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An Interview With Danny Robinson, CEO, British Columbia Innovation Council (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Feb 8th 2011

By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold

Danny: I thought that BCIC would be a better place for me to cover all the sectors, make sure the entire [entrepreneurial] ecosystem’s intact, reach all the other industries and regions. I represent all of British Columbia, not just Vancouver. There are about nine regional areas where science technology is being developed in the province, and we cover all of them.

Irina: Does the seed accelerator that you founded, Bootup Labs, still operate?

Danny: Yes. It’s been changed a bit. It’s not exactly the same. It’s called the Bootup Garage, and it’s being run by my wife [Maura Rodgers] right now. It’s different from Bootup Labs in that it doesn’t provide funding to the entrepreneur, but it’s similar in every other way in terms of the mentors who are there and the mentors she can provide in Silicon Valley.

There are other accelerators and incubators I’m aware of that follow the Y Combinator model and are going to get started in Vancouver shortly. They’re in the middle of structuring those deals right now. We’re ramping up to be able to do that, but we’re not there yet.

Irina: Where are you originally from?

Danny: I was born in Ontario but moved to Boston when I was 12. I spent a lot of my younger years in the States, but I’m Canadian by birth.

Irina: Did you go to college ?

Danny: No, I did not. I mean, I went for a couple of years, but it wasn’t for me.

Irina: What is the structure of BCIC?

Danny: We have a thing in Canada called a “Crown corporation.” It sounds funny but it’s the same thing as any other company, except there’s only one share in the company and that share is owned by the government of British Columbia. We have only one shareholder, and that’s the BC government.

Irina: Does BCIC generate revenues?

Danny: We don’t generate revenue. That’s not the purpose of this organization. We don’t set out to generate revenue. We’re here to help the organization and the province, but we’re not structured, technically, as a not-for-profit, although you might as well think of us like that.

We do [have some organizations that generate revenue], but not under the BC government. The federal government has some programs that are intended to generate revenue.

They’re more structured like venture capital programs. There’s what we call the BDC, the Business Development Bank of Canada, which has some venture capital programs that’re designed to fund companies directly. That’s designed to generate a return as equity that’s given for that cash, you know, the same as a venture capital company.

We also have a group called IRAP (Industrial Research Assistance Program), and it funds companies directly, but that’s more of a grant than it is an investment. They’re not designed to make money, either.

The only one that I can think of at the moment is the BDC that’s structured in a way that [it] is designed to generate revenue. We work together, hand in hand, on a lot of things.

Irina: Do you have a budget every year? How is your organization funded?

Danny: The BC government gives us a budget every year. We do our best to spend that in the best way possible for the entrepreneur. We fund programs that help entrepreneurs throughout the entire ecosystem to help them at each of the stages.

Irina: Can you name some of the programs?

Danny: Well, Bootup Garage is one of them. Also, we fund some universities. There’s a big accelerator here called Wavefront that we fund. That’s in the mobile space. We funded some of the regional areas. As I was talking about, each of the areas has its own industry association that represents the technology industry there. We fund those groups.

There’s a number of different sponsorships and events that come to Vancouver or happen here that we fund. Basically, we take a look at the ecosystem and look for holes and direct the money toward those holes.

Irina: But you don’t provide any capital directly for the entrepreneurial companies, right?

Danny: Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to do that.

This segment is part 2 in the series : An Interview With Danny Robinson, CEO, British Columbia Innovation Council
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