Tech talk: Building a community

Break the boundaries down and connect all the communities in B.C.

It’s hard to believe #TechBrew started one year ago at Cannery Brewing.

When it started, I was expecting it to start slow and grow over time. I was impressed to see over 25 people there with a wide range of expertise from Kelowna to Oliver. One year and 12 events later we have over 200 people in the group, often with around 30 people at every event and seven to 10 new people. Some of the feedback I’ve received:

“I’ve lived in Penticton for two years and had no idea there was a tech community.”

“I was considering stopping people on the street that looked like nerds and asking if they wanted to talk tech.”

“TechBrew is my heartbeat, I know that a month has passed and it keeps me on track with my business.”

Recently I hosted Chris Heivly, a co-founder of Mapquest and now an entrepreneur in residence at TechStars, along with several local business owners at my office. The Okanagan is one of five communities worldwide and the only one in Canada that was selected for a community pilot project. The goal of this program is to accelerate the growth of the startup community in the Okanagan. Startups are often associated with tech companies, but there is much more to a startup community than just technology companies. We need to broaden what this word means to include all industries.

Something really stood out to me as Chris seemingly was quoting me as he was talking to the room. He reiterated what I’ve been saying for years, “We are not big enough to be Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton as individual cities. We are not even big enough as the Okanagan. We can punch above our weight if we work together. We need to be collaborative, not competitive.”

I want to take it a step further and say we need to break the boundaries down and we need to connect all the communities in B.C., not just the Okanagan. and celebrate the uniqueness and value they offer and work together to grow innovative businesses from Kamloops to the Kootenays and beyond.

I was recently in Kamloops and was amazed at the startup scene there. There are great companies there such as Katipult and Streamline Technologies who I had a great time with talking about project management, software teams and business. The Kamloops Innovation Centre is doing some really amazing things and I enjoyed great conversations with Lincoln Smith the executive director and John Zubak an entrepreneur in residence. We shared ideas on community building and I know we will work together helping B.C. grow. John is key on organizing the B.C. Growth Opportunities Tour. I attended the event last year and it was single-handedly the most valuable conference I attended introducing businesses with challenges to businesses that can solve challenges that otherwise never would have met.

This month’s local business highlight are two fantastic and innovative companies:

Skaha Remote Sensing is run by Maik Wolleben and develops unique soil moisture sensing technology for agriculture. Designed and prototyped in their lab in Naramata, Skaha’s technology is sought-after by irrigation farmers around the world to help use water more efficiently and grow more crop. Maik believes Penticton is a great place to develop high-tech and gladly accepts to sometimes long commute to their test fields and partners in the Prairies.

Flybase.io is a real-time backend as a service provider in Penticton that was founded by Roger Stringer. Celebrating its third year in operation, it has helped projects worldwide get up and running without worrying about databases. From chatbots, to e-commerce stores, to emergency response systems in the oil fields, to just about everything under the sun. Flybase handles thousands to transactions a day.

The one year anniversary of #TechBrew is Friday Sept. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Barking Parrot.

Keith MacIntyre is a tech columnist for the Penticton Western News and the owner of Big Bear Software Inc.