Business

Fund benefits tech start-ups

Allan Wiekenkamp, Vancouver Island Venture Acceleration Fund director, left, tries out a virtual reality game co-developed by Denny Unger, Cloudhead president and creative director at the VIVA Fund launch event hosted at the Grand Hotel last week.  - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Allan Wiekenkamp, Vancouver Island Venture Acceleration Fund director, left, tries out a virtual reality game co-developed by Denny Unger, Cloudhead president and creative director at the VIVA Fund launch event hosted at the Grand Hotel last week.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Allan Wiekenkamp, director of the Vancouver Island Venture Acceleration Fund, emerges from virtually another world as he hands back a set of virtual reality goggles and controls to Denny Unger, president and creative director of Qualicum Beach-based Cloudhead Games.

Wiekenkamp has just experienced The Gallery: Six Elements, an adventure in a virtual reality world.

The VIVA Fund, which focuses on Internet, information technology, software, media and environmental innovation companies, was set up to raise cash for start up firms like Cloudhead Games, one of three companies, including Nanaimo-based Input Logic and Solaris, manufacturer of SunPumps, a type of highly efficient solar panel, demonstrating at the VIVA Fund launch event hosted at the Grand Hotel last Tuesday.

“What we wanted to do today is demonstrate to everyone on the Island that technology companies – hi-tech startups – exist right now and these are companies garnering a lot of attention with Fortune 500 companies coming to see them on the Island,” Wiekenkamp said.

The game was developed on an existing development engine, but is otherwise an Island product. The VIVA Fund will help talent like the Cloudhead team stay on the Island.

“We just got introduced to it,” Unger said. “I think it’s great that investors are coming together to look at local projects like ours. That’s an amazing opportunity for small, start-up studios like us, who are on the verge of different tech discoveries.”

The game is still in the midst of development and will be released in mid-2015.

Unger said funding would be a huge help in helping the company catch the current wave of interest in virtual reality games.

“We’re being approached by a lot of different interests and being able to approach and account for that would be a huge benefit,” Unger said.

Cloudhead is one of 11 companies currently on board with the venture acceleration program delivered by Innovation Island, which is itself part of a greater regional partnership funded primarily by the B.C. Innovation Council.

“The sweet spot is the smaller companies that are just starting up and need the capital to get to the next stage,” Wiekenkamp said. “We’re trying to build something and keep companies here on the Island.”

“We started out kind of babes-in-the-woods, with no sort of mentorship or guidance and they’ve been really helpful to us,” Unger said.

For more information about the VIVA Fund, please visit the Innovation Island website at www.innovationisland.ca.

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