Where does Vernon fit in the BC startup scene?

“It’s time to rebrand the Chicago startup scene, focusing on passionate bootstrappers rather than small firms looking to get huge.”
– Adrian Holovaty via the Chicago Tribune

This Chicago Tribune article, and the comments from Adrian Holovaty are worth reading. I think there are a lot of parallels to BC’s burgeoning tech startup scene. Here’s the way I see it:


Vancouver is trying to become a second-tier startup city (like Seattle, Austin, or Toronto). They have the right climate, the right vibe, the right size and the right location. With companies like HootSuite leading the way (and big companies like Electronic Arts who have set up shop there), they have a good chance of becoming a reasonable venture-backed startup hub.


Kelowna is trying to become the next Boulder, Colorado, taking a page out of Brad Feld’s Startup Communities book. They have one big win under their belt with Club Penguin. They’ve also made it clear that they’re trying to build traditional venture-backed startups: Steve Wandler runs an excellent conference called Metabridge that brings investors to Kelowna, and Accelerate Okanagan is helping to prepare companies to be “investment ready”.


So where does that leave Vernon? As I look at Vernon’s entrepreneurial history, the culture of the city, and the attitude of the people who move here, I think we need to forge a different path. Like Chicago, we can’t be something that we’re not:

Playing “the Silicon Valley game” isn’t going to get Chicago any closer to the kind of massive venture-capital dollars that flow through California, [says] Holovaty. He even offered a rebranding slogan: “Chicago. Be Your Own Boss.”

“There’s no way we’re going to catch up with Silicon Valley,” said Holovaty, “Let’s be honest with ourselves.”

via the Chicago Tribune

Why are people moving here? Why do people stay here? What kinds of companies do we want to build? 

First: We live in Vernon for the lifestyle: for mountains, lakes, trees, beaches, hiking, biking and skiing. The companies we build need to align themselves with that purpose. Many of us are expats of bigger cities (Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary) that wanted out of the grind, and wanted the freedom to enjoy life, outside, with our families. Vernon is a family town; it’s somewhere you want to raise your kids.

Second: I think Vernon is a lot closer to the DNA of Chicago (working class town) than San Francisco (big, venture funded startups). We’re bootstrappers. Again, from the Tribune article:

Bootstrapping generally refers to companies that fund themselves rather than look to angel or venture capital investors. Holovaty offered a more specific definition:

“It’s an Internet company that’s made by one or two people, developers probably, working from home, working from coffee shops,” he said. “It’s revenue-positive. It makes them a great living. And they are doing what they love because they’re craftsmen and they love doing it. And they have no ambitions to take over the world, because, really, 95 percent of what is taking over the world is (B.S.).”

Bootstrapping is about building something valuable with your own sweat equity; and the payoff is freedom. You’re not beholden to investors, a boss, or anyone else. If you build a great (small) company, and work hard, you’ll eventually earn the flexibility to do what Vernonites love: take off a week to go fishing, head to the mountains to ski untouched powder as soon as it snows, or spend the afternoon at the beach.

In addition to people bootstrapping their own companies I think there’s a great deal of opportunity for folks who want to work remotely from Vernon. These are people who’ve been enabled by their employers to work anywhere in the world.

If I were to come up with a slogan for this movement, I think it’d be something like this:

Vernon, BC. Build your own freedom.

That’s where I see Vernon’s startup future. What about you?


Canadian Game Developer Magmic Launches $4 Million Fund for Local Startups –

Looks like Magmic is launching a new fund for video game startups in Canada:

Ottawa-based gaming developer Magmic is launching a $4 million fund targeted at local startups.The Canadian company, which was founded in 2002, made the announcement at the Ottawa International Games Conference this week.

via Canadian Game Developer Magmic Launches $4 Million Fund for Local Startups –


Canadian accelarators failing at producing the next big startup

Interesting story in the Financial Post:

Everyone wants to create the next Facebook, Instagram, or whatever the next big thing is, and a glut of startup incubators and accelerators of every shape and size have cropped up to meet that demand. But some are beginning to wonder if the resulting startups — or even the programs churning them out — are of any use.

Accelarators failing at producing the next big startup | FP Startups | Entrepreneur | Financial Post.


What proof do you have that you live in a thriving startup community?

Your city is probably considered a “thriving startup community.”Your mayor and news station can confirm this is true. It sounds good. It feels good.However, what proof do you have that you live in a thriving startup community? You might point to the increasing number of startups or growth in incubator space, but these measures do not necessarily lead to a sustainable future.

via Will Silicon Valley ever share the wealth? | VentureBeat.


Can an entrepreneur from Vernon, BC build Canada’s next billion-dollar tech company?

Great profile on Vernon-born entrepreneur, Ryan Holmes, on Canadian Business:

But for Canadians, what’s perhaps most interesting is Holmes’s unique pledge for a startup entrepreneur: he’s gone on the record vowing to build a billion-dollar company north of the 49th parallel. Canada’s tech industry is plagued with problems, not the least of which is a tendency for our startups to sell early.

Further down, the article talks about Holmes’ Vernon roots, and his early entrepreneurial ambition:

For Holmes, entrepreneurship has always been a way of life. He started his first business, a paintball company, in high school, and his second, a Vernon, B.C.–based pizza-by-the-slice joint called Growlies, in lieu of finishing his last year of business school at the University of Victoria. Eventually, he sold the restaurant and moved to Vancouver, where he spent a winter learning how to code. He put together a portfolio and got a job at a dot-com, which in 2000 “dot-bombed,” he says. That’s when he started his own digital services agency, Invoke Media, out of which HootSuite was born in 2008. HootSuite spun off as an independent company in December 2009, raised $1.9 million and continued its exponential growth, eclipsing Invoke.

via Is HootSuite Canada’s next billion-dollar tech titan?.


Inspiration from @kdnewton: Just get started.

If you want to do something, just do it. Don’t worry about the right way to do it. There is no right way. Don’t let your inexperience stop you from trying. You’ll write sloppy code. You’ll paint sloppy pictures. You’ll write sloppy stories. Whatever it is you aspire to do, do it, and expect to do it poorly to start. My biggest mental block when it came to game development was that I didn’t want to really do it until I knew how to do it the right way. And that cost me years. I got all hung up that it wasn’t worth doing unless I could do it right. Don’t worry about the right way. Just do it your way. You’ll get better, you’ll stop wasting time studying and reading and theorizing.

via n3wt0n! » Inspiration Motivation Perspiration Activation.

Follow Kyle on Twitter.

Download his game, Squishy Bugs, for Android


Kelowna based Vineyard Networks acquired for $28M

Procera Networks, the publicly-traded Fremont, CA-based provider of policy enforcement services to carriers, is buying Vineyard Networks, a Canada-based specialist in deep-packet inspection, for 28 million Canadian dollars, C$15.4 million in Procera common stock and C$12.6 million in cash.

via Procera Networks Buys Vineyard Networks For $28M To Beef Up Its Deep Packet Inspection Capabilities | TechCrunch.


People don’t want always want the “better” solution

The technology industry is obsessed with making things better: make it faster, create a better design, add more features, give the user more power. So it’s confusing to us when we build something “better” but customers don’t buy it. How many times have we heard: “I’m building a better Basecamp” or “I’m building a better email client”. These projects get released, but usually don’t get anywhere. Why?

via What the People of Wal-Mart actually want.