The BTS on VIATEC's BOD
We caught up with a quartet of current board members who shared their insights on why they joined, how it has impacted them, and what they’d tell prospective members.
The monthly Scaleup Story Series is supported by VIATEC, but articles are written and edited independently by Victoria Tech Journal.
“When you think about the impact that founders are having through the vehicle that is VIATEC, it's really impressive.” This sentiment comes courtesy of local investor Rasool Rayani. Rayani wears many hats. In addition to, say, advising the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation or lending his expertise to the New Ventures BC Competition, Rayani is a member of VIATEC’s board of directors. With nominations now open for new board members, Victoria Tech Journal caught up with a quartet of current ones to mine their insights on what the experience has brought.
These interviews have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Why did you join VIATEC's board? I joined VIATEC's board because of the profound impact the organization had on my career in the tech industry. VIATEC provided me with my first job opportunity, and I believe in giving back to the community that helped shape my success. Being on the board allows me to contribute my expertise, influence positive changes, and support the growth of the tech ecosystem in Victoria.
What is your favourite experience as a VIATEC board member? Witnessing the growth and success of a tech startup that we actively supported. Seeing their product take off in the market and witnessing the positive impact it had on their team and the local community was truly rewarding. It reinforced the importance of VIATEC's role in nurturing and empowering tech startups. Prior to 2015, I served on the board for six years and was involved in the purchase and origin of Fort Tectoria.
This landmark project allowed us to establish a physical space dedicated to fostering innovation and collaboration within the tech community. Seeing this space become a bustling hub for tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and innovators was truly gratifying. It reinforced the importance of VIATEC's role in not only connecting businesses but also in creating a tangible impact on Victoria's tech landscape.
How has being on the board benefited your company? First and foremost, it has expanded our network of connections within the local tech community. This leads us to potential partnerships, collaborations, and business opportunities. Additionally, it has given us insights into emerging trends, industry best practices, and access to valuable resources that have helped us stay competitive and innovative.
What advice would you give to prospective board members? I would recommend being genuinely passionate about supporting the tech community and aligning with VIATEC's mission and values. Actively participate in discussions, share your expertise, and don't be afraid to propose new ideas. Engage with other board members and stakeholders, as building strong relationships is essential for fostering a thriving tech ecosystem in Victoria.
How has Victoria's tech scene evolved in the time since you started in it? Victoria's tech scene has experienced significant growth and development. The city has become a prominent hub for technology startups and established companies alike. I have seen an increase in the number of tech-related events, workshops, and conferences, which reflects the growing interest and support for the tech community. Moreover, the local government and various organizations have taken significant steps to attract tech talent and foster innovation, making Victoria an even more vibrant and dynamic tech ecosystem.
Why did you join VIATEC's board? I volunteer on the VIATEC board to help give back to the community that I have been a part of for so long. Helping shape the future of the Victoria tech scene and having a positive impact on local businesses is something I’ve always been passionate about.
What is your favourite experience as a VIATEC board member? Learning and connections with like-minded people are the best part of the VIATEC board member experience. Sharing ideas, creating experiences, and helping support the local tech sector is very rewarding.
How has being on the board benefited your company? It’s given more visibility and awareness of our company and helped me be a better leader for our team.
What advice would you give to prospective board members? Join not only the board, but one of the board committees that you feel passionate about so you can be more actively involved.
How has Victoria's tech scene evolved in the time since you started in it? I’ve been a part of Victoria's tech scene for over 25 years. In that time, it’s evolved and changed to be more diverse and inclusive. Plus, I’ve witnessed a deeper level of depth and breadth in topics and ideas and in recent years that has included more community alliances with other organizations.
Why did you join VIATEC's board? So, I used to work at VIATEC. And, in my time working there, I really saw the impact that VIATEC has on the community. It really introduced me to how thriving the community is [here]. Many think of Victoria as a tourist town, but it's really a tech town. Plus, there are all these great people that are our colleagues and friends. After I left VIATEC, I worked different jobs in the tech community. But, when the opportunity presented itself, I was like, “Heck yeah I want to be involved with that group of people.” They're a small team, but they're doing big things.
What is your favourite experience as a VIATEC board member? I have lots of amazing memories with VIATEC. But, we have amazing board meetings. It's so cool to be in those meetings and see what's coming up for our community and be involved in how we can better our community for entrepreneurs, how we can put Victoria on the map, and how we can welcome new people coming to Victoria. I very much enjoy these conversations and supporting where I can.
How has being on the board benefited your company? Being on the board has benefitted Cognito by increasing our credibility in the community. But, that’s not the reason I am doing it. I’m on the board to give back to the community and support entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to prospective board members? Attend events. Some of my most memorable and unique experiences come from the events VIATEC hosts. I've had some very entertaining nights at the Victoria Tech Community Awards or Discover Tectoria.
How has Victoria's tech scene evolved in the time since you started in it? When I first entered the tech scene, I was looking at it more through an engineering lens. As I discovered more, I learned that there are some massive digital businesses, gaming studios, and agencies. Investors, too. They're all based here. Victoria is awesome, objectively. But there are also some really notable tech people here. Executives from TELUS randomly live here or, like, [the ex-CTO of GitHub] Jason Warner. I'm sure you've heard this or experienced it yourself. But, walking around or going to a coffee shop, you're bound to run into someone in the network.
Photo credit: Community Foundations of Canada
Why did you join the VIATEC board? Between 2005 and 2010, I was splitting time living in Vancouver and Victoria. I went to the 2007 Victoria Tech Community Awards. I was just blown away at the level of engagement; how vibrant, fun, and irreverent the scene was. I had no idea how developed and how rich the ecosystem was in Victoria. So, I became an admirer. When an opportunity presented itself to get involved, I was pretty excited to jump in.
What is your favourite experience as a VIATEC board member? I think back to the “why get involved” question. I had joined the board of the Victoria Foundation and I was looking for other ways to get connected to the community. It was clear that the community building around VIATEC was really rich and vibrant. I had just exited my company. After that experience, it felt really appealing to be connected to the startup ecosystem. VIATEC has been a really nice channel to do that.
How has being on the board benefited your company? It's been really nice to have visibility through the work with VIATEC and the board. I get value out of the connections to early-stage companies. [VIATEC CEO] Dan Gunn and [VIATEC COO] Rob Bennett have both been really nice facilitators of introductions to all the people who are interested in investing and supporting the startup ecosystem in Victoria. So, it's been a really nice amplification of that work.
What advice would you give to prospective board members? My advice would be that it's not unreasonable to take a year or so of just listening and learning to really get a lay of the land in terms of what’s all transpiring. That's not to say people shouldn't contribute. Obviously that's the desire. But, there is a decent amount to learn about the intricacies of the relationships between the members, the founders, the team itself, and the ways to create capacity for the community.
How has Victoria's tech scene evolved in the time since you started in it? The evolution that I have seen is that there are so many companies that have built themselves up [of late]: Checkfront, Certn. Tiny. There have been some amazing examples of organizations that have grown from inception to seven, eight, nine digits of revenue.
Know someone who’d be a great fit?
If so, nominations are currently open for new members. Ten seats on the board are reserved for technology company representatives and the remaining four are open to eligible VIATEC members. This year, seven new board members are required. VIATEC is committed to enhancing equity and diversity in the local tech sector and committed to creating an inclusive environment for all members and employees. It celebrates diversity and encourages members that reflect this priority to express interest in becoming a board member.