Tech talk: Technology trending up in the South Okanagan

Keith MacIntyre is a tech columnist for the Penticton Western News and the owner of Big Bear Software Inc. - Submitted photo
Keith MacIntyre is a tech columnist for the Penticton Western News and the owner of Big Bear Software Inc.
— image credit: Submitted photo

I’ve lived in Penticton for a little over six years and have been very active in the technology community.

Having an entrepreneurial spirit, I’ve followed the tech startup community in the Okanagan closely.  It’s encouraging to see companies that were pitching their ideas five years ago, now employing over 20 people and sponsoring events.

A recent study by Accelerate Okanagan estimated the Okanagan Tech industry to have a $1.3 billion economic impact, a 30 per cent growth since 2013.

Related: Okanagan tech sector grows to a $1.3 billion economic impact

There are 633 technology businesses with 98 of them in the South Okanagan.  The tech workforce is 7,600 employees with the majority of them under 35.  Accelerate Okanagan runs over 120 events per year and has helped their 160-plus clients and alumni raise over $35 million to expand their businesses and create jobs. In the last two years, there have been multiple large exits ranging from $2.5 million to $170 million. Technology is a driving force in the Okanagan, it has grown by 30 per cent since 2013 and it will continue to grow faster in the coming years.  This is evident in the 70-plus jobs posted on the Accelerate Okanagan job board. I believe tech will surpass tourism in the near future in the Okanagan.

When I first moved my business to Penticton I worked hard to find local clients in Kelowna and Penticton, but I found that there was not a large enough market for our services here and my client base has typically been in Calgary. Over the last year, I have seen a significant change, particularly in Penticton.

It’s clear to me why Penticton was voted the third most entrepreneurial city in Canada, and I see no reason why we won’t be No.1 soon. We are helping local entrepreneur Luc Rodgers build SurveyLife an application for survey company office staff to have a better understanding of what's happening in the field.

Another interesting local project is UBCO’s Citizen Science pollinator tracking app helping researchers understand pollinator populations and pollination patterns better.

Insight - The Citizen Science App from Geoffrey Campbell on Vimeo.

I am routinely asked by local businesses how I can help them improve their business processes with technology. It is a perfect time to look automate and look at emerging technologies such as Internet of Things devices and Cloud Computing.

Penticton is an ideal place to launch a tech startup, build a remote tech team, or move a tech company too.

My biggest fear when trying to grow my business used to be access to quality talent, I no longer feel that way. After running #TechBrew for the last four months, I have been receiving messages from tech professionals who have plans to move to Penticton in the coming year. This is an encouraging trend that I have been noticing in Penticton in all sectors. There are more and more professionals moving with their families to Penticton to take advantage of the great year-round lifestyle with our great beaches, wineries, trails, climbing bluffs and local ski hill.

I encourage employers in Penticton in all areas to focus on growth and attracting quality employees. If the person you need is not here now, you can be sure there are many people looking to move here this year with the skills you need to grow your business.

Our New Year #TechBrew is Thursday Jan. 19 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. upstairs at the Barley Mill.

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


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