Nelson’s SMRT1 Technologies has won $225,000 after finishing first in an Okanagan-based investment fund competition.
The company, which makes interactive vending machines for use by industries including health care, tourism, and retail, was voted the winner of the Accelerate Okanagan’s 2023 OKGN Angel Summit at a gala in Kelowna on March 16.
SMRT1 president and CEO Brad Pommen said it is the single biggest investment his company has received and will be used to help it focus on sales and marketing expansion.
“When we use this in conjunction with the other grants and funding that we’ve got for the rest of the year, it kind of gives us pretty much a 12-to-14 month runway to be able to put the pedal to the metal now.”
To win the investment, Pommen’s company had to make a number of pitches to Okanagan-based investors over 10 weeks while competing against 47 other teams. Each stage of the contest whittled down the field as pitches were required to become more in-depth.
Pommen said SMRT1 had previously entered the competition about five years ago and made it halfway. The feedback they received helped show where SMRT1 was as a business and what more it needed to accomplish.
It also prepared them for this year’s event. At the finale, six companies including SMRT1 made their pitches live to investors.
“We were able to check all those boxes. We really had taken it to heart what we needed to achieve.”
It’s the second straight year the competition has been won by a local company. CertiCraft, which provides software for the cannabis industry, secured $150,000 at the previous event. Pommen said CertiCraft owner Sami Majadla gave him some advice ahead of the finale, which he put to use.
Pommen added the Nelson Innovation Centre and the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology are invaluable resources, and no one should be surprised that local tech companies are catching the eyes of investors.
“I think it highlights the value of Nelson’s tech culture and ability to come through and make a dent in what otherwise is typically a very Vancouver-centric kind of process.”