Fast Five: Is InBC, the $500 million taxpayer-funded investment fund, a startup?

A job posting for the InBC CEO position says the organization is a startup. But I'm not sure that's how we should be thinking about the organization.

In the Fall of 2021, the province teased details of InBC, a $500 million Strategic Investment Fund with a mandate “to help promising companies grow, while generating returns that benefit all British Columbians.” Then in April of this year, Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, introduced legislation to convert InBC from concept to Crown corporation.

Calling the new organization a “gamechanger,” Kahlon shared an operational roadmap, which included the appointment of the Board of Directors (done); the development of a mandate letter and investment policy statement; and perhaps most importantly, the hiring of the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Investment Officer and other employees.

Yesterday, Boyden, the executive search firm, published the InBC CEO job posting. A few things stand out and one thing jumps out.

Once upon a time, I worked in government communications. I remember the scrutiny that was applied to every word of every sentence of every paragraph in every memo, public-facing email and press release. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. I would presume this same level of intense review is still given to all public sector communications today—especially with matters related to a half a billion-dollar investment fund. And yet, somehow, the InBC CEO job posting includes a line calling the organization “largely a ‘startup.’” A startup?

1. When I think of a startup I think of unproven business models, 90% failure rates and conditions of “extreme uncertainty” (thanks Eric Ries). Not $500 million operating budgets (from day one) manifested through legislation. Is a ‘startup’ really how people want to think about InBC? What is that word meant to imbue in this context?

2. Anyways, who are they looking for to run this startup? “In this highly visible role, the CEO will be responsible for managing diverse stakeholder relationships with the public, government, media, private sector and partner organizations,” reads the posting. But: “While the CEO is responsible for the strategic direction and day-to-day operations of InBC, the [chief investment officer] will own the investment strategy and have full autonomy over the firm’s investment decisions.” So for the CEO role, they want an experienced and savvy political and corporate operator who won’t really be making any major decisions.

3. They call the position a “truly unique” opportunity “For a leader who is truly passionate about BC and the importance of making social, environmental and economic difference in the province.” For me, to be passionate about BC, you have to be from BC—so, I would keep an eye on the CEOs of BC’s other business- and innovation-focused Crown agencies.

4. But William, you say, they didn’t really mean startup, they just meant a startup mindset––a new enterprise getting off the ground, low on the bureaucracy and characteristics of established or ageing businesses.

5. Okay, okay, maybe you’re right. But there are some related lingering questions, including: Why haven’t we seen InBC’s business plan? Why hasn’t the government confirmed that it will include InBC as a public body under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act? Maybe the business plan (assuming it exists) is not as robust as people may have thought? Or shoot, maybe InBC really is a startup.