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Kelowna company kicks off Metabridge 2014 pitch competition

Kelowna
Kelowna's Rob Barlett (right) watches the rest of the startup technology companies he is competing against at Metabridge 2014, as the tech conference gets underway at the Laurel Packinghouse Thursday afternoon.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

WTFast's three minute pitch had Metabridge participants cheering Thursday afternoon as the company tried to the land the angel investors to make it the next big tech success story out of the Okanagan.

Some 15 companies were given the opportunity to stand in front of a crowd with a $100 billion in venture capital and sell their technological solution to a problem.

"For you startups, this is what we call a target-rich zone," said Jeff Keen, out-going CEO of Accelerate Okanagan.

Keen has reputedly joined Get in the Loop, another local tech startup, but played master of ceremonies to the Okanagan conference started by Steve Wandler.

Wandler founded Metabridge in 2009 as a means to solve the problems he had developing his own successful venture, YourTechOnline, which PC Magazine ranked the top online support company before it was acquired by Support.com, a company based out of the San Francisco tech niche, Silicone Valley.

Metabridge helps Canadian startups accelerate their roots in California and it has grown to see strings of successful partnerships and funding arrangements, including a mentorship highlighted in a 15-minute session between MyTime founder and CEO Ethan Anderson and Summify founders Mircea Bogdan Pasoi and Christian Strat.

Kelowna's Rob Barlett was the only local company to make the list this year of startups pitching a panel of judges before the well-heeled crowd; although some 83 companies, headquartered in cities from Halifax to Vancouver, did apply.

"WTFast literally makes the difference between winning and losing at online games," said Bartlett, explaining the company provides a private network for gamers to ensure they get game data faster than anyone else.

With 100,000 users already, he will be using the weekend to secure the $400,000 needed to take his 20-employee company to the next level.

What that level looks like was quite evident in George Karidis's fireside chat with Keen, staged moments before.

To assume his role as chief operating officer of Softlayer, a company acquired by IBM for north of $2 billion, he left a well-paying job in Canada and moved to Texas, where he didn't earn anything for the first year.

The risk paid off, but he doesn't believe tech entrepreneurs need to leave the country to succeed, particularly with conferences like Metabridge coming online.

Offering up guidance on developing culture, he told a packed crowd at the Laurel Packinghouse that on any given day 80 per cent of his workforce would be wearing a company shirt in the office and 30 or 40 people had tattooed the company logo on their bodies in the period leading up the acquisition.

"Focus on building what you want," he said. "…Don't worry about whether you are in Silicone Valley or not…

"I don't want everyone to feel like they have to leave the country like I did."

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