Circa April 2020. With encouragement and support of Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET), the Innovation Island Technology Association (IITA) launched the Digital Economy Rapid Response Recovery Program (DER3). Initially the project—helping businesses to #getdigital—was expected to take three or four months, with perhaps a few dozen businesses in the region who “might” need to transition some of their operations online. As the crisis worsened, the needs diversified and increased. The anticipated 4-month program turned to 8, then to 12 months. As the program developed additional funding and support from Western Economic Diversification Canada further supported hundreds of businesses.
In a broader call to action Innovation Island then partnered with Innovate BC so that the program could be extended to five other regions across British Columbia. In September 2020, IITA rolled out a training program which included operational systems, best practices, and training materials for VIATEC in Greater Victoria, Accelerate Okanagan in Kelowna, KAST in Rossland, Kamloops Innovation and Hubspace in Prince George.
After working with almost 400 businesses and over 200 digital service providers, delivering 4,000+ hours of hands-on service, across 65 communities, this is our story!
With decades of experience in the tech sector the IITA Team is very comfortable with the challenges and opportunities of disruption. However, COVID-19 was not the disruption that any of us wanted (or could have ever imagined)….
As part of the BC Acceleration Network (BCAN) Innovation Island typically sticks to its knitting working with Startup technology and innovation companies. As a non-profit service provider IITA has spent the last 20+ years helping tech-based entrepreneurs to “build, grow and stay” within the region ~ from north of the Malahat to the tip of the Island, including the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast.
Since 2014, the Venture Acceleration Program (VAP) has been one of IITA’s flagship programs ~ as of the recent fiscal year end (03-31-2021) VAP clients have broken the $50 million dollar mark of financial performance, securing over $21 million of investment, generating $35 million of new revenues and creating over 210 new tech jobs within the region. In working with Alumni clients, on various joint-ventures or mergers & acquisitions, IITA helped to achieve an additional 4X of these numbers over the last 3-years alone.
While shifting gears to working with more mainstreet businesses [helping them to #getdigital] was somewhat of a natural fit to IITA’s expertise, it was not without some surprises and truly inspiring learned-experiences.
First & foremost, #gettingdigital is just the first step! The use-case [application] of technology is often the easy part, competing in the digital economy [business-case] is the much bigger challenge. To this end the DER3 Team developed a process for quickly evaluating a businesses online presence, then setting an immediate action plan, all with a focus on “doing the right things in the right order at the right time”. Unlike a SaaS (software as a service) product most traditional businesses are somewhat bound with physical inventories, place-based services, finite production capabilities and limited trade areas.
“One big surprise with the program was how much money we were saving people by not getting caught up in the tech, before addressing their digital business model. Today’s web requires much more than just a new or refreshed website”.
Graham Truax, IITA Executive Director.
In many cases businesses were completely shuttered. People were struggling to find government assistance or to deal with staff and other operational challenges; trying to figure out e-commerce, or to update [or build] a website was the last thing on their minds. Many did not know, “who to call”, or “who to trust” or “how much all of this would cost”, DER3 provided a clear starting point to de-stress the situation. The program advisors also helped to set realistic targets and they worked to address the requirements and benefits of tackling these new challenges and opportunities.
Each business in the program presented its own unique set of circumstances and “digital readiness” and the range of services provided included 1:1 business and technical support, online resources & best practices, guidance to potential funding opportunities and connections to service providers.
DER3 was a no-cost/no-obligation program that helped people working from home, new or expanding e-commerce businesses, online educators and trainers, bricks and mortar retailers, farmers, artists, tourism operators (and tourism dependant businesses) as well as First Nations communities, nonprofits and other agencies.
“The DER3 Program provided one-on-one coaching; results-oriented action plans; hands-on concrete goals & objectives; realistic and business oriented improvements that had immediate bottom line impact; professional and uber timely communication“.
Carolyn Kvajic – Salt Spring Sea Salt
For highlights of the program’s impact, and client success stories, please see https://innovationisland.ca/der3-impact/.
COVID-19 update, April 2021. Sadly, this crisis is not over. The needs are still here, and for many, the economy is uncertain. If you are a business who wants to enter or expand in the digital economy please register with the programs waiting list (https://innovationisland.ca/der3/smb/). Innovation Island is working to extend DER3 service and we will provide updates for all participants as soon as possible.
The Innovation Island Technology Association would like to thank the DER3 Team for their hard work and dedication to the program; Sharon Marshall, Lisa Pedscalny, Steve Sakamoto, Leslee Langlands, Tashia Potter, Janet Bonaguro, Jennifer Hufnagel and Graham Truax. DER3 also worked directly with Regional Community Futures, Chambers of Commerce, Business Improvement Associations, Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Economic Development offices to support their businesses and constituents in the region. A special thanks to Tourism Vancouver Island and their Tourism Resiliency Program and Small Business BC. Thank you again to Island Coastal Economic Trust, Innovate BC and Western Economic Diversification Canada.
Innovation Island has been supporting technology companies to “build, grow and stay” and has fostered local digital ecosystems (and on Vancouver Island for over 20 years. We love to connect with businesses and tech entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a technology business on Vancouver Island, or connecting to other tech and innovative companies with industry resources and expert advice. If you are looking for Startup assistance, support on commercializing your product, or if you have an innovation or invention you would like to launch or looking for general information on technology on Vancouver Island. Connect with us and we would love to hear from you.
We are proud to serve a region encompassing all communities outside of Victoria, including ~ The Cowichan Valley, Duncan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Tofino, Cumberland, Courtenay, Comox, Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, the (Southern and Northern) Gulf Islands & the Sunshine Coast.
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For media inquiries or to schedule online interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Hufnagel – General Manager, Innovation Island Technology Association Tel. 250-758-8324 or email@example.com