Why Vancouver is the city to build your tech startup

If you have talent and ambition, chances are you are not going to settle for a boring job that just pays the bills. You would want to do something that you are passionate about. In that case, you might have considered starting your own business. However, it is not that easy to start your own business and there are many startups that fail within their first year. There are a lot of factors to consider when starting a business and one of the important ones is whether the city you are planning to base your startup in is the right place for your industry. I’m going to tell you why Vancouver is the city to build your tech startup.

Quality of Life

I may be biased about how great Vancouver is as it has been my home for the past 15 years but I’m not alone in thinking that. Vancouver has been named one of the top cities in the world for livability and quality of life. It is a nature-lover’s paradise with amazing mountains, forests, lakes and beaches. In fact, Vancouver is the kind of city where you can ski and hit the beach in the same day! If you are into a healthy life style, Vancouver is the city to live in with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly people plus it is on it’s way to become the greenest city by 2020!

In the most recent livability report by Economist, Vancouver is ranked the 3rd most livable city in the world, and the top city in the North America. In that report, all cities were measured based on stability, healthcare, culture & environment, education and infrastructure and Vancouver ranked high on all elements.

Tech Industry

According to Startup Genome Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017, with 800-1100 startup, Vancouver has more startups per capita than any city in Canada. This report has ranked Vancouver number 15 startup hub in a survey of more than 50 cities around the world. We are home to many successful startups such as Hootsuite, Slack and Avigilon. Big names such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Salesforce have opened up shop in Vancouver in the recent decade.

According to the Vancouver Economic Commission website, the tech industry in Vancouver generates $23 billion in revenue and $15 billion in GDP. That’s nearly 10% of the province of British Columbia’s GDP, only in 2nd place after the Real Estate industry. 

Talent Pool

Vancouver is home to world-class talent. Thanks to our great education system and top ranked universities, many talented tech graduates enter the job market each year. UBC has been ranked number 2 tech university in Canada and top 25 globally by QS world university ranking. There are so many other great university and colleges in the metro Vancouver and other cities in British Columbia such as SFU and BCIT that offer tech programs. 

There are also several non-traditional institutions such as Lighthouse labs, Brainstation and RED Academy that offer bootcamp style programs to meet the demands of our fast growing tech industry. In addition to that, Vancouver attracts global talent due to relaxed immigration policies for professionals and skilled applicants. In fact the Canadian government, introduced a Startup Visa a few years ago! It is also easy to hire foreign workers with a 66% visa success rate (global average 41%) according to Startup Genome Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017.

Low Costs

The cost of labour in Vancouver is relatively low compared to other cities in North America. There are dedicated tax incentives and favourable taxation rates for companies. In addition to that the Canadian government supports tech startups by providing funding through several programs and grants such as Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program and Industrial Research Assistance Program. For more information about these programs checkout our blog post on “How to fund your startup”.

The cost of utilities in Vancouver are comparatively low as well. Although the same cannot be said about rent, it still costs much less to rent in Vancouver than cities like San Francisco or New York. There are also an abundance of shared and co-working office spaces available that are perfect for startups in their early stages of development so they don’t have to worry about committing to a long-term lease or buying office furniture.

Geographical Location

Vancouver’s geographical location makes it a gateway to Asia and the West Coast of the United States which makes it easier for Vancouver startups to market and partner directly across the border. We are in the same time-zone as the West Coast of US and it take a little over 2 hours to fly into San Francisco from Vancouver. Our airport, YVR is an award-winning airport that’s only 26 minutes away from downtown with public transit. It has direct flights to many cities in North America and Asia.  In fact, Vancouver has the shortest flying distance to Asia than any city in North America. 

According to the Startup Genome, Vancouver’s strongest factor in its startup ecosystem is its market reach due to strong Global Connectedness and the having the world’s highest ranking in reaching foreign customers. Just to compare, Vancouver startups have 57% foreign customers where as the global average is only 23%. 


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