B.C. tech firms challenge Ontario’s sector dominance

British Columbia is now challenging Ontario’s tech industry dominance, according to a study of the 50 fastest growing companies in the sector.

B.C. technology firms accounted for 30 per cent of the 50 fastest growing companies in the sector in 2003, up from 24 per cent in 2002 according to the list of Fast 50 finalists released on Tuesday by Deloitte & Touche.

The Fast 50 list ranks companies on their overall growth in the past five years. This year’s list will be available Oct. 1.

“I think we’re feeling the overall technology marketplace is starting to change and in B.C. there are a lot very exciting technology companies that are basically catching the timing of the change in the space. We just happen to be one of them,” said Bob Chow, president and chief operating officer (COO) of Absolute Software Corp. in Vancouver.

Chow said the Vancouver area is becoming tantamount to a “Silicon Valley of the northwest” and credits the diversity of the population for fuelling growth of the technology sector in the city.

“There is a large, diverse ethnic population here that has a diverse background in technology,” he said. “I look at it as very similar to the way Silicon Valley got started – the weather, the location….”

This is the first year the company has appeared on the Fast 50 list, however in 2000, the company ranked ninth on Deloitte & Touche’s Shooting Star list, of the top 10 companies who have experienced the most growth in the previous three years. Absolute Software was formed in 1996 and went public in 2000.

Ontario also accounted for 30 per cent of companies listed on the Fast 50, with Quebec in third with 26 per cent, down from 28 per cent last year. Alberta placed fourth with 12 per cent – unchanged from last year – and New Brunswick captured two per cent.

Eighteen companies that made the Fast 50 list last year made it this year. But since the list’s birth in 1998 only two companies have made the list for the past six years – Waterloo-based Research in Motion Inc., and Montreal-based BCE Emergis.

Also in 2003, software companies dominated the Fast 50 comprising 42 per cent of the list, down from 58 per cent last year. The number of life science companies have doubled from eight per cent in 2002 to 16 per cent in 2003, while firms falling in the Internet and e-commerce area accounted for 14 per cent of the list.

For more information about the Fast 50, visit www.50.ca/. Absolute Software Corp. is online at www.absolute.com.