A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support, and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.
Our community is strong and growing with record speed and maintaining a connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we've got a plan.
Introducing, We are #OKGNtech. A showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters, and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth, and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.
Meet Fraser. Fraser Johnston is the Founder of Watch & Ride Virtual Snowboard Inc. and the Scale-Up Program Lead at Accelerate Okanagan. When he isn’t helping aspiring snowboarders get used to carving up the hill, you’ll find him connecting with the great outdoors on a hike or taking a “fancy nap” in a float tank.
Why did you choose the Okanagan to call home?
Growing up in Scotland we didn't have access to the mountains, or even a big body of water. In Kelowna, everything's on your back doorstep. I heard about a 12-week snowboard instructor course up at Big White. That’s where I met my partner, Shelby, at the staff training. Been here ever since.
Where do you work in the Okanagan?
I wear two hats, actually. I founded Watch & Ride Snowboarding School, which has been around four and a half years now. Everyone has that kind of vision of the adventure they want to have when they’re out exploring the mountain. To be able to give them the skills and confidence to have those experiences is pretty cool.
My other half is as the Scale-Up Lead for Accelerate Okanagan, I get to help entrepreneurs and connect them with Executives in Residence that match their issues, challenges and opportunities. People and their businesses go in a similar trajectory—If your business is going well then your life is going well, if it’s the opposite then you can get into some pretty dark places. It's really nice when you can help change the structure of an entrepreneur's life.
Working with so many scale-up companies, are their trends you noticed in challenges and secrets to success?
I’d say there are four trends that I’ve noticed scale-up companies facing. First, how to develop a team that wants to show up to work and feels like they have a purpose. Second would be creating a strategy that aligns with company goals and executing on those strategies. Next, growing sales and marketing—finding predictable revenue and effectively telling your story. The last trend would be about the general day-to-day operations of the company. What I’ve seen that best addresses these trends is being humble enough to receive mentorship and peer-to-peer advice. Too many entrepreneurs push towards a goal despite contradicting evidence that it’s the wrong decision. Listening to other’s opinions can help you and your company innovate and grow.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
If you're starting a business, there needs to be a certain level of passion. It can be a hard and long road—much longer than you expect. That passion can help keep you in the game. When developing an idea, if you have some kind of unique insight or experience in how an industry works, you can see how you can make things better. With Watch & Ride, I saw lift tickets and gear getting more and more expensive, so lessons were the last things on people's minds—even though they’re the most important. You're not trying to reinvent something, but you can make it more accessible, maybe even cheaper. You want to find a unique way of solving a problem.
What do you love about the OKGNtech community?
I really appreciate how big the OKGNtech community is... but also how small it is. In the 10 years I've been here, it's definitely grown a lot but at the same time it still has that close-knit feel. Everyone is always more than willing to give their time and share advice. One conversation over coffee can change an entrepreneur’s life. Talking to someone who has already experienced what you’re going through can help you navigate the challenges you're facing.
What is something that people don’t know about you?
I've spent over 200 hours in a float tank. Shelby calls them my fancy naps... I like to think of it as my secret sauce. I probably sleep in there sometimes. It's some good thinking time, it's an awesome place to get perspective. When you don't have your body talking to you, it's amazing how expansive your mind can get. Definitely my secret weapon… or my fancy naps.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you launched Watch & Ride?
To be honest, nothing. Starting a business is one of the best decisions you can make for personal growth—if you're open to mentorship and advice. The amount of things you learn about yourself is miraculous. I’ve had a lot of “ah-ha” moments in how I perceive the world. I don't think that would have happened without the failure and dark times of starting a business.
Who inspires you?
When I first started, I was consuming so many podcasts from pretty much anyone who was following their vision. But, I try not to listen to podcasts anymore. If you can't motivate yourself, you're kind of f*cked. There's only so much motivation you can take from others. At the end of the day, you have to be able to put one foot in front of the other and just walk the path.