In memory of Hans Gregersen

I was grieved to learn that Hans Gregersen, a familiar face at Vernon’s Geek Beers, passed away in April.

He’d told me he had cancer last August, and knew it was terminal. The last we spoke was in October.

It’s incredible sad to know he’s gone. ❤️

Hans was a regular at Vernon Geek beers (starting in 2015). He was gentle, kind, and smart.

I loved hearing about the stuff he was working on in Unity, his thoughts on programming, and his passion for games.

📷 Photos of Hans
💐 You can read his obituary here (and share memories)

We will miss him. We’ll miss his gentleness, we’ll miss his laugh, we’ll miss hearing him share his interests with us.


Coronavirus: BC & Canada are not moving fast enough

Today is Sunday, March 15, 2020.

Today, in Italy, total deaths from COVID-19 rose from 1,441 to 1,809.

I echo Dr Bitton’s concerns here:

“We are only about 11 days behind Italy and generally on track to repeat what is unfortunately happening there and throughout much of the rest of Europe very soon.”

BC’s provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry made some good initial recommendations. These included “wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.” She’s also issued a public health order restricting events over 250 50 people. But these guidelines aren’t enough.

She, and the federal officials, need to issue stricter health orders: they need to tell people to stay home.

The AP has reported that the recent rise in deaths in Italy is because they did not implement strict enough restrictions, soon enough:

“The death toll rose by 175. Authorities had predicted that Italy would still see a jump in cases despite a national lockdown. They cited irresponsible behavior by many citizens, who despite the earlier warnings not to gather in large numbers, headed to beaches or ski resorts, and hung out together in town squares, especially after the closure of schools.”

Just two days ago, Dr Bonnie Henry was encouraging people to go skiing:

“This virus does not transmit when people are outdoors, so go outside and play with your family, go up to our ski hills, go up to Whistler.”

Yesterday, Whistler wisely suspended operations (Silverstar followed suit).

If we don’t want to replicate Italy’s mistakes, our leaders need to be swift and severe. Dr Bitton’s recommendation is:

“We must move to pandemic mitigation through widespread, uncomfortable, and comprehensive social distancing. That means not only shutting down schools, work (as much as possible), group gatherings, and public events, but also making daily choices to stay away from each other as much as possible.”

We need to realize that two weeks ago, Italians were sanguine like us. They were thinking and acting like the coronavirus was no big deal:

All those people “just chilling” and not taking the threat seriously is what’s lead to the death rates we see today:

Again, Canada is only about 11 days behind Italy:

Spain’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by over 1,500 in the past day (source). In response, health officials immediately imposed a lockdown, as reported by the AP:

“People will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly. All schools and universities were closed, along with restaurants, bars, hotels and other non-essential retail businesses.”

This Washington Post article provides the best visualization I’ve found for explaining how #covid19 infection spreads, and why extreme social distancing works:

(It’s worth reading the whole thing)

If BC and Canadian health officials don’t act quickly, with extreme measures, we will find ourselves exactly where Italy is today. Our epidemic trajectory is on the same track as every other country, except for South Korea’s.

I’ll leave with these words from Professor Scott Galloway:

“[Leaders] hesitate to overcorrect because at the time of the decision it seems excessive. It doesn’t in retrospect. You MUST overcorrect.”

Stay safe, stay healthy, and whenever possible, stay home. These next few weeks (before we know how many are actually infected) are key.


Some news about the new Vernon Innovation Center

Some news about the new Innovation Center in Vernon, BC.

First: the project is going forward! It’s going to be downtown, in the old Naked Pig space

I’ve seen the plans, and they look really neat. This will be a high-visibility touchstone for the tech community here. 👍

The new Innovation Center will be in the old Naked Pig on main street!

I was on the steering committee for the Innovation Center. As I understand it, the purpose of the centre is to support the growing tech community in Vernon.

The project has two main pillars:

  • the building itself (meeting space, hot desks, team offices, lounge)
  • the program coordinator

The need for a Community Lead

In our committee meetings, I emphasized the need for a strong program coordinator. I’ve seen, first-hand, how skilled community leaders can meaningfully set the tone for a community.

For example, Dr Lincoln Smith leads the Kamloops Innovation Center. Over his tenure, he’s created a really incredible environment for the tech folks there. He recognized early on that it’s the people that matter most; programs need to match the culture they serve. What works in Kelowna likely won’t work in Vernon, Salmon Arm, or Kamloops.

Dr. Lincoln is an example of the kind of community leader we need here in Vernon

We need our own “Dr Lincoln” here in Vernon! Somebody who can:

  • meet locals where they’re at and respond with training, events, and mentorship that fit our community,
  • relate to the unique demographics here in Vernon (we have lots of folks in their 40s, who have kids and a mortgage, but also a growing number of younger couples who are moving here for the lifestyle),
  • act as the social glue between the different individuals, companies, and resources here in town,
  • welcome out-of-town visitors who are considering a move to Vernon.
Tech scene in Vernon, BC North Okanagan
Vernon needs a Community Lead

The job posting for this position has just gone live:

If you’re someone who has the desire + skills to contribute to our tech community in Vernon, I think you should apply!  (Or, if you know someone, please encourage them to apply!)

This position is crucial for setting the tone of this new initiative. Let’s find someone great!

(Here’s a brief history of the tech community in Vernon)

Justin Jackson
On behalf of Startup Vernon + Geek Beers


Teslas (and electric cars) in Vernon, BC

There are more electric vehicles in Vernon than you might have thought!

Tons of folks came to check out Teslas, Leafs, Bolts, and other cars at the EV show on May 24.

Francois (from the @teslainvernon Twitter account) has some great insights about owning an electric vehicle.

How much CO2 do you produce when you charge your Tesla?

British Columbians have some of the cleanest energy in North America. The BC Hydro grid emits only 11 grams of CO2 per kWh of electricity. That means that driving a Tesla model 3 results in 1.65 grams of CO2 per KM. (Source)

Is there good charging infrastructure for EVs in Vernon?

There’s a high-speed DC charger (Chademo & CCS) behind the old Greyhound station and there are two Level 2 chargers at City Hall parking lot. Okanagan College also has some chargers.

A few local hotels and car dealerships also have chargers.

Charging is free at the fast DC charger in Vernon as well as at City Hall.

But, charging at home is the easiest. I charge at home except when on a road trip. Charging at home is so cheap that it doesn’t matter. I spend more $$ on Tim Horton’s coffee than I do filling up my car.

Kelowna has a bunch of chargers. A bunch more are getting installed at the airport and should be ready soon.

PlugShare is the defacto app for finding chargers:

How much does it cost to charge electric cars?

For the Nissan Leaf, with a 24 kWh battery right and 0.0945 cents per kWH that works out to $2.27.

My Long Range model 3 has a 75 kWh battery, so if completely empty it would 75*0.0945 = $7.09.

Have you ever run out of battery?

Closest I’ve come is a 3% charge. I pushed it when coming back from Vancouver once. The computer predicted I would get home with 3% left and I was curious how good that prediction would be.

That was on a really cold day. It was -28 C at the top of the connector.

I had lots of charge when I was up at the top of the connector, so when it was getting below 10% I was already down in an area that was safe.

But in general I wouldn’t do that again, I would just stop at the Kelowna supercharger for 10 minutes and arrive home with 30 or 40%.

It definitely sucks if a charger is out of order.

That’s why for road trips, Tesla is really the best game in town (for now) because they always have multiple bays. Very unlikely that all bays would be out of order.

In the Tesla Model 3, one 15 minute top-up in Hope is all that’s needed when I drive to Vancouver. (Which is the same amount of time I used to spend with my gas car).

What’s the sweet spot for highway speed vs. range on the Tesla?

110 KM/hr gives you full range (ie 500 KM). At 80 – 90 KM/hr I could squeeze out between 600 and 700 km/hr.

How fast do the batteries decay?

I spoke to Current Taxi a few months ago. They put on something like 270,000 KM on their Telsa Model S and use Superchargers every day with almost no battery degradation.

No one knows how long they will ultimately last. Lots of them with over 500,000 KM now. (Good site tracking this here)

For a while, I was on the Model 3 portion of that leaderboard but I just got blown off of it. But you can see that there are many Model S & X with some very high mileage on them.

Which isn’t to say that problems never arise. I’ve seen the odd owner who had a battery replaced under warranty on a Tesla and on a Leaf. They both offer 8-year battery warranties.

What kind of government grants can I get for electric cars?

Check out this Google Sheet. It has the prices in BC for a few popular EVs.


The story so far: the tech community in Vernon

Deciding to move to a new town, even a place as beautiful as Vernon, BC, isn’t easy!

Before I moved, my biggest concern was that there wouldn’t be a local tech community.

I’d been working as a Product Manager in Edmonton’s burgeoning startup scene. Right before I’d left, Startup Edmonton a “community hub for hackers, artists + entrepreneurs” established itself. Edmonton, especially 104th Street, was an exciting place to be as a tech worker.

I was worried that a move to Vernon meant giving up that sense of community.

vernon sky

I was wrong!

Early in 2012, I emailed Kevin Poole. Kevin works for Vernon Economic Development. He did a great job of welcoming me to the city and introduced me to Kazia Mullin.

Kazia and I were interested in trying to build the local tech community. We wondered if there were other people like us.

We started emailing anyone we could find that seemed connected to tech. What we found surprised us: world-class software developers, designers, creatives, and business people living right in Vernon (most of whom were working remotely, from their homes).

Since then, I’ve met folks who have worked with Tumblr, WordPress (Automattic), Apple, SAP, Yahoo, and Oracle.

Forming the community

In the beginning, the biggest need wasn’t a building, programs, or funding. We just needed a regular place to meet. Everyone was working from home but didn’t know each other.

Startup Vernon was really a response to that: we started putting on local events (Geek Beers, a Remote Work panel, and a series of programming workshops), blogging and even did a TV appearance.

Geek Beers, in particular, became a central meeting place for local tech people. Our first meetings attracted 5-10 people. Now, in 2019, we regularly see groups as big as 30!


Effects on the community

Over the years, this momentum has begun to bear fruit. Now, I regularly receive emails like this, from tech people in the UK, USA, and Canada. They want to move to Vernon!

Email from people moving to Vernon BC
People in tech started hearing that Vernon was a good place to be!

We’ve also started to see projects, companies, and partnerships birthed out of the Startup Vernon community. For example, Cowork Vernon is a private coworking space for tech consultants, located on 3000-30th Street. They started as a group of four and now have over 12 members.

This increase in economic activity is encouraging. We’re proving that our focus on building community in Vernon is having an effect. People are hearing that Vernon is a good place to live and that it also has a core tech community. Plus, folks are starting businesses that will benefit the local economy.

Vernon is unique

Kelowna’s focus has been to encourage traditional venture-backed startups. Accelerate Okanagan is guiding local startups, and helping them to be investment ready. Steve Wandler created an excellent conference called Metabridge that brings investors from Silicon Valley to Kelowna every year. Traditionally, they also had a big anchor (Club Penguin) which is helped draw talent to the city.

But Vernon is different than Kelowna.

If you look at Vernon’s history, culture, and the demographics of the people who move here, it’s clear we need to forge a different path.

Historic Kal Tire Vernon location

Vernon is a city of do-it-yourselfers, bootstrappers, and makers.

We’re home to global companies (Kal-Tire, Tekmar, and Tolko). They all started as small businesses and were built from the ground up.

Big acquisitions

While Club Penguin gets a lot of attention, we’ve seen some big tech acquisitions come out of Vernon:

  • Immersive Technologies built the first 360˚ full digital camera system (the driving technology behind Google street view). This technology came about by tinkering, experimenting, and building. In 2016, they were acquired for $100 million dollars.
  • At the end of 2017, AVS Systems, also headquartered in Vernon, was acquired for $45 million.

Local startups

Vernon is also home to lifelong tech entrepreneurs, and new startups:

How Vernon, BC can attract more tech

Based on this history, there are two ways the community can encourage a tech culture and economy:

  1. Invest in community: should we build an innovation center? What about a makers space? Another coworking location? These are all good ideas, but they should never distract us from the core: people building relationships with people.
  2. Support the makers: There are individuals in Vernon creating really cool technology, products, and projects in their spare time. These folks need to be encouraged, supported and celebrated.
  3. Attract remote workers: I’ve been here since 2012, and almost all of the new tech talent that’s moving here is working remotely for companies elsewhere: San Francisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Portland, Boulder, etc… The community needs to target this group, and then do a great job of welcoming them when they arrive.

There is a tech community in Vernon, BC, and it’s awesome.

Justin Jackson


Photos from Geek Beers – Feb 22, 2018


AVS, tech company in Vernon, BC acquired for $45 million

AVS Systems Inc, of Vernon, BC, has just been acquired for $45 million by Information Services Corp (a publicly traded company, based in Saskatchewan).

The deal $45 million in total. $25 million up-front with a possible $20 million earn out over the next 13 months.

AVS has been operating since 2002, and has built software that allows users to do searches on PPSA, land title, registries, and corporate records.

(Press release)


Photos from Mega Geek Beers 2017


Moving to Vernon, BC from Edmonton – Justin Jackson’s story

Justin Jackson is a business owner who’s lived in the Vernon area since 2012.

Where are you originally from?

I moved here from Edmonton, Alberta. I’d lived in Alberta my whole life, so moving to the Okanagan was a big change!

Breathtaking view of Vernon, BC from the BX

What were your biggest concerns about moving to Vernon?

My biggest fear about moving to the Okanagan was that I’d miss the tech community in Edmonton. Being surrounded by people who are passionate about growing, and improving their skills is important to me.

There were other concerns too. When I moved here, I was working remotely as a Product Manager for a software company. I was worried that if I lost that job, I wouldn’t have any other options (locally). Besides Disney Interactive, there wasn’t a lot of tech in the area.

What helped you overcome those worries?

When I came to check out Vernon, I reached out to Kevin Poole (Manager of Economic Development for Vernon). He took me out for lunch and introduced me to Kazia Mullin who was organizing some local tech events.

Through Kazia I met some other remote workers, which eventually lead to us starting Geek Beers. I realized that there are tons of really talented people moving to the area. They move here for the lifestyle but work remotely.

What kind of research did you do before you moved to Vernon?

I did a ton of research on the internet. One of my searches was for “okanagan tech.” Steve Wandler‘s name kept coming up. He’s the founder of Metabridge and FreshGrade. I wrote him an email at midnight saying: “Hey Steve if you’re ever in Edmonton, I’d love to go for coffee and ask you questions about moving to the Okanagan.” Steve replied at 1am: “I’m flying to Edmonton today! What time would you like to meet?”

That meeting alleviated many of my concerns about moving to the area (although, Steve wanted me to move to Kelowna!)

I also reached out to other folks I knew who had moved from Edmonton to the Okanagan, and asked them for their advice.

What other cities did you consider moving to?

Once I got my remote job, I knew I could work from anywhere. My wife and I started by thinking internationally: France, Mexico, Portland, etc… But after some research, we thought it would be best for our kids if we stayed in Canada. Our short-list for Canadian cities was Halifax, Montreal, Victoria, or somewhere in the Okanagan.

Why did you ultimately choose Vernon? What attracted you to the area?

Growing up in Alberta, it had always been my dream to live in a BC ski town. So my wife and I started researching different places and looking at how close they were to the ski lift.

Vernon was the perfect mix: a nice sized, affordable city, 20 minutes to Silver Star Mountain, 30 minutes to the airport, and surrounded by beautiful lakes.

I also remember watching this video, with Kevin O’Brien from Kalavida Surf Shop:

The line that stood out for me was him saying: “Vernon is the best-kept secret in Canada.” Hearing his pride and excitement for the region was inspiring.

Another thing that helped is we knew some families who lived in Vernon who said it was a fantastic place to raise kids.

What’s kept you in Vernon?

The hot summers here are amazing. The beaches are beautiful. And the winters are way more mild than Edmonton! (I sometimes joke that the Okanagan is like the Bahamas of Canada).

We’ve done way more recreational activities since moving to the Okanagan: swimming, paddleboarding, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing.

Skiing and snowboarding at Silver Star Mountain, in Vernon, BC

Also, since we’ve moved here the downtown core has gotten better. There are high-quality places to eat like Ratio Coffee, Station BBQ, Marten Brewpub, and Eatology.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering moving to Vernon?

The most challenging part about moving to the Okanagan is finding work. If you don’t have a remote job, and you haven’t been offered a job locally, my advice would be to wait.

I’d also say you should visit the city in all four seasons. The summers are very hot and dry. The winters aren’t -30C, but typically involve a lot of snow (you need to get up to Silver Star to get above the clouds in the winter too).

You run your own company here. What’s it called and what do you do?

Initially, I was doing consulting work for tech startups in Portland and San Francisco.

In 2015, I started offering online training for tech companies, usually around product development, marketing, and improving the bottom-line.

A year later, I went full-time with the MegaMaker brand. It’s a private membership site for people who are making their own tech products.

In 2018, I co-founded a new startup called It’s a podcasting platform I’m building with my friend Jon Buda (he’s in Chicago).

Justin Jackson's company, MegaMaker, is based in Vernon, BC (Okanagan)

Where are your customers located?

The majority of my customers are in the United States. I charge exclusively in USD (which is nice when the exchange rate is in my favor!)

What’s the best part about running your company from Vernon?

On a snow day, it’s incredible to have the freedom to drive up to Silver Star and snowboard for a couple of hours!

I help run Cowork Vernon downtown, and the community there is amazing. It’s a 5-10 minute bike ride from my house. There are lots of good places to get food and hang out.

What’s the hardest part about running your company from Vernon?

It’s small! There aren’t many opportunities (at least for me) to grow my business locally. Almost all of my growth comes from the USA and Europe.

What would make Vernon even better?

I’d love to see more creative professionals moving here, and joining the community. Freelancers, software developers, designers, animators, video editors, small startups.

The best part about Vernon is the people I’ve met here.

You can find Justin on the web here:


Geek Beers tonight at Marten Brewpub, Vernon

It’s Geek Beers tonight, 5pm – 8pm at Marten Brewpub. I’ve booked the long table. Hope to see you there!

Here’s a story:

When I moved to Vernon in 2012, my biggest worry is that I wouldn’t be able to find people who were interested in tech, business, design, the web, coding, remote working, blogging.

Then I met Kazia. She wanted to start an event called Geek Beers. We did the first one at Sir Winstons. A bunch of people came. Amazing people: a great variety of folks from different backgrounds, and with different skillsets.

Geek Beers Vernon BC

It showed me that Vernon has one thing that many towns lack: awesome community.

We’ve never made Geek Beers super structured. You can’t sponsor a Geek Beers and give a boring sales presentation. It’s not about showing up “so you can hire a programmer.”

Geek Beers is about one thing: long-lasting building friendships. That’s it.

If you’re into that, you should come tonight!