Vancouver Start Up Week – What’s Next in Digital Health Panel:
(L–R) Curtis Duggan, Brendan Byrne, Michael Fergusson, Richard Osborn, Sarah Goodman, Denny Hollick
Vancouver has become a mecca for digital health startups, innovators, entrepreneurs and VCs.
Vancouver bats above its weight when we look at Canada’s VC deal making. For example, Toronto recorded 70 deals in two years while Vancouver had 38 in the same period. Stats like this have earned Vancouver the nickname, “Silicon Valley of the North” but investment in Vancouver tech companies pales in comparison to the funds invested below the 49th parallel.
While there is no shortage of innovative companies and products coming out of Canada, there is a serious shortage of funding. Peter van der Velden of Lumira Capital, speaking in Vancouver at the Interface Health Summit, said a total of $9Million has been invested in Canadian health tech so far in 2015. A pittance, if you consider that Ayogo’s $2.5Million Series A from U.S. investors – represents a whopping 28% of the total.
Vancouver Startup Week gathered together an impressive panel to discuss What’s Next in Digital Health, healthcare delivery, and healthcare venture development. Leading voices in local health tech were asked about the challenge of growing a Vancouver company:
A theme emerging at both events is how Vancouver health tech companies are succeeding in the U.S. Why is innovation investment in the two countries so different? Michael Fergusson of Ayogo earned a laugh by suggesting that the objective in U.S. healthcare is to earn a profit, while in Canada nobody should.
For-profit Canadian companies expressed frustration with barriers connecting with government health authorities. While the federal government’s eHIPP program will help bridge the gap by funding a small number of Canadian health tech partnerships, most Canadian health tech companies are looking to the U.S. where venture capital is more accessible and healthcare innovation is a cost of doing business.
Events like Interface Health Summit and Vancouver Startup Week demonstrate that Vancouver’s tech companies are playing an important role in accelerating innovation in healthcare. While Canadian VC funding and government initiatives like eHIPP may be limited, there are opportunities for Vancouver health tech companies to advance innovation, particularly if they are willing to look beyond Canada’s borders.