About

Our Team

Pilar Portela

CEO

Pilar is Accelerate Okanagan’s CEO. She has worked all over the Americas and brings 20 years of expert management and executive experience to the team.

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Pilar Portela

Pilar Portela is Accelerate Okanagan’s CEO. She has worked all over the Americas and brings 20 years of expert management and executive experience to the team. She has an MA in project management and has studied law and international trade.

Pilar is a master leader and brings planning and organization to a new level. She has an innate ability to align and bring focus into every situation. Her global knowledge of business development and her problem resolution skills fit perfectly with Accelerate Okanagan’s mission to increase the number of tech companies that start and grow in the Okanagan.

Pilar is an advocate of helping others do their jobs to the best of their ability and will do everything in her power to ensure they have the tools necessary to meet and exceed expectations. Decisive and fair, she sticks to her commitments and offers support through motivation, empowerment, and personal and professional development.

Pilar keeps herself sane by reading, trail running, hiking, practicing flamenco and yoga.

Andrew Greer

Program Manager

Andrew is Accelerate Okanagan’s Program Manager. An experienced business development manager and community builder, Andrew has a Bachelor of Commerce from Dalhousie University and an MBA from the Royal Military College.

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Andrew Greer

Andrew Greer is Accelerate Okanagan’s Program Manager. An experienced business development manager and community builder, Andrew has a Bachelor of Commerce from Dalhousie University and an MBA from the Royal Military College. He cut his business teeth at Xerox working in sales and management, then transitioned to an analyst and business development role at Launch Lab, a tech incubator in Eastern Ontario. Now Andrew looks for great companies to join AO programs.

When he’s not building the AO community, he’s out volunteering and enjoying all things athletic including kite surfing, sailing and team sports. He admits to being an amateur photographer, quiet conservationist, and a poor guitar player.

D’arcy Schaerer

Financial and Administration Manager

D’arcy is our Financial and Administration Manager. A highly motivated self-starter with strong analytical, communication and interpersonal skills, D’arcy has worked with diverse groups of people throughout her career.

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D’arcy Schaerer

D’arcy Schaerer is our Financial and Administration Manager. A highly motivated self-starter with strong analytical, communication and interpersonal skills, D’arcy has worked with diverse groups of people throughout her career. Her experience in project coordination, supervision, and office management with the likes of seismic jug hounds, archaeologists, palaeontologists, car buffs and condo consultants gives her all the skills she needs to work with this diverse group up techies.

When she’s not teching the halls, D’arcy like to do pottery and considers her life to be fun, funky, and functional.

Brea Retzlaff

Community Manager

Brea Retzlaff is our Community Manager. She supports the growing tech industry in the Okanagan by nurturing relationships with community partners and building industry academic connections.

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Brea Retzlaff

Brea Retzlaff is our Community Manager. She supports the growing tech industry in the Okanagan by nurturing relationships with community partners and building industry academic connections. She graduated from Okanagan College with her Business Degree. Brea managed a Summer Day Camp program for three years, where she learned a lot about the startup environment and how to play nice in the sandbox. Her first taste of tech was when she interned with Disney’s Club Penguin, and instantly fell in love with the tech community.

When Brea isn’t out at one of our local tech events, you may find her out on the lake, doing mosaic art, or at any concert she can find.

Laura Mortensen

Program Coordinator

Laura is Accelerate Okanagan’s Program Coordinator. Laura joined AO with experience in manufacturing engineering, project management, business analysis, and training development from the aerospace industry.

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Laura Mortensen

Laura is Accelerate Okanagan’s Program Coordinator. Laura joined AO with experience in manufacturing engineering, project management, business analysis, and training development from the aerospace industry. She graduated with honours from Ryerson University with a B.Eng in Aerospace Engineering. Laura has a passion for continuous improvement and specializes in process analysis and development for efficiency gains.

When she isn’t busy building integrated systems, you can find Laura at the yoga studio, running, biking, and busting out some breakdancing tricks from time to time.

Heidi Mann

Communications Associate

Heidi is our Communications Associate. Heidi comes to AO with extensive experience in providing multi-faceted Multimedia, IT/AV support to both public and private industry in Calgary.

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Heidi Mann

Heidi Mann is our Communications Associate. Heidi comes to AO with extensive experience in providing multi-faceted Multimedia, IT/AV support to both public and private industry in Calgary. She has assumed the roles of audio visual guru, digital video editor virtuoso and project coordinator extraordinaire with great pride and enthusiasm. Heidi’s passion is in the details. Keeping on top of projects and making sure all parts get to the finish line is what she does best. 

When Heidi is finished crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s, you can find her on the lake perfecting her wakesurfing tricks and swimming with her dogs.  During the winter months, Heidi is a novice snowboarder and cross fitter. Heidi is excited to be a part of the innovative and leading edge tech community within the Okanagan.

Sara Scott

Front Desk Administrator

Sara is our Front Desk Administrator. As the “face of Accelerate Okanagan”, Sara’s friendly and efficient manner welcomes everyone to the Kelowna Innovation Centre.

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Sara Scott

Sara is our Front Desk Administrator. As the “face of Accelerate Okanagan”, Sara’s friendly and efficient manner welcomes everyone to the Kelowna Innovation Centre. Before joining the AO Team, Sara spent over five years working in Guest Experience with Disney Interactive while balancing her passion for event management in her spare time.

Sara is exceptional in what she does because of her positive attitude and enthusiasm. Her areas of expertise are in facilities management, customer support, coordinating events and nailing first impressions.

Born and raised in Kelowna, she is an excellent tour guide for the Okanagan. In addition to being an avid gardener, Sara enjoys jewelry making, camping and spending time at her family's apple orchard.

Sheldon Gardiner

Executive in Residence

Sheldon is an Executive in Residence with Accelerate Okanagan. He holds a degree in Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan specializing in Marketing and Finance.

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Sheldon Gardiner

Sheldon Gardiner is an Executive in Residence (EiR) with Accelerate Okanagan. He holds a degree in Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan specializing in Marketing and Finance. Sheldon is a serial entrepreneur with successful startups in gas liquids, real estate development, software, and private equity. His last startup was sold to a public company where he spent time as president of the subsidiary operating company with over $200M in sales. Sheldon has a strong passion for entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and social innovation.

Sheldon is active in Kelowna’s non-profit community and helped start Okanagan Changemakers. He continues to volunteer there and is very involved in building the organization. His favourite startup is his family. His wife Shauna and their two daughters are proud to call Kelowna home.

Ted Gross

Executive in Residence

Ted is an Executive in Residence with Accelerate Okanagan. He is a graduate of Royal Roads University’s Commerce program and a graduate of Okanagan College.

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Ted Gross

Ted Gross is an Executive in Residence (EiR) with Accelerate Okanagan. He is a graduate of Royal Roads University’s Commerce program and a graduate of Okanagan College. His entrepreneurial claim to fame is rebuilding, systemizing and scaling a company in the wholesale distribution industry. He is passionate about personal accountability, hard work and innovation. Ted specializes in business systems, minimizing risks, sales, marketing, channel development, profitable growth, turn-arounds, negotiating, leveraging talents, and validating new ventures

Ted loves to volunteer his time in the community and hang out with his young family and their two dogs.

Lance Schafer

Executive in Residence

Lance Schafer is an Executive in Residence with Accelerate Okanagan. He is a business graduate of the Asper School of Business.

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Lance Schafer

Lance Schafer is an Executive in Residence (EiR) with Accelerate Okanagan. He is a business graduate of the Asper School of Business. Lance is an experienced entrepreneur who founded businesses in digital media, e-commerce, domain name speculation, and web publishing. He has successfully launched multiple startup technology companies, with LemonFree.com being his most notable venture to date. For his contribution to LemonFree.com, Ernst and Young recognized Lance as a finalist in their Emerging Entrepreneur category. He is passionate about the entrepreneurial experience and has focused much of his career on understanding the underlying formula that defines the success of most companies.

In his spare time, Lance enjoys playing bass in a band, skiing and learning more about the Okanagan wine industry.

Raghwa Gopal

Executive in Residence

Raghwa is an Executive in Residence with Accelerate Okanagan. He is a serial entrepreneur who was instrumental in starting, growing and selling numerous businesses over the last 30 years, the latest being Vadim Software.

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Raghwa Gopal

Raghwa Gopal is an Executive in Residence (EiR) with Accelerate Okanagan. He is a serial entrepreneur who was instrumental in starting, growing and selling numerous businesses over the last 30 years, the latest being Vadim Software.

Raghwa has been directly involved with and has extensive experience in of mergers and acquisitions. He currently sits on the boards of numerous businesses and not-for-profit organizations. He is a certified Business and Executive Coach and has been recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year and as a Technology Innovator.

Raghwa volunteers for Kelowna Rotary and Chamber of Commerce, loves playing golf and soccer, loves traveling to different parts of the world, and tries and hibernate in Fiji during winter months.

Warren Houston

Executive in Residence

Warren Houston is an Executive in Residence (EiR) with Accelerate Okanagan. Warren is currently a Partner with Powered by Search, a Profit Hot 50 & Branham 300 Ranked SEO & Inbound Marketing Agency.

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Warren Houston

Warren Houston is an Executive in Residence (EiR) with Accelerate Okanagan. Warren received his MBA at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business. He also received his Bachelors Degree from the University of Western Ontario in Economics.

Warren is currently a Partner with Powered by Search, a Profit Hot 50 & Branham 300 Ranked SEO & Inbound Marketing Agency. Warren also co-founded Business.ca in 2001 and raised over $2 million in venture capital funding.

Warren specializes in systemizing businesses, minimizing risks, sales growth, digital marketing and growing businesses organically. Warren has a strong passion for baseball and basketball and enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids.

Fraser Campbell

Executive in Residence

Fraser Campbell is an Executive in Residence at Accelerate Okanagan. He is a serial entrepreneur who has participated in several startups, rollouts, mergers and acquisitions over the last 25 years, with his partners in First Growth Management.

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Fraser Campbell

Fraser Campbell is an Executive in Residence at Accelerate Okanagan. He is a serial entrepreneur who has participated in several startups, rollouts, mergers and acquisitions over the last 25 years, with his partners in First Growth Management. He has been involved in corporate structure, strategic planning, change management, and business systems across Canada and the US within several service industries such as warehousing, aviation, construction, oil and gas, and defense and public security.

Fraser is also active in the nonprofit and charity sector of Kelowna as Chair of the Kelowna Foodbank and active on the boards of Okanagan Changemakers and Shoebank Canada. He has called Kelowna home for 28 years. In his free time, Fraser enjoys golfing, skiing, sailing, and playing guitar.

Brian Shepard

Executive in Residence

Brian Shepard is an Executive in Residence (EiR) with Accelerate Okanagan. He is CEO and Founder at Tenzing Managed IT Services.

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Brian Shepard

Brian Shepard is an Executive in Residence at Accelerate Okanagan. He is CEO and Founder at Tenzing Managed IT Services. Tenzing's success has been built upon Brian's continued focus on building a great team, strategic industry partnerships, acquisitions and building a forward thinking and dynamic corporate culture. Under Brian's leadership, Tenzing ranks among Canada's fastest growing IT companies and is a recognized leader in its field. Brian majored in Computer Science and Economics at Brock University.

In his free time, Brian is very active and enjoys golfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, squash and mountain biking.