The co-founders of AltaML have started a campaign to help Albertans celebrate the tech sector.
Nicole and Cory Janssen launched the I Heart AB Tech campaign this week by sending T-shirts bearing that slogan to various business and tech leaders. The goal is to turn recipients into brand ambassadors.
"We've got something really great here in Alberta ... but I would say that we aren't telling the world, and we aren't even telling those outside of the tech space," said co-CEO Nicole Janssen.
Alberta's image across Canada and globally is that "we're a bunch of redneck cowboys that don't care about the environment," she said. "Most Albertans I know don't fit that description at all. And somehow, we just continue to let that be the image that we have, even though at home we all know that's not the truth."
The iconography of the campaign is reminiscent of the "I Heart Canadian Oil & Gas" merch favoured by groups like Oil Sands Action. The Janssens chose similar wording "because this concept is familiar with Albertans through the other campaigns." But it's not meant to be a dig at the petroleum industry. "We are simply wanting to add one more to that narrative because there are more than one or two things to love about our province."
People like Christy Holtby of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Ashif Mawji of Rising Tide, Shaheel Hooda of Sprout Fund, Zack Storms of Startup TNT, and Aaryn Flynn of Inflexion Games have already shared pictures of themselves wearing the T-shirt and expressing why they support the campaign.
Janssen would love to see their enthusiasm spread to political leaders, and she has sent them T-shirts, too, to help them show it. The province earmarked $73 million for the Alberta Technology and Innovation Strategy in the 2022 budget, but didn't make a very big deal of it, she noted.
"I think there's a perception in Alberta that if you promote tech, you're not promoting other industries," she said. "Whereas we see tech as a horizontal enabler that supports and builds up all of our industries."