Our Founder Shares the Origin Story of Interesting Vancouver

The first ever Interesting Vancouver event took place way back in 2007, and was the brainchild of our founder Brett Macfarlane. On November 10th, we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary with an extra special show featuring some especially interesting Vancouverites.

In anticipation of that event, we asked Brett if he’d share a little bit about how Interesting Vancouver came to be. ‘Where did the idea come from?’ ‘What was it like to organize the first ever event?’ ‘How has it grown, and in what ways has the evolution surprised you?’ These are just some of the questions we asked to get his fingers buzzing.

Here is the story of Interesting Vancouver, in the words of our founder Brett MacFarlane. Enjoy.

The Origin of the idea

Vancouver is a young city. We’re still figuring out who we are and what we want to be. We’re made up of a multi-faceted sense of self, full of contradictions – more than most cities will admit. Yet despite our take on the world, we can lazily fall into the tropes of “world class” with our polished real estate market and the proxy status we have with world events (for the latter, I love this about our city).

Interesting Vancouver began with a frustration. I had the privilege to work at DDB – Canada’s most creative and innovative brand and strategy firm – and while there, I saw so many talents in different disciplines who were stuck in their silos, never meeting or sharing. In my parent’s era they would cross paths, but I didn’t see any social, professional fluidity now.

I heeded the internal call to do something about it.

The Beginning: Year 1

IV started in the halcyon days of blogs (pre-social media, as we know it today). I announced an intention, and surprisingly received interest.

James, Jason and Lauren helped organize what proved to be a cozy and rainy night at the Rowing Club (the only venue I could afford). We removed all the uninteresting things most often found at conference events (like goody bags, lanyards and ‘this will change your life’ hype). Everyone from volunteers to speakers bought tickets. We were all in it together. The interested and interesting together all at once.

Middle Years

After year 1, Mark Busse leapt out of the audience and joined the team. He is a tour de force of community, culture, and people, who we’d be nothing without. We made some changes. We improved our catering — instead of a box of apples and a bar ticket, we started serving real food – but kept the same polymath mindset and inclusive ethos; we operationalized and grew, yet preciously avoided becoming sanitized.

People and partners joined our mission, most notably the Museum of Vancouver, City of Vancouver, GDC and SFU, adding gravitas and might to what we were creating.

The Learning

We’ve always promised surprises, partly to cover mistakes but mostly to acknowledge that being interesting isn’t something clear-cut and predictable. We need to give everyone space to make a mistake and be real. This isn’t TED or Tony Robbins. This is real life, real people, real time.

As someone who seeks inclusion and multi-disciplinary thinking, IV has helped me to spot the biases that still exist. Meeting and working with partners like Khelsilem Tł’akwasik̓an has helped me, in a meaningful and disarming way, understand more richly what Vancouver is now, and what our potential might include.

The Future

We’ve always been restless and experimental, to a fault at times. The IV Prize and IV Portraits demonstrate the fruits of experimentation when there are strong legs to stand on. I suspect after IV17, we will enter an adapt or die year. Another decade calls for fresh lifeblood, ideas and evolution. Should we make it even bigger (become a social benefits corp) or smaller (a community group)? IV is driven by its people, so we’ll be on the look-out for those keen to shape IVxDecade2.

In the meantime, we’re a little over a week away from our 10th anniversary celebration (we’ll be incorporating some blasts from the past into the evening) on November 10th.



We’d love to have you.