Although Squamish has a long history of digital entrepreneurs calling it home, things are heating up and a new “spark is being lit,” according to Michelle Martin, tech entrepreneur and the Sea to Sky Startup Society’s president.
Martin said that right now the infrastructure exists to offer entrepreneurs in Squamish a unique and fertile space.
The Sea to Sky Startup Society is part of this infrastructure – it was born to try and bring entrepreneurs together, building community in the Sea to Sky Corridor while also creating a connection to people working in Vancouver.
In an effort to encourage collaboration, the Sea to Sky Startup Society has partnered with Startup Vancouver to host the Sea To Sky Summit with 22 speakers at the Maury Young Arts Centre in Whistler on Sept. 22. The conference is a gathering focused on helping entrepreneurs unlock their peak potential in and out of their work spaces, according to Martin. (Martin said scholarships are available to lower barriers entrepreneurs may face. For more information visit www.picatic.com/seatoskysummit.)
The Common, a unique co-working space that recently opened in Squamish, also seeks to offer entrepreneurs what they need to be their most productive in and out of their work spaces.
Peter Buchholz, The Common’s founder, said that the infrastructure was designed with the intent of giving people a place to work from, while also offering the opportunity for networking and collaboration.
Buchholz hopes the space will serve as a hub for the business community – and provide an alternative or in-between to traditional brick-and-mortar style business formats.
The Common is hosting its first scheduled event on Sept. 29, where keynote speaker Nikolas Badminton will talk about the future of artificial intelligence and how technology will fit into our working lives.
Martin believes that The Common, along with the Sea to Sky Startup Society, is creating a space for a different kind of startup community. Startups, for those unfamiliar with the term, are small fast-growing businesses that emerge to meet market demands through innovative tech solutions, services or platforms.
Often times the culture around startups is defined by entrepreneurs who are willing to work extremely hard and put other aspects of their lives like friends and family on the back burner, said Martin. However, this is different in Squamish and many of these hardworking entrepreneurs are actively prioritizing family, friends and recreation – something Martin said is “completely unheard of in the office building environment.”
Chris Hillard, entrepreneur and vice-president of TelemetryTV, recently moved to Squamish to pursue a better quality of life. He says that now that he is entering his 30s and has a family, he is looking for some balance.
He said that many Squamish entrepreneurs are like him – actively prioritizing not just work, but time with the family, time in the outdoors and a place within the community.
Hillard said that community is very important, particularity when you are involved with startups, as there is so much to learn from others, whether it be guidance on how to solve an issue or the exchange of ideas. He told The Chief that what Martin is doing with the Sea to Sky Startup Society is making the community aspect of entrepreneurship more accessible.