Blogs

  • 16 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    We held our annual summer barbecue a bit differently this year... it was in October! Guests were treated to a southern style spread that was hosted at CBRE's beautiful downtown office. It was a fun and engaging night where members from the creative tech sector came together to socialize and network with their peers. Dipping into various interesting conversations and witnessing many new connections being made showed how valuable these events can be. It was great to see folks from video games, visual effects, and animation connecting over delicious food and libations.
     

    DigiBC's Executive Director, Brenda Bailey, spoke briefly and highlighted our mission to promote, support, and accelerate the growth of B.C.'s interactive and digital media (IDM) industry through government relations work, education initiatives, networking, and community building events.  With the need to grow our home-grown talent through education at all levels, membership in our trade association has perhaps never been more important than it is now. The future of our sector depends on our ability to hire talent, and DigiBC is leading the way with education initiatives geared to invite B.C. youth into our sector. CBRE's Senior VP, Kevin Nelson, also said a few words that touched on the Vancouver tech real estate market and the work he and his team do with sourcing exceptional workspace environments. Attendees were then treated to an exclusive tour of the award-winning CBRE office and had the opportunity to see and hear about the many wellness ideas that have been incorporated into their workspace. 


    This event would not have been possible without the generous support of our wonderful sponsor, The High Tech Facilities Group (HTFG) @ CBRE. We can't thank them enough! The HTFG @ CBRE is our proud new partner for corporate real estate. Since 1994, they have been Vancouver's only tenant representation team that focuses exclusively on commercial real estate solutions for B.C.'s technology sector. 
     

    Be sure to join our mailing list and stay up-to-date on all of our future events here.

     

  • 11 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    Brenda Bailey, Executive Director of DigiBC, has participated in a number of industry consultations to ensure the Interactive Digital Media sector’s voice is being heard by our government. DigiBC represented your interests at the following important meetings over the past month.

     
    September 13, 2018
    Brenda participated in the Roundtable Discussion with Dr. Arvind Gupta: Government of Canada's National Digital and Data Consultations.
    The primary focus of this consultation was planning in regard to future talent shortages.

     

    Brenda, with the assistance of Peter Greenwood (CFO, Blackbird Interactive) and Sarah Tutton Frost (Tax Director, EA), presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services as they held public consultations for the 2019 budget. DigiBC put forward the following recommendations:


    1) Increase BC Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (BCIDMTC) from 17.5% to 25%
    2) Create a regional diversification incentive in the BCIDMTC by adding an additional 10% for rural and northern regions


    In addition to presenting to the Standing Committee, DigiBC will be hosting an MLA luncheon in Victoria on October 31, taking meetings with key government officials, and presenting an updated recommendations document to the Ministry of Finance. Industry members are most welcome to come meet with MLAs and put forward the case to support our sector. Please contact brenda@digibc.org should you be able to join us in Victoria on October 31.



    September 19, 2018
    This was an opportunity to speak with Andrew Weaver as he led a lively discussion on the future of work at the Centre of Digital Media. Jill Tipping of BC Tech and Dr. Weaver co-moderated a panel of students who shared their views on what the future looks like.

     

    September 25, 2018
    Brenda attended the Premier’s Event at the Bill Reid Gallery, which provided an opportunity to share our message with Carol James, Minister of Finance, Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, Premier John Horgan, Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. 

     

    October 10, 2018
    Brenda participated in the Tech Strategy Framework Consultation with the Honourable Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. This two-hour consultation provided industry representatives the opportunity to give feedback on the newly announced government tech framework.

     

     

  • 10 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    Phoenix Labs is an independent game studio located in Vancouver and was founded in 2014 by Jesse Houston, Sean Bender, and Robin Mayne. Their ultimate goal behind starting the company was to create lasting and memorable AAA-level multiplayer video game experiences. Jesse and Robin are veterans of the Edmonton-based developer BioWare, where they led teams on the Mass Effect trilogy. Later, Jesse and Robin met Sean Bender when they worked together on League of Legends at Riot Games.

     

     

    The team at Phoenix Labs is a carefully crafted ensemble of close-knit developers who have enjoyed making games together throughout their careers. They strive to create an environment for employees to feel empowered and where everyone’s voice can be heard. They also pride themselves on having an autonomous team with a flat structure and a highly efficient development process that is exceptionally collaborative. Over the years, Phoenix Labs has made great strides by incorporating diversity and inclusivity at the studio. They now tout themselves as being a multicultural, multi-ethnic, gender diverse group of people with wildly different backgrounds… and they want this to reflect in their products. However, these changes did not happen overnight. It took time to implement but the payoff has been tremendous. So what exactly did they do to get there? The first step was to believe that having a diverse studio will result in better games being made.

    Initially in the early hiring days, one of the requirements was to have shipped a game with Jesse. This helped to create a super tight-knit group who trusted each other and could hit the ground running. However, it did not make for a particularly diverse team. Recognizing this was not what they wanted the studio to look like, a huge revamp of the hiring process took place. Starting with recruiting, a pipeline analysis was conducted on how candidates were sourced, the environment they were coming in to, who they were interviewing with, the questions asked, and the materials needed to judge their craft skill. One specific change made was removing a portfolio review and replacing it with a testing system. As hires were mainly people with 7+ years of experience, the best candidates in this age range were not focusing on managing a portfolio. Instead, they were spending time with their families and at work. They also identified that some groups, such as parents with young children, may not have had the opportunities to work on an impressive portfolio but could still be incredibly talented and valuable additions to the team. The most pivotal adjustment made was rethinking internal cultural mindsets to include a person’s background as a qualifying factor. People coming from the same backgrounds and having had the same experiences were not helping them to better understand the perspective of their players. Additionally, Phoenix Labs pays close attention to not grow the company at a frantic pace. Doing this allows for close relationships to be formed with each individual who joins the team, as well as ample opportunities for growth within the company. At Phoenix Labs, they truly believe people are the ends and not the means.

     

     

    The team’s main focus right now is on Dauntless, their free-to-play, co-op, action RPG which is currently in open beta on PC. Producing a live game presents a million variables that ultimately depend on having a close-knit group of ambitious developers. Their studio culture is a direct result of their love for games and this passion shows through in Dauntless. While Phoenix Labs is not actively recruiting on many roles at the moment, they are always open to talking to interesting and driven candidates for roles across all disciplines. To learn more about Phoenix Labs and Dauntless, you can check out their website.

     

    “Dauntless is hands down the most interesting game I’ve worked on with the best team I’ve ever worked with.” - Jesse Houston, Co-founder

     

     

     

  • 09 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    PROCOLOMBIA, the non-profit entity of the Colombian government tasked with the promotion of the country's exports, tourism, direct foreign investment, and brand to the world, wants to have you at their 'Colombia Bring It On 2018' business matchmaking forum. It will take place at one of the hottest innovation festivals in the world, Unbound Miami. This is a pioneering event in the digital economy that is characterized by setting trends and being disruptive in the technology sector.  It’s already had great success in Singapore, Bahrain, and London earlier this year.

    There you will meet and get to know Colombian IT and creative tech companies with the objective of creating strategic networks and generating business opportunities within IT services, audiovisual, and creative digital content. As part of PROCOLOMBIA’s delegation, you will be able to schedule business meetings and take advantage of all the events that Unbound brings to Miami.


    In an effort to promote the sector in Canada,
    PROCOLOMBIA will cover the cost of airfare for BC companies who are selected to take part in the event.


    When: October 30 & 31, 2018
    Where: Mana, Wynwood, Miami

    Click here to register now!


    Further inquiries can be directed to: Luis Felipe Avellaneda (lavellaneda@procolombia.co)

     

  • 09 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    We sat down with CBRE's High Technology Facilities Group (HTFG) to talk about what a growing tech company should know and can expect when thinking about real estate.
     

    What is happening in the downtown office leasing market?

    In short, and it should not come as a surprise, office rental rates are up and vacancy is down. Typically rents slightly go up year after year, however, in 2018 we are measuring rent increases by quarters even and month to month. This change has Vancouver ranked fourth globally for having the fastest growing office rental appreciation in the first three quarters of 2018. Perhaps it was long overdue and we are catching up, but this is now our new reality.

    Depending on the size of your office (10-20, 30-50, 100+ employees) competition can be fierce. Landlords with move-in ready locations are the big winners, and market-ready firms that know their requirements need to execute quickly when they see the right space and want to secure it. Slow decision making or leaving the search until the last minute can cause companies to overpay, lose out on quality options, or even be forced to move. 


    What types of spaces are companies looking for and in what areas?

    Tech companies are primarily looking for office spaces that are plug-and-play or move-in ready. They want a space that isn't going to be a big project (i.e., requiring time for design, needing permits, construction, or build out). The design trend for a tech office has typically been the open-concept with bench desks, interior meeting rooms, and an open ceiling with industrial/heritage features. Lately, this trend has been shifting back towards being less open and having more smaller sub-areas that split up into different teams, departments, or groups. This can minimize the number of distractions while optimizing work production. Developers and sales teams do not want the same type of space so this allows for a company to enjoy culture flexibility while giving each department its own space to work as they need it. 

    Location, location, location! This age-old real estate term is still relevant today and we are still seeing a net migration of companies going to the downtown core. They aim to shorten commutes for staff using transit and walking or biking while providing all the amenities that downtown offers.

    Heritage brick and beam spaces have continued to be in high demand, as seen by Gastown and Yaletown's near-record low vacancies of 2.5-3% (compared to that of downtown at 4.5%). Downtown, Gastown, and Yaletown remain the highest in demand, specifically areas close to Waterfront Station and buildings with good amenities and views.  

      

    Mount Pleasant (Main/Cambie industrial area) has been getting a lot of attention since Hootsuite moved in 5+ years ago. I’ve seen lots of cranes going up and some new commercial buildings under construction. What companies are moving in, and why are they choosing to move here? Why here and not downtown?

    Mount Pleasant, or as some call it the MBD (Millennial Business District), has a lot of momentum with significant tech, post-production, and VFX companies making this area their home. Companies like Relic, DHX Media, Samsung, Atomic Cartoons, Double Negative, Abcellera, Saje Wellness, Hootsuite and WeWork (along with many others), have all made a significant stamp and commitment to the area. Choosing this neighbourhood has become a cultural and brand decision within companies. Some of the many factors include its proximity to transit (Canada Line and buses) and the seawall, the fantastic amenities (restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, breweries), and the vibrant work/live culture. People are walking or biking to work, grabbing a coffee from a local cafe, bringing their dog to the office, or visiting with friends after work for a beer or workout/yoga class, all while staying in the same area. Transit is great and getting to the downtown core is quick.

     

    As a growing 20 person company, when should I start the process of evaluating space options and what should I expect through the process?

    In today's highly competitive 'space race', it's very important to start the process early and get all key personnel/decision makers involved to avoid timely or costly changes in direction later. This means outlining the growth/hiring strategy and completing an evaluation to set the correct space parameters. Once this is done, learning and understanding the market no less than six months out from a lease expiry is key. This means you'll avoid making a rushed decision, can plan for renovations, and are not left hanging or rushing to move into a space that isn’t ready or the most optimal fit. It is never too early to get familiar with the office market conditions and build a strategy for a company’s real estate needs.

     

    How is co-working impacting office leasing and who is moving in? Who should consider these options? Is it here to stay?

    While the concept has been around for years, the recent explosion of WeWork, Spaces, and other co-working companies does seem to be the experience the market wants and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. WeWork leased over 230,000 SF of office space downtown over three buildings, recently added another 44,000 SF at Main/5th Avenue and they are still on the hunt for more. Spaces opened a full six-story building in Gastown and has plans for 35,000 SF on Great Northern Way. The demand is there and companies like it, however, it is not meant for everyone. They offer flexible month-to-month leases which can initially be good for many young start-ups but it comes at a premium. Once a company has stabilized its growth and reached a threshold level of employees (typically 10+), the rent premium of co-working often becomes less desirable and rental costs get cheaper for a direct lease space.

     

    Why are companies choosing to open an office in Vancouver and why are local companies choosing to stay and expand in Vancouver? What is Vancouver’s edge over other cities like Toronto, San Francisco, and Seattle?

    For larger international companies, Vancouver is a fantastic location due to its proximity and time zone to other major tech markets like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Seattle. The Cascadia region is getting attention from our governments, connecting businesses, and creating opportunities (like the new downtown Seattle to downtown Vancouver seaplane route). 

    Vancouver has a great tech talent pool to draw from. It is also growing as qualified companies help workers settle in with their work visas and local schools are expanding their programs to meet the growing demand. Salaries are still relatively low compared to the USA, however, this is expected to change once the 'Amazon effect' starts to kick in (Amazon will be adding approximately 10,000+ employees over the next four to five years). Talent, employee costs, and our growing tech ecosystem will ensure Vancouver continues to draw interest from international and out of province candidates and contribute to local company growth.

     

    Who should people contact to learn more about growth and real estate in Vancouver?

    The High Technology Facilities Group has been focused on providing tailored real estate solutions for the Vancouver tech community for over 25 years. The team is composed of Alain Rivere (604.662.5110), Kevin Nelson (604.662.5155), and Blair Quinn (604.662.5161) and they welcome anyone to reach out to them with questions // hightech.cbrevancouver.com

     

     

     

     

     

  • 08 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    Wednesday, September 19 saw the arrival of the second delegation of Korean mixed reality developers to come and visit BC as part of the three-year digital media action plan signed between DigiBC and Gyeonggi Content Agency (GCA). This plan was signed back in January 2018 during Premier John Horgan's trade mission to Asia and is a key focus of the sister province relationship between BC and Gyeonggi - now in its tenth year. The delegation was part of GCA's Global Collaboration Project, through which Korean mixed reality startups visit three key global mixed reality hubs to explore real business cooperation with companies in those markets. BC has been identified as one of the partner hubs, alongside New York and Manchester, UK.


    The delegation of five companies spent nearly two weeks in BC and participated in the VR AR Global Summit, the Women in XR Fund reception, VIFF Immersed, and then conducted their own series of meetings with local companies. They set up a temporary base of operations within the BC Tech Cube and over the course of the two weeks, participated in at least 100 meetings and entered into over twenty initial MOU-stage agreements with a variety of BC-based MR companies. Skeptics might argue that the number of MOU's signed during an international mission is not necessarily the best criteria for judging the success or failure of the activity, but in this case, I am confident that the types and quality of partnerships discussed will lead to real business outcomes of benefit to both the Korean and BC companies and ultimately, to the strength of the partnership we are trying to foster between our provinces.


    While the companies in the delegation spanned a cross-section of industries currently utilizing mixed reality technologies, all of them had interesting technology and solutions and found real traction in their discussions with potential partners. Importantly, I think all delegates left with an understanding of the pros (and some of the cons) of doing business in the MR sector in BC.
     

    Gyeonggi Province boasts exceptionally impressive digital media and MR incubation and accelerator facilities in the heart of the digital media industry in Korea and these are open to both Korean and overseas companies. We are planning a visit to these facilities prior to or just after the G-Star Conference in Busan this November. Any DigiBC member companies interested in finding out more about this activity can contact James Hursthouse (jameshursthouse@gmail.com) for more information. 

     

    ~ James Hursthouse, DigiBC Board Member

     

    Top: various members of the GCP Korean delegation who visited BC in September 2018 

    Bottom: members of the GCP Korean delegation enjoy one of the exhibits at the VIFF Immersed opening gala at the Centre for Digital Media
     

  • 07 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    The 2018 VIFF Immersed Conference & Exhibition took place from September 28 to October 2. It was a jam-packed weekend and DigiBC was on hand for many of the highly anticipated events that took place. It kicked off on Friday, September 28 with the inaugural VIFF Immersed Tech Crawl. This showcased the BC creative-tech ecosystem to visiting buyers, tech companies, and producers in the hopes of encouraging further engagement and business development opportunities. It included four stops, each presenting a company that specializes in VR paired up with a local brewery (you can’t have a ‘crawl’ without some beer on hand!). DigiBC was the first scheduled stop and we had Finger Food Studios come set up and demo their latest VR projects along with Brassneck Brewery giving out some tasty beer samples. The other stops included Vancouver Film School, Microsoft, and the BC Tech Cube with the crawl ending at TELUS Garden for the official VIP reception that included a demo from Ziva Dynamics.
     

    The following day kicked off the VIFF Immersed two-day conference and three-day exhibition, along with a red carpet gala in the evening that featured a performance by hologram pop star, Maya Kodes. The public exhibition was presented by Samsung VR Video and offered fans first-hand engagement with a number of immersive experiences. Additionally, for the first year ever, a selection of BC content was shown to spotlight creators in the province who are pushing the boundaries of creative storytelling in VR. The conference included two full days of panel discussions and interactive workshops that focussed on connecting BC immersive content creators with key industry decision makers. DigiBC’s Executive Director, Brenda Bailey, led a discussion about the ecosystem for immersive content in BC. She was joined by Vincent McCurley of NFB Interactive, Alan Goldman of Emily Carr University and chair of The Cube, Jennifer Moss of UBC, and Nancy Basi of the Vancouver Economic Commission and VR/AR Vancouver.
     

    Since 2014, the Vancouver International Film Festival has been exploring VR as an emerging medium for cinematic storytelling. As part of the NEXT program stream, VIFF expanded its commitment to immersive storytelling with the inaugural VIFF Immersed Conference & Exhibition. Their goal is to bring together the creative and technology sectors in order to develop a global destination event that will focus on immersive, entertainment-based storytelling and nurture ecosystem growth within BC and across Canada. This year turned out to be a huge success and we are already looking forward to seeing what VIFF Immersed 2019 will bring!

     

  • 05 Oct 2018 by DigiBC

    Canada, USA, and Mexico reach tentative new USMCA trade deal

    After more than a year of intense negotiations, the United States, Canada, and Mexico reached an agreement in principle to update NAFTA, the 1994 pact that governs more than $1.2 trillion worth of trade among the three nations. Both President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau are heralding the new deal as a success for their respective countries.

    NAFTA will be renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – or USMCA. The text of the full agreement can be found here: https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/united-states-mexico-canada-agreement/united-states-mexico

    The early consensus is that the USMCA will result in some significant reforms to Canadian copyright and IP law, with most changes favouring rights holders. The following is a summary of the most relevant provisions in the new agreement as it pertains to our industry.

     

    Copyright Term Extension

    Copyright terms in Canada currently extend for 50 years beyond the year the creator of the work dies or if not owned by a single creator, the last day of the year the work was released. The USMCA will bring Canada's copyright terms in line with the U.S. and Europe who have longer terms: 70 years after the creator's death or 75 years after the last day of the year the work was launched. This is a significant win for our sector here in Canada as it was a point we have been advocating on since 2015 when the music industry was given these provisions.

     

    TPM’s Enshrined

    The Technical Protection Measures that are so important to our industry have been enshrined in law within the USMCA, including civil and criminal penalties. We are currently investigating the details to determine if there are any significant differences between the TPM’s enshrined in the USMCA and those provided in the Copyright Modernization Act (2012).  At first review, they are very similar, including the various exceptions.

     

    Notice-and-Notice Preserved

    One area that did not change is the notice-and-notice system, as the IP chapter includes an annex (Annex to Section J) that creates an exemption to the notice-and-takedown requirement for any party that, as of the date of the agreement, has a notice-and-notice system. That means that Canada gets to keep notice-and-notice, which is the same outcome as when we entered into the EU agreement. While not the most ideal outcome, our industry has long since accepted that a notice-and-takedown regime is not culturally acceptable in Canada at the current time.

    Under the new agreement, the more punitive notice-and-takedown approach used in the US becomes the legal standard in Mexico.

     

    No Data Localization Requirements

    The digital trade chapter in the new agreement largely mirrors that of the TPP. Most notable are the rules around data localization. The USMCA restricts the ability for a country to impose data localization rules, which could have an impact on future privacy reforms. Similarly, the data transfer provisions limit the ability to restrict data transfers across borders, which could become a challenge should the EU require restrictions to meet its privacy standards. Canada effectively agreed to similar provisions in the TPP and their inclusion in this agreement is unsurprising.

     

    Cultural Exemptions Preserved 

    Unchanged from the original version of NAFTA, cultural exemptions will remain in the new deal. This particular segment became a Canadian must-have, Prime Minister Trudeau argued, because otherwise, it could enable American companies to buy Canadian newspapers or TV stations.

    It is worth noting that video games are not listed by name in the list of “cultural industries” along with radio, music, magazines, television, etc. While we could be captured in theory, it was a request of ESAC’s that the industry not be specifically mentioned in the clause in fear that it could create retaliatory protectionist policies in key export markets.

     

    “De minimis” Threshold

    Both Canada and Mexico agreed to raise the thresholds at which they apply duties to cross-border purchase, including online, another key U.S. demand.

    Canada raised its threshold to $150 for duties and $40 for sales taxes, from $20 for both in the previous agreement. It is believed that this change, which was opposed by the Canadian retail industry, was agreed to by Canada in exchange for still being able to collect sales tax on the purchases over $40.

    This would imply that a Canadian consumer can now purchase most standard priced games from the US duty (but not tax) free.  Given the unfavourable exchange rate, however, it remains to be seen if this change will lead to a notable increase in Canadian consumers purchasing video games in the US or from US online retailers.

     

    Cross-Border Labour Mobility Remains

    The inter-company transfers within NAFTA that are so crucial to our members have been maintained in the new agreement under Chapter 16 – Temporary Entry for Business Persons.  The program continues to apply to Managers, Executives and those employees who demonstrate a level of “Specialized Knowledge”, which could apply to senior creative and technical employees.  The actual definition of “Specialized Knowledge” is something that each country sets.  Currently the definition in Canada is much stricter than it has been in the past, however still allows for certain employees to move freely between office locations.

     

    Additional Highlights

    In addition to the changes most relevant to our industry, other highlights of the USMCA include:

    • Preservation of the ‘Chapter 19’ dispute resolution mechanism which allows Canada to challenge punitive American tariffs on imports at binational panels rather than in the U.S. court system.
    • No tariffs on Canadian automobiles or parts.
    • No five-year‘ Sunset Clause’.
    • Aluminum and steel tariffs remain. 
    • Increased US market access for dairy, poultry and egg products, although supply management remains.

    ESAC will continue to closely monitor the USMCA as it proceeds to ratification in all three countries and into implementation in 2019 as planned. If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact Paul Fogolin, Policy Director at ESAC (pfogolin@theesa.ca).