FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 9th, 2016
Atrium Fund Throws Light on Tech Startups
Kelowna, BC – High tech entrepreneurs will be getting a jumpstart with the introduction of Atrium Ventures VCC Inc. (Atrium), a $5,000,000 investment fund dedicated to nurturing early stage companies in BC’s red-hot technology sector.
It’s what fund manager Jeff Keen, Director of Wheelhouse Management Inc., describes as a “pre-seed/seed stage fund” that will target promising technology ventures looking to secure equity-based growth capital.
Anchored by commitments of $1,000,000 from the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust (SIDIT), $750,000 from Interior Savings Credit Union and a growing list of forward-thinking angel investors, Atrium aims to fill a critical gap for early stage tech startups looking to raise equity capital.
“A long-time challenge facing all founders of early stage tech companies and, specifically, companies based in the Okanagan where there is no established venture capital presence, is access to a formalized funding source. Many times these founders are forced to seek capital outside the local community and we aim to change that,” said Keen.
“We’ve witnessed continued growth of the tech industry in the Okanagan over the past several years,” says Interior Savings CEO Kathy Conway, “and we believe that our commitment to Atrium is a great investment not only for the tech industry, but for the community we serve.”
Luanne Chore, CEO of SIDIT, sees the fund as a natural extension of their mandate to support strategic investments in economic development projects in the Southern Interior.
“SIDIT is thrilled to be part of Atrium because it allows us to support economic growth in the region, helping companies at a very early, often tenuous stage,” says Chore, “and that’s something that has not always been viable through SIDIT’s traditional fund structure.”
The provincial government seems to agree that early stage funding is an important element in the health of this burgeoning industry. As a VCC established through BC’s Investment Capital Branch, Atrium investors will receive a 30% refundable provincial tax credit at tax time.
Atrium is a fund created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Keen, a long-time technology entrepreneur and former CEO of Accelerate Okanagan, fund co-founder Lane Merrifield, former Executive Vice President of the Walt Disney Company and co-founder of FreshGrade, along with other fund investors will bring much more than money to startup companies.
“That’s something that really sets Atrium apart. Not only will startups receive cheques of up to $200,000, they will also have direct access to a team of experienced entrepreneurs and our well-established networks including many Tier 1 VCs and several partner organizations,” said Merrifield.
“We have all been operators and understand the incredible value that smart money brings to the table.”
Why has the fund gained such traction with angel investors? The opportunity to pool investment funds with experienced tech entrepreneurs who will provide screening and due diligence gives the fund solid footing. Combine that with making several small investments in a wide range of companies and the appeal of the tax credit and Atrium significantly de-risks involvement for its investors.
In terms of what types of companies Atrium will target, the baseline is whether or not the company qualifies as an Eligible Business Corporation (EBC) under the Small Business Venture Capital Act. But other factors are the true litmus test for potential recipients.
“We’re looking for three fundamental qualities,” says Keen, “a high-calibre team with a balanced skill set and an opportunity that is ideally at the minimum viable product (MVP) stage working towards product market fit.
“Finally, when we assess the expertise on the Atrium team and our network of contacts and resources, is there a match that will benefit the founders and help accelerate the growth of their business?”
Atrium is actively raising additional capital with a planned second closing on October 17, 2016. Interested institutions and individuals can express their interest by contacting Atrium at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the closing, Atrium will be sourcing investment opportunities with a target of making a minimum of 20 investments over the next 24 months.
The doors to the Okanagan Centre for Innovation are set to open in November, and with the visionary engagement of Atrium Ventures and a community of supporting organizations like SIDIT and Interior Savings Credit Union, there’s never been a better time to be a technology entrepreneur in the Okanagan.
About Atrium Ventures (VCC) Inc.
Atrium Ventures is an entrepreneur led venture capital corporation that makes investments in promising new technology companies in British Columbia. Atrium’s board of directors includes Jeff Keen, Lane Merrifield, Kathy Conway, CEO of Interior Saving Credit Union and Luanne Chore, CEO of Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust.
Cradlepoint Brings World Leadership in 4G LTE to Kelowna
Boise, ID – March 4, 2016 – Cradlepoint, the global leader in software-defined 4G LTE network solutions for enterprises, announced today that it is building its Developer Operations Center in Kelowna, British Columbia, and is hiring a team of engineers. Cradlepoint recently acquired Pertino—a privately held Silicon Valley company that pioneered the use of software-defined networking (SDN) technology—to bring the benefits of SDN to LTE, broadband and MPLS WANs.
Cradlepoint is staying close to the Kelowna roots that Pertino planted before its acquisition. Pertino had a team of experts based in Kelowna. Additionally, Pertino’s founders previously launched Packeteer, a networking and communications company, that acquired Kelowna-based Workfire for approximately $100 million in 2000. Packeteer built a research and development center in Kelowna that employed 40 people until the sale of the company in 2008.
“Our history of building a world-class development organization in Kelowna has brought us back to town,” said Craig Elliott, CEO and founder of Pertino and now SVP of corporate development at Cradlepoint. “We’ve already hired five developers in Kelowna and are posting ten additional jobs to be filled as soon as possible. We’re also evaluating office space and hope to make decisions soon about that expansion as well. Cradlepoint wants to invest in Kelowna.”
“We’re pleased to have Cradlepoint bringing more tech jobs to Kelowna. The investment continues to highlight Kelowna as the tech hub of British Columbia,” said Colin Basran, mayor of Kelowna.
Cradlepoint is the global leader in software-defined 4G LTE network solutions. Enterprise adoption of cloud, mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies is driving the need for always-on connectivity for people, places and things anywhere. Cradlepoint’s cloud-based platform combines software-defined networking and radio technologies with virtualized services to deliver 4G LTE and overlay networks that are secure end-to-end, agile to deploy and ultra-reliable. Over 15,000 enterprise, SMB and government customers around the world rely on Cradlepoint to keep their critical sites, remote workforces, vehicles, assets and machines always connected and protected. Founded in 2006, Cradlepoint is a privately held company headquartered in Boise, Idaho, with offices in Silicon Valley, Canada and the UK. Learn more at cradlepoint.com or follow us on Twitter @cradlepoint.
Ashley Baster Schulte
October 28, 2015
Okanagan Centre for Innovation (OCI) – Construction Update
Construction of the OCI is now well underway and remains on target for completion in late 2016. Framing and shoring work on the third floor is in progress with a new floor scheduled for construction every two to three weeks.
Leasing activity and interest has been high with close to 50% of space now under formal lease agreements.
Once complete, the Okanagan Centre for Innovation will provide a host of economic and social benefits to the community, including:
- Expansion of the established innovation/technology sector within the Okanagan;
- Increased economic sustainability through new enterprise and job creation and the attraction/expansion of existing enterprises;
- Support, training and space for entrepreneurs;
- Skilled worker attraction & retention in Kelowna and the region;
- Local training and experiential learning for post-secondary students;
- Growth in the creative and innovative community in Kelowna's downtown;
- Revitalization of Kelowna’s downtown and enhancement of the Cultural District and increased traffic to and utilization of the downtown library;
- Opportunities to stimulate new business, transit and housing downtown;
- Increased knowledge of, and traffic to, downtown businesses, social and cultural facilities; and
- Branding of Kelowna as Canada’s most innovative, creative and entrepreneurial technology community (The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says recently recognized Kelowna is one of the top cities in the country to be an entrepreneur).
To learn more about the vision and intent behind the creation of the OCI, please view our two short videos here:
Sept 1st, 2015
“Thrive Locally, Succeed Internationally”
Steve Wandler is no stranger to tech success. A Kelowna local and vanguard by any standard, Wandler left his mark in Silicon Valley with YourTechOnline.com, which he founded in 2000 and sold to industry giant support.com in 2008.
An Angel Investor and serial entrepreneur, his passion lay in start-ups. One of his current software ventures, Kelowna-based FreshGrade, is changing the way educators, parents and students interact. But that’s not the only change Wandler is leading in the tech sector.
In 2008 Wandler founded metabridge – a two-day, invite-only forum that hosts the top15 Canadian start-ups, tier one technology venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley insiders. During the casual, retreat-like conference held in Kelowna each spring, vital connections are made through what Wandler calls “impactful intimate collisions.”
The list of Canadian tech companies that can trace their success back to one of these “collisions” is long, and growing. Wandler and fellow metabridge organizers have no trouble filling the room each year: their reputation for critically ‘curating’ the 15 participating start-ups guarantee that mentors and investors aren’t wasting their time. The standards for making the cut are strict, the process for getting an invitation rigorous.
According to Wandler, businesses build relationships and foster growth in large part “by seeing the whites of people’s eyes.” And that’s why he’s so enthusiastic about the new Okanagan Centre for Innovation being constructed in downtown Kelowna, a venue that promises to provide a bricks-and-mortar tech-ecosystem and a philosophy for supporting entrepreneurship not unlike metabridge.
“There are tremendous benefits to bringing density to the ecosystem and providing support to companies at all stages of growth,” says Wandler. “The OCI represents a centralized meeting space, a safe haven, where like-minded innovators can interact, share ideas, resources, energy, successes and failures.
“The OCI is a permanent space for these game-changing collisions to occur.”
There’s little doubt about the benefits the OCI will bring to the local economy given the enormous impact high tech is already having on the region. A 2013 study conducted by Accelerate Okanagan revealed an injection of $1.02 billion and over 6500 jobs in the valley, outstripping tourism as an economic driver in an area traditionally known for its “beaches and peaches.”
A recent $3.4 million investment from the Canadian Government through Western Economic Diversification wrapped a bow around the publicly-funded space designated to early-stage entrepreneurs, many of whom will be from right here in the Okanagan Valley.
But Wandler sees the international potential, as well. “This isn’t just a building for Kelowna,” he says. “This is a state-of-the-art facility for the benefit of the entire tech community, and we have to make sure it’s recognized as a prime destination for companies throughout North America, not just the Okanagan. “The OCI will give companies access to the right people at the right time, expanding opportunities well outside the valley. The nucleus will be here in the Okanagan, yes, but it’s a much deeper international network we’ll be cultivating. The potential is incredible.”
August 6, 2015
Big Win For Local Entrepreneurs
The Kelowna Innovation Society (KIS) received a strong federal endorsement recently, in the form of a pivotal financial commitment for the Okanagan Centre for Innovation (OCI).
The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification (WD), was in Kelowna last month to announce a $3.4 million investment that will build out, equip, and operate 24,000 sq. ft. of publicly funded space at the (OCI).
With this contribution from WD, the OCI now enjoys support from all three levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal. Combined with the solid backing of private enterprise and the academic community, Kelowna’s new tech centre has tremendous momentum.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Government of Canada on this initiative,” says Society Director and VP, Jeff Keen, “this funding allows us to fully execute on the vision for the OCI and provide maximum support to the startup & entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
KIS had a vision to create a space that would be accessible to fledgling innovators, who traditionally have an abundance of ideas and initiative but limited access to cash or infrastructure. The second floor of the OCI has been designed to support high growth early-stage technology companies, non-profits and social enterprises, and will provide the infrastructure necessary to help accelerate their business ideas.
Keen is extremely thrilled about the possibilities.
“This is an exciting development, on several levels. We’re happy about the benefits that will come to our city – having a space that will attract innovators and creatives is good for the fabric of the community.
“We’re happy about the economic spin-offs – as these companies grow they attract more employees, who use the services in our city, and that’s great for the local economy.
“But we’re especially happy for the entrepreneurs that will benefit directly from this space. These entrepreneurs are building companies, creating new jobs and driving our community's growth. We want to nurture and encourage them, help them survive and thrive.”
Collaboration is a key ingredient in the success of tech companies at all stages of development, and the OCI is designed to foster that collaboration. The concept was inspired by what is happening in other leading tech centres including the Silicon Valley, Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
“These communities have been incredibly successful building and supporting their startup and entrepreneurial ecosystems, but we’re not using them as a pattern,” says Keen, “we’re using them as inspiration and doing what’s best for our community.”
It’s clear that stakeholders at all levels of government see the tremendous benefits to be gained from the OCI and this recent commitment from Western Economic Diversification secures a vital part of the plan.
June 9, 2015
WTFast to make new home in the OCI.
Last month, Rob Bartlett competed in the high-tech equivalent of the “Dragon’s Den” in Banff, Alberta. His success exceeded Bartlett’s expectations.
His Kelowna-based company, WTFast, has torched a path through the gaming world with its upstart, speed-accelerating software. And after making it through the audition-round at Subculture – Vancouver in January, Bartlett pitted his technology against the cream of the Canadian crop in a competition for capital at Interzone 2015, in front of industry giants like Steve Wozniak (Co-Founder of Apple) and Robert Herjavec (Dragon’s Den).
Their pitch caught the attention of innovator Rahul Sood (Creator of Microsoft Ventures, now CEO of Unikrn) and earned them second place at the competition.
“It was a great conference and we won over the one guy that mattered most to me. It’s going to lead to a lot of strategic investment partnerships,” says Bartlett.
WTFast has enjoyed a meteoric rise since its launch in 2009. Among other accolades, the company has been singled out as a Top 15 start-up at Metabridge, one of the BCIC New Ventures Top 10 companies, and was a finalist for the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Mid-Sized Business Awards in 2014.
Their successful pitch at Interzone is arguably the biggest coup to date, but it’s by far not the end of the line for Bartlett and his team. He’s got his sights set very high, and he sees a world of opportunity growing his business in the Okanagan Centre for Innovation (OCI), the new tech incubator slated to open in 2016.
As a direct beneficiary of Accelerate Okanagan, one of the regions partners in the advancement of technology and innovation in the Okanagan, Bartlett knows the value in having a shared space for companies at all stages of development.
“There are many tech start-up companies that have a great idea, but they don’t know how to go about executing their plan to actually see it through,” says Bartlett. “WTFast was one of those companies; we had an idea, but had to figure out how to make a business out of it.”
According to Bartlett, having access to a tech conduit like Accelerate Okanagan gave them the vital connections they needed to build their business, and his company isn’t the only one to benefit.
“There are many tech companies in the valley who have moved past the lifestyle business phase and are a valuable employer of many high-talent jobs…clearly the assistance offered by a tech incubator is invaluable.”
It’s expected that the OCI will magnify that impact, bringing the full range of experience, capital, resources and innovators together under one roof.
He’s looking forward to moving corporate headquarters to the OCI, and sees the Centre as a great draw for companies looking to expand or relocate. As for the location next to the library, he says, “Downtown is the heart of Kelowna, especially for tech companies. It is the ideal place to work: not far from the lake, lots of restaurants and coffee shops nearby, and lots of other tech companies to bump into.”
He considers Kelowna to be an exceptionally appealing place to live and work, and has no trouble communicating the benefits to prospective employees.
WTFast currently employs 20 people in Kelowna (and 10 in satellite offices across the border), and while most of them already called the Okanagan their home, he’s lured talent from Poland, Mongolia and Vietnam to join his team of trailblazers.
Local post-secondary schools, like Okanagan College, and the Centre for Arts & Technology are generating a strong pool of employees, and WTFast has forged relationships with many of them in order to mine the best talent available.
“We’re impressed with the quality of the training we’re seeing and there are some great students coming out of Kelowna,” according to Bartlett. “If they get involved with industry programs available in the OCI, actually working with companies like WTFast while they’re going to school, they’re going to get very good, real world experience.”
Keeping young talent in Kelowna is a motivating factor for the development of the Centre. The tech industry creates clean, sustainable jobs that build the community, socially and economically. The young labour force brings with it demand for housing, daycares, schools, and other civic services. It also fosters an atmosphere for artists, musicians, and academics who contribute a vibrancy and energy to a community.
As Bartlett points out, traditional retail and service businesses are beneficial, and necessary, but their growth potential is limited.
“Tech businesses, on the other hand, have tremendous growth potential, in many cases the sky’s the limit! High growth tech companies create high paying jobs, and in turn, help to support traditional retail and service businesses in a community.
“It’s really a snowball effect, it makes a lot of sense to invest in tech companies.”
A recent Accelerate Okanagan study revealed that “snowball effect” by the numbers quite convincingly. The tech industry employed in excess of 8,000 staff, and contributed $1.02 billion to the local economy in 2013, including a direct impact of $797 million in revenues generated by tech companies, as well as an indirect impact of $223 million created by ancillary suppliers.
For now, Bartlett is celebrating his success at Interzone 2015. Having proven that WTFast is a worthy recipient of a capital injection he can now accelerate his trajectory and continue to grow his business here in the Okanagan. Who knows what his workforce will look like when they open their doors at the Innovation Centre in 2016?
The Okanagan Centre for Innovation, opening in Fall 2016, is a state-of-the-art building that will house everything from two-person start-ups to large technology and innovation firms. Publicly-supported space and services will also be available for early-stage companies, non-profits, community groups, and social enterprises.
The OCI is still taking leasing inquiries. For more information on whether it’s the right fit for your business contact Jack.Shabbits@colliers.com or Meghan.Omara@colliers.com at Collier’s International, or call 250 763 2300.
May 19, 2015
Visitors to the downtown core will be seeing a significant ramp-up of activity on the building site of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation at the corner of Ellis St. and Doyle Ave.
After months of negotiations, preparations and planning, crews will be putting boots (and heavy equipment) to the ground, according to the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group, the developer behind the project.
The Innovation Centre is a creative, complex marriage of small and large enterprise, academic institutions, civic, regional, provincial and federal governments, and a visionary undertaking for the community.
“That’s the underpinning for this project: community,” says KSIG spokesperson, Kelsey Helm.
One stakeholder who will be particularly pleased to see excavators and loaders start work on the site is the Centre’s next-door neighbour: the Okanagan Regional Library.
“A great deal of thought and planning went into the design and location of the Centre, including how it could potentially connect to the Library,” said Helm.
According to ORL’s Chief Executive Officer, Stephanie Hall, “The public library has a lot to offer the business and technology communities, so we advocated for our space to be joined to the Innovation Centre. KSIG’s vision for the Centre was that it would have a cultural element, so it was a great fit.”
Interestingly, as part of the libraries original design, two large panels were identified for potential removal from its south-facing wall, conveniently opening up a connection point for the Innovation Centre on the first floor.
Hall sees the Library’s role as one of support for “creativity and innovation in all its forms.” She considers the partnership with the Centre as an excellent conduit for tapping into the creative, as well as the technological, sector.
“The OCI will add a critical engine and mixing place for the technology sector,” according to Hall. “We see the project as having the potential to be hugely beneficial to the local economy, and we want to support that however we can.”
While crews will be preparing the building site for foundation work, Hall and her staff will be reaching out to residents in order to learn how to best fulfill the needs of the library patrons.
For more information on the Okanagan Centre for Innovation, please visit www.okanaganinnovation.com.
November 27, 2014
Hello all, and welcome to the first edition of Innovation + Information!
You’re receiving this email because you’ve expressed an interest in learning more about the Okanagan Centre for Innovation – or maybe you’re already involved.
The OCI project is first and foremost an industry-led, vision-driven effort to create something more than just bricks and mortar.
The goal of the OCI is to foster a community of inclusiveness, create support across the full spectrum of the entrepreneurial path, and develop a modern hub of innovation, technology and creativity. The centre will become a new "technopolis," where business and economic development is tied to community and culture.
At the heart of the OCI concept are new alliances, driven by the rapid increase in new technologies that are central to economic development. The goal is to connect established public and private entities to spur economic growth and diversification through entrepreneurial development.
These ideas rely on creating an intentional space. Without the physical building, the innovative space-sharing and powerful face-to-face “creative collisions” couldn’t happen.
The design of the building itself will consist of shared public space, integration with Kelowna’s cultural district and the library next door, as well as shared occupancy with private, public and non-profit tenants, large and small enterprises, students and startups.
Even though it's leasing up fast, there is space still available for companies wanting to join this dynamic community.
We welcome your feedback, and look forward to keeping you updated with lots of information and interesting stories about the people and companies that are making the Okanagan Centre for Innovation a reality.
October 31, 2014
KELOWNA - Premier Christy Clark was joined by local technology entrepreneurs today to mark the beginning of construction on the much-anticipated Okanagan Centre for Innovation, a leading edge technology centre for the region.
“Whether they are already a big player like Club Penguin, or a promising startup like Bananatag, successful entrepreneurs are crucial to a strong economy," said Premier Clark. “That’s why we are investing in this project - so local innovators get a head start in growing their business, creating jobs, and solidifying Kelowna as a leader in technological development and investment.”
With the site fenced and excavated, shovels have officially hit the ground. The foundation for the six-storey, 9,850 square-metre (106,000 square-foot) centre is scheduled to be laid in mid-November and construction completed by early 2016, creating about 500 construction jobs in the process.
The centre will provide low-cost, flexible space for local students, entrepreneurs and technology startups, who will also gain benefits from the convenience of being housed in one space to network, share ideas and pass on experience - not to mention gaining mentoring and support from in-house neighbours like Accelerate Okanagan.
“Kelowna has a diverse and thriving tech community, which has set the stage for this development,” said Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Andrew Wilkinson. “The new Okanagan Centre for Innovation will allow Kelowna to build on that success by providing entrepreneurs with the skills, guidance and workspace they need to prosper.”
The project is the result of a collaborative group with a shared vision, including community members, private industry partners and academic leaders from Okanagan College, University of British Columbia, Accelerate Okanagan, and the Central Okanagan Development Commission. They all have a common goal of seeing Kelowna’s entrepreneurs advance as national and international leaders in technology.
The centre is being built on city-owned land valued at more than $2 million and under long-term lease from the City of Kelowna. The city will also receive ownership of a portion of the building that will be leased back to the Okanagan Centre for Innovation to provide non-profit space.
“I believe we’ll look back on the start of this project as one of the sparks that made Kelowna a hotspot for technology development in Canada and around the world,” said Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray. “Great partnerships among levels of government, centres of learning and business development groups will continue to expand our sustainable, knowledge-based economy.”
The B.C. government will own 1,860 square metres (20,000 square feet) of space in the building, which will provide low-cost, flexible space for start-ups at a venture stage.
“This is an exciting day for our technology, innovation and entrepreneurial community,” said Jeff Keen from the Okanagan Centre for Innovation. “This new centre will firmly establish the Okanagan as a great place to start and grow a tech company, and will have a positive effect in the region and throughout B.C. The municipal and provincial governments should be applauded for making investments in intelligent economic development initiatives like this.”
This investment supports the BC Jobs Plan by helping deliver on government’s commitment to fostering innovation and growth in British Columbia’s technology sector.
- Once completed, this new centre will be third-largest dedicated technology building of its kind in B.C.
- Provincial funding of up to $6 million will be provided upon completion of the building in exchange for ownership of a 40-year leasehold strata title for approximately 1,860 square metres (20,000 square feet) of space.
- Accelerate Okanagan is a delivery partner of the BC Innovation Council’s Venture Acceleration Program and a member of the BC Acceleration Network, providing resources to students, entrepreneurs, startups and early stage companies.
- Accelerate Okanagan has engaged over 100 companies, which in turn have raised $14 million and created 314 local jobs.