Startups get help accelerating to the top

Two South Okanagan start-ups were recognized for their innovation in Accelerate Okanagan’s Jump:Start Challenge.

Two South Okanagan start-ups were recognized for their innovation in Accelerate Okanagan’s Jump:Start Challenge.

ElectroMotion Energy Corporation and Digniti Home Hospital made it to the top 10 businesses in the competition that was held from August to November. Accelerate Okanagan is a technology-focused not-for-profit with a mission to increase the number of companies that start and grow in the Okanagan. The competition was specifically to help technology companies and entrepreneurs raise investments to finance their growth, increase their revenues and drive market share.

The investor-ready pitch competition gave the top 10 entrants eight weeks of expert training, coaching and mentorship to improve their pitches and increase their chances of raising capital. ElectroMotion Energy Corporation, based in the South Okanagan, has patented a proprietary, combined heat and power technology that replaces conventional heating, cooling and hot water systems with a single unit. This will also provide onsite power generation to prevent loss of electricity when the power fails. The technology used is so complex that president Jai Zachary was having issues explaining it to people, likening it to the time when people were first introduced to the Internet or email.

“What I got out of the program was a lot of assistance and help with understanding and articulating what people want and need to know about our company and our value proposition. One of the things I have struggled with and my company has, is trying to communicate that in a manner that people can get. Energy encompasses everything in our lives and it has been very difficult to distill it to a point that is a 30-second kind of spiel,” said Zachary.

Through the Jump:Start Challenge, he learned how to effectively communicate his idea to stakeholders from the mentoring support.

The ElectroMotion president said more than 70 per cent of the energy consumed by your home is for space heat and hot water, and the majority of that energy is required only 30 per cent of the day. His innovation, The Revolution, uses this to its advantage and reduces your home’s electrical and natural gas utility consumption.

“The Revolution greatly reduces your power purchases at a time when it is most expensive — peak grid demand, and even allow you to sell surplus electricity to generate revenue for your home,” said Zachary.

The clean energy product uses fuel to generate electricity at your home, then uses the waste heat to heat your water, provide space heating and store any remaining heat for later use.

Those chosen into the top five presented their business ideas to pre-selected members of the investment community in the Okanagan and Vancouver. The overall winner received $10,000 in awards, while second and third place received awards valued at $2,500 each.

“The experience was valuable in that it really tunes up your business presentation and allows you to get investor ready in a very short path,” said Rees Moerman of Digniti Home Hospital based in the South Okanagan.

However, Moerman said the B.C. economy is “absolutely dismal” for venture capital, making it tough for start-ups.

“We have this illusion where we create this venue for all these companies to put themselves out there, but the amount of real venture capital that is out there is absolutely dismal and part of that is the world market and part of that is our Canadian temperment. We don’t support our companies like American companies do.”

A West Kelowna start-up, WTFast, was announced as the overall inaugural Jump:Start Challenge winner. The company speeds up multi-player online games by 60 to 90 per cent. HuStream and StreetText were named runners-up.

“We were thrilled by the number of applications received and the standard of the presentations, which demonstrates the high level of creativity and innovation that exists in the Okanagan technology community,” said Jason Neale, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan.

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