KAST receives $15,000 for inclusive programs at Nelson Tech Club

KAST receives $15,000 for Programs at Nelson Tech Club

KAST receives $15,000 for inclusive programs at Nelson Tech Club

The Kootenay Association for Science and Technology received $15,000 from the Discovery Foundation Technology Education Program to deliver inclusive programming for all ages at the Nelson Tech Club.

“These programs will be a perfect introduction to using technology,” says Cam Whitehead, executive director of KAST, “for anyone who wants to use tech to live better, work smarter, or just build something for fun.”

The Nelson Tech Club, located at the Nelson and District Youth Centre, is a barrier-free public hackerspace for people of all ages to learn, share and play using technology — including 3-D printing, robotics, software, design and more.

The weekly drop-in programs will start July 3rd, 2019, and run for six months on Wednesday nights.

This application supports KAST’s aim to establish an inclusive digital technology community around the Nelson Innovation Centre, which recently received $100,000 from the Rural Dividend Fund.

“We want all people to be able to benefit from new opportunities created by tech and innovation,” says Whitehead, “and that means creating a community space to learn new skills.”

The Nelson Tech Club, launched in 2012, comprises over 500 members and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.

Interested in attending the program? Please contact the Nelson Tech Club.

KAST steps for startup growth

A Growth Strategy to Help Prepare and Sustain Your Startup

KAST steps for startup growth

There is a growth strategy you can follow in order to properly position your startup for sustained success.

With only 50 percent of startups making it successfully past the five-year mark, it’s important to have a smart growth strategy – a roadmap for long-term success – to ensure you’re not only prepared for the various inevitable bumps and roadblocks along the way but have the tools to overcome them.

Know Your Value Proposition

If you don’t fully understand your startup’s value proposition – what makes the benefits of your products or services crystal clear – you’re already behind the proverbial 8-ball. The first fundamental step towards developing a smart and effective strategy for growth is being able to explain, without hesitation, how your idea or startup is uniquely qualified to meet or even exceed your prospective customers’ expectations.

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for many startups to either bury their value proposition in buzzwords or trite, meaningless slogans neglecting to highlight it in their marketing or on their website – or it’s so vague they have difficulty identifying it at all!

“Many entrepreneurs lost out, due to never truly articulating a compelling value proposition,” says Michael Skok, VC and Forbes contributor. “Establishing a substantive value proposition is critical if you want to start the journey from your ‘idea’ to building a successful company.”

Your startup’s value proposition is arguably the most important component of your overall messaging, for marketing and otherwise. Startups that can’t identify and clearly convey their unique value proposition will be challenged when it comes to converting sales, growing the business, engaging with potential investors, and becoming market leaders.

You don’t need a huge marketing budget to clearly articulate what makes your business uniquely beneficial – just careful consideration of your product or service from the perspective of your users. It only has to be as long as a headline, sub-headline, and maybe a few succinct bullet points.

Thoroughly Identify Your Customer

Identifying your target, your customer, is fundamental to the process of creating an effective, yet realistic growth strategy. If you don’t clearly understand your target, you’re less likely to provide your customers with what they really need. In fact, chances are greater you’ll iterate on the wrong product enhancements, run with inaccurate marketing messages, and other costly mistakes.

There are several ways to help  identify your customers:

  • Draw on Personal Networks: Don’t be afraid to tap your personal network — friends, family, colleagues, funders, mentors — for feedback and to help examine your product or service. You can use their feedback to help validate – or not – the assumptions and hypotheses you’ve come up with.
  • Launch a survey: Issue surveys via social media, email, or newsletters. Ask pointed questions with regards to the problem you’ve identified and gather feedback to validate.
  • Analyze Market Data: Look to your competitors for information and insights related to target markets. To whom does your competition market? Why do they choose to use them? How are the competition effectively addressing your target and the problem?

Use the data you’ve collected to help develop your buyer personas – the fictional representations of your ideal customers, their unique characteristics, and other qualities.

Keep an Eye on the Competition

Monitoring the competition is helpful for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that your competitors may very well have already solved the challenges that you are currently facing. Follow their progress and you may discover insights regarding possible shortcuts to success.

“One of the reasons why people do not analyze the competition is, in my opinion, the fear of discovering that their product is not as good as their competitors’ product,” says Gilles Bertrand, global commercial lead at Shire. “But you cannot hide from reality — it’s better to face it and improve quickly or pivot your plan if required. Another reason is that they simply do not know how to analyze the competitive landscape.”

Establish Key Performance Indicators

It’s quite difficult to accurately measure your startup success without first defining a few key performance indicators. Startup founders who focus on the key performance indicators that most affect the growth of their startups and dedicate resources to those areas are those at the top of their game.

“Founders cannot hope to grow a company in any meaningful way without an almost obsessive focus on its KPIs,” says Phil Nadel, co-founder and managing director at Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners. “This focus must not be limited to the KPIs themselves, for they are merely measurements of outcomes. We look for founders to have an understanding of what levers can be pulled and what tweaks can be made to improve the business, which will then be reflected in its KPIs.”

The most popular growth metrics include:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): The price you pay to acquire a new customer. Calculate CAC by dividing the total costs associated with acquisition by the total number of new users over a period.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (LV): The total net profit attributed to a customer during his or her relationship with the company. Calculate LV by dividing average order divided by one minus the repeat purchase rate. Subtract that number by CAC.
  • Burn Rate: The rate at which a company spends capital. Calculate the burn rate by defining an observed data period. How much money did you start with at the beginning of the quarter? How much money did you “burn” during the quarter? Divide by the number of months in the observed data period.
  • Gross Profit Margin: Measures revenues after paying the cost of goods sold. Calculate gross profit margin by dividing revenue minus the cost of goods sold.
  • Conversion Rate: Measures the desired action that consumers take. Calculate the conversion rate by dividing the number of conversions by the number of total visits.

Keep front of mind those KPIs that have the biggest impact on your definition of success.

Hire Very Carefully

A bad hire can cost your startup in many ways and can be as high as at least 30 percent of an employee’s first-year earnings. Bringing on the right people is integral, throughout the life of your business but especially in the tenuous early stages. For early-stage startups, a five-figure investment in the wrong employee can cause a significant loss of traction, momentum, and profits. So, finding the right people to work for your startup is not easy, but it is extremely important.

“The culture is what creates the foundation for all future innovation,” CEO Brian Chesky said in a 2013 company memo. “If you break the culture, you break the machine that creates your products.”

Scale Conservatively

Avoid premature scaling by monitoring spending habits, avoiding debt, and limiting overheads. Spending too much money before establishing a product-market fit is the number one reason for premature failure.

Don’t jump into renting office space prematurely. One of the easiest ways to maintain a low burn rate is renting coworking space and the startups who choose to cowork over traditional office space typically save tens of thousands of dollars per year. It also allows for the room to rapidly scale up or down without incurring fees or breaking expensive lease agreements.

Startup teams that work in tech-centric coworking spaces can also the benefit of exposure and introductions to VC, targeted educational programming, and access to resources designed to help them scale faster.

KAST - tips to launch your startup

5 Important Tasks as You Prepare to Launch Your Startup

KAST - launch your startup

As you consider taking your business idea/concept to an operating startup business, the to-do list is seemingly endless!

The list is loooo-ooong when it comes to things to do in the life of a fledgling startup. There are some priorities, however, to ensure that your valuable and limited time is most effectively being spent.

Tackle the following tasks first and you’ll not only crystallize your vision but lay the proper foundation for the work that has to follow.

Be VERY clear in your idea/concept and vision

This may sound ridiculously obvious but revisiting your idea, clarifying it, and defining exactly what you are and what you do is always a productive, not to mention illuminating, exercise.

Part of this step is identifying core values, which will help you clarify what’s important to your startup while also helping other founders or employees understand what is important to your idea and business. It helps to determine a clear direction in all steps that follow.

It’s vital that you are able to explain concisely and succinctly your idea and vision when asked and reviewing it amongst yourselves repeatedly helps refine what will inevitably be part of your pitch.

Here’s help:

What? Another short paragraph, identifying clearly ‘What We Are’. What does your startup do? Is it a product, or a service? What is pain point is it attempting to address? What market are you aiming for?

Who: Write down a short paragraph, identifying clearly ‘Who We Are’. For instance, why you? What precipitated the idea and startup journey? Who are you?

The pitch: Bring together the What and the Who to create your pitch – 30 seconds keeps things short and to the point! Getting this down ensures you can sell it at the drop of a hat, concisely and with confidence.

Catchphrase or Tagline: a simple phrase that encompasses the what and the who. This is meant to be only a line – short and sweet. If it’s catchy, and rolls off the tongue, all the better. This is your opportunity to highlight a key benefit of your idea or perhaps a key belief or value that is the foundation of your business.

It’s important to be honest – DO NOT  promise what you aren’t sure you can deliver.

Customer Discovery and Validation – Know Your Target Market!

It’s one thing to have a great idea and believe there’s a need in the marketplace your concept will address. It’s another to know that there’s a market for it. Who are you selling this to? You need to know your target market.

Here’s help:

You MUST do your research. Explore the marketplace: have you found similar products/services out there? Is there a lot of competition or not so much?

Note particular unique selling propositions, price ranges, and sales strategies. What do they offer?

Identify and narrow down your prospective users. Gather data: gender, age, location, job or career, income, situation, environment, retail habits, etc.

Develop Your Branding

With a solid understanding of the company vision and target market defined, brand development will help prospective audience and clients identify, reach, and want you.

Company branding will help you become more identifiable in the marketplace. Your brand has to relate to your vision and values. and will help you reach the audience you need to make your startup a success.

Here’s help:

Brainstorm and create a mood board to direct your design, keeping it focused on the goal as well as the audience.

Consider your tone and visual language.

Less is more! Keep it simple, clean, and carefully considered so it is easily identifiable. Make it unique! And make sure it helps to convey your message.

Set Goals

Setting goals is important in many facets of our lives, but when it comes to building a successful startup it’s particularly important. Rather than flying by the seat of your pants, goals provide the direction and objective for your startup, both short term and long term.

However… it’s all about baby steps! Keep your eye on the prize but your focus on achievements short-term. Look to set small, achievable golas that provide the small wins that keep things moving forward. It’s the “how do you eat an elephant…?” approach.

Take some time to consider a few important questions:

  • What is one of your startup’s annual goals?
  • What monthly deliverable will contribute towards this yearly goal?
  • What weekly deliverable will help you reach your monthly goals?
  • What daily completed task(s) will help you reach your weekly goals?

These small bites move the project forward, build momentum, and lead to an elephant consumed!

Here are a few examples of small, incremental goals that move your business towards the biggies:

  • Set up the Legal Entity of your business
  • Set up your business bank account
  • Set some sales targets, even if this means only the first sale!
  • Set up your website
  • Finish the first prototype of a project
  • Getting the first 100 subscribers to the app
  • Earn a mention on a blog, or website, or magazine
  • Create and expand a professional network
  • Hire key members of staff

No matter the goals, keep them realistic and attainable! Goals left unachieved are discouraging and can undermine morale.

Create a Business Plan

The idea, the values, the logo… it’s all important. But it’s a proper, thoughtfully developed business plan that can give you a significant advantage.

KAST launch your startup business plan

Of people who start companies with a completed business plan:

  • 36% obtained a loan.
  • 36% received investment capital.
  • 64% grew their business.

Of the people without a business plan:

  • 18% obtained a loan.
  • 18% received investment capital.
  • 43% grew their business.

A business plan is a written description of your company’s future. It’s the outline of what you want to do and how you’re planning to do it. Typically, business plans outline the first three to five years of your business strategy – how you’re going to make money!

Here’s help:

Begin with a Business Model Canvas (BMC). It provides the structure of a business plan without the overhead or the ad-hoc ‘back of the napkin’ sketch!

Popular with entrepreneurs it is a visual chart where you can identify and describe the value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances of your business. It offers:

  • Focus: Without the dozens of pages of a traditional business plan, users of a BMC improve their clarity and focus on what’s driving the business.
  • Flexibility: It’s a lot easier to tweak the model and try things as it’s all on a single page.
  • Transparency: You and your team will have a much easier time understanding your business model and be much more likely to buy into your vision when it’s laid out on a single page.

Have a great idea or the beginnings of a startup? Looking for valuable tools and resources to help you along your entrepreneurial journey? Talk to us!

Improving Internet Access for Basin Residents

Improving High-speed Internet Access for 26 Basin Communities

Improving Internet Access for Basin Residents

Improved high-speed internet is on the way for 26 communities in the Basin, bringing people opportunities to learn, connect and better expand their businesses.

The Province announced today $4.8 million in provincial funding to support the Trust on two new projects to improve broadband access in rural areas.

“In today’s digital age, the internet is part of the foundation for growing good-paying jobs, learning, healthcare and keeping in touch. Our government is committed to a future where everyone in B.C. has access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet,” said Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens Services. “We have incredible tools and resources available to help rural and Indigenous communities form their own digital strategy so they can come forward with applications.”

The Trust’s Broadband Initiative will install fibre-optic infrastructure for two new projects; one in the Slocan Valley to just outside Nakusp, and one in the South Country near Jaffray. New fibre-optic lines will enable internet service providers to offer faster and more reliable services to people throughout the region. The total value of the Slocan Valley and the South Country projects is approximately $10.2 million and includes $4.4 million from the Trust, $420,000 from the Regional District of East Kootenay and $525,000 from the Regional District of Central Kootenay and communities in the Slocan Valley and Nakusp. Both projects are funded through the Connecting British Columbia intake announced in 2018, and are administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust.

“Residents have told us that increasing high-speed internet connectivity throughout the region is important to them, ” said Johnny Strilaeff, president and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust. “Our partnership with the Province and local governments will expand affordable broadband
availability in the Slocan Valley and South Country area. With a new fibre backbone in place, local internet service providers can greatly improve service to more residents in both areas.”

The Slocan Valley project will see CBBC install 125 kilometres of fibre-optic infrastructure to service the region between Shoreholme, just north of Nakusp, and the Playmor Junction, at an estimated total cost of $7.2 million. Communities benefiting from this work include Appledale, Brouse, Crescent Valley, Hills, Lebahdo, Lemon Creek, Nakusp, New Denver, Passmore, Perrys, Playmor Junction, Rosebery, Shoreholme, Silverton, Slocan, Slocan Park, South Slocan, Summit Lake, Vallican and Winlaw.

The South Country project involves more than 50 kilometres of fibre-optic infrastructure installed between Jaffray and Roosville at an estimated total cost of $2.9 million. This project will help improve services for people in Tobacco Plains, Baynes Lake, Grasmere, Jaffray, Kragmont and Roosville.

Read the full release.

BC PNP TECH PILOT KAST

BC Provincial Nominee Program Tech Pilot

BC PNP TECH PILOT KAST

Are you an employer looking to fill positions for engineers, IT professionals, or industry-related technicians?

The Government of BC is running a pilot program to fast-track the hiring of skilled immigrants for these positions.

The B.C. technology sector is a major driver of economic growth in the province, with tech employment at its highest level ever recorded. The demand for talent in B.C.’s tech sector is increasing faster than the supply.

The priorities for the Ministry of Jobs, Trade, and Technology include establishing B.C. as a preferred location for new and emerging technologies, increasing the growth of domestic B.C. tech companies, and removing barriers to attracting skilled workers.

B.C. is developing the highest quality local talent by introducing students to tech earlier, adjusting training and education in post-secondary institutions and creating work experience opportunities.

Beyond using the skills and talent of B.C. workers, companies need to be able to attract skilled workers from around the world. Tech entrepreneurs and skilled workers from other leading-edge countries can help grow B.C.’s technology sector, leading to more jobs for British Columbians.

In support of these priorities, a pilot under the BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) works to ensure the technology sector can attract and retain the talent it needs to be sustained and to grow the sector further.

The BC PNP Tech Pilot helps employers to address their talent needs by providing a fast-tracked, permanent immigration pathway for in-demand foreign workers and international students.

Click HERE for more information.

BC PNP Tech Pilot Features

The BC PNP Tech Pilot key features are based on service, timeliness, prioritization, and engagement in response to the needs of the industry:

  • Service: A dedicated BC PNP concierge for tech employers provides tailored information and navigation assistance of immigration programs and processes.
  • Timeliness: Weekly invitations to apply are issued to qualified skilled tech workers, minimizing the wait for employers and their prospective employees.
  • Prioritization: Tech applications are prioritized during processing to meet the sector’s fast-paced demands.
  • Engagement: Continuous support to tech sector employers through proactive engagement activities and participation at key industry events.

Updates and enhancements to the BC PNP Tech Pilot

BC PNP Tech Pilot extended to June 2019

The BC PNP Tech Pilot has been extended for another year to provide employers with a degree of stability that will allow them to plan for their future staffing needs.

Click HERE for more information.

Updates to eligible Tech Pilot occupations

We have also updated the list of eligible occupations for the Tech Pilot to focus on the 29 tech occupations that have been demonstrated to be in high demand by the tech sector so that we can maintain the speed of service.

Labour market research conducted by the BC Tech Association and the Vancouver Economic Commission identified access to talent as the biggest issue facing the tech sector, posing the most significant barrier to economic growth.

The research identified 32 in-demand tech occupations, and eligibility for the BC PNP Tech Pilot was originally based on these 32 tech occupations. Based on actual demand from tech sector employers in the pilot’s first year, the pilot will continue with 29 of these occupations eligible under the pilot.

This change allows the program to focus resources on prioritizing those tech occupations demonstrated to be in high demand within the tech sector to maintain the speed of processing and high level of service to tech employers.

The complete list of the 29 in-demand tech occupations can be downloaded HERE.

Technology companies hiring for occupations that are not eligible for the BC PNP Tech Pilot are still able to connect with the concierge service regarding their specific needs.

Tech Pilot enhancements to include one-year job offers

The BC PNP Tech Pilot is also being enhanced by reducing the eligibility requirement for a permanent full-time job offer, to a one-year full-time job offer.

As of June 26, 2018, individuals who apply under a Skills Immigration category in an eligible tech occupation must have a job offer of at least one year (365 days) in length. The job offer must have at least 120 days remaining at the time of application to the BC PNP.

Longer duration job offers, including indeterminate job offers, will continue to be eligible.

Click HERE for more information.

Kootenay House at #BCTECH Summit

Kootenay House at #BCTECH Summit!

Kootenay House at #BCTECH Summit

Entrepreneurs, businesses, and startups will be in Vancouver en masse next week for #BCTECH Summit where the Kootenays will see more representation than ever!

We are so proud of the fact that the Kootenays are going to be taking this year’s #BCTECH Summit by storm, showcasing and promoting how technology and innovation have taken hold throughout the region.

In preparation for Kootenay record attendance, KAST is proud to be co-sponsoring the Kootenay House with the Columbia Basin Trust, the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership (NAEDP) and Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (Metal Tech Alley).

The House will feature 5 Kootenay businesses in a custom geodesic dome for the duration of the conference: Rossland based ThoughtExchange; Cronometer from Revelstoke; Pixel Cents out of Nelson; Kodiak Measurement Services and Selkirk College from Nelson and Castlegar, respectively; and the new Columbia Lake Technology Center from Canal Flats.

Identify yourself to KAST as a proud Kootenarian and we’ll get you a #Kootenaytech T-shirt and drink tickets for the Kootenay House Party so you can share how awesome the Kootenays are with other attendees.

Be sure to join us for the Kootenay House Party – Tuesday, March 12, 5-7pm at Kootenay House

Attendees of the conference can attend the Kootenay House Party on Tuesday, March 12 at 5-7pm. Join KAST plus over 40 Kootenay technology companies attending the summit this year—for a special “Eat & Greet” featuring complimentary appetizers, Kootenay craft beers, swag, and music! Look for proud Kootenarians sporting their #Kootenaytech t-shirts and discover why they think the Kootenays is the best place to live, work, study and play!

We want to give huge thanks to our great event sponsors: Imagine Kootenay, BC Craft Co., Fernie Alpine Resort, Isosceles, Selkirk College, Pixel Cents Software, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism, Retallack, Big Magic Design, and Whitewater Ski Resort.

Visit with KAST at the MIDAS M!

Tracy Connery Photography - #BCTECHSummit - MIDAS - KAST

KAST will be on the ground connecting Kootenay companies and entrepreneurs to investors, resources and other key people and organizations.

Find us at the MIDAS M in the marketplace & let us know what you’re looking for.

How to build a successful tech company, anywhere

Don’t miss Don Freschi’s talk on building tech companies here in the Kootenays on Wednesday, 2-3 pm.

#BCTECH Summit 2019