It’s that time of year again! We’re only 2 months away, and launching the new Vancouver Startup Blog to countdown to #VSW2017. For our 4th annual event, we’ve created a platform for entrepreneurs, investors, talent, and enthusiasts to engage and learn from our community’s stories. We sat down with Andrew Dilts, Lawyer at MLT Aikins and Past Chair at VSW, for an exclusive look at the development of this startup community.


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Vancouver Startup Week – Humble Beginnings?

Vancouver Startup Week kicked off in 2014 as a small but dedicated group of members from a variety of organizations, including leaders Cheryl Draper, Boris Mann, Sarah McCredie, and Katie Jeanes.


Startup Weeks had already been organized worldwide, founded in Boulder, Colorado some years earlier. In the wake of the technology-focused GROW Conference announcing it would be moving from Vancouver to Whistler for the next five years, the Vancouver community wanted to ensure a Vancouver-based event was accessible. Before I came on board, the team decided to organize what would become Canada’s first Startup Week.


An Eager Audience – Was It Smooth Sailing?

The first Vancouver Startup Week was chaotic. Vibrant, but chaotic. We were a bit overwhelmed by the sheer response from the tech community, from a large number of people and organizations who wanted to be engaged. People really wanted a Startup Week! It was encouraging but humbling at the same time.


VSW2015 — the second year — grew to more than 75 events with over 3,000 people. Major community players BC Tech, Wavefront, Spring,  HR Tech Group, and many others contributed events ranging in size from a few dozen people to 600. We added our first hackathon and our first recruitment fair, each of which have grown to be some of the largest events of their kind in Vancouver.


Any Hilarious War Stories?

Oh, many. The time I drove across town at 2am thinking that my VSW-occupied brain had forgotten my phone in a car2go, only to later learn I had left it at home … in my fridge. (It’s a busy week.) The time I served from a keg at our Hackathon demos whilst wearing a tuxedo. There are plenty of great stories — I’d encourage anyone who wants to be part of the action to volunteer, as the team is made of some of the finest people in Vancouver’s startup community.


Lessons Learned?

Foster a culture of people who “Get Sh!t Done”, to borrow Launch Academy‘s catch phrase. Create value, rather than just claiming value. Build a solid team, and let people know when they are not living up to their commitments. None of these should surprise any startup — one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard was from a very successful entrepreneur who put it simply: “Read all the books where they tell you how to do things. Then go do those things.”


Most Major Cities Have A Startup Scene – Why Vancouver?

One has to be careful when trying to define an entire community. There are many different facets and perspectives of Vancouver’s startup scene, which is wonderful.


One common benefit is our proximity to and access within Silicon Valley. Many Vancouver startups have benefitted from investors, mentors, partnerships, talent, and connections from the world’s epicentre of tech. But we are not “Silicon Valley North”. Our Canadian identity, our relative accessibility to tech talent (compared to the Valley), our immigration policies and tolerance for international cultures, our beautiful livable city, and a much less hierarchical startup culture than you’ll find down south — all these things help to define Vancouver’s startup culture.


Advice For Those Creating Their Own Networks/Professional Communities?

Focus on creating value. The first question that the VSW team will ask is “How can we help you reach your goals?” It’s better both personally and for the community to ask how you can build and contribute, rather than asking how you can take and claim. This works in a networking room, in fostering partnerships, and in getting involved in many situations.


Check out what’s in store for VSW 2017 here!


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