Building a Technology Hub

How angel investors support economic development through innovative projects.

Photos by



The Campbell River Area Angel Group (CRAAG) was founded in February 2019 when Campbell River Economic Development Manager Rose Klukas introduced me to technology industry veteran Dana Kammersgard. It has since become a tightly knit group of volunteers with extensive backgrounds in the technology industry and expertise ranging from innovation-driven entrepreneurship to capital investing. The primary goal is to establish the Campbell River area as a high-tech growth area focused on markets inspired by local culture with a global impact.

Kammersgard and I met in person at the 2019 BC Tech Summit. After an inspiring talk by XPrize Foundation CEO Anousheh Ansari, they realized they could form a group to help Campbell River, and nearby island communities, grow and expand technology-based industry. They drafted a Technology Action Plan and conceived the beginnings of the NexStream Contest series.

In the summer of 2019, long-time Campbell River/Quadra Island resident Andreas (Dre) Hagen, founder of the technology company iLab, now part of Agilent, joined us. He proposed Campbell River Area Angel Group as the group’s name and secured the domain name. In the fall of 2019, former venture capitalist Rick Segal, now a Campbell River executive and business owner, joined the group. About a year later, Chris Nelson, an investor with a background in real estate and investment banking, became the fifth member of the band.

Recognizing the importance of creative media to the scenic Campbell River area, CRAAG began to support locally themed video projects. Completed video projects now include the documentaries Heartbeat of the River and Salmon Capital by renowned underwater explorer-photographer Eiko Jones.

CRAAG also supported work by local videographer Damien Gillis, including the emerging Project Dome, an innovative virtual reality framework. My wife, Dee, and I have been actively involved in the Wild Empathy ancient forest experience project with Gillis and his colleagues at Emily Carr University. Two other projects we support are the documentary The Zone, about ice climbing legend and long-time Maurelle Island resident Rob Wood, and the upcoming historical docu-drama Shadow Trap, also by Damien Gillis.

shield setup

The group works closely with the City of Campbell River’s economic development team; CRAAG meets regularly with Klukas and key members of her team such as Nina Baksh and Leah Knutson, who are enthusiastically supported by City Council. This collaboration has led to support for the TECHatchery initiative—an innovative platform to support the local business community, as well as provide thematic support for the Modern Entrepreneur Series, which has hosted talks by luminaries such as rock climber and extreme remote work pioneer Mike Doyle.

To date, CRAAG is best known for its NexStream technology entrepreneurship contests, which have run annually since 2019. The contests are designed to stimulate and guide technology-based entrepreneurship in the Campbell River area that aims for worldwide impact. The first round of contests, NexStream 1.0, concluded in August 2020 with two winners awarded cash prizes: WildIsle Ferments, based on Quadra Island, and Portable Electric, based in Vancouver. WildIsle utilizes innovative fermentation methods to create tasty sauces from what would otherwise be fish processing waste. Portable Electric provides novel electrical energy storage and supply units that can be charged by a variety of clean energy sources. Apart from the cash prizes, participants received more than $0.5M in investment as a direct result of participation in NexStream 1.0, and more than $2M in investment following NexStream 2.0. Plans are underway to continue this success in NexStream 3.0, which launched February, 2022.

NexStream 2.0 received more than 60 initial entries across four subject categories: Health and Preparedness, Sustainable Resources, Food Security, and the popular Wildcard category. The winners in those categories were AazeinTx (asthma medication), MintGreen (heat extraction for district heating from cryptocurrency mining), AVA Technologies (hydroponics pods for home food growing), and Open Ocean Robotics (robotic ocean surveying craft). In addition, mental health application Rootd received a special cash prize as winner of the RBC Royal Bank Community Service award from contest sponsor RBC.

A theme throughout the two rounds of NexStream contests has been the valuable mentoring of the contestants by CRAAG members. Within and beyond the NexStream context, CRAAG members have been active in advising and supporting a number of local businesses.

Working with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, as well as the Strathcona Regional District and the City of Campbell River, Hagen led a project to produce face shields for frontline workers, with local manufacturing and final assembly being done in Campbell River and on Quadra Island. Along with CRAAG colleague Segal, he spearheaded efforts to source appropriate masks, and helped make vertical shields for use at checkout locations of local businesses. Members also provided advice and assistance with online ordering and other ecommerce capabilities, thus expanding visibility for businesses outside the local market. CRAAG also helped to organize an online information and Q&A session for the community that was led by local doctor, Dr. Natasha Rafo.

All of this has helped develop the reputation of Campbell River and the surrounding area as an emerging, innovative technology hub—a reputation the group plans to strengthen through activities like NexStream 3.0.