Nine notes: Vancouver Economic Commission’s summer report

Summer may be winding to a close but there is no shortage of takeaways to dive into.

This whole fall thing is a little bittersweet. I did enjoy my first Starbucks PSL over the weekend and the sports calendar is unrivaled this time of year. Still, I can’t shake the vibe that I’ll miss how easy summer feels. Please allow me to revel in summer memories one last time with a deep dive into Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) Vancouver Economy Report for summer 2023. Drink it in as if it's a frosty glass of lemonade.

  1. This could be the year: In contextualizing historical VC activity in Metro Vancouver companies, the report notes that 2021 was the high-water mark for capital ($2.279 billion was invested) and 2017 was the top year for deals (just over 80 were struck). Vancouver is poised to eclipse that this year: 46 deals were signed in the first half of 2023.

  2. Two from the top 10: The report also saw that Vancouver remained third in total investments behind Toronto and Montréal. Yet, two companies from BC were listed in Canada’s largest 10 deals of Q1 2023: CAD $56 million for Surrey’s No Meat Factory and CAD $34 million for Vancouver-based Operto Guest Technologies.

  3. Lack of VC diversity: These deals, though, are being signed by a cohort of investors that show a distinct lack of diversity. VEC reports that 58 percent of VC partners are white and male. It also, though, cites Vancouver-based organizations like Future Capital, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, and WEL Vancouver as some that are moving the dial.

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  1. Indigenous innovation: Also moving the diversity dial is a collection of Indigenous tech accelerators or catalysts for Indigenous innovators. Given shoutouts are the BC Tech Association’s Indigenous-led Technology Company Accelerator; the Indigenous Digital Accelerator at Capilano University, developed with support by IndigiNEXT; and the First Nations Technology Council.

  2. Metro Vancouver employment growth is dropping… VEC found that across the board, despite gains in accommodation and food services, employment rates are dropping. For tech specifically, however, we know that hiring in the space looks healthy thanks to CBRE’s recent report.

  3. …but active and opening businesses are on the rise: Also heartening for the Vancouver tech community is the growth of active businesses: those with at least one employee. From February 2020 to February 2023 (the most recent month of data available), VEC found that the number of active businesses increased by 5.9 percent driven by growth in professional, scientific and technical services firms, and construction companies.

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  1. Low and no vacancy: For office space, VEC found that Vancouver maintained its position as the city with the lowest office vacancy rate in North America. Meanwhile, industrial land availability remained low as witnessed by the life sciences industry’s wet lab dry spell. VEC cited CBRE’s research for these findings.

  2. Green with envy for green housing: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized sustainable building certification that ranks the health benefits, resource efficiency, and cost-saving of green buildings. Toronto, though, currently leads the nation with 21 million sq ft of LEED construction certifications. Vancouver and Montreal follow with 8 million and 3.9 million sq. ft., respectively.

  3. Spin cycle: VEC highlighted the strength of local academia. A pair of institutions have proven themselves prolific in startup development: 245 spinoff companies have come from UBC research as of March 2022, while over 75 companies have spun out of SFU to date.

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