Startup Kamloops, a loose association of entrepreneurial support and service organizations in the city, including the TRU Generator, took home Startup Canada’s Community of the Year Award at a national awards ceremony in Ottawa last Thursday.
Accepting the award on behalf of Startup Kamloops, executive director of Kamloops Innovation, Lincoln Smith, said that Startup Kamloops won this year for several reasons.
“I’d say our relationship with the university and relationship the university has with the community was important,” Smith said. “The support that the city of Kamloops have given to the initiatives in Kamloops was an important aspect and I think the success of some of the companies coming out of this region was important too.”
Kamloops first joined the Startup Canada Communities network last year. While the organization is young, both startups and individuals in Kamloops have been taking home awards since 2015.
Two years ago, Kamloops Innovation was recognized for entrepreneurial support and impact in the region. Robert Atwood, co-founder and CEO of Hummingbird Drones, a TRU student startup, took home the Young Entrepreneur award in the same year.
In 2016, iTel Networks, a major employer of TRU students in the city, was awarded for its high-growth entrepreneurship both regionally and nationally. One of Kamloops Innovation’s in-house entrepreneurs, John Zubak, was also recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Earlier this September, Kamloops hosted B.C.’s regional startup awards, the first time the event has been held outside Vancouver. In that ceremony, Hummingbird Drones won the Innovation Award, while Vicki Collett, co-owner of Harper’s Trail Winery was named Senior Entrepreneur of the Year.
“We have had a number of Kamloops companies, organizations and individuals win awards in the past,” Smith said. “But this is the first year that the community as a whole has won the Startup awards.”
Startup Kamloops beat both Startup Sault Ste. Marie and Startup Edmonton to win the award. Smith believes that Kamloops’ commitment to its entrepreneurial community helped make that happen.
“With genuine startup communities, it is a lot of giving before you get and I think Kamloops typifies that approach,” Smith said.
Yet winning the award is about more proving that Kamloops has an innovative spirit, says Smith. He hopes that TRU students with great ideas take notice and realize that there is a possibility for startups to grow in Kamloops.
“I think what it does for TRU entrepreneurs is it indicates that the support for startup companies exist in Kamloops. They can both do their studies and pursue a new venture, and upon graduation, continue with both of those here in Kamloops,” Smith said. “There is not going to be a requirement that they must move away to build a company, and in fact, Kamloops may be the best place to build what they are thinking about doing.”
If you’re a student with a great idea, you can check out TRU Generator in the basement of the House of Learning for a chance to meet with mentors and like-minded individuals. Tomorrow night, TRU Generator will be hosting a Startup Academy session focussing on measuring business opportunity.