Big bucks for AO exports
Trevor Nichols - Jan 11 - Biz Releases

Image: Trevor Nichols
Accelerate Okanagan CEO Raghwa Gopal.

A staple of the Kelowna tech scene will soon see its entrepreneur-boosting programs spread to communities across the province, thanks to a half-million dollars of federal funding.

The money will allow Accelerate Okanagan, the tech accelerator that’s churned out some of the region’s most notable tech companies, to take two of its most popular programs out of the city, and into some of B.C.’s more far-flung communities.

The $473,000, gifted to AO from Western Economic Diversification Canada, is part of $1 million that will allow the accelerator to export RevUP and Startup Basics to the communities of Kamloops, Nanaimo, and Prince George.

Developed by AO in Kelowna, Startup Basics provides early-stage entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to accelerate their idea to the next stage. RevUP is a six-month program designed to help technology companies with scaling and rapid growth issues.

As it spreads the programs across B.C., AO will also be expanding them to focus more on clean technology and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Accelerate Okanagan CEO Raghwa Gopal explains that the federal funding will be combined with money from sponsorships, as well as a small fee from program participants, to allow AO team members to train facilitators at organizations similar to AO in the new communities.

“The way this program will work, we will work with these folks, we will train them and their people, and they will become the feet on the ground,” he says. “They have the relationships, they have the knowledge of the local area, so we’re going to leverage that.”

Lincoln Smith is the executive director of Kamloops Innovation, one of the organizations that will start offering Startup Basics and RevUp.

He says he’s “genuinely excited” about the announcement, because it will help ensure economies in rural B.C. continue to thrive.

He talks often about the importance for B.C., Western Canada and the country as a whole to “not neglect and forget that the technology and innovation sectors need to be built outside of urban centres.”

Expanding the AO programs to some of those communities, he says, will allow that to happen, helping scale growth-stage companies and allowing them to create more jobs.

“Their wins here [in Kelowna] are our wins in Kamloops. Our wins in Kamloops are Prince George’s wins. The whole regional and rural ecosystem wins as we build these relationships and build the support outside of our urban centres,” he says.

More information about Accelerate Okanagan, and its programs is available online.

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