SHELLY BARDAI

DIRECTOR, BANKING, RBCx

THOUGHT

Leader

AN INNOVATOR OF INDUSTRY
“A LEADER IN SCALING STARTUPS, ELEVATING EXPERIENCES AND UNLEASHING GROWTH.”

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As a young woman, I had dreams, aspirations and a relentless drive to make my dreams a reality. I landed a job at a startup in my early twenties, and over the next two decades, I witnessed a massive revolution in everything from AI, social media to autonomous vehicles and precision medicine. Today, the digital economy is the actual economy, the World Economic Forum estimates that 70% of new value in the world is created by the digital economy and over the next ten years will be driven by new business models.

In 2023, for the first time, more than half of GDP will be driven by digitally transformed enterprises, according to Statista. [1] In recent years, Vancouver has emerged as a leader in innovation and technology, forging ahead in mixed reality technology, cleantech, artificial intelligence, biotech, and life sciences. There are many local groundbreaking innovative companies that will to impact the lives of many for decades to come. Today, Vancouver is ranked #25 on the Global Startup Ecosystem Rankings [2]. In order for Vancouver to continue to climb the ranks and compete globally, we need to support the local tech ecosystem.

There is no shortage of good ideas, but there are plenty of challenges to overcome. Research indicates that about 90% of startups fail. There is a shortage of skilled workers in the tech industry, and Canada struggles to retain and attract top talent. This is particularly difficult in Vancouver because of the increased cost of living, inflation and salaries that compete with rising costs. While there has been some growth in the venture capital industry in Canada, it still lags behind other countries, particularly the United States. Funding sources for early- stage to later-stage companies is key to economic development and as the Director of Banking at RBCx, my team and I make it our mission to ensure ample funding and access to financing is available for startups to help these businesses thrive.

As we look towards the future, Vancouver has the potential to be a global hub for innovation and technology if we can develop a recipe for success with the critical ingredients – funding, talent, support from Government, and an ecosystem fueled by collaboration. With its cutting-edge research, Vancouver has the opportunity to make significant contributions to the advancement of humanity. Our spirit drives us to innovate and push the boundaries to solve global challenges and strengthen our economy.

What does innovation mean to me?
Innovation is about the relentless pursuit of new ideas, a willingness to challenge the status quo, and a commitment to constant improvement. At its core, innovation is an evolution – it is not just about creating something new, it is about creating something that truly revolutionizes the way we think, live and work. It is about daring to dream big and having the courage and determination to make those dreams a reality. The cost of not innovating is far too great. Without constant evolution and growth, we risk stagnation and irrelevance. Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. We must all strive to be leaders in our own right, pushing boundaries and transforming the world around us.

In 2013, tech unicorns became a phenomenon, with the term popularised by Aileen Lee from CowboyVC. The term refers to companies that embody rare and mythical qualities but behind every unicorn there is a team of talented people who need to be supported by a strong community of diverse leaders who believe in creating environments where people feel supported, safe and equipped to succeed. In the early days of my career, I dealt with a lot of discrimination, a community that didn’t always support and celebrate inclusion and diversity of thought. Today, as a leader, I am committed to using my position and authority to advocate for everyone including underrepresented populations, women and people of colour. My mission is rooted in the belief that everyone should have equal access to the opportunities and resources necessary to succeed in the tech industry. I am grateful to have had the privilege of working alongside some truly remarkable individuals. I draw inspiration from their exceptional talents and achievements. Their unwavering support and encouragement have been instrumental in fueling my ambition.

As RBCx continues to push the boundaries of what is possible, I am confident that our collective efforts will yield transformative results by bridging the gap for funding and working closely with Venture Capitalists and the broader ecosystem to ensure access to financing and capital are sustainable. I am delighted to be part of this exciting journey and look forward to the next chapter.

Shelly is Director, Banking at RBCx, partnering with startups and scale-ups to accelerate their growth and support the tech ecosystem. She built her career in consulting with IBM and KPMG, specializing in customer transformation and scaling startups. Shelly is a passionate advocate for equity and diversity in tech.


Sources:

  1. https://startupgenome.com/article/state-of-the-global-startup-economy
  2. https://startupgenome.com/article/state-of-the-global-startup-economy

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