May 26, 2020
Innovation & Challenges in BC Tech During COVID-19
We’re currently living in a time where January 2020 feels years ago and January 2021 feels like the very distant future. As the CEO of one of Canada’s top growing companies, I am always wanting to lead my team to a future of certainty and success while providing them with stability and a clear vision.
In times of a global pandemic, this doesn’t change but it has given me time to reflect on what we thought 2020 would look like for FreshWorks back when the rest of the leadership team and I met in November of last year. It comes as no surprise that we were wrong. As I am sitting here, reflecting but also looking ahead, I am excited about the innovative projects the BC tech community is bringing to the table and some of the trends we see are accelerating in terms of the development and adoption of cutting edge technologies, digital modernization, and remote collaboration.
Last month I had the honour to join some of BC’s tech leaders in a roundtable hosted by President and CEO of InnovateBC, Raghwa Gopal; the BC Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Competitiveness, the Honourable Michelle Mungall; and the Parliamentary Secretary for Technology, Rick Glumac. The topics were innovation and challenges for BC tech during COVID-19.
In times where I’m sure, we’re all experiencing varying levels of uncertainty, I am grateful to see and be involved in some of the initiatives the BC Government is doing together with the private sector.
In attendance were leaders from the BC Government and the BC tech sector. One of the desired outcomes of this remote roundtable was to further improve the collaboration efforts between the government and the technology sector, especially during these uncertain times.
Seeing these conversations shift to an online platform has been an added bonus, especially for leaders of companies that would have not been able to join otherwise.
From VIATEC’s community survey and resource lists to these InnovateBC roundtable discussions, our tech community is collaborating tirelessly with the BC government to build solutions in the short and long term that will benefit our community and businesses during these times.
Another topic of conversation was the current challenges faced by BC’s tech companies. The ability to not only hear what challenges my colleagues are currently facing (and how similar they are to ours) but also know that we are actively being heard by the provincial government decision-makers made this roundtable very effective.
Here are the top three challenges as I see them:
- An inability to predict and plan short or medium-term makes it hard to manage cash flow. A reduction in business means keeping people employed is more difficult.
- Hiring new talent. There are people looking for work, and we have open positions that we have paused hiring for. If we had more certainty about the market outlook we would be able to hire these people, and positively add to the economy and employment rate.
- Startups are especially hit hard as access to investment capital has diminished, and many businesses that could become big innovators and employers down the road may go out of business.
In my opinion, these roundtable discussions open up the communication lines between the government and the private sector.
To me, the single biggest thing the government should be doing is to continue pushing hard for modern digital services that make it easy for people and businesses to access critical services. This means enabling the cloud (which we did) and building simple, accessible, easy to use services for people. The vendor/supply chain work was also important – kudos to the Province.
Continuing with government projects will keep teams and companies employed and keep the economy going. Tightening budgets and/or pausing projects, just adds to the problem.
The government should also be looking to start new projects, especially ones that positively impact our current situation (eg: health and education-related). The government could also consider innovation challenges where they provide funding to businesses with ideas for how to have a short/long-term positive impact.
Stimulate the economy (grants, loans, other funding, new projects) to provide a stop-gap during the crisis and prevent a long-term recession following the crisis. It’s a great time to accelerate certain projects, esp. ones that support digital and remote work, bolstering our healthcare and or education services, etc.
To finish my post, I would like to share some of the useful resources that were shared during that roundtable that I think might be of interest to you.
- Covid-19 Tech Group – Slack Channel
Mentioned by Parliamentary Secretary Rick Glumac
- CleanTech stats
Shared by Jeanette Jackson
- Manufacturing Sector: Website and Slack Channel
Shared by Jeanette Jackson
- VIATEC’s Covid Resource List
Shared by Dan Gunn
- Small Business Financing Program
Shared by Jill Tipping
- Mitacs: New Funding Opportunities – COVID-19 -Related Company Projects
Shared by John Hepburn
- VIATEC’s first tech community survey
Shared by Dan Gunn