Blog November 28, 2019

Posted by Brea Lake


There is no question that this was a wildly successful year for Accelerate Okanagan and OKGNtech. An economic impact of close to $1.7 Billion, almost 12,000 jobs, and a year-over-year growth of 15% for the past 6 years making the Okanagan the fastest growing tech and innovation hub in the country! This is proof of what we have long known: BIG things are happening here, and we’re just getting started.

We recently paused to reflect on what we’ve accomplished over the past year by way of hosting our Annual General Meeting. This has been an action-packed year for Accelerate Okanagan and OKGNtech so there was no shortage of stand-out achievements to celebrate with our members. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a flip through our annual report and learn more about some of the milestones we hit and innovative projects we’ve launched over the last 12 months.

Our general meeting was also an opportunity to elect a new Board of Directors, consisting of both new and returning members. I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the new Accelerate Okanagan Board. This group of skilled professionals have a wealth of experience and collectively they have committed to supporting us and our community through this next chapter of growth. 

Phil Ashman, Regional Dean for the Central Okanagan at Okanagan College

Phil spent eleven years in the department of Network and Telecommunications Engineering Technologies at Okanagan College before becoming Associate Dean of Science, Technology and Health and later the  Regional Dean for the Central Okanagan. Phil has dedicated time leading technology workshops, representing the college on the Board of Directors for the Okanagan Research and Innovation Centre, and as a Technical Lead with the Okanagan High-Speed Broadband Initiative.

Dr. Phil Barker, Associate Vice-President Research & Vice-Principal Research at UBC Okanagan 

Dr. Barker serves in the dual role of AVP Research for the UBC system and Vice-Principal Research for the Okanagan campus. There, he works to deepen the research and innovation culture. Phil is driven to build relationships that increase research and innovation capacity, as well as advocate for the University’s research and innovation mission.

Blair Forrest, Partner at Pushor Mitchell LLP

Blair Forrest is a partner at Pushor Mitchell LLP, where he practices business law with a specific focus on corporate, securities, and matters of technology law. He deals with mergers, acquisitions, public offerings, private placements, venture capital investments, corporate finance transactions, corporate structuring, and regulatory applications to the Canadian stock exchanges and securities commissions. Technology transactions involve unique, complex risks and Blair’s experience in this area includes the full spectrum. 

Josh Fraser, Founder and CEO at Data Nerds

Joshua has over 10 years of digital advertising experience and is currently building Data Nerds in British Columbia, Canada. After completing the illustrious Techstars Boulder program, Josh and Data Nerds received its first US-based investment from the Foundry group. Josh and the Data Nerds are deeply involved in the community and helping to grow the tech sector in British Columbia.

Doug Gilchrist, Chief Administrative Officer at the City of Kelowna

Doug spent 4 years as Manager of Community Development & Real Estate before being named to the Senior Leadership Team as Director of Real Estate. During his time with the City of Kelowna, Doug managed a variety of divisions and has overseen numerous complex projects, such as the acquisition of the CN Rail line for the Okanagan Rail Trail initiative.

Corie Griffiths, Director of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission

Corie is the Director of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COEDC) and is a key resource for business retention and attraction initiatives. She has represented the COEDC on several boards and is currently sitting on the Kelowna International Air Route Development task force, and is a regional advisory member to both Okanagan College and the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

Tanja Halsall, Chief People Officer at Potentia Human Resources and Engagement Consulting

Tanja provides consulting services to various local businesses through her consulting company Potentia Human Resources & Engagement Consulting and is also an Adjunct Professor with the Faculty of Management at UBC Okanagan. Tanja draws on her 30 plus years of progressive management, operations, and strategic Human Resource experience to support local businesses in developing exceptional People, Culture and Leadership practices in order to achieve desired results.

Jason Kryski, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Strawhouse Labs

An accomplished serial entrepreneur who has co-founded three companies in the digital marketing space, Jason helps US-based venture and private-equity-backed companies in growing their distribution and revenue. Leveraging performance compensation models, he learned early on that, when all party’s interests align profound things can happen.

Michael Macaulay, Partner at Lawson Lundell LLP

Michael was a key contributor in opening the firm’s Kelowna office. His practice is focused on corporate, securities and technology law. Michael has extensive experience working with and advising entrepreneurs, start-ups, emerging companies, angel investors and venture capital funds. He also devotes significant time to organizations in the BC start-up community, including Accelerate Okanagan, Innovation Island and entrpreneurship@UBC.

Quinton Pullen, Partner at BDO Canada LLP

Quinton is a Chartered Professional Accountant and Tax Partner at BDO Canada LLP. His primary focus is providing tax planning to owner-managed businesses, particularly with respect to divestiture planning, mergers and acquisitions, corporate reorganizations, and cross-border transactions. Quinton is deeply involved in the community as a Director of a number of charities and NPOs, as well as an active supporter of Accelerate Okanagan.

Nicole Rustad, Founder of Vortovia

Nicole is the founder of Vortoia and a champion for world change. She uses equal parts strategy and passion to make things happen. During Nicole’s decade as Corporate Citizenship Director for the tech division of Disney, she drove the corporate social responsibility vision, strategy, and programming across multiple lines of business. This included Disney’s Club Penguin where she created bold, immersive initiatives that spanned the globe.

Harry Singh, Strategic Partnerships and Transactions at Facebook

Harry is an industry executive with venture capital, M&A, strategic transactions, and general management experience.  Harry is a Canadian currently based in California’s Silicon Valley. Harry’s experience includes investments in connectivity, enterprise SaaS, artificial intelligence/deep learning, security, IoT security, identity and access management, encryption, and anti-fraud.

Scot Speiser, Vice-President of Business Development at CapriCMW 

Scot spent the last 11 years with BDC as Vice President, Financing and Consulting where he was responsible for BC North & Interior. In addition, Scot led BDC’s National Aboriginal Unit, served as the Lead for Business Development and Client Relationship Management of BDC’s National Transformation Project and was a founding member on BDC’s National Client Experience Committee. 

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