A group of young Kamloops entrepreneurs is sharing space, ideas and enthusiasm as members vie to become the next high-tech success story.
Kamloops Innovation Centre opened its doors earlier this year on Tranquille Road and is now home to about a half a dozen start-up companies specializing in technology and life sciences.
The private centre received financing from a variety of sources, including Western Economic Diversification and the National Research Council. It is working with Kamloops-based Interior Science Innovation Council.
Co-creator Jaethan Reichel said the innovation centre aims to serve as an accelerator to help entrepreneurs who have skills and ideas but lack business experience and capital. It opened in February and has taken the past year to ramp up.
Similar offices exist in larger centres. Reichel said the goal is to develop and maintain high-tech businesses here and banish the notion that entrepreneurs must take their ideas away from Kamloops to succeed.
“I moved here from Calgary about two years ago,” said Reichel, a business development director at iTel Networks.
“At the time it felt like if you had successes, you had to leave. We want people to know it’s an option.
One of the ideas already in motion is the creation of Scott Foubister, a Thompson Rivers University physics graduate who
opted out of grad school to pursue his business idea.
Foubister was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Waterloo’s graduate program in quantum computing.Instead, he decided to pursue the development of a software program to help university students learn vocabulary in their respective disciplines. He originally created it to help himself learn terms in physics.
The program, called Vocaba, was piloted at TRU, where Foubister was assisted by an industry-university liaison. Eventually he connected with the innovation centre, where he is now based. At the innovation centre “the goal is to accelerate companies and that’s great,” Foubister said. He is currently working to expand the number of classes and institutions using Vocaba.
“We want to expand beyond TRU (where about 300 students are slated to use it in January). There’s options for high school, government and in commerce for product knowledge.”
Foubister has also entered the New Ventures B.C. competition.
Once entrepreneurs are accepted into the business accelerator, they receive mentorship, listen to guest speakers, connect with potential investors and work together in a community.
The centre offers meeting space, shared reception, phones — all the typical trappings of an office but shared by a group of entrepreneurs.
“It’s much better than working in your basement alone,” Foubister said.
Reichel said members also come together for events, including a “hack night” where they work together to develop a space battle video game.
The Kamloops Innovation Centre is looking for new members to share creative enthusiasm, ideas and business services. It operates a website at www.kicstart.ca.
“We can do more. We’re looking for people. We want to put as many creative people in the space as possible and see what comes out of it.”