TechTalk Blog
10,000 jobs to fill in B.C. tech sector

B.C.'s technology industry is ramping up efforts to recruit new workers with more than 10,000 tech jobs up for grabs in the province this year.

A primary target, at least in the short term, is international technology students at U.S. universities who can't stay in that country after they graduate but want to live and work in North America.

"Over 100 students came to our workshop in Chicago [in November] and we had very good interest," said Pascal Spothelfer, president of the B.C. Technology Industry Association. "The universities want to work with us on this because they want to find well-paying jobs for their graduates. These people are ready for the picking for us and they're a very attractive target group for us."

The industry wants talented high-tech workers who want to immigrate to Canada and bring their skills to B.C. for the long term.

According to a new BCTIA report, the industry's talent shortage is growing, requiring more aggressive action than when the shortage was first identified in 2006. The industry is tackling the talent shortage on many fronts, including in April when a number of B.C. employers will participate in three recruiting forums in California in partnership with the B.C. government.

Almost 400 technology companies participated in the annual TechTalentBC Labour Demand Study, funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education. The study concluded there is increased demand for customer-facing roles, in particular 700 sales and sales management positions and 950 customer service positions. As well, there is a need for 1,000 software engineers, 500 project managers and hundreds of multimedia developers.

Times Colonist Reports: New jet service to San Francisco

A new, non-stop flight between Victoria and San Francisco starting this summer could be a boon for two of Victoria’s most vibrant industries.

United Airlines announced the service Tuesday. Its United Express unit will start flying the route on June 5.

Boosters of the service say it will have an immediate economic impact on the tourism and high-tech sectors.

“This is a fantastic opportunity, it’s huge,” said Sasha Angus, economic development officer with the Greater Victoria Development Agency. “If California was its own country, it would be the sixth largest economy in the world, and anytime you have a direct link to something like that, it’s huge.”

It’s no wonder the two industries have been chomping at the bit for this kind of service for years.

“We just plugged in to the centre of the high-tech universe,” said Dale Gann, vicepresident of the Vancouver Island Technology Park and chairman of B.C. Biotech. “We consider this to be a major step forward in the economic development of Victoria.”

Gann said flying directly to San Francisco — the heart of Silicon Valley and considered one of the global epicentres of venture capital — will result in millions of investment dollars for Island firms.

According to Gann, venture capital from California firms hit $13.8 billion in 2007, a far cry from the $2.3 billion shelled out by Canadian firms last year and the $320 million from British Columbia. Venture capital from the Seattle-area alone was worth $1.3 billion in 2007.

Gann said the difference in a Victoria firm landing venture capital to build their companies is accessibility, and trimming the travel time to the Bay area from six hours, requiring a stop in Seattle, to two hours with a direct flight from Victoria should start showing immediate dividends.

“And not just venture capital, but human capital as well,” said Gann, who logs thousands of air miles a year travelling to other tech parks and biotech conferences around the world. “We’ve always been in the right time zone. It was just too inconvenient. We’ve just knocked down a massive barrier here, and it will pay off with development in our sector and others.”

That’s how the tourism sector also sees things.

“It’s great news for us, and something we’ve been talking about for many years,” said Roger Soane, chairman of Tourism Victoria.

“It now gives us the ability to go down there and market the destination.”

Soane said it would be difficult to make a big splash in the ad-saturated California market by paying for advertising, so Tourism Victoria will likely use its travel media department to get its message across to Bay area residents though travel writers.

“It’s a very affluent market that’s looking for new products for quick getaways,” said Soane.

“We will sell the uniqueness of Victoria.”

That same appeal coupled with the new easy access to Victoria could also help fan the flames of the hot Victoria real estate market.

“A non-stop flight really could be big, if it’s now just a couple of hours to get here that would really appeal,” said Pat Parker of Century 21 Royal Victoria Realty. “I have a number of clients from that area who live down there and are back and forth all the time, they like the fact there are a lot of similarities in the two cities.”

United will use a 66-seat CRJ 700 aircraft on the route which Victoria Airport Authority CEO Richard Paquette said is expected to operate yearround.

“That’s how it was introduced,” he said, though he was quick to note airlines are renowned for changing their minds should the economic picture change. “Airlines don’t [commit]. They commit as long as it’s profitable, and that’s why it’s important the whole community get behind this and see that it works.”

Paquette likes the potential the route has with well-established business and tourism links, but he added it doesn’t necessarily preclude the establishment of a direct flight between Victoria and Los Angeles in the future — a route that has been discussed for years.

The non-stop flight to Victoria leaves San Francisco at 9:05 a.m. and arrives at 11:14 a.m., while the return flight leaves Victoria at 11:52 a.m. The cost of a round-trip, non-stop economy ticket is $534.

Earlier this week the Victoria Airport Authority board of directors was also looking ahead as it approved a 20-year plan which calls for an increase in the number of gates, amenities and space for security.

The top priority in the plan, however, is access to the airport, which will mean a $13-million upgrade to the intersection of the Patricia Bay Highway and McTavish Road. The authority has committed $3 million to the project and is looking for assistance from all levels of government.

Another priority is extending the main runway to 2,560 metres from 2,133 metres to accommodate a direct flight to London.

That project, which Paquette roughly estimates would cost $18 million, still needs study to determine the economic benefit, environmental cost and engineering feasibility.

“It’s a high priority for the board but until we have undertaken the studies and we are satisfied it makes sense it’s hard to say it’s a top priority; it is down the line a few years,” he said. “If [the studies] come down positively, we will move it forward.”

The extended runway would allow an aircraft to take off fully loaded with enough fuel to get to England.

Victoria Airport Authority Announces Direct Flights to San Francisco

What was viewed as a major hurdle for local technology companies in Greater Victoria – is no longer. 

The Victoria Airport Authority today announced a new non-stop service from Victoria (YYJ) to San Francisco (SFO) on United Airlines, beginning June 5, 2008.  Richard Paqueette, President and Cheif Executive Officer of the Victoria Airport Authority, commented: "We are delighted to welcome United Airlines to Victoria.  This service, through such an important gateway, brings exciting opportunities to attract new visitors to our wonderful destination."

He said, "This new flight will certainly be a very convenient option to all Vancouver Island residents headed south to San Francisco, or beyond to a long list of US and International destinations served by United Airlines through SFO."  The daily service on United Airlines will be operated by United Express with a 66 seat CRJ700.

The legacy of the California Gold Rush turned San Francisco into the principal banking and finance center of the west coast in the early twentieth century. Montgomery Street in the Financial District is known as the "Wall Street of the West", home to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Wells Fargo corporate headquarters, and the site of the now defunct Pacific Coast Stock Exchange. Bank of America, a pioneer in making banking services accessible to the middle class, was founded in San Francisco. Many large financial institutions, multinational banks and venture capital firms are based in or have set up regional headquarters in the city.

San Francisco's economy has increasingly become tied to that of Silicon Valley to the south, sharing a need for highly educated workers with specialized skills. It has been positioning itself as a biotechnology and biomedical hub and research center. The Mission Bay neighborhood, site of a second campus of UCSF, fosters a budding industry and serves as headquarters of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the public agency funding stem cell research programs statewide.

The Greater Victoria technology community will now have direct access to one of the world's largest centres for venture capital funding and biotechnology.  "We applaud the Victoria Airport Authority for this major achievement for our region.  It is a substantial victory for our local technology firms on Vancouver Island to have immediate access to San Francisco.  This announcement will have a postive impact on our regions economic development and will allow our local tech firms to be exposed to one of the largest venture capital  and biotech regions in the world," said Dale Gann, Vice President, Vancouver Island Technology Park.       

The new flight will operate daily on the following schedule:

Departs                Time             Arrives             Time 

San Francisco         9:05am          Victoria               11:14am

Victoria                  11:52am        San Francisco      1:56pm

MT Mind Technology Releases First Beta Product

MT Mind Technology is pleased to announce the launch of it's first product, Sprout, as a public beta on February 8th, 2008. Sprout is a new platform that sources hyper-personal online content. Sprout learns the user's likes and dislikes based on simple positive and negative feedback. Designed with no initial set-up and a low cognitive load, users can start cultivating their content immediately.

To try Sprout for yourself, check out www.yoursprout.ca.

Located at the Vancouver Island Technology Park in Victoria, BC, MT Mind Technology was founded in 2006 by Evan Willms and Duncan MacRae.  The company is developing solutions for individuals and organizations to effortlessly avoid information overload.

Contact:
Duncan MacRae
250-483-4129'
dmacrae@mtmindtechnology.ca

Non-Stop Flights between San Francisco and Victoria Viewed as a Major Victory for local Tech Industry

What was viewed as a major hurdle for local technology companies in Greater Victoria – is no longer. 

The Victoria Airport Authority today announced a new non-stop service from Victoria (YYJ) to San Francisco (SFO) on United Airlines, beginning June 5, 2008.  Richard Paqueette, President and Cheif Executive Officer of the Victoria Airport Authority, commented: "We are delighted to welcome United Airlines to Victoria.  This service, through such an important gateway, brings exciting opportunities to attract new visitors to our wonderful destination."

He said, "This new flight will certainly be a very convenient option to all Vancouver Island residents headed south to San Francisco, or beyond to a long list of US and International destinations served by United Airlines through SFO."  The daily service on United Airlines will be operated by United Express with a 66 seat CRJ700.

The legacy of the California Gold Rush turned San Francisco into the principal banking and finance center of the west coast in the early twentieth century. Montgomery Street in the Financial District is known as the "Wall Street of the West", home to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Wells Fargo corporate headquarters, and the site of the now defunct Pacific Coast Stock Exchange. Bank of America, a pioneer in making banking services accessible to the middle class, was founded in San Francisco. Many large financial institutions, multinational banks and venture capital firms are based in or have set up regional headquarters in the city.

San Francisco's economy has increasingly become tied to that of Silicon Valley to the south, sharing a need for highly educated workers with specialized skills. It has been positioning itself as a biotechnology and biomedical hub and research center. The Mission Bay neighborhood, site of a second campus of UCSF, fosters a budding industry and serves as headquarters of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the public agency funding stem cell research programs statewide.

The Greater Victoria technology community will now have direct access to one of the world's largest centres for venture capital funding and biotechnology.  "We applaud the Victoria Airport Authority for this major achievement for our region.  It is a substantial victory for our local technology firms on Vancouver Island to have immediate access to San Francisco.  This announcement will have a postive impact on our regions economic development and will allow our local tech firms to be exposed to one of the largest venture capital  and biotech regions in the world," said Dale Gann, Vice President, Vancouver Island Technology Park.       

The new flight will operate daily on the following schedule:

Departs                Time             Arrives             Time

San Francisco         9:05am          Victoria               11:14am

Victoria                  11:52am        San Francisco      1:56pm

BC Innovation Council’s Unique Joint Scholarships Bridge the Gap Between Talent Development and the Future of B.C.’s Economy

To develop B.C.’s technology and commercialization talent, two groundbreaking scholarships (B.C. Industrial Innovation Scholarship and B.C. MBA Access to Commercialization Scholarship) strengthen the connection between technology development and its successful commercialization, announced Hector MacKay-Dunn, QC, Chair of BC Innovation Council (BCIC).

Science and engineering graduate students awarded B.C. Industrial Innovation Scholarships will work with business graduate students (recipients of B.C. MBA Access to Commercialization Scholarships to be announced in February 2008). Together, they will develop a business plan and present their project to a panel of industry executives and investors.

The scholarships are part of a $2.75 million BCIC funding initiative. As a Crown Agency, BCIC works closely with the Ministry of Advanced Education to develop advanced technology research and commercialization talent in B.C.

"Rewarding creativity and innovation is a high priority for our government," said Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell. "We are extremely proud of this year's awards recipients for thinking outside of the box to make British Columbia a leader in advanced technology."

A valuable partner and contributor to the program is Precarn Incorporated, a not-for-profit company supporting pre-commercial development of technologies. Precarn contributed $250,000 towards scholarships in the area of intelligent systems.

"Collaboration is a cornerstone of Precarn's R&D and commercialization model," said Paul Johnston, President and CEO of Precarn Incorporated. "Our participation in the scholarship program is focused on creating connections between student researchers in intelligent systems and the next generation of Canada's entrepreneurs, MBA students. This will sow the seeds for greater partnership between academia and industry in the future."

As the future of B.C.’s technology industry relies on fostering talent in advanced technology and commercialization, BCIC believes this collaborative model will set the bar for talent development in the province.

“The recipients of these scholarships will add tremendous value to the B.C. economy, armed with new skills and a better understanding of how to build for success,” said Mr. MacKay-Dunn. “We look forward to great research talent and new technologies emerging from this program and its unique model. By supporting young innovators and the growth of B.C.’s technology industry, the Council aims to enhance collaboration and accelerate commercialization.”

Scholarship recipients have been evaluated and recommended by panels consisting of expert members from industry, academia and government. A maximum of $20,000 will be awarded annually to Masters students for up to two years with a maximum of $25,000 awarded annually to PhD students for up to three years.

Pfizer Canada Invests in BC Research to Accelerate the Drug Development Process

Pfizer Canada is committing $1 million to the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) to create the "Pfizer-CDRD Innovation Fund". This innovation fund aims to fast-track the commercialization of some of B.C.'s most promising academic research projects into high-value medicines that form the basis for new companies or licensing opportunities.

The "Pfizer-CDRD Innovation Fund" is a unique public- private partnership, and Pfizer is the first international research-based pharmaceutical company to establish an innovation fund at the CDRD to advance commercialization opportunities. Research grants will be allocated to unique scientific opportunities with promising commercialization potential in any of the following areas: cancer research, central nervous system related diseases, inflammation and pain, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, as well areas of excellence supported by the CDRD (such as nanomedicines, imaging, biomarkers, therapeutic peptides).

"Pfizer Canada believes in the strong research capacity in British Columbia and hopes that this innovation fund will further position the province as an international hub for research and development in the life sciences, " says Paul Lévesque, President and CEO of Pfizer Canada. "Pfizer has a tremendous interest in biotechnology, and our partnership with the CDRD could contribute to supplementing the discovery pipeline, and delivering new therapies to the market."

An international caliber initiative led by founders with extensive academic research backgrounds and success in establishing key B.C. life sciences companies with strong commercial track-records, the CDRD comprises a network of over 250 researchers working in eight B.C. research institutions across the province. In 2007, CDRD secured over $50M in federal and provincial funding to kick-start operation and build facilities and labs with state-of-the-art equipment. CDRD's facilities, initially based at the University of British Columbia, will serve researchers and trainees at universities and affiliated institutions across B.C. CDRD has also implemented a new research and training model that will broaden the B.C. pool of life sciences entrepreneurs working on drug discovery and development.

"This research investment from international industry giant Pfizer reinforces the shared vision between government, industry and academia for our groundbreaking initiative. It also further validates CDRD's model to bridge the commercialization gap by facilitating and driving drug development projects and commercializing the technology either by creating companies or licensing to an existing company," said Natalie Dakers, Chief Executive Officer, CDRD.

Karimah Es Sabar, President of industry association LifeSciences British Columbia added, "The fact that CDRD has been able to attract this investment from one of the world's top pharmaceutical companies is a testament to both the level of world-class science coming out of our research institutions, and also to the tremendous value CDRD adds to the commercialization process. CDRD has clearly established itself as a leading research accelerator on a national and international scale, and will be a strong catalyst for the further development of our local industry."

GenoLogics Winners of VITP Blood Donor Challenge

At the recent VITP Blood Donor Challenge between Genologics, EDS Advanced Solution, LifeLabs, and Vifor Pharma Aspreva , 50 of the 64 units of blood collected that day came from you.

Genologics donated 8 units with a staff participation rate of 19%; EDS Advanced Solutions donated a whopping 39 units of blood with a staff participation rate of 14.2%; Aspreva donated 3 units with a staff participation rate of 7% and LifeLabs did not donate.  To make it an equal playing field the winner is established on staff participation bases.  

The real winners in this friendly competition are British Columbia's hospital patients.  We are very grateful for all your participation in this fun challenge.  A total of 64 units were donated which will have a dramatic impact on the lives of 192 patients in our hospitals!  We extend a huge thank you to all who helped organize this challenge and those of you who participated and took the time to donate blood and save lives.

We look forward to the challenge next year.

Saanich News Reports: Convenience in MT Minds

With umpteen hundred news articles available daily on the Internet, finding ones of interest is the challenge two young entrepreneurs are trying to solve with their new company, MT Mind Technology.

The name is more than just a “terrible pun,” explains Evan Willms. “The state of the empty mind is our goal,” he said. He and partner Duncan MacRae’s flagship product, Sprout, is designed to deliver articles of interest to clients based on their own preferences.

While other article-finding applications require set-up time for inputting search criteria, MT Mind constructs a customer profile based on their rating (a sad leaf or happy leaf) given to previous articles.

As clients rate more and more articles, their profile is refined to their tastes.

The key is to totally focus on what you’re doing without worrying about how you’re doing it, hence the empty mind.

“What we’re really offering is sort of an info-tainment,” said Willms. “We’re trying to pull things that you’re not going to find any other way, so it could be a New York Times article (or) on the other hand, it equally could be an indepth blog posting from someone you’ve never heard of … We’re not replacing things like your daily newspaper or your trade-specific magazine because those are very topically focused and we’re drawing from a much bigger pool.”

MacRae and Willms, old high school buddies both turning 23 this month, ditched their degrees mid-way through to launch the company.

“Being so young and having no other experience, to make a choice to leave school … is of course, daunting but has proven to be an incredibly interesting choice,” said MacRae.

After a year working out of a basement, they were selected to join the Vancouver Island Technology Park’s incubator, an area of cheap rental space reserved for new entrepreneurs who show promise.

“We take a look at their business plan and we see if they are doing any innovative things where we can see a potential growth,” said Av Hundle, manager of business development and marketing at the park.

While other companies have taken about a year to “graduate” from the incubator, Hundle said MT Mind is the fastest to move on to be full-fledged clients.

On Feb. 9, MacRae and Willms are launching their Sprout pilot to the public. Visit their website at www.mtmindsoftware.ca.

Saanich News Reports: Convenience in MT Minds

Written by Roszan Holmen, Saanich News Staff

With umpteen hundred news articles available daily on the Internet, finding ones of interest is the challenge two young entrepreneurs are trying to solve with their new company, MT Mind Technology.

The name is more than just a “terrible pun,” explains Evan Willms. “The state of the empty mind is our goal,” he said. He and partner Duncan MacRae’s flagship product, Sprout, is designed to deliver articles of interest to clients based on their own preferences.

While other article-finding applications require set-up time for inputting search criteria, MT Mind constructs a customer profile based on their rating (a sad leaf or happy leaf) given to previous articles.

As clients rate more and more articles, their profile is refined to their tastes.

The key is to totally focus on what you’re doing without worrying about how you’re doing it, hence the empty mind.

“What we’re really offering is sort of an info-tainment,” said Willms. “We’re trying to pull things that you’re not going to find any other way, so it could be a New York Times article (or) on the other hand, it equally could be an indepth blog posting from someone you’ve never heard of … We’re not replacing things like your daily newspaper or your trade-specific magazine because those are very topically focused and we’re drawing from a much bigger pool.”

MacRae and Willms, old high school buddies both turning 23 this month, ditched their degrees mid-way through to launch the company.

“Being so young and having no other experience, to make a choice to leave school … is of course, daunting but has proven to be an incredibly interesting choice,” said MacRae.

After a year working out of a basement, they were selected to join the Vancouver Island Technology Park’s incubator, an area of cheap rental space reserved for new entrepreneurs who show promise.

“We take a look at their business plan and we see if they are doing any innovative things where we can see a potential growth,” said Av Hundle, manager of business development and marketing at the park.

While other companies have taken about a year to “graduate” from the incubator, Hundle said MT Mind is the fastest to move on to be full-fledged clients.

On Feb. 9, MacRae and Willms are launching their Sprout pilot to the public. Visit their website at www.mtmindsoftware.ca.