No matter where you go, each city has something to offer for founders and investors. But if you are a fresh arrival or just not an active member of the ecosystem, it can be difficult to navigate. This is precisely why we created the OpenVC Guides.
The OpenVC Guides are a collaborative work. Become a contributor, tell us about your city!
Today we cover Vancouver, British Columbia.
Table of Contents
Intro to the Vancouver Ecosystem
Compared to many other cities around the world, founders and investors can easily overlook Vancouver. There are 2,941 technology startups in Vancouver, which is small compared to places like Silicon Valley, Paris, or even Toronto (the #1 city in Canada for startups). However, this would be a major mistake. Vancouver is home to innovative companies, very strong government support, some major exits, and a tight knit community of founders helping one another. Here are some quick facts:
We asked our friends in Vancouver for their opinions. Here is what they had to say:
Best things about the Vancouver venture scene
Worst things about the Vancouver venture scene
Best spots in Vancouver to work from your laptop
Breka Bakery has multiple locations throughout the city. The best part? Each location is open 24/7 and 365 days a year so you can work on your schedule.
Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
The lobby at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel offers a great ambience and environment to get work done.
A secret local favorite that is a bit outside the city is La Forêt cafe in Burnaby. Known for its forested cafe vibe, spacious interior, luxurious london fog latte, and creatives on their laptops.
Trees Cheesecake & Organic Coffee
Trees Cheesecake & Organic Coffee provides a quiet and and comfortable atmosphere that's perfect for getting work done.
Vancouver has multiple WeWorks available throughout the city, should you want the familiar co-working setting that reminds you of home. The WeWork that is recommended is on Burrard Street.
Regus coworking spaces
Regus offers multiple locations but one of our contributors recommended snagging a spot in the business district area (West Georgia and Burrard area).
Best place in Vancouver for an investor meeting
JJ Bean Coffee Roasters
JJ Bean on Burrard is famous for being the first place to meet an investor or finance professional due to its central location and great spread of latte's and bakery goods. The coffee shop is great for networking and meeting with other entrepreneurs, which can be beneficial for business and personal connections. Great snacks and drinks, and free Wi-Fi as well. Can be a bit loud though.
Nero Waffles offers excellent coffee, Belgian style waffles, and is perfect for an early morning meeting.
Located in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Reflections Terrace is an intimate and upscale spot to have an investor meeting.
If you are looking for an intimate setting to have an investor meeting, Buro Coffee is your place.
Located at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, Giovane Caffè offers coffee, Italian cuisine and baked goods and a great atmosphere for a serious meeting.
That person in Vancouver every tech founder should know
This section is a little light. You can help us by recommending people we should feature by filling out our form here.
Anuj Pandya is a partner at Vancouver-based River Sky Partners, an alternative investment firm working with private and public companies across various industries, leveraging access to international networks and deals. Highly connected in the local community, his insights and advice have helped many entrepreneurs and investors succeed.
Matthew B. Schmidt - Producer and entrepreneur
Matthew B. Schmidt is a well-known figure in the Vancouver venture and entrepreneurship scene. Not only is he a film producer, but also an investor with a portfolio that includes several unicorns.
Casey Lau. He is the Co-host of Web Summit & Collision & Rise conferences which are pretty much the largest startup events in the world. He knows the startup ecosystems in different countries and is connected to local leaders.
Vancouver investors that truly add value
BDC Venture Capital
BDC actively invests and contributes to the local ecosystem and should be on every founder’s radar.
Panache Ventures is Canada's most active seed stage venture capital fund, led by a team of experienced operators, with a strong angel investor track record, years of institutional VC experience and a strong network in Canada, in Silicon Valley and worldwide. The fund has a founders-first philosophy, a commitment to diversity and strategically coinvests with smart angel investors and seed stage funds. They are active with thought leadership and published content, attending/sponsoring local entrepreneurship and investor events, and consistently add value to the Vancouver ecosystem.
New Ventures BC
While not an investor or VC, New Ventures BC is a non-profit organization that has supported 3100+ entrepreneurs, created 9000+ jobs and raised over a $1 billion in financing via their New Ventures BC competition and venture accelerator program. Serious founders should be familiar with them.
NACO (National Angel Capital Organization) Canada
NACO is a great place for founders to not only look for funding, but resources. NACO is partnered with the government of Canada and its national network includes 4,200 angel investors, 50 incubators and accelerators, and 45 angel groups.
The British Columbia Digital Supercluster
The Supercluster accelerates the development and adoption of digital technologies across Canada that focus on economic productivity, combating climate change,and keeping Canadians healthy. If you are building in those verticals in Vancouver, check them out.
Top Vancouver incubators and accelerators
SFU Venture Labs
SFU Venture Labs focuses on science and technology based companies who have product market fit. They provide mentorship, programs and additional beneficial services.
If you are building in the British Columbia region, make sure to check out Innovate BC. Their goal is to foster innovation not just in Vancouver, but across the entire province.
Entrepreneurship@UBC (UBC faculty, students, alumni, staff)
Entrepreneurship@UBC focused on the UBC community. Since their launch, they have raised $1.52 billion in capital, created 1579 jobs and supported 650 ventures. If that isn’t a reason to attend university there, we don’t know what is.
League of Innovators
The League of Innovators accelerator helps entrepreneurs under 25 which encourages youngsters to be more risk taking.
CDL (Creative Destruction Lab) Vancouver
CDL-Vancouver is an excellent incubator located at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. Vancouver is a fast-growing tech hub on the West Coast, combining a Silicon Valley time zone with an Asia-facing outlook. CDL-Vancouver hosts Biomedical Engineering, Compute, Climate, and Advanced Therapies, focusing on the convergence of technologies that improve human health and wellness and advance solutions to preserve our natural world. Their program is comprehensive, well-organized and provides companies with excellent resources and networks to achieve their growth objectives.
One of our contributors mentions that although there are many accelerators, you should try and apply to the SFU Venture Labs, InnovateBC, Entrepreneur @UBC and New Ventures BC as they are backed by an institution and have plentiful resources. They can also plug you into Canada's governmental and institutional resources. Furthermore, with the exception of the League of Innovators accelerator and CDL, the previous four listed tend to attract the best companies in the city.
Favorite Vancouver meetups and events to attend
Vancouver Entrepreneurs Forum Events
VEF hosts eight events per calendar year and includes everything from fireside chats to AMAs.
Vancouver Startup Week
Vancouver Startup Week brings together founders, investors, and leaders from the Vancouver community and is a can’t miss event. It has been going strong for 8 years and has everything from workshops to talks.
SFU Venturelabs Events
From demo days to pitch workshops, SFU Venturelabs has a variety of events both in person and online.
Entrepreneurship@UBC hosts events regularly through the year. This includes high quality events, such as workshops, presentations, networking and more.
Van Tech Journal Events
Van Tech Journal is owned by Overstory Media Group, a portfolio company of Tiny Ventures, owned by tech entrepreneur Andrew Wilkinson. The website has an up to date event list of everything happening for the next several months.
Any final tips for a founder who wants to build in your city?
Lean on the institutional resources from the government, local accelerators, investor groups, and entrepreneurs. Vancouver can seem like a quiet city, but there are some incredible people running very unique and profitable businesses. Vancouver is an "everyone knows everyone" city, so be sure to make a good impression, be kind, have integrity, and your reputation will carry you far.
For B2C businesses, I would say think thoroughly/twice about your market size and offerings if you build in Canada and specifically Vancouver.
Make sure you have a solid understanding of the local market and its potential.
Find the right partners and mentors who can provide you with valuable advice on how to build and grow your business in Vancouver.
Make sure you have a strong network of support and resources to help you succeed. Leverage local events and networks to make connections and build relationships that can help you succeed.
A big thank you to our contributors for taking the time to share their knowledge and expertise. If you want to contribute to your city, click here.
Andrew Tan is a partner at Vancouver-based River Sky Partners, an alternative investment firm that works with private (venture, growth, pre-IPO) and public companies across various industries. The firm leverages its access to international networks and deals in media, technology, real estate, and more. Andrew can be reached at [email protected]
Arsalan is co-founder of Symposify. He is a first time founder located in Vancouver, BC. His background is in Computer Software. He has been fortunate that during his past jobs he learned how to work with big data and get hands-on on building scalable data products. He can be reached at [email protected]
Anuj Pandya is the founder, investor, and advisor for various companies in the fintech, technology, and media space. He is also a partner at Vancouver-based River Sky Partners, an alternative investment firm that works with private (venture, growth, pre-IPO) and public companies across various industries. The firm leverages its access to international networks and deals in media, technology, real estate, and more. Deals and investors can reach Anuj at [email protected]