A $100-million technology fund could fertilize Nanaimo’s growing technology sector.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced the venture capital fund, a component in the government’s strategy to diversify B.C.’s economy, Dec. 8.
Paris Gaudet, executive director for Nanaimo’s Innovation Island, said companies that could take advantage of the fund have well-developed products and customer bases, but have reached the point where they must rapidly scale up production and market penetration.
The venture capital fund aims to keep B.C. companies and attract skilled workers, support companies and services, rather than relocating to larger markets and taking jobs and talent with them.
“Based on what we’ve seen, the work we’ve done, the companies that we have in our roster right now, there’s two or three that are ready to take things to the next level,” Gaudet said.
One of those companies is Resonance Software Inc., which developed WorkSight, a software suite that calculates employee pay and scheduling and is used extensively by the forestry and pulp and paper industries.
“We were approached by a partner in the entertainment sector and we’re working with them right now,” said Ivan Eggers, vice-president of operations. “One of the reasons why we’re interested in the funding is we want to branch out into new markets beyond just manufacturing and pulp and paper.”
Securing venture capital will help the company market a new product ready for release.
“We’re competing against some very big companies and that’s our challenge. Their marketing footprint is just so massive and that’s where we need the help to compete a bit more effectively,” Eggers said.
Technology is B.C.’s fastest-growing economic sector, providing 86,000 jobs with wages 60 per cut higher than other sectors and has potential to double by 2020.
“It’s a quiet sector in the province, but it’s kicking well above its weight … it touches every sector whether you’re innovating in the mining industry or tourism. It’s about building tech that has a global market opportunity,” Gaudet said.
She said building Nanaimo’s tech sector still needs supporting infrastructure, such as fibre-optic Internet, and educational institutions to provide training to fill high-tech jobs, but the kick start for rapid local tech growth will count on “getting that one entrepreneur to hit one out of the park.”
“There’s this misconception that Nanaimo’s a tech hub,” Gaudet said. “Well, we’re not there yet, but we have the potential to be.”