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GROW Conference talks connectivity

Titans of the tech world plug in to Whistler
UNDER THE BIG TOP Local app designer Elizabeth Boylan's Big Top Ballet creates games for web browsers and mobile devices — . Graphic submitted

Next week, some of the biggest names in the technology industry will converge on Whistler for the GROW Conference — but not all attendees are coming from out of town.

For Elizabeth Boylan — chief creative officer for Whistler-based app developer Big Top Ballet Inc. — the conference provides an opportunity to take the temperature of the industry directly from some of its biggest players.

"The wisdom, and being able to ask the right questions — I don't get that from skiing, or from working at home," Boylan said with a laugh.

Boylan started Big Top Ballet in May of 2013. The company specializes in creating "insanely beautiful, wonder-driven games" for web browsers and mobile devices.

While Boylan and her husband John Borchert are also the minds behind another Whistler-based tech company, Vectorbloom, Big Top Ballet is something of a passion project for Boylan.

"The whole drive is to be a video game studio, where we're doing games and building out the content rather than just one title," she said.

That independent drive is appealing to Debbie Landa, founder of GROW.

"I am always attracted to the scrappy people, because to me those are true entrepreneurs," she said.

"The people who go in the back door are way scrappier. The fact that (Boylan) is able to do it means that that's the life she's chosen, and she likes this lifestyle for herself."

Landa can relate — she launched her own startup, Dealmaker Media, in 2000.

After a successful relocation to Whistler from San Francisco in 2014, she expects word of mouth will help the GROW conference build on the momentum this year.

"I think that enough people heard of it that they're just signing up because they want that experience. Things are amazing like that," she said.

"For all the big companies that are out there who are trying to motivate, trying to stay relevant, what they're finally realizing is if you can focus on customer experience and making sure that you can deliver the best customer service, that in turn creates loyalty."

The theme for this year's GROW Conference is "Living in a Connected World." The speaker list features names like Harley Finkelstein, CPO of Shopify, Linda Kozlowski, COO of Evernote, and Ari Levy, senior tech reporter for CNBC.

But you don't have to be in the tech industry to take part, Landa said.

"Small businesses are no different than big companies. They're all business people," she said.

"Technology is this invisible thing that should create efficiency for your company. You don't have to be a nerd to be able to adopt it and use it — the Internet, email, these are nerd products, yet they're a part of our everyday lives."

When it comes to living in a connected world, it won't be hard for speakers to stick to the theme, Landa said, because "everything is just getting more and more connected. The idea though, is that the connectivity becomes seamless and invisible," she said.

For Whistler, that means greater investment in Internet infrastructure and a commitment to an open Wi-Fi service, Landa said.

For more on this year's GROW Conference head to

For more on Boylan's work check out or