BC’s tech scene has had another stellar year in 2018. With Vancouver hosting the top startup ecosystem in Canada and 15th globally, the province saw its total tech revenue increase by 12% for a second year in a row, making up 7% of its total economy. Learning academies and incubators such as BrainStation, RED Academy, Lighthouse Labs, and Launch Academy continue to foster strong communities within Vancouver’s buzzing tech scene. 12 BC startups ranked in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500, which recognizes the fastest-growing tech businesses in North America. At the top of the list of locals was Bench Accounting at #28, a small business accounting company that has seen 4,373% revenue growth over the past four years!
As a result of the province’s growing success and industry strength, it’s not surprising that more tech giants are doubling down on Vancouver and expanding their presence within the city. Here are 6 companies you may have heard of that are pursuing larger opportunities on the west coast:
Nearest Skytrain Station: Stadium-Chinatown
Already employing over 1,000 researchers and engineers in Vancouver, e-commerce behemoth Amazon announced plans to bring 3,000 more jobs to the city on April by building a new HQ downtown. Situated at the old Canada Post building at 343 Georgia Street, this will be the company’s third office in Vancouver - it’s currently occupying a space at TELUS Garden, and announced plans last year to open another office on Dunsmuir St. that will be ready for 2020.
Nearest Skytrain Station: Waterfront
The international credit card company will be leasing 40,000 square feet in The Exchange building at 475 Howe St. Alongside Mastercard will be Smythe LLP, fintech company Hyperwallet, Amazon, and an 11-floor hotel.
Nearest Skytrain Station: Granville
Located across TELUS Gardens, the under-construction 400 Georgia Street will be home to Apple’s new corporate office in 2020. The iPhone maker will be leasing 60,000 square feet in an eye-catching building consisting of many dislodged cubes. Apple is also rumoured to be looking for a space to a flagship store downtown.
Nearest Skytrain Station: Waterfront
Facebook moved offices this year to accommodate its growing company operations, switching from its 20,000 square feet Coal Harbour office that opened in 2013 to a 36,000 square feet space in the Waterfront Centre. You’ll likely know it as the tall PwC building overlooking Canada Place!
Nearest Skytrain Station: Yaletown-Roundhouse
As the largest software employer in BC, SAP is a local talent developer and mainstay of BC’s young talent in tech, with a rotating internship program helping 175 students gain experience with the company. In October, the company completed phase two of a $22 million expansion project adding 70,000 square feet in office space and 300 desks.
"We stand side by side with Premier Horgan and his government with common goals to solidify B.C. as a high-tech powerhouse," says Managing Director Kirsten Sutton.
Nearest Skytrain Station: VCC-Clark
Already having a presence in South Burnaby, Samsung has announced plans to open a 20,000 square feet in False Creek Flats, nearby Emily Carr University. With the building currently in development, it will be joining co-working company Spaces, gaming studio Blackbird Interactive, and machinery distributor Finning International as co-tenants of the building near downtown Vancouver. Speaking of Spaces…
Coworking Companies - WeWork and Spaces
In addition to False Creek Flats, co-working company Spaces opened its first location in Gastown, taking up five floors (35,000 square feet) at 151 West Hastings St. to serve 800-1,000 people. It has also signed a lease to take over the Tom Lee Music Building on Granville St, rounding up its current Vancouver plans to 3 locations. Likewise, co-working space competitor WeWork opened up its third location in Vancouver in September at Grant Thornton Place, with 3,800 desks in total to serve the city’s market.
Several factors within Vancouver have allowed a co-working storm to brew:
Office space is a competitive market. A 2018 Avison Young report shows that office vacancy rates downtown have dropped down for 10% in 2016 to 5% two years later, and it’s rapidly approaching a 2009 low of 2.5%.
A rise in growing startups and tech companies in the city are not looking to utilize capital to build a permanent office, as their continued growth means they cannot determine how much space they will need in the near future.
Traditional office spaces can be isolating and disconnected from the larger community - there is a growing demand for work spaces that can expand networks and build relationships outside of one’s company.
The rise of co-working provides entrepreneurs and small businesses the flexibility and convenience they need to serve and expand their team in the crowded Vancouver commercial real estate market.
Looks like there’s room for one more e-commerce giant in town. Chinese conglomerate Alibaba announced plans earlier in the year to open an office in Vancouver that will employ up to 30 people in the next 2-3 years. This is a promising development for Canadian businesses who want to access connections to Chinese manufacturing and supply partners - Alibaba is the face of the market there - while allowing the company to better serve its North American partners.