Vancouver Tech Journal | #64

Canada has the opportunity to unlock $2.5 billion in early-stage company financing.

In this week's Sunday Briefing, learn about UBC and Huawei's precarious position, Shahrzad Rafati's new job, why B.C.'s ridesharing debate continues to rage on, and where $2.5B in early-stage company financing could come from.

Trailblazer: Sanctuary AI's Suzanne Gildert is putting human-like intelligence and idiosyncrasies in robots.

The quantum physicist's dream is to create machines that are indistinguishable from humans. She’s already taken the first steps towards achieving it. First, her company Kindred "put intelligence into robots in the same way that we think about humans having intelligence—so being able to make smart decisions, and learn from experience." Her current startup Sanctuary exists to "build machines that are akin to people in every way."
[Georgia Straight]

Research in UBC-Huawei partnership proceeds as pressure builds to exclude giant Chinese firm.

Pressure is mounting on Canada to stop doing business with Huawei Technologies Co. However, UBC researchers are still working with the Chinese firm on multiyear projects worth $220,000 related next-generation 5G technology, since no Canadian restrictions have been placed on Huawei. Yet.
[Vancouver Sun]

Making moves: Shahrzad Rafati appointed as vice-chairperson of Invest In Canada.

The founder & CEO of BroadbandTV will jointly oversee the management of the federal agency alongside Chairman Mitch Garber and CEO Ian McKay (former Vancouver Economic Commission CEO). Rafati serves as a board member on local and global companies including Vancouver’s Hootsuite, and Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels Group (B.I.G.), and she previously sat on the boards for the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, and the Vancouver Economic Commission.

POV: The messy mathematics of British Columbia’s CleanBC plan.

Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock of the Business Council of B.C. examine the intentions of the government’s CleanBC plan and the challenges we will have in reducing GHG emissions. Their key points: B.C. has very few low-cost reduction options because 1) 95% of our electricity is already “clean” and 2) we’ve had carbon tax for ten years that people and businesses have already gotten used to. Given this reality, Finlayson and Peacock fear that:

B.C. residents will pay a heavy economic price if government is committed to engineering large absolute declines in the province’s direct GHG emissions within the short time span of 12 to 15 years.

[Business in Vancouver]

Lyft warns BC on path towards less affordable and reliable ridesharing.

Despite the fact that an all-party committee looking into bringing ridesharing to BC recommended a Class 5 licence in a report earlier this year, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has stood by the Class 4 requirement amid much criticism. The Class 4 license creates a barrier for people to become Lyft/Uber drivers, argues Aaron Zifkin, Lyft’s Canadian managing director:

A Class 4 licencing requirement would result in a far less robust and effective system and make it nearly impossible for Lyft to operate real ridesharing in BC.

[News1130]'s Chris Jensen has a solution to connect the next billion people to the Internet.

The CEO of is spearheading a project named RightMesh, which he hopes will allow developing countries to get online without building any new infrastructure. How does it work? Kate Wilson writes:

Instead of requiring everybody to connect to the Internet via satellite, phone tower, or WiFi router, the company’s RightMesh technology allows individuals to get onto the Internet by linking to each other’s cellphones. Each phone forms a connection point in a giant mesh, allowing information—and Internet access—to be passed between each person, as long as someone in the mesh is online.

Says Jensen, “Instead of everyone being connected to the Internet, it’s just that everyone is connected, and you can use the Internet when you need to.”
[Georgia Straight]

The BIV Women in Business podcast, hosted by Hayley Woodin, features four local heavy hitters.

Check out Business in Vancouver’s four-part Women in Business podcast series, sponsored by UBC Sauder School of Business, to hear interviews with Dr. Carole Taylor, British Columbia’s former finance minister, Catherine Warren, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission, Celeste Haldane, chief commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission, and the Hon. Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
[Business in Vancouver]

SFU vice president Joy Johnson helped level playing field for women in medical research.

While scientific director for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health, Johnson and her colleagues persuaded CIHR to ensure that anyone applying for federal health-research funding would have to indicate if they were considering sex and gender, a “game changer,” in her own words. Now, Dr. Johnson leads university-wide research and innovation initiatives and supports researchers in eight faculties at SFU. Of note: SFU has the fastest-growing research income of any university in Canada.
[Georgia Straight]

The Future of Work: Here's to our robot overlords.

Ryan Stuart at BCBusiness explores how automation may affect Canada’s poor productivity, while also highlighting how the province is acting and making investments to prepare British Columbians for the jobs and industries of the future. See: Emerging Economy Task Force, B.C. Employer Training Grant, Innovation Commissioner’s office, and Innovate BC.

FrontFundr founder Peter-Paul Van Hoeken thinks that investment crowdfunding could unlock $2.5B in Canada for early-stage companies.

The number is “based on a conservative assumption that 1.8% of total financial assets would be directed towards investment in the private markets,” he writes on his company’s blog.

BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is calling bullshit on "clean LNG."

A few of his key points that make you think:

The argument that an LNG plant will emit less than a coal plant is equivalent to arguing that smoking five cigarettes a day, as opposed to an entire pack, is a net health benefit.

LNG Canada will be the largest single point of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C.

LNG is sourced via fracking. And…

Fracking is the primary suspect in a spike of extremely rare and lethal cancers in the very communities LNG claims to be benefiting. Doctors are actively advising pregnant women to leave these towns during their pregnancies.”

[Business in Vancouver]

Five more things…

  1. The makers of CryptoKitties unveil swanky new 21,000-square-foot Mount Pleasant HQ

  2. 10 Things You Didn't Know About... Lendesk founder and CEO Alex Conconi

  3. Vancouver cleantech Mangrove Water receives $2.1 million from federal government

  4. Vancouver police adding drones to crime prevention arsenal

  5. UVic honours inspirational entrepreneur Sue Paish