Propelling Entrepreneurs, Accelerating Innovation
Q+A with Alacrity Canada
Alacrity Canada has not only played a key role in the growth of tech on Vancouver Island, this innovative organization also provides startups with the support, mentorship and capital they need to leap ahead.
Alacrity companies in Victoria and Vancouver have employed more than 200 people and had a direct economic impact of $300 million in Western Canada. Alacrity has also helped bring over $225 million dollars into the B.C. technology ecosystem through investor readiness programs.
Alacrity supports the scale up of B.C. cleantech companies and is strengthening B.C.’s digital knowledge base through programs like the Digital Marketing Bootcamp and the LaunchOnline, which helps B.C. small businesses creating online shops or an online booking systems and/or improve their existing online operations to attract new local customers and expand to new markets.
Managing Director Richard Egli tells us more about Alacrity’s work and how it contributes to economic development in Greater Victoria.
Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?
At Alacrity Canada, we feel it is important to meaningfully participate in the economic growth of our local community. Joining SIPP made a lot of sense in this regard as SIPP has proven to be a leader in the region by breaking down the silos and creating a space for collaboration and action. As an organization, we wanted to be a part of that.
What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?
Where we work, in the knowledge economy, it’s important to scale our smaller local companies to large-scale anchor companies with hundreds of employees. This will help the next generation of startups through partnerships and talent migration. It also means more opportunities for young people to stay here and have meaningful work.
In order to get there, however, we as a business community need more access to talent and not just related to skills but diversity in perspectives and experiences, too. This will create greater resilience for the economy and let us all live up to the incredible potential of Vancouver Island.
What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?
I don’t know if it’s a secret; people just want to live here. We’ve seen this first-hand with highly qualified and sought-after people moving to our region without having their careers sorted but then quickly join the community and find opportunities. In part, this is because our region values out-of-the-box thinkers and creators. We embrace unique and weird, this is one of our core strengths. I think this also makes sense considering we are on an island.
What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?
We are excited to continue building onto our rapid upskilling and bootcamp-style courses. These programs target skills gaps among small to medium-sized businesses, non-profits, and other entities. Moving forward, we plan to continue bringing our courses to people and businesses across BC and extending our program’s reach to the rest of Canada and beyond.
We are very proud of the work we have done in Cleantech, helping B.C. companies sell and attract investment from around the world. We are also looking forward to launching new initiatives around ESG and impact investing. Stay tuned for more on this.
What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?
We have been growing companies here in Victoria for more than 10 years. During this time, we have expanded our network to include eight additional global offices, all of which are contributing to their own local economies. I think this is unique for a Victoria-based operation and since our companies generally sell outside B.C., there are probably not a lot of people that know this.
What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?
At the forefront of two of our programs, the Alacrity Academy and the Launch Online Program, are economic recovery and skills development. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s the importance of community and that by using our expertise, we can give back by generating opportunities at home. We have launched a scholarship for Indigenous participants as part of our Digital Marketing Bootcamp and hope to see short and long-term positive impacts from this program.
Increasing the visibility of cleantech and the remarkable initiatives and technologies being developed in the South Island region are also a priority for Alacrity. With more awareness of our cleantech companies and the solutions they offer, their work can help not only our community’s sustainable development but sustainability efforts around the world.
What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?
We are a highly social team and industry so the mandate to stay at home was a huge but necessary shift to keep everyone safe. In some ways, the shift was positive with many of us spending more quality time with our families, and, surprisingly (but maybe not), we are getting even more done at home!
On the other hand, learning to stay connected to the community virtually was an adjustment. Prior to the pandemic, the team spent time volunteering and attending community events in person. Now, it’s been about learning how to show up in other ways.
When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?
With more communication tools and the existence of organizations like South Island Prosperity Partnership, we envision a future where regional development is more of a collective effort — from creating an economic environment that attracts talent to partner-led initiatives that solve today’s gaps. I would also love to see some rapid transit options that connect the downtown core with the Westshore, YYJ and the ferry terminal.
In the case of the technology sector, there is a lot of potential for the region to rival larger tech hubs and gain greater recognition for all the great work coming off of the Island. By 2040, it’s more than possible that Victoria and the South Island region is a household name in Canadian innovation.