One of the most frequent questions we are asked is how is the Okanagan Centre for Innovation different than a standard office building. The answer lies in research from successful startup communities such as Austin Tx., Las Vegas Nv. & Boulder Co. and is validated through OCI tenants who have firsthand experience with tech ecosystems outside of Kelowna.
 
For years, Austin was looked at as the younger, inexperienced brother of Dallas. Austin community leaders didn’t want that. Looking internally, they asked the question, “How do we help build the types of companies necessary to create jobs & economic independence, and build a vibrant community at the same time?”
 
Out of that question, came a wealth of research, whose essence was:
 
The modem technopolis is one that interactively links technology commercialization with the public and private sectors to spur economic development and promote technology diversification. Linking technology and economic development in a new type of city-state is an emerging worldwide phenomenon (0th 1985; Tatsuno 1986; Glasmeier 1987; Smilor, Kozmetsky, and Gibson, 1988).
 
In simpler terms, Austin community leaders determined that there is a magic sauce, that if brought together, can be a serious catalyst to growth of the tech ecosystem, and in turn the local culture & economy. If one is able to bring closer together in physical proximity entrepreneurs, universities, colleges, arts & culture, support services, government programs and private industry, the whole community can thrive.

Almost 30 years later, Austin is a thriving, vibrant community that hosts internationally acclaimed technology & culture events such as South by Southwest (SXSW) that generates over $300M in economic impact each year. They’d lived, and built partnerships in line with research and are now bearing the fruits of it.  Since then, other communities have emulated this path to growth, and are now seeing similar successes. (Waterloo, Las Vegas, Seattle, Boulder)
 
Lead by a group of community leaders and supported by technology entrepreneurs, the goal is for the OCI to be the activator for similar growth of the Okanagan technology ecosystem. Many in this group have traveled to and experienced other thriving ecosystems and understand the impact a collaborative community can have on the growth and success of a company:
 
"Being part of the OCI goes beyond just space. It's the heart of innovation, collaboration, technology, learning, and a big part of Okanagan's future. I can't imagine not having a front row seat." ~ Peter Matejcek CEO of InHouse Media (OCI Tenant)
 
Further, from their experience working in these existing technology ecosystems, they know the impact the magic sauce will have on their business:
 
“We are very excited to move into our new home at the OCI.  The innovative culture that will permeate throughout the building will foster increased collaboration and idea sharing for the FreshGrade team, helping us build a world class technology business.” ~ Chris Besse COO of Freshgrade (OCI Tenant)
 
And finally, even those businesses that do not directly participate in the technology industry understand the impact a combination of these elements will bring to the Kelowna culture and economy:
 
“As a B.C. coffee entrepreneur, I am delighted to be a part of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation. I and our team of skilled Blenz baristas will bring people together to collaborate over their favourite beverages as they innovate, create tech jobs, drive economic growth, and strengthen the community.” ~ David McDougall, Founder and Principal of Blenz Coffee, Interior Region BC
 
The Okanagan Centre for Innovation is not just an office building, instead it is a living hive from which innovation, culture, companies and opportunities will arise for the residents of Kelowna, and the Okanagan. I am so excited to be a part of a vibrant, driven tech industry whose success story will make economists question’ “How’d they do that?”

Comment