Penticton Innovation Centre gets a jump start

Technology startups in the South Okanagan got a bit of a leg up on Tuesday.

Dean Prelazzi of the B.C. Innovation Council

Dean Prelazzi of the B.C. Innovation Council

Technology startups in the South Okanagan got a bit of a leg up on Tuesday.

That’s when the Jump:Start:Challenge program arrived at the Penticton Innovation Centre, with 22 companies coming forward to make their pitch to the panel of expert judges.

Just 10 companies made it past the judges in this first event in the series, earning the chance to move on to the next round of the challenge, where they will receive eight weeks of intense training, coaching and mentoring to improve their investor presentations.

Andrew Greer, community manager for the Penticton Innovation Centre, said the event was planned even before the PIC opened earlier this year.

“It was a defined effort from Accelerate Okanagan to create some more buzz in the South Okanagan,” Greer said. “There is a lot going on here in the south. I don’t think people really see that.”

Greer said that out of the 31 companies enrolled in AO’s Venture Acceleration program, eight are from the South Okanagan and two more are starting this month.

“That will bring us up to ten, which is a third of the companies, for a much smaller population base,” he said. “The South Okanagan is really pulling its weight.”

Considering it was the first in the series, the event was also well attended. Greer said it was standing room only, with over 100 people attending, including the Startup Canada team, which made Penticton a stop on their cross-Canada tour to support and inspire entrepreneurship. Then there were the 22 companies making their pitches.

“We had one that came in live from Vancouver, we had one that was on Skype from Vancouver, we had one from Ontario and the rest here from the Okanagan,” said Greer.

One of those hopefuls was Michael Suhr of Penticton, whose company, Circle Radius Films, is producing an immersive video game for mobile platforms, like smart phones and tablets.

While he didn’t make it into the top 10, Suhr learned a lot from the experience. It was not only his first time making a pitch of this sort, he admits it was his first time in front of a microphone.

Though he had prepared and practiced, Suhr said he was a bit anxious as he pitched his plan to the judges, describing how his game would take advantage of new developments in mobile tech, allowing for a game driven by CGI graphics, rather than the typical sprite-based games like Angry Birds.

“It’s a mobile development title. It’s console-quality graphics on a mobile device,” said Suhr.  “The game itself is an immersive storyline concept.”

Suhr isn’t daunted by not being selected for the next round. Rather, he said it was an amazing forum to participate in.

“While waiting to take part, I got started talking to some of the entrepreneurs that came from Vancouver and they have been recently to pitch competitions in Vancouver, Seattle, California,” Suhr said. “These events happen everywhere and having this in Penticton is completely invaluable.”

The 10 finalists were Octothorpe Software Corporation, ..duo, Trajectory Design Automation Corp., Media Cooler Innovations Inc., GreenStep Sustainability Coaching, ProgenyBio, Counterpart Technologies Inc., Proactive Automated Backflow Technologies Inc., Moteas and Cream HR.