Nanaimo area tech leaders get face time with Federal Minister

By Ian Holmes
August 20, 2018 - 3:44pm

Navdeep Bains, federal minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development during a digital and data round table discussion in Nanaimo Monday.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

Chris Davis, founder and CEO of Nanaimo-based cybersecurity firm Hyas. Submitted/f8 Photography

NANAIMO — Finding ways to bolster the fast-growing technology and innovation sectors was a key theme during a round table meeting in Nanaimo with the federal minister responsible for the portfolio.

Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, led a discussion Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre with a dozen regional tech industry leaders who offered their ideas.

Bains said training and job retention are key issues facing Nanaimo-area entrepreneurs.

“Some of the these companies do not want to leave Nanaimo, it's an amazing place, but how do they retain talent and how do they attract talent?”

The federal Liberals are in the midst of country-wide online and in-person consultations to create a formal digital and data plan.

Bains said forming a federal digital and data strategy includes having necessary cybersecurity protection, noting smaller companies are at greater risk of attack. He said trust and privacy are critical for Canadian companies and consumers who rely increasingly on digitization.

“It's absolutely essential for our business to succeed and it's a critical part of people having trust and faith in the new digital economy.”

Bains said the federal government recently launched a cybersecurity strategy.

Cybersecurity is no mystery to Chris Davis, founder and CEO of Nanaimo-based Hyas, which recently landed a $6.2-million investment, primarily from Microsoft.

Davis said building his business in Nanaimo was a difficult journey, citing what he called a lack of local government support, and limited access to mentors and capital funding. He said he was often forced to turn to Victoria and larger centres for those resources.

Davis, who is committed to the Nanaimo market, said the gathering with Minister Bains was a great chance to show the harbour city's tech potential.

“I think we were all exactly on the same page, we talked about lack of resources that are around us, we talked about how hard it is to find talent.”

Davis believed the innovation scene is improving in Nanaimo, thanks to the perseverance of ambitious entrepreneurs.

Davis said more entrepreneurial minds would help build a mentorship base to help propel Nanaimo's tech scene to another level. 

He said it's important for aspiring entrepreneurs to surround themselves with people who have more and different different experiences than them.

Minister Bains will be attending a Liberal cabinet retreat in Nanaimo Tuesday through Thursday.


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