Canada, Land of Opportunity for IT Firms to Advance Into North American Market
Canada, Land of Opportunity for IT Firms to Advance Into North American Market
  • Monica Younsoo Chung/ Canada
  • 승인 2019.11.22 23:13
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Korea-Canada strengthens its position as a regional trade hub in the Asia-Pacific region...emerging as IT global leaders
Ahn Sung-joon, Director-General of KOTRA Vancouver
Ahn Sung-joon, Director-General of KOTRA Vancouver


[Vancouver-Korea IT Times] Korea and Canada are emerging as global leaders in the IT field, including artificial intelligence (AI). Canada's strong fundamental technology field and Korea's massive commercial technology are converging to make Canada a bridgehead to the land of opportunity for Korean IT firms looking to advance into North America.

In particular, 2019 is the fifth year since Korea and Canada signed the free trade agreement (FTA) in 2014 --  the first among Asia-Pacific countries. The two countries have been gaining ground as a trade hub in the Asia-Pacific region since that time.

The Korea IT Times recently met with Ahn Sung-joon who is the newly appointed Director-General of KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) Vancouver in October. Director Ahn talked about the current status of Korean-Canadian companies' key business cooperation in the IT sector, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and Big Data.

Before heading KOTRA Vancouver, Director Ahn ran the Big Data team at KOTRA's Seoul headquarters. He provided key support to Korean companies through his analysis of promising markets, statistics and other factors while operating the Big Bot (Big Data + Analysis Robot) pilot in order to advance into the overseas market.

 Director Ahn expressed his positive outlook for the continued cooperation between the two countries and the bright future for Korean-Canadian IT partnerships in Canada which will eventually expand to the rest of North America.

What is your impression and aspirations of being in KOTRA Vancouver?

I place the focus on providing cooperative business opportunities in new growth areas between Canada and Korean companies and contributing to the development of the two countries' industries. I am pleased to be appointed to the Vancouver KOTRA office amid a surge in the number of Asian immigrants in western Canada and the growing number of markets targeted at the Asian demographic.
Logistically, the western Canadian market in a good environment to target the North American continent, as its good strategic position is conducive to use as a bridgehead to enter the North American market.

While manufacturing industries such as automobiles and aviation are well developed in Eastern Canada, private investment in new and renewable power is surging in Western Canada, and cultural content and advanced IT industries of Western United States are making inroads into Vancouver to form clusters.

Current status of entry by industry in Canada - A good opportunity for Korean companies to take part in large-scale energy and transportation infrastructure expansion projects.

Korea is Canada's sixth-largest trading partner as of 2018 and has been actively engaged in exchanges and cooperation in various areas, including energy, automobiles, IT home appliances and construction equipment. South Korea's exports in 2018 consisted of intermediate goods, capital goods and consumer goods such as automobiles, auto parts, mobile phones, steel and cosmetics. Also, exports of refined petroleum products and mobile phones have been on the rise.

South Korea's exports rose by 21.8 percent to $5.74 billion in 2018 as exports of various products increased, while bilateral trade hit $11.5 billion with imports posting $5.75 billion. Also, Korean SMEs are expected to make inroads into the public social overhead capital(SOC) and energy sectors as they are expanding projects centering on large-scale one.

Above all, it is a good opportunity for Koreans to make a positive contribution as the Canadian government is also showing an open attitude toward overseas private companies' participation in the large-scale energy and transportation infrastructure expansion projects being pursued in the western region.

Current status of IT companies based in BC province and cooperation with Korean companies and areas

Current status of entry by industry in Canada - A good opportunity for Koreans to take part in large-scale energy and transportation infrastructure expansion projects.

The IT industry in BC has seen rapid growth in recent years, and Vancouver has taken upon itself to take on a “Silicon Valley” role as small and medium-scale ventures and startup ecosystem has emerged as well. Similar to Silicon Valley, where immigrants account for 71 percent of IT technology professionals, Vancouver has a high proportion of workers from different nations, especially IT professionals, at 40 percent.

As of 2019, a total of 106,000 employees worked in the IT industry in the province of BC, posting an average of 4 percent growth per year since 2016. Also, with an average of 331 new startups opening each year, there are now 10,200 companies in total, making it a mecca for the high-tech IT industry.

The IT industry in BC generates about $15 billion in GDP or 7 percent of the total economy. In particular, there are five unicorn companies throughout Canada, three of which, Slack, Hootsuite and Avigilon, are located in the Greater Vancouver Area

It also includes major global and North American players such as Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Cisco Systems, Samsung, SAP, Zenefits, Absolute Software, ACL Service, TELUS, BuildDirect and Vision Critical. The IT industry in BC consists of software as a service (SaaS), including wireless technology at the forefront, social media, business intelligence, security and financial technologies, e-commerce and web technologies.

The most vital industries are software & computer services, which account for 80% of the total industrial sector. IT wholesale (5.5%) came next, followed by communication services (3.7%) and IT production and manufacturing (2.8%). About 25 percent of Canada's top 100 major companies are based in Vancouver, especially in the software industry sector, with high technology levels and competitiveness. Small and medium-sized startups in mobile applications and game fields are also active. Growth potential is now growing in new services such as cloud computing and IoT (Internet of Things), away from the traditional IT service areas such as system integration, IT consulting, maintenance & repair, outsourcing and management services.

Status of matching business between Korean and Canadian IT Firms

 Korea's IT technology is one of the best in the world and amid the continued growing preference for Korean IT technology in the local market, KOTRA Vancouver has been increasing the proportion of Korean IT-related businesses with operations in Vancouver since 2017.

The two countries' collaboration in venture firms and R&D has begun to match businesses in IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), and Big Data, which are at the core of the fourth industrial revolution.
Also, one of the areas that KOTRA Vancouver is promoting is the export business in the digital content industry. It is currently developing domestic content and strengthening connections with VR/AR and digital entertainment companies for locally related agencies and businesses.

Vancouver AI, AR/VR, 3D market

In May 2019, KOTRA Vancouver attracted 12 local buyers to participate in the Seoul VR/AR Expo, a joint event of the "2019 KSM Korea Consumer Goods Export Competition" held at COEX in Seoul. It is an annual event and the largest AR/VR-related event in Asia, with 80 countries taking part. KOTRA Vancouver has become one of the trade offices attracting the largest buyers.

It has held one-on-one business meetings with more than 70 domestic institutions and companies working in  AR/VR and Big Data, including DiGi BC, a digital content and convergence institution, Capilano University, including BC Tech Cube, and AMPD Game Tech.

KOTRA has discussed various types of future projects, including R&D, technical cooperation, and project collaboration. Digi BC also plans to hold an event next spring by inviting promising Korean companies to explore opportunities for joint venture projects with local companies by joining hands with KOTRA Vancouver and Creative BC, an affiliate of the BC state government.

In addition, KOTRA Vancouver also supports a project to attract some $60 million from the two foreign innovative companies - Scanline, a VFX/visual effect producer of Hollywood movies, such as "Aquaman" and "The Avengers," and Pin Heaven, a blockchain company.

Overall, this world-class studio cluster is being developed in Korea and will speed up Korean companies' advancement into local markets to create good quality jobs for some 300 persons in Korea.

Possibility of Korea-Vancouver game industry cooperation and ways to export game manpower

KOTRA Vancouver expects the Canadian game market to grow at a steady 2 percent to $3.3 billion in 2021 from $3.1 billion in 2018. Of the total game market, the software market is worth $2.3 billion. Software purchases came to $1.5 billion, and in-game purchases amounted to $800 million. Broken down by platform, console games account for $1.2 billion, computer games $400 million, online games $240 million and mobile games $440 million.

The Canadian software market grew by 5 percent on-year, with video, online and mobile games posting even growth of 5 percent, 5 percent, and 4 percent, respectively.

According to statistics from the Canadian game industry compiled by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, there are 472 game developing companies and 20,400 people developing games in Canada. In 2018, a total of 2,190 game development projects were carried out at game developers in Canada, up 41 percent from a year earlier. Of the 472 game developers, over 60 percent developed games in the action and adventure genre, with 35 percent in puzzles, 34 percent in family-oriented, 33 percent in strategy/tactics, and 31 percent in role-playing.

The game genre that local Canadian prefer

The most popular game genres favored by locals in Canada are action & adventure, including RPG, FPS, sports/racing and simulation. As a major turning point in the Canadian game industry's distribution structure, the traditional offline purchase method has been changing to the digital (online) purchase method, and over 60 percent of the products have been sold online since 2016.

To explore the game market, the KOTRA Vancouver is planning to take part in the annual External Development Summit(XDS) gaming development networking event held by the world-famous Electronic Arts (EA).

EA Canada headquarters is located in the western Canadian city of Burnaby. A plan to seek cooperative projects through close consultation with XDS officials in the EA and to support domestic companies' advance into the local market under the joint initiative with relevant domestic agencies is in progress.

Vancouver is gaining attention as the economic hub of North America, with Canada emerging as the second Silicon Valley. A business plan that can activate the Vancouver area as the Canadian hub for Korean IT firms to enter North America

As of 2019, the BC provincial government is implementing a program to offer a 30% tax deduction for VC (Venture Capital: Financial Gain) and CVC(Corporate Venture Capital: Strategic Gain) investments.
Venture capital groups support the investment in new businesses, and there are currently a total of 75 VCs in Vancouver alone that support such companies. In the U.S., there are 509 companies in California alone, but the Vancouver area alone has enough room for new IT companies to invest.

Three of Canada's five leading unicorn companies (Slack, Hootsuite, Avigilon) that grew up with VC investment are located in Vancouver. Besides this investment opportunity, BC is well-known as a dense area of diverse and abundant talent in the IT industry amounting to 114,000 people. It is an area where a cluster of local industries, such as world-class educational institutions, businesses, and local networks, technology acceleration and commercialization programs, are combined to provide full support for startup opportunities.

KOTRA Vancouver is focused on Korea’s highly advanced technological skills with local companies to support investment and entry opportunities. In particular, it plans to develop the Canadian IT-Tech Road Show, which has been hosted for two consecutive years since 2017, into a larger event in 2020. This is expected to become the largest event featuring a variety of technologies through close cooperation with related government agencies in Korea and Canada.

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