Tim Teh, co-founder of Kano, says a side effect of Victoria’s booming tech sector is now landlords are learning to cater to companies who need to expand or shrink rapidly. (Photo courtesy of Tim Teh)

Tim Teh, co-founder of Kano, says a side effect of Victoria’s booming tech sector is now landlords are learning to cater to companies who need to expand or shrink rapidly. (Photo courtesy of Tim Teh)

Booming tech sector in Greater Victoria could be threatened by lack of physical space, executive talent

Tech sector’s economic impact on the region is expected to exceed $10 billion by 2030

A number of Greater Victoria tech companies are reporting rapid growth this past year, citing proximity to the University of Victoria and the Island’s mild climate as reasons for the expansion, but agree a lack of physical space could be a determent to the industry as a whole.

For Tobyn Sowden, founder of Redbrick — a portfolio of operating businesses that includes ReBase, Shift and Assembly — UVic’s co-op program has become essential for the company’s growth.

This past September, Redbrick reported a record number of co-op students working within the company on either four- or eight-month terms. According to Sowden, about 50 per cent of Redbrick’s staff joined the team after completing co-op programs with the company. “It’s our strongest recruiting channel,” he adds.

READ ALSO: Victoria named in top 10 Canadian cities for tech talent

The co-founder of Kano, a Victoria-based independent gaming studio that builds social and mobile games available on smartphones and browsers, agrees. Tim Teh says finding entry-level talent isn’t hard thanks to the abundance of students here, but that it’s been difficult to find senior or executive-level talent due to the lack of established companies within the region.

In 2019, Greater Victoria ranked seventh out of 20 Canadian tech talent markets, according to a comprehensive analysis of labour market conditions, cost and quality for highly skilled tech workers conducted by the CBRE Group. This a jump from ranking 10th last year.

Peter McGuire, chief technology officer for EcoFit, says the relaxed feel of Victoria fits well with that of the tech sector but adds there’s some work to do if we want to become the next Silicon Valley. McGuire says the talent pools for those who can develop hardware is shallower than that of software developers within the area.

“You might see Vancouver expanding more in that area, but Victoria is coming out with more unique, more interesting and maybe more innovative products than you would in a larger city,” McGuire says.

Another area he sees room for improvement is the longevity of jobs in a landscape full of startups.

“In short, the availability of jobs — interesting and really fun jobs — Victoria’s pretty good for that,” he says. “But I think the concern is how long you’ll have that job for.”

READ ALSO: Premier John Horgan calls for high-tech investment to boost B.C. economy

McGuir believes having more established companies within the market could help rid the city of some of the adversities. According to the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Signs report, the tech sector’s economic impact on the region is expected to exceed $10 billion by 2030. It was only a few years ago that the tech industry surpassed government and tourism as the region’s top employer.

With cloud computing becoming more accessible, the barriers to entry are a lot lower, making it easier to access technology such as computer power, storage or databases on an as-needed basis.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of new companies coming out of Victoria,” says Teh, whose own business started in a condo 11 years ago after he met the other co-founders on the first day of school at UVic. “As we start to see those companies grow in scale — which we’re definitely seeing now — one of the side effects … is landlords are starting to better understand how to cater to that clientele.”

While tourists may be drawn to the shops and window fronts filled with Canadian nicknacks, the second floors in many of the buildings in the downtown core are home to Victoria’s tech talent. Teh says when Kano first started trying to find a lease to fit their needs — one that could either grow rapidly or shrink at the same pace — was difficult.

Now, Kano is based out of a building that is filled with almost 90 per cent tech companies and allows companies to move within the building based on their current needs. Kano has moved twice and is preparing for their third move into another area of the building.

“What’s exciting is we’re seeing some of the larger companies move out to new, much larger space, and bigger footprints in the city — that’s a strong indication that there’s going to be a lot of growth,” Teh says.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Current unmarked residential streets are 50 km/h, but Greater Vancouver municipalities might consider dropping that to 30 km/h. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay, Esquimalt and Sidney join Saanich in application to reduce residential road speeds to 30 km/h

Victoria also taking part in pilot to change default speed to 30 km/h from 50 km/h

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply as overdose emergency turns 5

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Black Press Media file photo)
Privacy concerns keep COVID-19 cases at University of Victoria off the record

Island Health, UVic not sharing specifics after internal notice confirms coronavirus case

A man with a history of sexual offences was arrested after he followed and aggressively tried to talk to two young woman on the weekend. Black Press File Photo
Man convicted of sexual offences arrested after teens followed in Victoria

Women hid in a Quadra Village convenience store as man aggressively tried to get in

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School April 14 to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
SD61’s proposed $7 million cuts threaten equity and inclusion, say parents, teachers

Music classes, inclusion services, reading programs on the line

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

One of the grand prizes for this year's Hometown Heroes Lottery includes a seaside home at SookePoint, $1.5 million, and an Audi Quattro. (Photo courtesy of Hometown Heroes)
Hometown Heroes Lottery features seaside home in Sooke

A stunning seaside home in Sooke could be yours for the price… Continue reading

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

City workers from Duncan were busy recently putting up street signs in both Hul’q’umi’num’ and English. (Submitted photo)
Hul’q’umi’num street signs installed in downtown Duncan

Partnership with Cowichan Tribes sees English street names twinned with Indigenous language

Most Read