Vancouver a growing hub for technology companies

Microsoft, Salesforce, and Amazon  aspire to greater permanence in Vancouver. Amazon is gearing up to hire hundreds of people. TED chose Vancouver for its 2014 conference, putting the city on the intellectual-tourism map.  There's homegrown Hootsuite; and Freelancer.com, with bases in Australia, Europe, and Asia, has made a beeline for Vancouver.  Sally Anne Reiss, CEO of Playyon, is opening an office here, too. Find out why technology companies love Vancouver.

Mike Tippett, Sally Ann Reiss, Nik Badminton
(l-r) Mike Tippett, of Hootsuite, Sally Ann Reiss, of Playyon, Nik Badminton of Freelancer.com

“Gold mine!”

That’s how Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sally Anne Reiss describes Vancouver.

Besides having four entire seasons, Vancouver boasts teeming masses of smart, ambitious tech workers, churned out of the area’s universities like blood from marrow.

It’s no secret Vancouver is hot: the biggest names have taken notice and are moving north. Instead of talent flocking to where the companies are, companies are flocking to where the talent is.

Let's meet three tech heavy-hitters who have each spent a lifetime in the game. They'll share insights on why Vancouver is so hot and how Silicon Valley is experiencing a second adolescence, but in a very different world.

For Reiss, CEO of Playyon, opening an office in Vancouver means coming home. The path Reiss took from Fort Saint John to Silicon Valley was a globetrotting odyssey that would make Jason Bourne weep bitter tears of envy. Fiji. New Zealand. Australia. Tokyo. Paris. Finally... Menlo Park?!

“I came with no intention of staying,” she says of Silicon Valley. But while researching at Stanford, she met her future husband, a professor at Stanford Business School. So, she stayed.

Sally Ann Reiss, CEO of Playyon

Sally Ann Reiss, CEO of Playyon

The year was 1997 and the tech boom was heating up. Reiss teamed up with some engineers who were working on technology for wirelessly transmitting data packets from computer to computer. “We were a very young team.”

Reiss was hired as Employee #1 by the company that would become TiVo. “We built a company, we built a product, we built a verb.”

WiFi and TiVo were paradigm shifts, and Silicon Valley is where paradigm shifts happen. Reiss says of the early days of TiVo: “The cable companies really owned the space. They weren’t just gorillas in the room, they were monsters in the room.” Success came by circumventing the monsters, and not directly fighting them.

Vancouver success stories

Successful startups are edge cases. That said, Vancouver sure has plenty of edge cases. As with TiVo, these startups have forced the evolution of existing technology, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

Wantering lets the discerning male shop across a wide array of online stores for that one pair of jeans or jacket or belt. Note that "heritage hipster" is not a useful search term, so that should save you some time.

How about Slack? The Vancouver-based productivity startup was just valued at over $1,000,000,000, and has been described as the fastest-growing workplace software of all time.

Then there’s Clio, which makes time-management and collaboration tools for lawyers. The company began with two dudes from Edmonton, and has grown to a 90-strong Vancouver office with a Toronto expansion on the way.

Zeetl, a social telephony company founded by a Ukranian duo, was the very first to come to Canada under the Startup Visa Program. Zeetl was then acquired by Hootsuite

It’s the dawn of a whole new era

While Reiss was busy slaying the VCR, Mike Tippett, currently Director of New Products at Hootsuite, was beginning his own career here in Vancouver.

“I’ve been in the Vancouver startup scene since there was a startup scene, at least with the Internet, anyway,” says Tippett, who has blazed new trails in tech for decades, most recently with crowdsourced media platform NowPublic (where, in the interests of disclosure, he was my long-suffering boss). “I started my career here in Vancouver when Mosaic was invented!"

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