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Frontier Collective to run two summits to help spur investment and opportunity in Vancouver

The Placemaking Summit will explore how an innovation hub could benefit the community, and the Frontier Summit aims to encourage financing for bleeding-edge technologies in the city.

Frontier Summit attendees at the top of the Sea to Sky gondola. Photo: Frontier Collective / Jason Vaughn

Hybrid, in-person, or remote — more than a year after the winding-down of pandemic restrictions, huge numbers of employees have retained the greater freedoms and flexibilities of where and how they work. For the Frontier Collective, that enduring cultural shift represents a new opportunity for Vancouver.

The Frontier Collective is a coalition of leaders in tech, culture, and community, driving forward the development and support of frontier technology. On October 3, for the first time, the organization will hold its Placemaking Summit: an exploration into urban development, with the goal of working out whether and how a third-space could benefit the local business community.

Locales like the Ion District in Houston, Paris’s Station F, and NewLab in New York’s Brooklyn represent innovation hubs that allow businesses and individuals to cross-pollinate and share ideas, with the hope that those interactions help drive forward companies and economic development for the city as a whole. The Frontier Collective believes the same could break down silos in the local tech ecosystem and help build a thriving community.

“Right now, we feel like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this region to become a powerhouse,” Dan Burgar, CEO of Frontier Collective, tells Vancouver Tech Journal. “What we feel is that the ecosystem needs to have conversations bringing the community, local leaders, global leaders, and local government officials to really look at what placemaking looks like — what third-spaces look like. Because we do think that the whole way we look at community spaces is rapidly transforming.”

The Frontier Collective envisions a space where individuals and tech companies meet with their teams a few days a week to be able to whiteboard, but at the same time are able to access the wider community in a setting that is both inviting and inspiring. Doing so helps startups gain access to mentorship and become mentors themselves, says Burgar, as well as to help companies gain access to the capital and resources required to thrive.

The Placemaking Summit itself will feature collaborative workshops on placemaking policies, a private sector investment roundtable, and a VIP networking reception. Its speakers include executives from organizations like Nova, Rennie, KPMG, LowTide Properties, Hudson Pacific, Ion, and NewLab, plus Vancouver city councillors.

“Really what we want to have conversations around what the future could look like,” says Burgar. “What does the Vancouver solution look like? It's really about asking the community — not dictating what we think the community wants. We have a thesis, but we want to hear it straight from the community. We also want to share best practices of what's happening around the world. We want to bring in a diverse set of people — everyone from the frontier tech ecosystem to real estate developers to city councillors — to break down the silos and realize that we can build this table together, and everyone can have a seat at it.”

The day after the Placemaking Summit wraps, the Frontier Collective will run its annual Frontier Summit. Focused on pushing forward the local frontier tech ecosystem — defined as technologies that are on the cusp of commercialization — the two-day gathering will bring together local companies and international leaders to showcase the best of the West Coast. The goal, says Burgar, is to help spur development for both Vancouver companies and their bleeding-edge tech.

“The Frontier Summit is a very different audience,” he says. “It’s really designed so startups and businesses that are building in Vancouver can have access to investments. One of the biggest problems in Vancouver is the lack of early-stage risk capital. And what we wanted to do is bring a lot of these global leaders to Vancouver to fall in love with the city — to fall in love with our startups — and start a relationship, and look at possibly investing into some of these companies and investing into our region.”

The Frontier Summit is a curated, small-group conference — dubbed an “unconference” by Burgar — with the goal of having deeper, more meaningful conversations than at large-scale expos. As well as a lineup of panels, the programming includes activations from local Indigenous artists, digital artists, and other technology innovators to showcase both the global talent and the beauty of the region. This year, speakers and attendees include execs from multinationals HP, Disney, Verizon, Adobe, Apple, and others. Representing the local ecosystem are leaders from companies like Damon Motors, Form, Variational AI, General Fusion, UrbanLogiq, and more.

“Vancouver has a special moment in time where we are leading in a lot of these frontier technologies in the world,” says Burgar. “The Frontier Collective is really looking to tell that story globally, but also do it locally. And that means sometimes even bringing the world to Vancouver. And that's really what both the Placemaking and Frontier summits are all about — to bring the world here and to really yell from the rooftops that we can become a global leader. The city has a ton of potential.”

[Editor’s note: Vancouver Tech Journal editor Kate Wilson is a strategic advisor for the Frontier Collective.]

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