Categories
Opinion

What you can do

Small businesses in Vernon, BC have been devastated by the COVID19 outbreak. To reduce the spread of the disease, many closed their doors.

“The decision to close has been a difficult one. But we want to do our part to protect our staff and customers and all members of our community.”

Carousel Consignments

Businesses are reducing hours, moving to takeout only, and closing down in accordance with provincial guidelines.

But they’re hurting. They still have to pay rent, utilities, staff, and invoices. Many can’t afford to be off work for a day, much less weeks.

Here’s another way you can help Vernon businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak

Yesterday, we talked about buying gift certificates, online, and takeout. These put immediate cash in business owners pockets! (So keep doing it)

But here’s something else you can do: write your elected officials.

Here’s a sample letter I just wrote to Mel Arnold (MP) and Eric Foster (MLA):

Can you take a few minutes and write your MP and MLA now? Feel free to use this text as a template for your email:


Hi Mel,

I’m glad the government has announced funding to help Canadian businesses in the midst of the COVID19 outbreak.

However, here in Vernon BC, small businesses have already closed their doors and are haemorrhaging cash. The new wage subsidy helps a bit, but most have already had to lay off staff.

The immediate problem is they need access to capital, just to keep the lights on.

The announcements about “saving the airline industry” and “helping the big banks” worry me.

The first people to receive assistance should be main street businesses: restaurants, cafes, pubs, main street shops.

They’ve been hit the hardest: many don’t have shareholders, investment accounts, or cash reserves.

They’re dying right now. They needed help yesterday.

Here’s what business owners need right now: grants and loans. They need operating capital.

Also: I’d like to see rent subsidies/forgiveness for shops who have had to shut down.

Sincerely,
Your name

PS: I’m not in favour of an airline bailout unless there are lots of strings attached:

  1. We (the taxpayers) become the majority shareholders
    regular airline employees get assistance first (before execs)
  2. There’s a ban on share buybacks
  3. CEOs have their salaries and bonuses frozen

Contact information for elected officials in Vernon, BC:

Let’s make sure that government aid doesn’t just go to megacorps. Let’s advocate for our friends and neighbors who own businesses on main street.

Cheers,
Justin Jackson

More reading on this:

Categories
News

Coronavirus sucks

How are you doing?

I’m feeling… out of sorts. The rapid spread of coronavirus, and the resulting isolation measures, have taken a toll on many of us.

On one hand, I know that extreme social distancing is incredibly important (I wrote about this here).

On the other hand, I’m getting messages like this from local business owners:

Many local eateries are voluntarily moving to close dine-in (and do take-out) in order to flatten the curve and encourage social distancing.

Vernon restaurants, bars, cafes, and services are hurting. 💔

  • Daily revenues are already down 50% or more.  😳
  • Most will have to lay off their staff.
  • Many have decided to suspend operations.
  • Some likely won’t make it through this.

In the best of times, main street businesses operate on slim margins. They’re all scrambling to figure this out.

The government has promised some help, but none of them knows what that means.

We need to help!

Here’s what we can do right now to help:

  • Order gift cards online.
  • Order take-out as much as you can (if they’re still open).
  • Encourage them. Tell them you care.

Here are some businesses I’ve been in touch with, and ways they’re asking for help:

Andrew, at Ratio Coffee & Pastry

“Please, if you can, tell people to pre-order donuts for tomorrow (order form will be up shortly). Also, we’re going to try to do online pizza orders (for pickup). You can still take drinks to go right now!”


Pearl, at Marten Brewpub:

“Please tell folks to grab cans UnderGround Kombucha when they shop. We are in Askews, Butcher boys, Safeway, Nature’s Fare, Railtrail cafe, Quality Greens, Choices and Lakeview markets. Also, we will be selling bombers and new growler starting tomorrow by request for pickup in the afternoon.”


David, at The Fig:

“If you are in a position to order food to go or delivery, please do so not just from us, but from all the remaining restaurants in town! You can also buy gift cards now that you know you will use later. The government has announced funding to support businesses but no information on how to access this has been released as of yet, so we are all hoping to weather the storm.”


Kelly, Midtown Bistro:

“Starting tomorrow we will be offering a special takeout menu for family-style, healthy, local food. We will offer delivery or even pick up out the back door. We are taking so many extra precautions to keep everyone safe.”


If you can help, please do.

A few other items from our community:

  • Daryl Chymko is organizing an online hangout tomorrow at 15:30. Here’s the link.
  • Need a sign or digital graphic made for COVID-19? Lesia is doing work free for frontline health care workers. Contact her at: lesia@lesiadesign.com
  • Does anybody need a 3d printer? VO2 Master bought an Onyx One 3D printer in December. Used it maybe 5x times. They’re trying to sell it for 70% of what it’s worth – around CAD4,000. vo2master.com

Stay safe,
Justin Jackson
On behalf of Startup Vernon + Geek Beers

PS: naturally, Geek Beers won’t happen this month. Please come to Daryl’s hangout tomorrow at 15:30!

Categories
Opinion

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.

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Uncategorized

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)

Cheers,
Justin Jackson
On behalf of Startup Vernon + Geek Beers

Categories
Uncategorized

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: www.plugshare.com

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.

Categories
Opinion

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!

14117582390470

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.

Cheers,
Justin Jackson
@mijustin

Categories
News

Vernon cultural center needs your help

In a few weeks, North Okanagan residents will go to referendum to vote on borrowing $25 million towards the $40 million cost to build an art gallery, museum and performance space that will let us appreciate culture and heritage, and access far more exhibitions and programs.

Between now and Oct. 20, we need all the help we can get spreading the word about all the incredible ways this cultural centre will benefit Greater Vernon.

Please help however you can:

Here’s a chance to play a part in changing the course of Greater Vernon’s future and gain a beautiful downtown building with endless benefits for our community.

Can you lend some of your time and talents for this turning point?

As we prepare to launch our campaign, we’re looking for volunteers to help with:

  • Coordinating volunteers
  • Administration
  • Communication & information technology
  • Project management

And soon, just about everything else! Even a few hours would mean so much and go such a long way.

Make a difference:

  1. To volunteer, please contact Maria Brunskill at yes4culture@gmail.com
  2. To help us find more volunteers, please share this email with family, friends and colleagues.
  3. Follow the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Vernon Museum & Archives on social media, and help us spread the word in the coming weeks.

Follow VPAG on Twitter & Facebook

Follow Vernon Museum & Archives on Facebook

When you vote “yes” to the cultural facility, you vote yes to:

  • Accessing far more exhibitions and programs
  • A beautiful marquis building that’s accessible and easy to find
  • Connecting to our roots and sharing our stories
  • Attracting businesses and professionals who want to live in a community that values enriching cultural life
  • Creating a community that fosters diversity, inclusion and innovative thinking
  • Inspiring and nurturing young artists
  • A vibrant, safe downtown
  • Employment, tourism and local spending
  • Improved individual wellbeing through opportunities for creative expression and learning, and by building a sense of identity, achievement & belonging

Did you know?

  • The Vernon Public Art Gallery is the oldest art gallery in the Interior and has never had a permanent home?
  • The GVMA building was a 1967 Centennial project
  • The gallery and museum could be hosting world-class exhibitions and more pieces from their own permanent collections if they had the required space, ventilation and water protection?
  • Due to limited space, less than 10% of the museum’s collection is on display?
  • The Vernon Public Art Gallery has been recognized provincially for its curatorial and innovating programming and could do so much more with a purpose-built space?
  • Both the Vernon Museum & Archives and the gallery lack space for programming? The gallery has to host workshops in an exhibition room, restricting the amount of programming it can offer to the public.
  • We have a chance to access millions in provincial and federal government grants that will otherwise go to other communities?
  • Community groups will be able to rent multi-use spaces?
  • With payments for both Kal Tire Place and the Performing Arts Centre completing as the centre goes ahead, the average cost per family is only $12/year or $1 a month!!

 

Categories
Events

Photos from Geek Beers – Feb 22, 2018

Categories
Uncategorized

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)

Categories
Events

Photos from Mega Geek Beers 2017