To commemorate Kamloops’ entrepreneurial progress, Kamloops Innovation hosted their annual community event alongside the 2141 Steam Train at the local heritage railway. From startup founders to industry leaders, all were invited to acquaint and reconnect with peers in the municipal and provincial business sectors.
Since its inception, TechFest (or TechBrew as it was initially named) has had the purpose of highlighting the progress happening in the Kamloops tech industry. Lincoln Smith, Kamloops Innovation executive director, remarked on the drastic difference since the community first started from being very technology-heavy to now growing towards other types of services.
“It’s amazing to walk into Kamloops Innovation and look at the companies that weren’t there five years ago,” he said. “I would say 20 per cent of businesses are tech companies, the other 80 per cent are in other areas.”
Companies from all over the province including Penticton, Kelowna and Vancouver visited TechFest to stimulate their businesses and are simultaneously shaping Kamloops’ business identity.
“We have the benefit of looking at other cities and seeing what they’ve done, Kelowna being one of them,” said Smith. “We are standing on their shoulders to develop our tech sector quickly.”
Cole Weber, economic development specialist for Venture Kamloops, also shared his optimism of the Kamloops entrepreneurial scene.
“The Kamloops scene is new, but it’s growing in the right way,” he said. “It’s a fascinating time to be an entrepreneur in Kamloops.”
Kamloops Innovation works especially close to the TRU Generator and generously supports the on-campus entrepreneurial community. Some of TechFest’s featured businesses, including Hummingbird Drones, first originated at the TRU Generator. Beth Quirie, Kamloops Innovation community builder, explains how much support TRU students receive for their endeavours.
“We have different free workshops that we offer throughout the year, from business accounting, business proposals, to elevator pitches, anything we believe is a soft skill that leads to a hard skill,” she said. “We also offer one-on-one mentorship with people who are in that respective industry.”
Weber also noted the exponential surge of supportive resources for young entrepreneurs.
“You have Kamloops Innovation, TRU Generator, Venture Kamloops; I don’t think a lot of young entrepreneurs realize how much support they have in the community,” he said.
TechFest featured appearances from Ken Christian, mayor of Kamloops, Michael Henry, dean of TRU’s School of Business and Economics and Tom Dickinson, dean of the TRU Faculty of Science. The event also offered craft beer and wine from the Red Beard Café, local food trucks, virtual reality exhibits from TRU and BCLC, along with music from the Kamloops band Factotum.