The Okanagan tech community is one of only five tech communities selected to participate in the Techstars Community Pilot Project. The Techstars team will arrive at the end of August to perform an innovative, founders-first assessment of our startup ecosystem. The goal is to accelerate growth in our startup community beyond what would happen organically and to form a new vision for a diverse group of community leaders and partners to rally around.
“Our mission is clear—we want to help community leaders, who are motivated and passionate about their community, build, accelerate, and grow their overall startup eco-system,” said Chris Heivly, Project lead, Techstars.
The Techstars Community Pilot is an incredible opportunity for the Okanagan to engage with some of the most experienced global startup community thought leaders in the world. It is also a chance to inject new methodology into the Okanagan’s current culture and collaborate with some of the highest quality entrepreneurial ecosystems worldwide.
We are the third region this year to undergo this rigorous assessment process and the assessment is only the beginning. The pilot will run over the course of the next year or more and will include the following steps:
In preparation for our project kick off, we caught up with project lead, Chris Heivly, to get his initial thoughts on local tech, global tech, and his passion behind this new project.
Q. What are your first impressions of the Okanagan tech community and what makes us a great candidate for the pilot?
A. The Okanagan tech community fights way above their playing weight. You have a robust and mature startup eco-system as compared to the overall population. I have been to Okanagan twice over a year-and-a-half and what I can tell you is you’ve got some great people. We’ve learned that great communities are people based and when those people have the right attitude anything is possible. What excited me about the Okanagan tech community is that it is a bunch of good actors. It’s people like Raghwa, Andrew, and the rest of the AO team, as well as a community of growth oriented CEO’s working together and really wanting to help.
We had 15-20 communities interested in the program but we knew we could only choose 5, so we choose participants based on who were the most aggressive – and by that I mean, who really wanted it. Andrew and the AO team fought hard for the Okanagan and that means something.
Q. What are some of the challenges faced by the global tech community?
A. When you look at the world through the tech filter what you will find is that every community struggles with finding enough tech talent. Every community. We are just not backfilling the need. In the US there is a need for 600,000 programmers. It’s a problem.
This is why we look at the college and university systems in your community during our assessment. These institutions are nurturing a pipeline of talent and we need to know when they are coming and where they are planning on going. Are they running for Vancouver or Seattle? Or are they staying and joining companies in the Okanagan? Does your community have a code school? Forward thinking communities are the ones who are looking at ways to address this deficiency in tech talent.
In today’s world, it is also not enough to create technology, you need to know how you apply technology to your customer. The customer is important. What the tech world needs is more “growth hackers” — people who not only understand the technology but know how to market it, measure success through data, and continue to innovate.
Q. What makes you so passionate about this Pilot project and how will the Okanagan benefit?
A. This project has been totally motivating because I have met so many passionate people just trying to find their niche. I am interacting with my tribe. They may not be aware of all the best practices but they want to grow their community and they fundamentally understand that every community needs a startup eco-system as a pillar of their local economy Every company is a tech company today. Really, this is the best job anybody can have.
This assessment is going to give your community a view that’s pretty different from a more traditional, top-down, economic development type of assessment. This is actually the polar opposite. We go right to founders and figure out what is happening there and then view the community from the founders up. Think grassroots.
There are always going to be literally a thousand things you could do next as a community builder. The issue is what are the next three things that we should be really concentrating on based on our experiences that will make your community propel faster than if you were just working on it alone.The reality is, startup community building is a recipe and not a playbook. Although there may be some of the same fundamentals there also needs to be local ingredients and tastes. Our job is to take those experiences and bend them to get a custom road map for your community.
“We are so excited to plug deeper into a global network of entrepreneurial community leaders, learn how to further empower our own community leaders, as well as contribute in a more significant way some of the best practices that have been developed right here in the Okanagan,” said AO Program Strategist, Andrew Greer. “There are exciting opportunities ahead to continue to build inclusive, collaborative, entrepreneurial communities.”