Accelerate Okanagan, Kelowna BC, RevUp Program

Jun 16, 2021 | Story

Okanagan tech industry continues to grow despite pandemic

Local technology companies use mentors through the Accelerate Okanagan “RevUP” program to realize rapid growth.

The tech industry in the Okanagan is rapidly expanding and growing at a rate of 15% per year.  Today, the industry drives over $1.67B in economic activity in the region and employs about 12,500 – a number that is continually increasing. Across all business sectors, technology is streamlining processes, enhancing communications, automating product creation and so much more.

Okanagan tech startups have benefitted from RevUP, a home-grown program designed to support businesses transitioning from startup to rapid growth. Through the RevUP engagement process, company CEO’s, founders and senior leadership team members are paired with experienced business mentors, “Executives in Residence (EIR)”, to guide the creation of sustainable and scalable business systems.  To date, the Rev Up program has assisted over 80 companies and put the Okanagan on the map as a leading region for tech talent and investment.

Key drivers for growth stage companies

The RevUP concept (originally titled “Traction” in its pilot period) was designed in 2016 by Accelerate Okanagan in partnership with Wavefront and the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council. Through a national economic impact study that included consultation with numerous entrepreneurs across the Vancouver, Victoria, and Okanagan regions, it was determined that more hands-on support was need for business between the startup and growth stage.  Scalable revenue models, efficient operational procedures, and strategies to secure additional capital, were key drivers of company growth and expansion into new markets.

Partners in RevUP success

To assist in the creation of the next phase in the business accelerator program, Accelerate Okanagan approached the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior of British Columbia (ETSI-BC, formerly Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust) to secure $25,000 in grant funding.  As regional economic development trust, ETSI-BC saw the opportunity to support an emerging sector and support business growth and new job creation.  This grant was then followed with $50,000 in funding from Innovate BC (formerly BC Innovation Council), $116,000 from NRC-IRAP through Wavefront and self-generated income of $97,500 to bring the RevUP initiative to fruition. The launch of RevUP was one of the first in Canada dedicated to supporting growth-stage businesses.

This combined funding directly allowed Accelerate Okanagan to secure a curated group of EIRs to provide mentorship and innovative business support. EIRs come from a diverse array of industry backgrounds and carry extensive experience in business growth measures. Participating companies are matched with an EIR for a six-month engagement to develop customized plans, to solve business pain points and determine potential areas for opportunity.

Technology emerging in all sectors

Since the RevUP program launch, demand has been evident with an instant influx of companies.  Typical participating companies have between 10-50 employees, average revenues of $2M and come from all industry sectors, including agriculture, mining, tourism, and health sciences.   To date, the 80 plus participating companies have created over 360 local tech-based jobs and many businesses have expanded into larger offices within the region. These companies are now seen giving back to the community who gave to them through charitable donations, sponsorship opportunities and the hiring of talented, local staff. Global investment into locally based businesses has continued to grow.

Local talent, international buy-In

The growth of the tech industry within the Okanagan through the assistance of programs such as RevUP has attracted people to the region not only for lifestyle, but for career stability. Talent pools are growing, wages are kept competitive within the industry as a whole and the Okanagan is on the global map as a tech-savvy region to not only work…but invest.  Most recently, local business and past RevUP participant Bananatag received international buy-in and is now on the world stage providing streamlined internal employee communications.

The RevUP initiative has grown both in impact and scope.  Now, several accelerators across the nation including Kamloops Innovation CentreVIATEC (Victoria), Ontario Quintivation and Columbia Basin Trust offer the program through specialized licensing agreements. With the onset of the pandemic, the tech industry has remained one of the least impacted industries and continues to flourish and grow.  Accelerate Okanagan has witnessed a steady increase in startup businesses over this past year. The RevUP program has received its highest intake ever of businesses maturing into rapid growth phases.   Companies interested in learning more about RevUP can find it at RevUp | Accelerate Okanagan