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

  • Astronaut David Saint-Jacques talks about space, science and an old Rubix cube

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The next Canadian to travel to space is biding his time under quarantine in Kazakhstan, standing by in case something goes wrong to replace an astronaut set to blast off next month, before his own maiden space mission in December. Source
  • The International Space Station returns to the night sky, and here's how you can see it

    Tech & Science CBC News
    After a brief absence and some extremely early morning appearances, the International Space Station (ISS) returns to the night sky, and you can watch as it crosses the stars. The orbiting science platform is home to, on average, six people at a time. Source
  • Feds announce $26.7M for space technologies

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Science Minister Navdeep Bains has announced an investment of more than $26.7 million in space technology that will benefit 33 Canadian companies. Bains says the new money will support 46 projects and create or secure 397 jobs. Source
  • Bains announces $26.7 million investment in space technology

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Science Minister Navdeep Bains has announced an investment of more than $26.7 million in space technology that will benefit 33 Canadian companies. Bains says the new money will support 46 projects and create or secure 397 jobs. Source
  • 'Stinking and stunning' corpse flower blooms at Edmonton's Muttart Conservatory

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A rare, exotic plant known for its putrid bouquet has bloomed inside the pyramids of Edmonton's Muttart Conservatory. The corpse flower bloomed overnight Thursday, emitting a putrid odour of discarded diapers, rotting meat and hot garbage. Source
  • Scientists to test if Loch Ness monster exists using DNA sampling

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland's Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths. But now the legend of "Nessie" may have no place left to hide. Source
  • New app lets parents keep kids' pertinent information at their fingertips

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONTREAL -- A Montreal-based organization is launching a new free app that lets parents keep their children's vital information close at hand. The Missing Children's Network says the SIGN4L application allows parents to store up-to-date photos and vital information in one place for quick access in an emergency. Source
  • Chinook salmon fishery cut to protect southern resident orca population

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The federal government is getting mixed reactions to its plan to protect southern resident killer whales by protecting the orcas' primary food: Chinook salmon. On Thursday, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced plans to cut the allowable catch of Chinook salmon by 25 to 35 per cent. Source
  • EU data privacy law goes into effect amid confusion

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONDON - Lars Andersen's business handles some of the most sensitive data there is - the names and phone numbers of children. The owner of London-based My Nametags, which makes personalized nametags to iron into children's clothing, says protecting that information is fundamental to his business, which operates in 130 countries. Source
  • 'We are very worried about it escaping the area': Vancouver launches a battle against the Japanese beetle

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The battle is on to stop the invasive Japanese beetle from leaving downtown Vancouver where it has been found. People in several areas of the city can longer remove plants and soil, while removing yard trimmings are restricted all summer. Source