From TechVibes http://www.techvibes.

com/blog/the-okanagan-valley-a-tech-commercialization-prime r By Scott Valentine Major Players The Okanagan Science and Technology Council (OSTEC) is the region's lead not-for -profit tech boster. According to OSTEC's most recent financial statements, that organization spent a little less than $500,000 last year - up about a third fro m 2007 - with 40% of that going direct to marketing and promotions. OSTEC likes to talk-up the GigaCenter (note goofy American spelling), which has the reputati on of being one of the safest and greenest data centre locations in the world. Tween social network Club Penguin became the local tech diva after being acquire d by Disney in 2007. CP still advertises a few jobs out of Kelowna but has been described to me by several local players as "A closed shop." That's a damn shame , in my opinion. Kitchener Waterloo is-what-it-is because RIM and the people who built that company have heavily re-invested in the KW region, both financially and by personally reaching out to the emerging tech community. Great tech commun ities grow from the inside out. Schools, Research Facilities and Transfer Agents UBC Okanagan offers an undergrad degree in Computer Sciences and has a good repu tation for its various Engineering and Environmental Sciences offerings, but the re's nary an MBA in sight, though Okanagan College is trying to pick up the slac k with a BBA degree. The local UBC University Industry Liasion Office (UILO) sha res resources with the Vancouver campus, with a claimed output of 7 new spin-off companies and $5.8 million in royalties and liquidated equity for the 2007/2008 period. The privately-run Centre for Arts and Technology in Kelowna offers progams in Di gital Media Design and 3D Game Animation, but instructs mostly on PC-based softw are, thereby earning my regional nomination for the WTF Were You Thinking? award . Incubators and Skills Development The Okanagan Research and Innovation Centre (ORIC) manages high-tech business in cubators aimed primarily at nurturing start-ups and sustaining existing high-gro wth technology companies. ORIC has a good rep in the area among area entrepreneu rs for the organization's strong online resource library, reasonable rates, invo lvement in the budding OkanaganMentors.com effort, and it's close associations w ith the NRC in Penticton and Centre of Excellence in Kelowna. On first blush, I' d put ORIC's capabilities after just four years of operation on-par with, or bet ter than, several other regional incubators of longer tenure and much greater fu nding. Kudos to Peter Haubrich and his team. People With Money The Okanagan Innovation Fund (OIF) uses a Private Equity Fund as its investment vehicle of choice. Preferred investments are post beta, showing evidence of comm ercialization and in the early private equity stages. OIF has made about 16-plus investments, each in the $100,000 to $250,000 range, since 2005. Some of the co mpanies in OIF's portfolio include SignaLink Technologies, Wear Air Oxygen and W aveteq. Last year, OIF announced a partnership with the Southern Interior Develo pment Initiative Trust (SIDIT) but it's been pretty quiet since then - no news r eleases on the site, anyway.

The Okanagan Partnership looks at the bigger economic development and sustainabi lity picture for the region but has information technologies in its vision. The usual provincial players, such as WINBC and New Media BC, have some footprint, a s well. There's Angel money around - often dripping with Alberta oil - but access seems to work on a who-you-know model. The local Angel network, OKAngels.org, requires sponsorship to get in the door. They hold events once a month, or so, claiming 20 or 30 Angels in attendance at each session. I've sent a request off to attend the next session in the hope of sourcing some up-and-coming Okanagan emerging t echs to profile for you. Community Events OSTEC runs a series of pay-for-play education and networking events you can find on their calendar. There's also a nice looking South Okanagan High-Tech Roundta ble Event at the Penticton Chamber of Commerce Board Room on Wednesday, October 7th, from 16:00-18:00 that I'm going to check out. Unfortunately, there's a complete lack of demo/bar camps in the area. To me, the se type of informal gatherings are the front lobby and public market of of any g reat tech community. Maybe there's a local entrepreneur who wants to take the bu ll by the horns and organize something similar to a TechWing event like Reg Cher amay runs in Edmonton, or the very hip Tech Lounge event out of CTI in Calgary - it needs doing. I'll volunteer to MC the first event and cover it for TechVibe s. Who's Next? Element Four has a gizmo that makes fresh, potable water out of thin air, which is wicked cool and hits a sweet, timely spot in the market. Quantech Software ma kes top-of-the-line dealership management software and draws rave reviews for it 's customer support. Vineyard Networks' online network monitoring and management solutions have drawn Health Canada's business and maybe some dough from New Ven tures BC as one of the province's 10 Best New Business Ideas -- we'll find out S eptember 24th. Summary - The Silicon Vineyard is a nascent but quite promising tech community. It'd be nice to see an MBA program in the region and Club Penguin needs to become a more visible and proactive corporate citizen for the area to truly blossom. ORIC is on track to becoming a world-class tech incubator; - The VC scene is smallish, reserved and a bit long in the tooth. An iNovia or a ny other outfit of that ilk could swoop in here and take over the whole scene pr etty easily, but who's courting them?; - Local tech entrepreneurs will be well-served to organize their own, informal e vents to meet and explore opportunities outside of the mold of traditional, inst itutionally-driven tutelage; - Oh, and an area surrounded by so many beautiful lakes needs a few more waterfr ont patios :)

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