears, officials and experts said on Friday. Source
  • NASA packs 20 years of Earth's changing seasons into 2 1/2 minute visualization

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA captured 20 years of changing seasons in a striking new global map of the home planet. The data visualization, released this week, shows Earth's fluctuations as seen from space. Source