Vancouver Startup Week and Smart Young BC

It's now the week after Vancouver Startup Week. I ended up attending very few things (that's a me thing, not a reflection on the event itself)1 and am feeling inspired and energized.

Thanks to the VSW organizers for being resilient and keeping things going for a decade.

Smart Young BC

Ian Vanagas put together a great workshop for the Smart Young BC VSW 2024 session. I was there to support him and do some light facilitation.

Ian's presentation was really good. He turned his 10K word research essay into a presentation, walked the group through it, then had some guiding questions for people to discuss in small group break out sessions.

Thanks Daniel for the photo, I promise there was a roomful of people in front of us :)

Ian defines "Young" as "16 to 26". He himself is 27, and so has "aged out" of this range. He describes his rational – it's much easier for young people to take chances, they're moldable, and it's easier for them to just pick up and move with less ties and less stuff. There were a number of people in the room that gave feedback that

"Smart" should not be taken too pedantically here either. This doesn't mean High IQ, it means weird nerds, ambitious people, and just generally with people who stand up and put energy into GSD2.

For those looking for next steps, check out and support what Novus is doing.

And for something that's a little broader than "tech startup" showcasing what ambitious people are building across art, tech, and science, attend and support the first Minimum Viable Demos event coming up June 30th.

As you come across people, activities, or other suggestions that highlight the concept, tag things with #smartyoungbc.

Stay tuned for future Smart Young BC workshops. With the presentation and small group break out, we can likely run the same format multiple times, and inspire people to take action. Go subscribe »

Education vs Enterprise vs Entrepreneurship

Prashant Agrawal invited me to sit on a panel about comparing and contrasting journeys around Education vs Enterprise vs Entrepreneurship.

I wasn't really sure where this panel was going to go. I did end up ranting quite a bit, but I think it was at least somewhat entertaining judging by the Q&A and folks who came up afterwards to chat.

I think one of my main rants was that we need more entrepreneurs: people who can be resilient problem solvers not just for themselves, but for teams of people. Why? We are going through a lot of changes. The times of forever jobs is over. If you're not going to practice entrepreneurship in your day job, then we need all the help we can get for that energy to affect change in the local places where we live.

I went through university and got a BSc. Computer Science (Education), while participating in the co-op program and then getting hired straight out of school by Nortel (Enterprise), and got laid off during the dotCom-bomb, and so was forced to figure out an Entrepreneurship path.

One prompt from the audience was, flip your talking points and argue FOR one of the other two tracks. This was a great prompt!

For Enterprise, I often wonder what my career would have been like if I had actually had a "forever job" at Nortel. I think you can have a lot of impact and leverage while working at a big company. Prashant's story of supporting people in 100+ promotions in his Enterprise career was inspiring.

For Education, I'm very interested in industrial research labs and applied research. As Michael Fergusson pointed out, we absolutely do need primary research! The Vancouver region has a strong cluster of expertise in science founders in Biotech for example. My main counter in the realm of Computer Science is, if your goal is to be entrepreneur or to practice software development as a profession, then university is a slow and expensive way to get there.

So in arguing for Enterprise and Education, I'd say the same thing for both: aim for impact, and aim to be ambitious. If you go to work for a big company, work your way up into a position where you can have impact. If you're going the academic path, get that PhD!

I also got a pointed question around my promotion of remote work3 and digital connections. Two parts of this that I have been thinking about a lot. One, despite my many digital connections, a lot of my work over the years has been about converting that into in person events. Two, I've been thinking a lot about supply chains recently, and I think Canada needs to get serious about finding more ways to build & buy local, including looking for gaps. Yes, I'm looking for a Canadian Elevator Startup.

I briefly talked about neurodiversity4 and mental health, probably something we should be covering a lot more often.

I met a number of great people in and around these talks and at an after party or two. Here's a high level description of a couple of encounters:

  • a catch up with John Edgar who is building Ascent Foundry
  • how to stay in Canada while building a business; Startup Visa is still not very well known (and the angel investor part of it needs work)
  • a team exploring a program inspired by Google's Summer of Code, focused on onboarding more open source builders in the Province of BC
  • a startup exploring international fruit importing
  • someone who heard me talk about neurodiversity and mental health, and had the courage to come up and ask for more resources around this
  • a connected pet hardware startup which needs local hardware/software expertise
  • a SRED software platform that might be possible to open source5
  • several software developers looking to connect with other technical builders6

I'm looking forward to the meetings I'm going to have with many of the people who already followed up. Thanks for connecting7!

The word "startup" hasn't evolved a lot in the last decade, and as with most things, is missing nuance.

Building a Venture Sized Business is part of the venture capital business model, but looking at When Tailwinds Vanish, I see an opportunity for many more "digital small business" where founders retain the large majority of the business. This is in contrast to phrases like "lifestyle business" or even "bootstrappers": let's normalize the possibility of more people being able to earn a living selling digital, software-powered services to the world.

Having attempted a venture-funded deep tech software startup with Fission, and being a believer in moonshots as part of the formula for long term regional and national success, I also want to see us rally around big goals.

I'm spending some time refreshing my Startup resources and getting an update on funding and other parts of the ecosystem. I'm encouraged by a lot of the energy from Vancouver Startup Week, but building an innovation ecosystem can't just happen one week per year. We have a lot of work to do.

With that in mind, think about what you, personally, are going to work on, who you can collaborate with, what you need help with, and we'll see you at next year's Vancouver Startup Week for an update. Cheers!

  1. It was a low energy week for me where I did get a few things done, but just putting one foot in front of the other was about all that I managed. I can "put on a face" for public events and have energy for it in the moment, but need small group or alone time. It's good to share emotional & mental health things, actually! 

  2. Getting Shit Done! 

  3. I flat out tell people that they should not work for a Vancouver company. They're mostly not competitive in salary or ambition. If I have to choose between having someone stay in Vancouver – or leaving completely for elsewhere – I want them to stay and have an awesome well paid ambitious job where they live locally and work remote. 

  4. I'm almost certain that I am neurodiverse, and I think this is one of the first times I've talked about it publicly. I once joked "I'm too busy coping to get diagnosed", and definitely feel at times that aspects of my weird brain are sometimes a super power, except when it isn't. When I was a young man, I never heard the term neurodiverse, and never conceived that there would be a different way to relate to the world. I'm still learning and growing around this even now. 

  5. I am unreasonably excited by the potential for an Open Source SRED Platform. I'm not ready to, like, take the SRED program on directly, but it feels like we should be able to make a lot of the pain go away for 1000s of companies across Canada without routing everything through for-profit middlemen consultants. 

  6. This point deserves a little expansion. There wasn't much in the way of deep technical content at VSW that I could see. Several developers came up to me asking where to find it. It's clear we're still not getting the word out to make it easier for technical people to find each other locally. 

  7. See for every single one of my social profiles 

Originally published

Categories: Vancouver

Tags: VSW2024, startup

Last modified at