On Friday, February 23rd, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador hosted The Way Forward Technology Summit. The event drew a large crowd and the province secured the perfect venue in Verafin’s new HQ. Verafin is proof that a successful technology company can build and grow in Newfoundland and Labrador. With hundreds of employees, an innovative crime-fighting technology and a vibrant open-concept office space, the company sure has blossomed since its early days in Genesis, which was then located in an old converted dorm at Spencer Hall on the eastern edge of Memorial University.
Premier Dwight Ball and Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore hosted the event and laid the groundwork for an important action plan for our province. The Way Forward technology sector work plan that was developed by a meeting of the minds was led by four industry associations (NATI, CME, ACADA and NEIA), industry partners such as PAL, Oceans Advance, SubC Imaging and Skyhawk Telematics as well as academic institutions such as Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic.
This action plan is good for our province and here are a few reasons why:
- 95% (at least) of sales revenue of tech companies comes from outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. This new money is important for our economy and the potential for growth is limitless.
- Tech jobs are high paying jobs! The Brookfield Institute completed a survey in 2015 that showed the average tech job in Newfoundland and Labrador paid $71,850.
- 85% of investment in tech firms (at least of Genesis companies) comes from outside of the province. Again, new money being introduced to the economy is important and necessary.
- Tech education in our K-12 school system is critical to our success and we need to ensure that the next generation is equipped to compete globally.
- If we truly want to see growth in the tech sector in this province, then we need to embrace diversity in tech. We. Need. To. We need to support diverse groups of people and encourage them to take jobs in tech, start companies in tech, move to this province and help them to make this place their home. Diverse thinking keeps us current, competitive and innovative. It’s that simple!
- Strong mentorship is a key to success and tapping into ex-patriot Newfoundlanders as mentors will work. Genesis has been doing so for 20 years. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians want to help. There are successful ex-pats working in tech all over the world and they have great networks. So, let’s start tapping into them!
- Our provincial government needs to be able to procure products and services from local tech companies when it makes sense to do so. I’ve seen far too many tech companies not get off the ground because our government couldn’t support them and other potential customers wanted to see local government support.
- We have amazing stories to tell about the success happening in tech in this province. We have interesting stories that includes searching for the Avro Arrow, the Amelia Earhart wreckage and the Malasian airliner. Our stories include photographing the Titantic, fighting bank crime and food insecurity and taking power transmission to a whole new (wireless) level. So, let’s start telling our damn story!
As a side note, it was fantastic to see so many technology entrepreneurs together under one roof. For me, it was like a reunion. Catching up with the many graduates of Genesis such as SubC Imaging, Rutter, Virtual Marine, ClearRisk, SkyHawk, and Verafin was fun and uplifting. Welcoming the newer members of our community such as ABA Access, AS Works, Cyno, MYSA and Seaformatics and watching as they built and grew their networks was remarkable. Talking to members of the Eastern Edge Robotics Team and Paradigm Hyperloop and watching Katie Gillespie respond to the action plan gave me an added level of confidence that we have a very bright future ahead in this province.
Michelle Simms | President and CEO