Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Closing Canada’s Tech Skills Gap: Teach Youth to Code

Monday, May 1st, 2017

220,000 workers needed: That’s how vast Canada’s tech skills gap could be by 2020, according to Canadian government and industry experts.

If that gap isn’t closed, many tech companies will be forced to look for opportunities outside the country, Waveform CEO Kirk Simpson recently told CBC News.

“If we can find the talent somewhere else, we might open a second location in the U.S. market or in a European market,” he said. “And those jobs will not go to Canadians.”

Teaching young people to code and harness the power of cognitive computing could be the solution. Cognitive is, “beyond doubt,” our future, says Tanmay Bakshi, a 13-year-old developer, coding advocate and IBM Cloud champion.

“If we can get the youth involved in this technology, we’ll be creating more job opportunities for them. They’ll have (a better) chance of getting a better job in the AI field.”

Bakshi is certainly doing his part.

He hopes to personally assist 100,000 aspiring coders through keynotes speeches, his YouTube channel and his new book Hello Swift: iOS Programming for Kids and Other Beginners.

Innovator Insights from the #BCTech Summit

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Lots of amazing things happen when you pack 5,000 people in a conference hall to talk about technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

This week the #BCTech Summit took over Vancouver to celebrate the province’s exploding tech sector and the timing couldn’t have been better. The Global Startup Ecosystem Report named Vancouver Canada’s leading tech startup ecosystem — surpassing Toronto and Waterloo.

Here are some of the top trends and our favourite moments from innovators we spoke to:

Advice from a 13-year-old developer:

How one of the largest mobile handset makers in the world is driving Canadian tech R&D:

BC’s opportunity to become the #cleantech capital of the world:

How blockchain is transforming banks:

But for the blockchain ecosystem to be truly disruptive, it needs more developers:

And one of the most amazing stories we heard centered around IBM Watson’s role in cancer treatment:

Federal Startup Funding Drives Major Economic Growth

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

A global view confirms that governments are catching up to what VC’s have known for a long time: investing in tech startups has a massive payoff.

As the Globe and Mail reports, Canada’s Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains is urging a push toward increased federal investment in startup tech. It’s easy to see why: countries that invest in startups with a vision and actionable plans see a confirmed economic uptick within just a few years.  

In Singapore, the government has provided enough funding to startups to secure the 10th spot in Compass’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report. This national success story is defined by huge growth and major exits.

Finland’s government investment programs have contributed to the country’s rank in the top five of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Global Innovation Index. Employment and revenue have consistently risen alongside government investment.

Canada’s tech and startup growth has steadily made the industry a massive pillar of the nation’s economy. While federal funding and tax credits are available, government investment hasn’t risen to a level that recognizes the massive worth of the country’s tech sector.

Entrepreneurial passion and smart private funders continue to drive international tech growth, but governments are an essential part of the startup equation. The countries that recognize this are quickly becoming major players in an increasingly competitiveand excitingglobal tech scene.

Singapore’s Startup Scene Surpasses $1 Billion in VC Investment

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Foreign innovation drives startup economies, and in the US alone, 51% of billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants.

Cities across the world have taken notice: encouraging the free movement of information and talent is crucial to tech sector success. That’s why Singapore, a longtime advocate of attracting foreign talent, has seen major growth as a startup hub. As Industry Leaders Magazine reports, this city-island-nation has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley.

Any doubts? Look at the numbers: VC investment in the tech sector in Singapore increased from less than $30 million in 2011 to more than $1 billion in 2013, with 10 local exits in 2014.

The epicentre of this boom is an area known as Block 71, a vibrant community housing a cluster of startups near the National University of Singapore that The Economist called “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

One of the driving forces behind this growth is Singapore’s attractive immigration policies. The government has actively encouraged startups to set up shop, with programs like the Global Investor Program. The EntrePassa specific employment pass targeting would-be entrepreneurs—facilitates the relocation process for foreign startups who want to set up shop in Singapore.

Canada Creating Faster Startup-Friendly Work Visas

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

The Canadian government is developing a new fast-track startup-friendly visa that could be processed in up to 14 days. The intention is to try to solve Canada’s recurring issues with attracting and keeping top-quality talent.

The visa, being developed under the Global Skills Strategy, will be aimed at “low-risk” individuals who have specialized, in-demand skills, or can train Canadian workers in them.

Two kinds of companies—high-growth, and global—will be able to apply for a certain number of visas to recruit overseas. On the government’s side, a dedicated team will process the paperwork.

According to BetaKit, the previous Startup Visa program only accepted 100 people between April 2013 and February 2016. Waiting times for foreign nationals to be granted work visas remain up to six months.

No proposed date for the new, faster, visa system has been set.

Water Experts and Software Developers Hack Future of Water

Friday, October 7th, 2016

If software is eating the world, surely it must also be able to provide a solution to protect and preserve fresh water. That’s the aim of AquaHacking, an initiative that puts “sustainable governance and technological innovation to work for water.”

On Oct. 6-7, more than 300 researchers, non-profits, government and software developers met in Montreal to discuss water-related issues–the St. Lawrence River in particular–as well as hear from developers who are building web and mobile applications to tackle them.

AquaHacking is an initiative put on by the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation and is sponsored by IBM in Canada. More of a movement than an event, #AquaHacking takes place over many months and culminates in a two-day summit event where developers present the apps and tools they’ve built.

This year, 27 teams competed for $50,000 in cash prizes and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cloud technology and services from IBM Canada and IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program.

Developers leveraged IBM Bluemix to build apps, along with mountains of data (see the bottom of the page here for Git links and downloadable files), including data from:

  • Environment Canada
  • The City of Montreal
  • Montreal Smart and Digital City
  • St. Lawrence Global Observatory
  • Ministry of Sustainable Development Environment
  • Fight Against Climate Change

The 27 teams were shortlisted to five who presented to the crowd at the #AquaHacking Summit on Oct. 7. The five teams and their proposed solutions were:

  1. Dronoflow, a project that uses drones to capture data, take aerial photography and draw water samples for scientific analysis
  2. eFish, a project that provides info and shares data to people fishing, along with maps of waterways and access points
  3. H2EAU, a project that promotes exploration and protection of river assets for educational and recreational use
  4. Info-Baignade Montréal, a project that provides an early-warning system and tracks risk of microbiological contamination (SAP Micro) in order to predict swimmers against contaminated waters
  5. Solutions to Innovate, a project that leverages a system of flexible, modular piers that are designed to prevent erosion of riverbanks

While all teams won widespread applause from the event there could only be one winner:

The jury was made up of:

VC Funding Doesn’t Reflect Talent in Toronto and KW: Minister

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Silicon Valley startups are eagerly snapping up engineering talent from the University of Toronto and University of Waterloo. But investors from California are not, in turn, boarding planes to Toronto with money in tow.

We should be beating VC investors off with a stick in Ontario,” Brad Duguid, the Ontario Minister of Economic Development, told the Venture North conference.

Duguid said Californian VCs who value Ontario tech grads should come to the Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo “supercorridor” and “kick the tires.”

Engineering talent in southern Ontario is highly sought after in the Valley. “How do we get folks in the Valley to get out from behind their desks and come up here?” he said. “As soon as they discover this ecosystem, they’re going to want a presence here.”

Venture North, held at the MaRS Discovery District, aims to entice VCs outside of Ontario to fund local AI, fintech, retail and SaaS startups.

Some Silicon Valley investors, such as 8VC, have described Toronto and KW as having a density of “technical talent” and are making the area a priority. Companies across Canada raised $734 million USD ($881 million CAD) in Q1 2016, but this is dwarfed by the $3.04 billion USD raised by Silicon Valley alone in the same period.

“Too cold” and “too far” are initial resistances from foreign investors that Duguid hears. But more publicity is needed too — and that’s partially down to startups themselves.

Razor Suleman, CEO of Next 36 and founder of SF-based Achievers, said that natural Canadian humility was a major barrier to publicizing the work being done by startups in southern Ontario.

Suleman started the Spotlight Awards after returning from California to help people get over their reticence to boast: “Six months in Silicon Valley will beat that out of you.”


Canada’s Tech Sector Rivals Energy, Finance

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

A new study puts Canada’s tech sector ahead of finance and insurance and on par with mining and energy in terms of economic contribution.

The report by by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) at Ryerson University broadens the definition for the tech sector to include aerospace and pharmaceuticals, and pegs the tech sector contribution in 2015 at $117 billion, or 7.1 percent of Canada’s economic output.

The new numbers underscore the degree to which tech startup ecosystems have assumed a position of paramount importance to economies worldwide. Industries across the board, from healthcare to energy to finance, are seeking to leverage technology to make their operations more efficient and address consumer demand for more convenience.

The “mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction” sector accounts for 7.80 percent of domestic output, according to the latest April 2016 data from Statistics Canada. Finance and insurance, meanwhile, accounts for 7.06 percent.

A direct comparison using Statistics Canada data is difficult because technology falls across more than one industrial category, including “information and cultural industries” and “professional, scientific and technical services.”

BII+E said it developed its tech sector definition “from the ground up by adopting and applying methodologies first used by UK organization Nesta, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Brookings Institution.”

Recode Co-Founder Calls Out Silicon Valley Indifference to Social Issues

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Silicon Valley is making billions solving problems of convenience, such as instant food delivery, for “the 1%” while ignoring the social and economic problems of the urban ecosystem it depends on, Recode Co-Founder and Executive Editor Kara Swisher says.

Speaking on the second day of StartupFest in Montréal, Swisher called San Francisco “assisted living for millennials,” with conveniences such as instant food delivery provided through mobile apps by local startups working against a backdrop of homelessness and poverty.

She called on startups to break out of their “self-reinforcing” culture and affect the real world around them more positively.

This disconnect between Silicon Valley startups and San Francisco’s less fortunate residents gained global attention in 2014, when tech companies started providing buses to allow workers to commute to their campuses. The ease with which startup talent can commute has helped turn San Francisco into a “bedroom city.”

The social problems haven’t been completely ignored. A recent poll of San Francisco residents found that they identified homelessness as the number one social problem in the city. A startup founder who called the city’s homeless “grotesque” was excoriated for making his comments.

Swisher said she believes in the ability of startups and capitalism to solve social problems, a notion shared by fellow speaker Ari Gleisher. Gleisher, ex-of intelligence tech company Palantir, implored the audience to examine where they could do the most good in the world and aim their efforts carefully.

See all of TechPORTFOLIO’s up-to-date Startupfest coverage on social media by following us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – and now on Instagram.


Brexit May Mean New European Bases For Fintech

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Where banks live, fintech grows, and London’s reputation as a global financial center is under threat following Brexit. Banks, funds, and government have banded together – explicitly mentioning fintech – and promised to protect the city’s reputation.

But questions remain over bank passporting, which allows UK-based banks entry to trade throughout the EU. Access to labor also remains uncertain; in fact, EU citizens’ post-Brexit status has become a political soccer ball.

So if not London, where should fintech startups look? Berlin has emerged as an early contender for the continent’s fintech centre. According to the FT, there is already an exciting fintech scene in the German capital. Two London-based fintech startups, TransferWise and Revolut, are on record as considering a move to Berlin.

Meanwhile, one German political party has mustered a billboard van and sent it roaming the British capital’s streets looking for first movers.

William McQuillan, partner at Frontline Ventures, says he doubts London will lose its central financial crown any time soon. “London still is a global city with a large consumer population, and many global companies are HQ’d there,” he said in an interview with TechPORTFOLIO.

There are top class universities, most of the startup accelerators in Europe, as well as a healthy angel investing environment. “All other cities in Europe are still building up those qualities and most will never have all of them.”

It’s more likely that many other European cities would collectively drain part of London’s power.

Dublin may be a better contender than Berlin in this regard, he says. “It would be the only English speaking country in both the EU and EuroZone, and 250 of the world’s leading financial firms – including half of the world’s top 50 banks – have internationally focused operations in Ireland.”

PayPal and Stripe are two major fintech companies already established in the Irish capital, and €1.8 trillion of funds are administered by organizations there.

If there’s one positive thing in fintech that Brexit may have caused, it was the surge in Bitcoin as a safe haven following GBP’s fall to a 30-year-low. The weak pound could also encourage foreign buyers and investors, according to the Telegraph.

The only certainty is that no one knows how much Brexit has damaged London’s status as a fintech center until the political turmoil resolves itself and decisions are finalized.

McQuillan says: “The longer the uncertainty lasts the worse the reputational damage for a city like London will be.”