Vancouver Startups’ High-Tech Hurdle: Top-Level Talent

The Globe and Mail’s Sean Silcoff reports that Vancouver has an abundant amount of startups with several about to go public. The struggle the tech industry is stumbling upon is attracting top executives to move to Vancouver to build these startups into thriving businesses.

Silcoff states the tech industry sector is estimated to occupy almost “40 per cent of downtown Vancouver commercial real estate and employed 86,800 people province-wide 2013.” Further, Vancouver’s hot startup scene is the location where the sale of a dating website, Plentyoffish.com, was sold and the sale of online eyewear retailer, Coastal Contacts Inc. There are several startups ready to go public as well as the “local expansion of Microsoft, Amazon, and Sony Digital Work” ranking Vancouver as the world’s ninth most active startup ecosystem (2012 survey).

Silcoff interviews local entrepreneurs to discuss the frustration of recruiting talented top-level executives and what pitfalls they must overcome to become as successful as Silicon Valley. One big challenge they all face is Vancouver’s high housing prices. Silcoff also reports that persuading top executives to a second-tier tech market also means less pay. Local Vancouver startups have a larger hurdle when finding talent outside of Vancouver since they are competing with Silicon Valley. Silcoff interviews Tal Ball, chief technology officer with BuildDirect.com, who says, ‘I would say the border between Washington and B.C. is a bigger change than most Americans perceive. It’s doable, but it’s a bigger undertaking than I imagined.’

There is a tight-knit community in the Vancouver startups scene that gives an advantage for eager entrepreneurs. Homegrown entrepreneurs are investing in other local startups. For instance, Silcoff states Plentyoffish.com founder Markus Frind invested 18 million (Canadian) in Cymax.

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In conclusion, Silcoff reports the challenges Vancouver startups are facing in finding talented top-level executives to guide their startup companies and turn them into booming businesses. On the flip side, Vancouver’s homegrown entrepreneurs have been investing in local startups to help further Vancouver’s vibrancy in the tech industry.