Future Hackers: Vancouver’s Startup Ecosystem

Building a supportive, diverse, and engaged startup community is key to overcoming Vancouver’s unique entrepreneurial challenges.

As someone who’s seen Vancouver’s startup scene evolve from its early days to its current dynamic state, I’ve witnessed the power of community in driving innovation and fostering inclusive entrepreneurship.

On Tuesday, June 4th, I had the privilege of attending “Be Pacific – Elevating the Ecosystem: Community Builders Collaborating for the Best” at the UBC Innovation Space. This event brought together community builders, connectors, and collaborators to share insights on supporting underserved founders and nurturing vibrant networks within our entrepreneurial ecosystem.


The discussion featured insights from startup founders and community builders in Vancouver, focusing on the challenges and opportunities within the local ecosystem, emphasizing the importance of community, diversity, and support for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Panel Recap:

The panel kicked off with a candid discussion about the unique obstacles entrepreneurs face in Vancouver’s ever-evolving startup landscape. Finding that perfect co-founder yin to your yang? It’s like searching for a needle in a massive haystack made of needles. And let’s not gloss over the regulatory hurdles – navigating that labyrinth while staying innovative enough to stand out is a precarious tightrope walk.

But the real showstoppers were the perspectives from our city’s resilient underdogs, including immigrant and First Nations entrepreneurs. These battle-tested individuals have faced adversity head-on, and their diverse approaches to problem-solving injected a jolt of creative energy that resonated through the room. A poignant reminder that true innovation often blossoms from unexpected paths.

The panel featured influential voices like Eric Lee, Community Director at Be Pacific™; Leejoo Hwang, Community Founder at Novus; Gabriela Arno, Community Leader at The Cofounder’s Hub; and Hassan Pardawalla, Fractional Ops at Parda Sense. Each shared their experiences and projects, highlighting the unique challenges and triumphs within Vancouver’s startup ecosystem.

The panel also shone a spotlight on Vancouver’s beloved community events – the lifeblood pumping through the veins of our startup ecosystem. More than just networking opportunities, these gatherings cultivate a sense of belonging where founders can unmask their vulnerabilities, share their war stories, and find solace in a supportive tribe without judgment. Genuine human connection at its finest.

While celebrating the diversity propelling our innovation engine, the panelists struck a resonant chord – we must double down on fostering inclusive environments. Creating these safe havens requires consistent effort in setting clear cultural principles, ensuring feedback remains constructive not destructive, and addressing toxic behaviors with measured thoughtfulness.

The unsung heroes? The community leaders rolling up their sleeves to shape those intentional spaces, exemplify empathetic leadership, and hold everyone accountable to upholding our values. Nation-building is arduous work, but this village understands the stakes.

The Krug Perspective:

Listen up, you hungry founders – this vet has seen more startup battlegrounds than you can imagine over the past two decades. I’ve witnessed this ecosystem’s glow-up from unruly adolescence to a force defying global notice. But let me be brutally honest – we’re still undergoing growing pains.

As one of the city’s elder statesmen, I have a responsibility to:

  • Wield my hard-earned influence to advocate for underrepresented founders, especially immigrants, First Nations, and other marginalized groups. I must lead by example in fostering those psychologically safe spaces for vulnerable storytelling and mentoring the next generation through the inevitable road bumps.
  • Check the insular thinking and inherent biases that can fester in any community. I’m not afraid to thoughtfully but directly call out toxic behaviors to uphold our principles.
  • Initiate more inter-community cross-pollination to combine our diverse founder, investor, and mentor perspectives into an innovative synthesis greater than its parts.
  • Collaborate with government and institutional power players to co-create enhanced support systems aimed at attracting and retaining top-tier talent that may otherwise succumb to Silicon Valley’s siren song.
  • Evangelize a culture of perpetual learning by designing workshops, master classes, and iterative feedback loops where founders can pressure-test and refine their business theses based on constructive criticism.
  • Help author a compelling narrative around our identity as a thriving creative technology community on the global stage – one transcending the simplistic “anti-Toronto” or “anti-BrainDrain” framing.
  • Rally the troops and stakeholders to secure more community-building infrastructure, physical/virtual spaces, and catalyzing events to perpetuate our momentum of grassroots connectivity, intergenerational mentorship, and knowledge proliferation.

My two decades grinding have bestowed valuable perspective intended as a gift to the next generation. I’ll leverage my credibility to celebrate our strengths while arming this village for the inevitable storms on the horizon. We’ve got an ecosystem to uplift, nurture, and futureproof – a multi-generational endeavor that demands our collective dedication.

Case in Point: Attracting and Retaining Smart Young Talent in BC

Take Ian Vanagas and the SmartYoungBC initiative as a prime example of how targeted strategies can attract and retain top young talent in British Columbia. Their approach emphasizes creating an environment that not only attracts but also retains the best and brightest.

Ian Vanagas advocates that smart young people are crucial for economic and cultural growth in British Columbia. By creating ecosystems that value innovation and risk-taking, BC can attract global superstar talent. This isn’t just about filling jobs—it’s about amplifying individual contributions, leading to breakthrough innovations. Talent clusters, where the best minds gather, are hotbeds for productivity and creativity. Vanagas argues that BC’s government actions should reflect the importance of attracting smart people, as these individuals seek environments where they can thrive among other talented individuals.

BC faces challenges like low salaries, high living costs, and few global headquarters, which can make it difficult to compete for top talent against regions with higher salaries. However, innovative strategies can help overcome these obstacles. For instance, promoting BC as a remote work destination can attract global talent who are drawn to the province’s natural beauty and quality of life. Simplifying immigration processes and engaging with the province’s unique advantages are essential steps in making BC more appealing to international talent.

Vanagas emphasizes the role of universities as critical hubs for innovation and connection. By fostering strong relationships with educational institutions, BC can engage young talent early and catalyze their potential impact. Encouraging entrepreneurship and supporting startups can drive economic growth and create a culture of ambition and creativity. Through targeted programs and investments in future-focused industries, BC can build a sustainable path for economic development.

Attracting and retaining smart young talent is foundational for BC’s future prosperity. By promoting innovation, simplifying immigration, and leveraging the province’s lifestyle and opportunities, BC can position itself as a global talent hub. Strategic investments and a focus on fostering a culture of innovation will ensure that BC continues to thrive in an increasingly competitive global landscape.


So, what’s the takeaway from “Be Pacific – Elevating the Ecosystem“? Simple: community is the secret sauce. The panelists painted a vivid picture of how inclusive environments, empathetic leadership, and collaboration are not just buzzwords—they’re the bedrock of a thriving startup ecosystem.

As we chart our course through the challenges and opportunities ahead, let’s keep our collective foot on the gas pedal of innovation. We have the power to turn Vancouver into a beacon of entrepreneurship, where every founder, regardless of their background, has a shot at success. This isn’t just about building businesses; it’s about crafting a legacy of resilience, creativity, and impact that will ripple through generations.

Let’s double down on fostering a culture where the underdogs, the dreamers, and the disruptors can all find their place. Together, we can forge a startup landscape that’s not only supportive but also unstoppable. Vancouver, let’s light the way forward and show the world what a united, diverse, and daring community can achieve. The revolution is here, and we’re just getting started.

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