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Kelowna  

Centre of innovation

Top tech companies arrived in the Okanagan Valley with the idea they would be connected with Silicon Valley mentors and investors; however, the CEO start-ups were treated to much more.

Those in the tech industry were given one of the first tours of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation (OCI), on Thursday, during the annual Metabridge event.

The brain child of Jeff Keen and his partners at Accelerate Okanagan, OCI was just a dream back in 2013 that has quickly come to fruition.

“In the early days, people were questioning how many tech companies are actually in Kelowna. Do you think you’ll actually be able to rent out the space?” said Keen. “We had to defend this to all levels of government and the community, but as we imagined all along there is a healthy thriving community here.”

More than 7,000 people work in tech and over 550 technology companies are in the Okanagan, according to Keen, proving start-ups want to be in the Interior.

“It will be pretty surreal when it finally opens up, to see what we all dreamed about, then be able to walk through it, touch it and feel it and imagine what is going to happen in there,” Keen said.

While it is still several months away from completion, the OCI got the attention of the visiting tech companies.

William Zhou of Chalk.com in Walterloo, Ont., says his city has some of the same infrastructure, but it’s not all in one building.

“It is really awesome to see the amount of resources and money that are being put into projects like these,” he said.

The B.C. government invested $6 million into the Okangan Centre for Innovation. Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services, was on hand for the tour of the centre and said it’s great to see government, education and the tech sector collaborate.

“Every part of a tech build up, from the inspiration, from the talent, from the venture capital, to the acceleration, to where you are actually occupying space and creating revenue for jobs, all in one location,” said Virk of the OCI.

Virk says he is pleased to see construction moving along so steadily shows the tech industry is booming in B.C.

“The idea to tie it from start-up to a successful company all in one floor and having those successful companies feed back into the start-ups, it is a loop that is closed,” he explained.

Metabridge is a non-profit supporting the start-up eco-system, powered by Accelerate Okanagan, that hosts collaborative programs for top tech entrepreneurs to enable them to connect with mentors and serial entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley.

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