-With files from Lissa Alexander
When people think of high-tech innovation and digital startups, California’s Silcon Valley usually comes to mind, not the little retirement community of Qualicum Beach.
The town best known for having the oldest population in all of Canada is counting on an influx of young entrepreneurs to become a leading hub for high-tech innovation and development now that the new Digital Media Studio is up and running.
Located in the old train station building, the studio has 16 available drop-in spaces, a meeting room and two private offices.
It’s completely furnished with brand new desks and computer chairs and insanely fast (100/35mbps) internet is provided via wireless or ethernet.
The space is geared towards people who create video games and other high level digital work, but want to interact with others in their industry.
Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, and Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell were on hand for the official opening of the facility on Monday. Wilkinson said that housing state-of-the-art industry in a centuries old building is a brilliant idea.
“This is a great story to tell … how you can take an old railway station and turn it into an internet hub for gaming development. It’s pretty cool because you have taken a significant heritage building and you conceptually say the life line isn’t going to be the railway … it is going to be the internet. You combine the two concepts and lo and behold people will show up.”
Several people representing the various partnerships involved in the project were on hand for a formal opening of the studio and the minister told them it’s great to see projects that make having a career in B.C.’s vibrant tech sector more accessible from anywhere in the province.
“The Qualicum Beach Digital Media Studio will give entrepreneurs and students the opportunity to grow their ideas and businesses while living in a truly idyllic setting,” said Wilkinson.
It was the laid back Island lifestyle that brought Jared Shaw to Qualicum Beach two years ago to raise his family and he has been a key volunteer in the town’s studio project.
Shaw works as a consultant in the digital media industry and said he has always felt that this area has the potential to attract some of the best minds in digital design and media.
“When you are an entrepreneur you have this vision that other people don’t and sometimes other people think its crazy and you just know things are going to happen and that is how I felt about this from the beginning so there was never a doubt that it would happen and be successful,” he admitted and added, “It is great to see the studio open and I can’t wait to fill it up. There are a whole bunch of people here who are now ready to launch their programs and jump on board now that it is open,” he said.
While at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Ontario recently, Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer visited Innovate Niagara in St. Catharines, Ontario. At a council meeting Monday, he shared how a partnership between government and local industry blossomed into a booming success.
“It is a prime example of what we can accomplish, how we can take the vision that we have started and move it forward,” he said. Luchmeijer said Innovate Niagara started 10 years ago exactly as the Qualicum Beach Digital Media Studio began. In 2010 the group got a $3 million technology improvement grant and the end result is called the Generator, a state-of-the-art, full service interactive media production facility.
It grew from a 400 sq. foot facility to a 9,500 sq. foot building and it has created 145 new jobs in the area.
“It’s a clean industry, it doesn’t require a ton of space, brings young families to the community, all the buzz words that we’re trying to touch.”
At the opening of Qualicum Beach’s Digital Media Studio, the town recognized the support it has received from Telus towards the studio project including the Telus TV for Good campaign which raised nearly $16,000 for the studio from Optik TV sign ups in the area.
“Telus has been a true partner in getting this studio up and running,” said Mayor Teunis Westbroek. “They share the Town’s goal of ensuring there are spaces that are properly backed by fibre optic networks where established and emerging creative talent in the area can collaborate and explore technology together,” he added.
The Town also acknowledged the important partnership it has with Innovation Island who will be offering programs and events to support the studio and who is committed to creating a vibrant and entrepreneurial regional tech community.
In fact on June 26 tech investor Boris Mann will be conducting an investment workshop at the studio.
Mann from Full Stack, a napkin capital investment firm in Vancouver, will talk about what it takes to get investment and how to ready a company or product for it.
The venture capitalist is originally an Islander and is currently invested in two Island companies www.quoterobot.com and www.postach.io.
What do angel investors really look for when investing in a company or product?
Mann will answer that question and will choose four start-up companies that will get a one-on-one session with him.
Rumor has it Mann may even bring his cheque book to the event.
For more details on the free event visit: www.qbworkstation.com.