Immigration helps build city’s status as technology gateway

February 6, 2017 Business in Vancouver

By: Ethan Sun

With its location making it a prime conduit for the transport of goods and services to and from its Asia-Pacific neighbours, B.C. is poised to strengthen its role as a gateway to the Pacific.

This gateway has existed since the railroad-building days in the Pacific Northwest more than 100 years ago, but its nature has evolved over the past century. Most recently, Vancouver has stood out as a technology gateway between China and Canada. At the same time, challenges remain for businesses from Canada to successfully launch in China.

Vancouver possesses one of Canada’s largest tech sectors, with 92,700 employees who earn a weekly average salary of $1,580. This is 75% higher than the average wage in B.C. It is also higher than the Canadian tech-sector average of $1,340 per week. The growth of B.C.’s tech sector is also faster than the growth of the nation’s economy, and Vancouver is one of Canada’s most successful tech hubs, boasting three of the country’s tech unicorns (Slack, Hootsuite, and Avigilon), and the city is ranked in the top 20 global start-up ecosystems.

The opportunity to share knowledge with China is one that can benefit Canada’s innovation agenda as a whole as we move from traditional manufacturing and trade to a model in which technology drives these deals. The globalization of local technology and localization of global markets, a process known as “glocalization,” is something I’ve seen and continue to experience first-hand. As a Chinese immigrant who came to Canada in the early 2000s, I was fortunate to witness such a process in action, through working with and interacting with my peers in the high-technology sector.

Barriers many technology bus-
-inesses face that get in the way of creating a bridge to China include lack of investment capital, difficulties in hiring the right talent and the necessity of putting in place measures for intellectual property protection. Without proper funds and global mindset, companies can’t grow. Early-stage startups often have good support, but significant capital investments are harder to achieve for companies not yet turning a profit.

The technology sector is in a global competition for talent, so it is paramount for startups that are having trouble expanding to find and build talent for leadership positions. Allowing easier immigration to Canada of experienced tech leaders is one piece of the whole puzzle. We also need to support high-level professional education to create leaders and engage with the influx of Chinese immigrants to Canada. I’ve observed and had the opportunity to connect with a lot of talented people in the technology realm who have come from Asia – Hong Kong, China and Japan – to settle in Vancouver but are still faced with language and cultural barriers.

Vancouver poses fewer barriers in this regard compared with other provinces, but many living here are interested in joining advisory boards and investing in furthering the innovation that is created in the city. These boards and stakeholders have global expertise and the mindset to expand globally from Day 1.

With that entrepreneurial sensibility, Vancouver’s tech industry and economy overall will experience rapid growth while maintaining beneficial business relationships and cultivating new opportunities around the world. 

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