British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is set to unveil the first plank of a major new innovation strategy – an estimated $100-million earmarked for investing in startup companies.
For several weeks the B.C. tech community has been abuzz about the provincial government's strategy launch expected early in 2016.
According to sources, Ms. Clark is set to announce on Tuesday that the government is committing the money to be managed by one or more outside "fund-of-funds," which would in turn direct the money to venture funds that invest directly in startup companies. Although the government's tech strategy is being led by the ministry of technology, innovation and citizen's services, the money will come from the international trade department budget, sources say.
This marks the province's return to venture financing. It last committed $90-million to the B.C. Renaissance Capital Fund in 2008.
However, the approach this time is different, as the government oversaw the distribution of the Renaissance money through its investment capital branch, rather than a third party.
The new money comes at a time when Canada's startup scene is flourishing, particularly in B.C., which is home to several companies that have raised big outside venture funding, including Hootsuite Media, Builddirect.com Technologies and BroadbandTV. Several other local companies, including Recon Instruments and Plentyoffish.com, have also sold to major international firms in the past year.
While the startup sector will no doubt welcome the funding news, observers are hoping provinces and the new federal government address other chronic issues that are inhibiting the growth of their sector. Those include a shortage of programmers. In addition, many surging tech companies have faced immigration challenges that have held up their efforts to recruit skilled foreign senior executives into their companies.
Ms. Clark is expected to make the announcement Tuesday at 10 a.m. P.T. in Vancouver.