Where Do We Go From Here

CollageIt’s been almost two years since VIATeC moved closer to downtown. The move has been great and allowed us to further our mission to serve as the one-stop hub that connects people, knowledge and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria technology sector. Having a location closer to the core increased accessibility and exposure for our membership, Accelerator clients and those who attend our many events. The move also allowed for the creation of a more open concept which helps us foster a collaborative environment for people to work and connect. As great as our time in the Scott Building has been, VIATeC has its eye on the future. The present lease agreement runs out in one year, and now is the time to start thinking about where we want to be next.

A location right in the downtown core has a lot of appeal and is something our membership has told us is a priority. The tech industry is the backbone of our economy and we want VIATeC to be at the heart of the city – bringing further exposure to our events, membership and Accelerator clients. We’ve learned that even by moving to the north end of the downtown core, our presence and top of mind awareness has increased considerably and we expect a location in the heart of the action will compound this benefit even further.

We have visited a lot of tech spaces over the years and we have a vision to offer a space that offers a great gathering place for innovators and entrepreneurs. A place where people can drop in and use meeting or event spaces, a place where you can get a cup of coffee or maybe even a glass of beer and set up for a day working in a space surrounded by other like-minded individuals. We have seen great benefits by offering affordable and flexible space to early stage tech companies and we would like to continue and expand this offering.

While building on what has been good about being in our current location, a new location would also provide the chance to address any deficiencies that have become apparent. Ground floor access and street front signage would improve our visibility within the city. A larger, permanent event space would enable more gatherings promoting the work being done by member businesses.

This is a very exciting time to be a part of the VIATeC community. We have the chance to grow and create a permanent place to call our own. A place to connect with each other and to the rest of the world. There are important decisions to be made. The board and VIATeC management are focused on making the best choice for our future and everything from long term leases to a building purchase is on the table.

We’ll share more details as soon as we have them.


B-Side – For Those in the Know


We are excited to announce a new marketing effort designed to continue to raise awareness of the local tech sector. Starting today, every concert ticket distributed by Atomique Productions will feature an ad promoting Tectoria and a new web site that will be launched next week.

The campaign, we are calling The B-Side of the Ticket, will run for the next two years and aims to get every concert goer in the city to learn more about Tectoria and the amazing Imagination Economy we all benefit from. B-Side will have its finger on the pulse of Victoria events and venues that are creative, original and inspiring – and perhaps a little hard to find. We will also feature contests for tickets to upcoming shows as a way to keep people coming back to learn more about the cooler things around town and how technology is shaping our community.

The idea comes from the days when vinyl (with two distinct physical sides) – featured record company favourites on the A-side and ‘filler’ on the B-side. Filler like: I Am The Walrus, Ruby Tuesday, Unchained Melody, Maggie May, Born on the Bayou, Hey Hey What Can I Do & many others.

The B-Side, as you can see, was a place that true fans learned to pay attention to. The parallel, as we see it, is simple. The old vinyl B-Side, like the Victoria tech sector, represents something not everyone is aware of. We recognize the B-Side for what it is: a place for creatives, innovators, leaders & those that can produce original & inspiring work.

Those in the know always check the B-Side. Stay tuned for next week’s big launch.

Want Some Tectorian Support?

I am Tectorian - Spartacus

Even Spartacus Needed a Little Help from his Friends

Searching for ways to have your story heard throughout the Tectoria community and beyond?

Having trouble making a dent on Twitter, Facebook, and other channels?

Your friends at VIATeC are here to help. We want to scream your story from the top of Mt. Finlayson, but we can’t do that until we hear the story ourselves.

So, how do you go about making this happen?

Help us Help You

Between this tectoria.wordpress blog, our This Week in Tectoria Newsletter, the VIATeC E-Bulletin, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Flickr, we have thousands upon thousands of people to tell your story to.  That doesn’t even include all of our offline channels.

So Send us your Stories Already

Keep in mind, however, that what may be a story to you, could sound like a sales pitch to someone else; and the quickest way to lose an audience is to continuously scream sales pitches at them.

So How do you Know if you Have a Story or Not?

We’re going to keep this very simple. Especially at first, just err on the side of sending us too much stuff.  We’ll wade through everything each week and determine what we feel will work the best.

Lets be clear about something though, by writing this post the way I have, I’m setting myself up for a great deal more work, haha.  Now that’s fine, and could actually be quite wonderful, as long as it serves a purpose.

While we’re here to ensure that all your great Tectoria stories are given the audience they deserve, behaving like the startup who cried wolf by repeatedly sending us SELL SELL SELL material, is a sure fire way to get your stories to the bottom of the pile.

A Few Key Points to Remember

  1. Starting this very second, send any stories / ideas to me, Steve Hof, at shof@viatec.ca
  2. For blog posts, the stories need to be especially compelling, or motivated by a clear intention to help the Tectoria cause.
  3. If you’re on Twitter, mention @VIATeC in a post and include the hashtag #I_AM_TECTORIAN
  4. If you’re on Facebook, post to the VIATeC wall so we know you’re there.
  5. Don’t want to do either of those things? Fine, be difficult. At the very least, however, send me an email listing the channels you’re on and the best ways we can support you.
  6. There’s no ‘h’ in Tectoria.  It’s the little things people.

Is there something I’ve missed? Do you have a mind blowing, or even slightly above average idea for helping us help you?

Post your ideas, questions, and concerns to the comments below.  Lets hash it out.

Okay Tectorians, the ball’s in your court.

I mean, even Rod Tidwell figured it out eventually.

Help me......... Help you.

Help me……… Help you.

by SteveSoon to be Very BusyHof

Growing the Food Bank, by Shrinking our….

Hopping in the Inner Harbour for Charity

Harbour Hop 2013 at Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria, B.C.

We came. We jumped. We lived. We raised money for the VIATeC Food Bank Challenge in support of Victoria’s Mustard Seed.

On Thursday November 28th at twelve noon, roughly one dozen brave souls, myself included, (I use the term ‘brave’ loosely for yours truly) met at the Contech Inc offices and walked down toward Fisherman’s Wharf.

With the Times Colonist and CTV News on hand, the audience of spectators counted down from five, and…… Well, to be perfectly honest, I have next to no recollection of the less than four seconds it took me to get in, and get the heck out.

Many of the veteran jumpers (Victoria Tech firms such as Contech, Starfish Medical, Vigil Health, Telus, and VIATeC to name a few) actually went in a second time just for kicks!

The long and short of it is that we were able to raise money for an extremely important cause.  With one full week to go, it’s not too late to sign up for the VIATeC Food Bank Challenge.  You won’t even have to hop in the harbour.  Well, at least not until next year.  And for those of you there this year, if you have any photos of the event you’d like to share, please shoot me an email so we can post it here and feel warm until next year.

A special thanks goes out to Contech Inc for once again organizing the event, and supplying the trembling jumpers with food and refreshments after the event.

by Steve Hof


Not your Average Room Full of People

Discover Tectoria 2013

Bob McDonald and Ann Makosinski Both Set to Speak.

You’re Welcome Victoria.

With Bob McDonald, host of CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks; Ann Makosinski, the 15yr old winner of Google’s Global Science Fair; and more than 70 other gifted presenters and exhibitors, Victoria’s Crystal Gardens promises to have the highest average IQ of any building in Victoria this December 13th for Discover Tectoria.

Loved by audiences across Canada for making complex scientific issues understandable, meaningful, and fun, Bob McDonald is in high demand. A fixture in broadcasting for more than 30 years, he is currently the host of CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks, the award-winning science program that is heard by 500,000 people each week. He is the author of numerous bestselling books, and a member of the Order of Canada.

In addition to hosting Quirks & Quarks, McDonald is a regular reporter for CBC TV’s The National. As a writer, he has authored three science books, and contributed to numerous science textbooks, magazines, and newspapers, including The Globe and Mail. His latest book is Measuring the Earth with a Stick.

McDonald has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to the promotion of science within Canada. He is a recipient of the “Michael Smith Award” from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; the “Sir Sanford Fleming Medal” from the Royal Canadian Institute; and the “McNeil Medal” from The Royal Society of Canada. He also won a 2008 Gemini Award for “Best Host in a Pre-School, Children’s or Youth Program or Series.” He holds six honorary doctorates from Canadian universities.

Ann Makosinski, of course, is the fifteen year old Saanich student who, motivated by her friend in the Phillipines who was failing school due to a lack of light to study with, invented a hollow flashlight powered by human thermal energy. Her invention and Google Science Fair Award have her in popular demand, with TEDx talks and many other coming opportunities. Yah, that’s the level of talent bursting out of Victoria right now.

For those of you living under a rock, Discover Tectoria is the preeminent Victoria tech showcase that happens but once every two years.  Besides the more than 70 presenters and exhibitors, the local Gaming Studio and Innovation Showcases have some some incredible hands on experiences to offer; think robots, simulators, and everything in between.  Just picture a room packed with geniuses giving you a sneak peek into both Victoria’s, and the world’s future.

by Steve Hof

KIXEYE’S Clayton Stark receives VIATeC’s Colin Lennox Award for tech champion

On June 20th, VIATeC honoured KIXEYE‘s Clayton Stark with the Colin Lennox Award for his role as a tireless, passionate tech champion. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Clayton in his office on the fourth floor of the historic Board of Trade building in Bastion Square to talk about what this award means to him, what he’s excited about right now, why he loves mentoring, and what he’d like to see improve in the future. Here’s my conversation with Clayton.

MLW: Clayton, let’s start with the award. What does it mean to receive this award from your peers?
CS:  Personally, it was a fantastic moment for me. It’s been 20 years of having a chip on my shoulder about Victoria and working incredibly hard to make things viable here. We’ve had successes over the last couple of decades so to see that there is enough momentum behind the work that a lot of us do to push this city forward was fantastic. A lot of us have been working hard over the years so to have the recognition from peers was terrific. It was also important enough to me that I brought my dear old mom and dad along as well as the (KIXEYE) crew. It was pretty neat to have them experience it as well.

MLW: The Colin Lennox award is recognition for your role as a technology champion. What exactly does a technology champion do?
CS: I’ve had the good fortune of having had experience in a variety of businesses so I can help with a number of things – access to the right creative and development resources. I’ve been working and building teams here for a long time, so I can help with access to talent. I routinely meet with people over coffee or lunch and I’m happy to share the wisdom I’ve gained from my experience with someone who’s trying to get off the ground. I love business strategy and business plans and I usually have something useful to say either in a commercial dimension, a logistical one or a technology dimension. Sometimes, in the course of a cup of coffee, we’ve made a huge change to a business’ outlook.

When Experience Tectoria happened here, I was able to bring in some of the finest Silicon Valley venture capitalists to meet with a few startups. They were willing to lean in and give them a little seed money to help them get off the ground. That was really encouraging.

MLW: What advice would you give new and emerging start-ups?
CS: 1. Create an opportunity; don’t just look for an opportunity
2. Listen. That’s true in life generally and certainly true in a team, and in business.
3. Be voracious about your appetite for learning.
4. Lean into your mentorsThere’s so much to be learned from the guy who’s one rung up from you who can teach you. If it wasn’t for some of the mentors I’ve had I wouldn’t have developed the tenacity or the skill set and I wouldn’t have pushed to create the opportunities.

MLW: Who are some of your mentors?
CS: Will Harbin, the Chairman of KIXEYE is high on my list. He’s a brilliant guy with great business acumen. I’ve also had the good fortune to work with quite a few high-end Venture Capital (VC) firms and they are a font. Watching great CEOs and building relationships with them is fantastic. They want to know me as much as I want to know them. The advice from these accomplished businessmen is always very good.

MLW: Do you consider yourself a mentor?
CS: Very much so. I’m passionate about helping people remove barriers, most of which are completely artificial. What you believe is what you are. I’m also passionate about getting people back to the basics like communication. I counsel people that “communication is the most potent element of our existence”. Learn to communicate. Communicate vigorously. Communicate thoroughly. That means learn to listen. That’s how teams work, it’s how families work, it’s how society works. About 99.5 % of all the problems on any project come down to communications.

I’m also a little brazen (even though I may come across as shy and reserved). I can kick over some of those barriers with some passion and that’s helpful and I can be in your face. You need to not be scared. That’s when things unlock. It’s so rewarding to watch someone grow in their careers and see them blossom into something that otherwise would have been latent. I’ve felt a lot of squishy, good feeling with the mentorship I’ve provided.

MLW: What impact do you hope your mentorship has?
CS:  A broader scope, more opportunities for success, and ultimately a fuller life. So much time is wasted when people feel cloistered. Ask yourself, “What do you have to lose?” Cast off aspersions, take a few in the shoulder and just push. Why wouldn’t you? I’m often confused by the reservations inherent in so many humans. If I can push people to get off the pot they’re going to end up with more, and be better off.

We’re in a lucrative business here, which means more money and more experiences. Some say you learn more from your failures than your successes but I tend to prefer success over failure in my ventures. I want to support creative expression, people who are passionate about something they want to build. It’s great when I see somebody whose head is up, chest is out, marching at a quick pace and on top of their game. Sometimes I’ve had a little bit of influence that’s enabled that. That’s pretty awesome.

MLW: What do you find the most rewarding about what you do?
CS: Pouring energy into these teams is very rewarding for me. I see them grow up, move, shake, change and in a few cases, they get to the next level. I have a lot of energy for what I do and I’m able to give something of value and that feels really good. It’s like parenting. You watch your children grow and you have a role to play in shaping their lives.

Sometimes I see people hemming and hawing about making a decision. My advice is that ‘making a decision is better than not making a decision, even if it’s the wrong decision’. That’s a cliché of course because it’s true. In the end, you move forward and you learn something.

No industry even comes close to technology in Victoria. There is no upstream. This is the top of the food chain. The choices the secondary and tertiary industries make are guided largely by this primary industry and that has an impact all the way down the stream. Those of us who are pushing really hard to bring business here are ultimately helping families at all levels. At the end of the day, if I can look back on my career and see how many growlin’ tummies got filled because of the push I was able to put in, that’s a huge reward.

MLW:  What do you find the most challenging aspect of doing business here?
CS:  The punitive government laws about tax. Revenue Canada’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (SR&ED) rules are preposterous. If you’re a Canadian controlled private corporation (CCPC), you can get 40 – 45 % of your R&D costs rebated, and, you can borrow against that to make it about $1.65 per dollar.

The investment structures are broken. If you’re not a CCPC, (meaning 51% of the money you spend comes from a foreign source), then it’s not a tax bonus, it’s a rebate against taxes paid, and it’s 17%. If you’re a pre-revenue start-up – a promise of a really great company – getting a rebate against taxes paid doesn’t help you because you haven’t paid any taxes because you haven’t made any money and the damages are considerable. There’s no excuse for the punitive damages from SR&ED. It’s like they’ve forgotten one important thing. These are Canadians we’re employing. Canadians who are paying taxes, a lot of taxes here. It’s ridiculous. It’s a Revenue Canada thing and the province just follows along. I’m glad we get the 17% but we have to structure our companies in such a way to recognize profit in order to even get the 17%.  Try to get investment of any magnitude in Canada here. It’s pointless. You simply can’t get meaningful funding in Canada. It’s as if the government is saying a) we don’t want you in Canada and b) we don’t want foreign investment. That’s the biggest headwind. I do everything I can to smash against it.

MLW: What do you do to smash against that?
CS: I try as hard as I can. I scream from the rooftops. I don’t expect an answer and I’m certainly not going to stop because If we ever manage to get things turned around, we’d see these young companies get access to meaningful funding. When you’re in the early stage, you can’t have the financial damages dealt to you or you won’t make it. We just have to take it on the chin. We have to be extra good to be successful here but the bar is a lot higher than it should be.

MLW:  Let’s talk about Victoria. Why do you choose to live and work here?
CS:  For me it’s personal. I choose to be here because I choose to be with my family. I’m from here. I was born here, my family is here, and my children are here. My mother lives in the house that my great grandfather built for my grandmother as a wedding present who then lived a 70-year marriage in. My mom will die in the house she was born in. I’m not going to phone that in. That may be a Canadian sensibility but it’s very important to me. I’m willing to put my kids to bed and then go back online and work ’til 2 in the morning as opposed to miss the actual life of my children. When you’re born and bred in a place, you love where you’re from. I love San Francisco – it’s a great place to visit but honestly I was trying to figure out how to get home before I left. After that the natural environment is a big part of my life. I spend a lot of time sitting around a campfire reconnecting with my kids.

This has always been, other than the punitive government problems that I’ll keep smashing my head into for the rest of my career, a fantastic place to do business and there is no reason to not operate a business here.

We also love this building and we have a wonderful space. And if the view out the window isn’t good enough, (picture the sun sparkling on the harbour, float planes landing and taking off, sailboats and kayaks darting back and forth, and a festive, bustling vibe in the square below), we have access to the roof as well. We have a little cluster here. We look right in at the Zynga office across the street, Microsoft is nearby. Kano isn’t far away and Inlight is close by. I’d like to see more of them here.

MLW:  What‘s your assessment of the tech sector in Victoria? What would you rate as excellent?
CS:  Talent. It’s very easy to get world-class talent in the engineering and creative fields here, which are now converging. And, as I lean back into the community I also see a wealth of new talent developing. It’s fantastic.

MLW:  What’s the most urgent problem facing the tech sector here?
CS:  Funding. We need to figure out access to funding. There’s gap between Angel investors and those who can give you $50K in a friend and family round.  Where is the Series A funding going to come from? We need more Series A funding. There’s a few solid people in Vancouver and the VCs in Silicon Valley have a ton of money. It’s how to unlock that. I’d like to see a VC community in Victoria. VIATeC does the angel network and that could be more robust. I’m sad when I see good ideas, a great business plan and the right talent to bring it there. The question becomes “Are you moving to San Francisco or Boston?

MLW:  What are you most looking forward to in the next year?
CS:  Primarily my day job (General Manager at KIXEYE). I love this team. This is the fifth job I’ve worked on with some of these guys. We really love the brand and the business that KIXEYE has created is amazing. We’re on a mission to see free-to-play, browser-based gaming take a big chunk out of console and traditional gaming and more expensive consumer products for gaming. I want to see this win. It’s ours to lose. Outside of that, I’d like to see more little guys get bigger. I love the Accelerate Victoria program Dan and Rob are doing. I think we need a shared space for the post incubation consortium hub, so you can be a 2-person company and share rent and printers and resources and knowledge. I’d like to see that amped up so it can run on its own. I’d like to see the community become more organic. All worthy dreams.

MediaCore keeps it simple …on a global scale

In the latest of her series of Victoria company profiles, MaryLou Wakefield meets MediaCore – a media library that provides schools, higher education institutions and businesses with an easy way to share and manage educational content.

There’s no doubt about it, the company that wants to transform education through video and mobile technology is on a roll. MediaCore launched in 2009 and since then has grown from four staff to 20. In the next two years they plan to double or triple that. Add to that, new investors, global clients, and a number of exciting projects on the horizon, not to mention winning 10 awards in 10 months.

But MediaCore’s young CEO, Stuart Bowness, seems unfazed by the attention. “The awards are great, but what we’re really focused on are student outcomes. That’s what really matters to us,” he says. “Getting feedback like this from Royal Veterinary College in the UK is really exciting.”

We regularly upload videos of technical procedures that we do with animals on farms, and this enables the viewer to gain a real personalized experience. One of the RVC’s courses includes a lambing placement and students can review what they have learned by playing back the video. Students can also access this material before going to help with lambing, to give them an idea of the procedure in advance. Hundreds of people have used this video and it is available for anyone to access.

In contrast to a lot of technology in the education space, MediaCore wants to assure customers they’ll get a product that does exactly what it’s supposed to do. He acknowledges that it’s significantly more challenging to build something simple because that takes a lot more decision-making. With the philosophy that ‘people who use software are real people’ to guide their decision-making, “we focus on what our customer’s core needs are and what our product needs to do, and stick to that,” he says.

VIATeC: What problem are you solving for people?

MediaCore:  There are a few things happening right now that are very challenging. Education on a global scale is undergoing huge change and we’re at a crossroads. Governments don’t have money to spend on education, and, huge numbers of people in developing countries such as India and Africa want access to education. The system as it is now just doesn’t scale well. There’s been a big move over the past few years to provide education online because it gives more people access, the cost per student is lower, and, research shows that when online education is combined with video, the education is significantly more effective. That’s where MediaCore comes in. We provide a simple, reliable platform for institutions and businesses to harness the power of video for their education and training needs. We provide a platform for any school or university to create an online media library that’s private, secure and enables a great learning experience. The pedagogy models that teachers regularly use alongside our software include peer-to-peer learning, blended learning, flipped learning and inquiry-based learning — all of which offer different ways of teaching in new an innovative ways that make better use of instructor time while increasing student outcomes.

VIATeC:  What are you excited about right now?
MediaCore: A few things actually. I’m really passionate about a project we’re working on to create Africa’s first online university. It will give people across that country access to education for a fraction of the cost of a traditional education ($500/yr. as opposed to $5000/yr.) and, it will deliver programs designed to specifically meet employment needs in various regions of the country. We’ve also been invited to make a presentation about a pilot program for up to 500 schools in Hong Kong. We’re excited about our progress in China with the first schools there starting to adopt our platform, and we’re generally excited about the response we’re getting from Australia, the Middle East and a few other countries. At the end of the day, you want to spend your life working on really interesting things you feel are making a significant difference in society and that’s really what we’re trying to do.

VIATeC: Who works at MediaCore?

MediaCore:  We’ve got 2 offices and 20 people who work at MediaCore. At our London (UK) office we’ve built a great sales, marketing, and business development team (headed by Allan Greenberg, previously with Apple Education’s Higher Education business in Europe and Asia) and we also have two engineers there as well. In our Victoria (Canada) office we’ve located the majority of our product team who are led by Nathan Wright (CTO) and Anthony Theocharis (Chief of Engineering). Overall, we’ve got some brilliant minds who are really passionate about solving big problems in education and making a difference on a day-to-day basis.

VIATeC:  What’s the best thing about working at MediaCore?

MediaCore: We have terrific talent here and insanely smart people love working with other insanely smart people. They also love solving really interesting problems and we’ve got both of those. After that, we have great policies around flex hours and working from home, a really lovely office space with comfortable couches and a kitchen, and we keep company with a very friendly dog named Tucker. We also do events as a team a number of times a year which include sailing and ski trips – we just all really enjoy spending time together.

VIATeC:  What’s the value of being part of the high tech community in Victoria?

MediaCore:  Being part of the VIATeC community is a great way to meet other CEOs and take advantage of some mentorship opportunities. It’s a good way to build awareness of your organization in the ecosystem. The VIATeC Job Board is terrific in terms of spreading the word about job opportunities in the community as well.

VIATeC:  Where do you see the community going in 2 -5 years?

MediaCore:  I feel we all need to look beyond just creating amazing companies. It’s not enough to have a few standout successes if there’s no broader engagement. We need to look at building an amazing ecosystem here in Victoria. In San Francisco for example, large companies mentor mid-sized ones, and they in turn mentor smaller ones. They have accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and other programs. Granted, that all takes time to build and a lot more than just one group of people moving it forward. We also have to think about becoming global players. The fact is, that it’s faster to fly to the Valley, than it is to take the ferry to Vancouver. That should be on every CEO’s mind.

Update June, 2013: Stuart Bowness was named Executive of the Year at the 2013 VIATeC Awards. Congratulations Stuart!

MaryLou Wakefield