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  • INTERVIEW

Getting an Inside Look at Innovate BC With CEO Raghwa Gopal

The team at Vancouver Startup Week recognizes that without BC’s robust community to support startups and entrepreneurs, we wouldn’t be able to exist. We’ve been lucky to be able to partner with amazing associations, community organizations and expert professionals who understand what it takes to start businesses and want to help entrepreneurs start off on the right foot.

This year, we’re thrilled to have Innovate BC as our Diamond Partner, and have them sponsor our Growth Event Track. To help our attendees learn more about what they do, we spoke to Innovate BC President & CEO, Raghwa Gopal.

How would you say that your previous experience at Accelerate Okanagan has helped Innovate BC continue to grow programs such as Ignite, the Tech Co-op and the Venture Acceleration Program (VAP)?

When I was CEO at Accelerate Okanagan, my focus was on supporting companies in the region and these programs were a big part of that. Now that I’m with Innovate BC, the scope has changed to supporting companies in all regions of the province.

Knowing firsthand how effective these programs can be, it’s imperative for us at Innovate BC to reach as many entrepreneurs as possible so we can connect them to the funding, resources, and support they need to build great companies here in B.C.

Since you joined Innovate BC, what’s been some of the changes you’ve overseen in programs such as the New Ventures BC Competition and Innovation Marketplace?

Both of these programs have proven to be quite effective so there wasn’t a need for me to come in and change anything. Angie Schick and the team at New Ventures BC do an incredible job of supporting companies all over the province and we’re incredibly proud to be a title sponsor of their competition.

The Innovation Marketplace is a relatively new initiative for us, but we’re already starting to see real success stories come out of this program. We’re excited to run more challenges through our Innovation Marketplace and help B.C. companies work directly with large organizations.

What are the key things you would say to a startup looking to apply for the Venture Acceleration Program or the New Ventures BC Competition needs to have before they complete an application?

The first thing you need to do is reach out to other companies who have come through the VAP and NVBC Competition. Thousands of companies have taken advantage of these programs, so tap into your network to get firsthand feedback on how the mentorship, training, and education helped these companies grow their business.

Secondly, you need to be passionate about your idea. If the Founder/CEO of the company isn’t all-in and committed to the company, why would anyone else be? You can only achieve the best results if you fully believe in what you’re doing.

For companies that want to join the Innovation Marketplace, what elements/business practices/experiences etc. would they have to have in place to be considered a good candidate?

Each challenge is unique and because of that, we’ll always run an information session early on in the process to answer any questions and help companies with their submissions. If you’re a B.C.-based company or researcher and you’re looking to partner with large government or private-sector organizations, the Innovation Marketplace is a great opportunity for you.

What do you hope for the future of Innovate BC and where do you see the organization heading?

We’re doing our job if the benefits of our thriving tech sector are felt by people in all regions of the province. As our tech sector continues to grow, it’s our goal to ensure our companies start, scale, and stay here in British Columbia.

Learn more about Innovate BC and what they offer by attending the New Venture BC Competition at this year’s Vancouver Startup Week!