Accelerate Okanagan Programs Director Jeff Keen is enthusiastic about the growth of the tech industry in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, citing the rapidly increasing number of startups joining the Accelerate Okanagan’s programs as an early indicator of success. Since the inception of the business accelerator in January, nine startups have participated in the group’s programs, and that number is poised to double in the coming weeks.
Accelerate Okanagan is a not-for-profit business accelerator that offers several programs catering to startups in various stages of their lifecycle. “We are most interested in helping develop viable businesses with paying customers” Keen says of Accelerate Okanagan’s mandate. Although raising venture capital is often necessary to scale tech startups, Accelerate Okanagan places a specific focus on finding clients, building revenue, and creating tech jobs.
Since the creation of the organization, several programs have been developed to accelerate tech business in the Okanagan Valley. Each of the programs offers startups access to office space in the Accelerate Okanagan facilities and the opportunity to attend various seminars and workshops.
KIK:Start gives aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to get introduced and integrated with the Okanagan tech community. KIK:Start offers startups access to a network of potential co-founders, access to business clinics, and a viability assessment of the startup by an experienced mentor.
The Venture Acceleration program offers startups an additional framework to accelerate their growth, with a needs assessment conducted on day one, and a dedicated venture advisor guiding startups in their day-to-day requirements.
Jump:Start:Challenge offers investor-ready startups a chance to perfect their pitch through an intensive eight week training course. With pitch workshops and training forums held through the fall, the program offers entrepreneurs access to mentors and the opportunity to pitch in front of the Okanagan Valley’s investment community. Startups are invited to apply for Jump:Start:Challenge now.
A wide variety of tech has been booming in the Okanagan Valley, says Keen, ranging from ICT to gaming to green tech. In addition, organizations such as ACETECH and Metabridge have established a presence in the Okanagan, building momentum for the tech industry. This growth has resulted in success achieved by companies headquartered in Canada’s ‘Silicon Vineyard’, including Club Penguin (acquired by Disney), and Find it EZ software.
Find it EZ CEO Ken Gnazdowsky spoke of Accelerate Okanagan’s instrumental role in developing his product. What started as an initial offer to Gnazdowsky with an opportunity to participate in their venture development competition, Accelerate Okanagan has taken Find it EZ’s code impact analysis tool, 10 years in development, and helped him take the product commercial.
“Accelerate Okanagan is an organized presence that supports tech ventures that have something to offer” he said, stating “Before the creation of the organization, there were numerous fragmented groups without a distinct goal.” The networking opportunities afforded by Accelerate Okanagan have afforded Gnazdowsky the chance to build tech industry contacts and hit the ground running at clients and investor meetings.
Accelerate Okanagan also facilitates access to the BCIC Mentor Program, which matches early-stage tech CEOs and founders with experienced mentors. Mentorship through the program helped Find it EZ progress through the startup phases and build a viable business. Accelerate Okanagan also facilitated access to financial and legal advisors, helping Gnazdowsky overcome some of the challenges faced by startups.
Martin Studzinski is a marketing and communications professional and technology enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter @martstudz or reach him via email at [email protected].