Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Aug 03, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.

This is “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet David. David Brennan is the CEO of Safety Evolution. When he’s not building software that protects oil and gas workers, you’ll find Brennan out for a run, collecting wine or enjoying great food around the Okanagan.

Where do you work in the Okanagan? 

I’m the CEO of Safety Evolution, so I’m responsible for ensuring we have a great vision and purpose. My co-founder and I started the company in Alberta in 2016 and officially opened the head offices here in Kelowna three years later. It’s a great location at Pandosy and Leon so it’s easy to explore downtown or spend some time at the beach during the day.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

Finding great people and empowering them to do what they’re good at. Growing the team has been going well for us and has provided some great learnings. I’m at the point now where if I meet a person that can add value to our team, I’ll create a position for them. It’s been fun finding ways to bring more expertise and skills into Saftey Evolution that can help us grow.

How did you get into this kind of work?

I worked in Alberta with the oil and gas industry as a consultant up until 2019 when I went full-time with Saftey Evolution. Before that I had started three businesses, so I had also gained experience in the startup space. As a consultant, I was working in occupational health and safety with most of the big oil companies and saw a real disconnect in how they should be protecting their workforce. My co-founder and I decided to leverage our software and industry knowledge to create a solution for that disconnect.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?

If you have a great idea for a software company that solves a problem, find a good designer, build a cheap clickable prototype, take it to your ideal customer and ask them what they think. If they don’t like it, don’t build it. You’ll save yourself thousands of dollars in development fees. If they do like it, sign them up as a customer so they can help you pay to build the platform. That’s not what we did, and it’s a lesson I’m taking away.

How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community? 

When Saftey Evolution was two years old, we were looking for help—because we didn’t really know what we were doing at that point— and found the Venture Acceleration Program at Accelerate Okanagan. A little while later, applications for the annual OKGN Angel Summit opened while we were looking to raise our first round of capital, so we participated in that, too. Through those programs, we were able to work with some really good mentors, connect with the community and access valuable resources.

What do you enjoy about it?

Everybody is really helpful and willing to make time for members of the community. Grant Lawrence with Valhalla was an awesome mentor and Brodie Desimone has been a great connection in our network. What I really like is the depth of skill that’s here. If you want to know something or learn a new skill, there are people here that will teach and mentor you through it. It’s cool to see that everyone wants to give back and be a part of the community.

What changes have you seen in the community?

The Okanagan tech community is growing, and I don’t know if people realize just how fast. I was on a founder’s hike up Knox early in the pandemic and, over about five months, nearly 30 new tech founders had moved to the area and joined our group. It’s been phenomenal to see the number of skilled people and the added expertise that have come into the community. It’s clear to me that the tech industry and the Okanagan as a whole have the traction to grow significantly.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

Talk less and listen more; ask questions and stay curious. When you’re in a leadership role, if you’re coming into a room with the answer or next step, you’re stopping people from being creative, taking ownership, and doing all the things that you want them to do. As a leader, your job isn’t to provide answers; it’s to give your team the freedom to explore innovative solutions.


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