Past met present and future Wednesday as iTel Networks celebrated the expansive surroundings of its new headquarters, the long vacant global offices of Weyerhaueser Canada.
At the 33,000 sq. ft. office complex overlooking the Thompson River on Mission Flats, the young company hosted more than 120 well wishers who applauded the entrepreneurial spirit.
“We planned this as a community event because this building around us not only represents the future of our business, but also symbolic of the change I see happening in our city,” said Danny Rink, the company’s founder and chief operating officer.
As a specialized Internet service provider, iTel Networks provides innovative solutions specifically for business.
MC Christopher Seguin of TRU described Rink, son of developer Mike Rink and a TRU grad, as a “serial entrepreneur.”
He began his career as the founder and CEO of Care Caller, emergency call systems, before cofounding Kamloops Innovation Centre, the city’s technology incubator. He’s also the cofounder and a board member of Lightship Works, which delivers work site management software.
“iTel started 10 years ago with the spark of an idea,” Rink said.
Could they build a company with the same reliability as the giant telecoms, but develop technology where they could not?
“We would make our smallness an advantage, servicing clients of all sizes with innovative telecom and Internet services with more options for less cost.”
They started small — three people in a tiny office at KIC on the North Shore.
“If you called our sales line, I’d take the call. Chad (Jonasson) would set up your system and Shannon (Johnson) would do basically everything else. Some things have changed since then.”
They have quickly become one of the country’s fastest growing telecom companies, as the new headquarters suggests, not only in its current complement but in the confident growth it projects.
“As of today we are 75 people in Kamloops and we continue to hire 10 a month.”
They plan to grow the operation to 300 employees within the next few years. It wasn’t always so promising, though. When they started, larger competitors figured they were too small to take away business from them, Rink said.
“I’m happy to say that they were wrong and this year we will take 200 percent more than we did last year,” he added to applause. “The story of iTel is the story of Kamloops’ growing tech community.”
That’s why Seguin was officiating Wednesday.
“Today is more about the industry than one company,” Seguin said. “It is more about community building.”
Reinforcing that notion, KIC was hosting another of its TechBrew events immediately after the grand opening, bringing tech types together in a casual context that has long characterized the sector.
“It’s really a hallmark of the tech sector that you can be anywhere,” said MLA Todd Stone, who not long ago led one of only three tech companies in the city. “You’re looking at a considerably stronger tech sector today.”
“We really, as a province, want to keep our companies working in our communities, and iTel is doing just that,” said Shirley Vickers of B.C. Innovation Council.
iTel has been a client in the BCIC’s Venture It program since last December, she said. As executive in residence, John Zubak of BCIC’s acceleration network has been helping mentor the enterprise and organized the celebration Wednesday.
iTel is currently leasing the office complex from Cando Rail Services, which is developing a rail service facility next door. Rink said they plan to eventually purchase the property.