June 12, 2015 8:02 pm

Silicon Valley in the Okanagan Valley

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KELOWNA – The annual Metabridge retreat is underway in Kelowna and it has top Canadian start-up companies networking with some of the biggest names in the tech industry in North America.

“We have people here from Facebook and Google,” says Metabridge founder Steve Wandler.

The event helps connect start-up companies with big-time investors.

“We have start-up companies from all over Canada. This is not an Okanagan event. This is a national event that happens in the Okanagan,” says Wandler.

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Twenty top start-ups from across Canada, five of those from B.C., have been selected to make their pitch to investors, similar to the popular TV show “Dragons’ Den”.

“They have five minutes to pitch ideas to a panel of judges,” says Wandler. “Then two minutes of Q and A and they get grilled and it’s kind of nerve wracking because they showcase what they have.”

One of the start-up entrepreneurs is Matt Gomez. The Kelowna man launched a website called “soilmate.com” in May 2014. It’s an online tool which makes it easier to buy local.

“Soilmate is a tool that allows you to find out who grows, raises and produces what within 100 miles of wherever you are in North America, “ says Gomez.

Gomez says with food security a concern for more and more people, he would like to develop the site to its full potential.

“Right now there are a lot of people that care because they are very aware but very soon there will be people that care because they have no choice but to,” says Gomez.

He points to California’s drought as one reason more people should buy local.

“Canada is the largest importer of California produce. Grocery stores in our area already stated prices are going up and availability going down,” he says.

Soilmate also highlights another problem, the shortage of young farmers.

“If we don’t support farmers local produce and we don’t encourage more people into farming as a viable business, then who will grow our food in the very near future?” he says.

Gomez hopes the business of food resonates with investors so that his start-up business can continue to grow with an infusion of cash.

For more information on soilmate, click here

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