Tectorian of the Week: AXYS Group

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Our Tectorian of the Week is the AXYS Group, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.

In many ways, the AXYS Group represents where Greater Victoria’s tech sector has been, and where it’s going. Forty years ago, a tight-knit group of visionaries saw an opportunity and then worked like crazy to take advantage of it.

Along the way, the companies of the AXYS Group have created a whole bunch of new technologies that are helping change the world, have produced a ton of high-paying jobs, and have put Victoria on the map as the location of Canada’s top ocean technology cluster.

Besides attracting talent, the AXYS companies also nurture and produce talent, adding knowledge, wisdom and experience to the Tectoria gene pool.

Privately-held AXYS Group was founded in 1974 and has played a leading role both in the economy of Saanich Peninsula and Greater Victoria.

The founding members of the AXYS Group all had graduate degrees in marine analytical chemistry. Their background and interest in marine science is responsible for the direction the AXYS Group has taken.

Paul Erickson played a key role within the AXYS Group with Seastar Chemicals. Since stepping back from day-to-day operations just over a decade ago, Erickson has turned a personal interest in type 1 diabetes into an active role as a philanthropist involved in funding research to for the hereditary condition. He has been an early stage investor in numerous biotech and technology companies.

David Thomas still serves as the president and chairman of the AXYS Group of companies, while Peter Berrang was the founder and President of Seastar Optics Inc. for 10 years.

Seastar, which manufactured semiconductor laser devices for the telecommunications industry world-wide was sold to SDL Inc. of San Jose, CA., a public company, in Dec. 1995. SDL was subsequently acquired by JDS Uniphase.

AXYS Group company Seastar Chemicals is still a major employer on the Saanich Peninsula, while AXYS Analytical is a world leader in ultra trace analysis of Persistent Organic Pollutants and emerging organic contaminants.

AXYS Technologies, which designs and builds its distinctive yellow marine hardware, is the most recognizable of the companies sharing the local DNA.

The AXYS Technologies legacy began with marine consulting contracts to Environment Canada for wave studies in 1974. This was followed by the design of several marine technology devices in the 1980’s that lead to an opportunity to design, manufacture, install and service Canada’s Marine Weather Buoy Network. Enhancements and improvements to these technologies has been an ongoing mandate in close collaboration with Environment Canada.

In the early 1990’s, AXYS began inventing additional marine technologies in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC), including the industry-leading TRIAXYS directional wave monitoring buoy. The NRC also assisted financially with development of the next generation WatchMan500™ controller processor.

Over the last twenty years, AXYS Technologies has continued to grow its marine product portfolio and increase market share with major buoy network sales in Italy, Colombia, Spain, Portugal, the United States, and Brazil. AXYS has built and tested over 200 meteorological and oceanographic data buoys of various types.

In the last five years, AXYS Technologies further diversified with the creation of the first commercially-deployed offshore wind resource assessment buoy, as well as hydrological products for freshwater monitoring, and automated weather stations for aviation data.

Other companies in the AXYS Group have also developed a strong reputation for innovation.

In 2005, Atlantic Canada’s Jacques Whitford acquired AXYS Environmental Consulting Ltd. to become one of Canada’s largest environmental and engineering consulting firms. In 2008, engineering services giant Stantec went on to acquire Jacques Whitford – a lot of people all over Canada and the rest of the world are looking at what innovative companies are doing in Tectoria.

With special thanks to ASL’s David Fissel who himself has not only watched the local ocean cluster thrive and grow, but has also played a key role in the process.

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Tectorian of the Week: Erin Athene

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Our Tectorian of the Week for August 8th is Erin Athene.

As an Executive in Residence at Accelerate Tectoria, Erin is a well-known wise and friendly face in Victoria’s community of technology startups.

Erin has been there, and has done it all, which helps her guide, coach and grow ambitious early-stage technology entrepreneurs to continue the ongoing astounding growth of Victoria’s tech sector.

Erin brings nearly two decades of experience in a variety of roles, from management consulting to business development, communications, entrepreneurship, investor relations, and launching start-ups.

Erin’s Twitter feed is a great place to catch bite-sized portions of her vast knowledge and ask her any questions about entrepreneurialism you might have.

But what makes Erin our Tectorian of the Week?

A fellow mentor has this to say about Erin:

  • She’s busy, but always available to help.
  • She possesses a wealth of life experience allowing her to see things from multiple perspectives, with a sense of compassion and empathy.
  • She’s passionate and committed to making a difference in her community.

A prime example of Erin’s community-building attributes is her role as a champion of the Victoria chapter of Ladies Learning Code, aka “LLC.”

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LLC is a Canada-wide not-for-profit group that is working to empower everyone to feel comfortable learning beginner-friendly technical skills in a social, collaborative way.

The Victoria chapter will hold an “Introduction to HTML & CSS Workshop” on September 27 at MediaCore and is designed for absolute beginners.

Says Erin: “We need to raise $1000 to show that there is enough community interest to support offering workshops in Victoria. All proceeds will be used for direct expenses required for the workshops, and extra funds will go towards scholarships for women who cannot afford the $50 workshop fee. ”

The Tilt campaign has so far raised $600, with 15 days left to go.

Update from Erin:

We’ve already hit our $1000 target, so our stretch goal is to raise $5000, because every donation is doubled thanks to VIATeC’s generous offer to match $5000!

To hit our stretch goal, we’re looking for 7 tech companies to donate $500 each, or 70 individual supporters to donate $50 (the cost of 1 workshop participant)! We’ve already raised $1100 with 14 more days to go!  We can do this Victoria!

Contribute to LLC Victoria’s Tilt Campaign here.

The end goal? Helping create new technology entrepreneurs and high-growth businesses – Erin’s passion.

In 2007, Erin co-founded Topaz Bridge Corporation, an enterprise software company providing HR applications connecting SAP to Microsoft Sharepoint, to save Fortune 500 companies millions of dollars in SAP customization costs.

Topaz grew from conception to first multi-million dollar customer acquisition, to a valuation of over $20M after only 17 months in business. Erin was primarily responsible for fundraising and investor relations, raising $1.4M in Seed and Series A financing rounds, closing by Q4 2008.

Erin has gone on to found business development startup MarketplaceREV Partners and, most recently Purpose Social Media, a coaching resource to support social enterprises, faith-based initiatives, and causes of global and local significance who want support with their online messaging, visibility and digital marketing strategy.

So, Erin is a high-energy individual with a strong community focus and a laser-focus on helping fledgling entrepreneurs cross the chasm and take their game to the next level.

Which is exactly what every Tectorian really ought to be.

Tectorian of the Week: Eric Jordan

 

Eric Jordan, Codename Entertainment

Eric Jordan is our Tectorian of the Week for August 1, 2014.

The CEO of Victoria gaming company Codename Entertainment (formerly known as DJ Arts) is an archetypal Tectoria success story:

Eric got his start in a computer lab at UVic in the mid-90’s where he helped co-found PureEdge Solutions.

By the time the home-grown software company was acquired by IBM in 2005, PureEdge had 70 employees and 5 million users.

Following the acquistion, Eric took a year off to travel the world with his family. But Eric came back to Victoria, and has been committed to making our community a better place every since.

How?

Eric helps out in a lot of ways. For example, he’s a board member of the Cool Aid Society and is the co-chair (along with Victoria mayor Dean Fortin) of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

The Coalition’s mission?

By 2018, all people facing homelessness in Victoria will have access to safe, affordable, appropriate, permanent housing.

The Victoria region has built a considerable number of supportive and affordable housing units since 2008, but the Coalition estimates that at least 1,500 units of affordable housing and more than 250 supportive housing units are still needed to end homelessness in Greater Victoria.

If you want to join Eric and the Coalition on their mission to end homelessness, get involved.

In fact, Eric has always tried to help out his local community, including a decade ago when as chair of the VIATeC board of directors, he helped launch the VIATeC Food Bank Challenge.

The Food Bank Challenge has since grown into a massively successful Tectoria community campaign that has collected more than $1.5 million so far to help out the more than 20,000 individuals in Victoria who rely on a food bank each year to avoid going hungry.

More recently, after serving as president of the Premier’s Technology Council, where he had the opportunity to educate senior levels of government about the important role tech companies play in BC’s economy, Eric has returned to his roots to lead a successful high-growth company right here in Victoria.

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You should know that Eric is also all about games, both online and IRL with his family and friends (a certain Tectoria blog writer has even received useful parenting tips from Eric about how to “gameify” household chores so that the kids will actually do them).

This makes him the perfect choice to lead Codename Entertainment. The growing company is part of Victoria’s booming gaming industry, and has created a ton of cool titles that gamers all over the world can play on Facebook, Kongregate, BigFish and more.

Always ready to help build community, Eric sits on the Video Game Round Table, and is organizing the Video Game Startup Boot Camp here in Victoria on October 17.

Eric is working with VIATeC and IGDA to create a structured, intensive day-long workshop to connect local Tectorian teams and individuals with industry experts to put together a business plan.

The goal? To build a video game company right here in Victoria and help this vibrant sector continue to grow.

And, of course, as a technology veteran and a member of the gaming community, Eric can be counted on to participate in events like OrcaJam and GottaCon that mix gaming, technology, and the creative industries.

That’s a lot of community involvement! Thanks, Eric!

Eric has done a lot of other cool things in his life, and we know he will continue to accomplish a lot. And we also know he’ll always be here, helping make Tectoria a true community.

Tectorian of the Week: Laura Meyer

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Laura Meyer of StarFish Medical is our Tectorian of the week.

Laura is StarFish Medical’s supply chain manager, her background is in electro-optics, and she has also built aircraft for several years. She’s a Lean facilitator, which means Laura helps optimize supply chains, and she’s happy to share her expertise with other supply chain and manufacturing managers in Victoria.

In fact, a true Tectorian, Laura volunteers her time to organize the VIATeC Supply Chain Round Table. Collaborating with peers across different companies to share best practices and build a strong tech community is the Tectorian way, so thanks Laura!

Before arriving in Victoria nearly a year ago, Laura worked all over the world managing and then building supply chains for advanced manufacturing companies like StarFish Medical, Victoria’s well-known medical device design, development and manufacturing company.

StarFish clients are often entrepreneurs bringing new concepts to life. Laura’s job is to help engineers source or create standard products that turn concepts into prototypes and eventually medical devices. Laura also supports ViVitro Labs, a StarFish Group company which is itself well-known within its global industry for designing and providing cardiovascular device testing equipment and lab services.

What makes Laura such a pleasure to work with?

“She brought the promise of adding experience and energy to the manufacturing and supply chain team. Eight months later she has delivered on all counts,” says Jason Dolynny, StarFish’s Director of Manufacturing.

“Recently Laura helped transfer entire existing supply chain from a Calgary manufacturer into our operations,” says Jason. “The medical device involves 30 vendors and the task was completed in 3 months. Laura works so closely with the client that her counterpart in Calgary feels completely aware and trusts the StarFish team completely.”

Once again, a Tectorian is helping put our community on the map as a place where idea grow. We’re happy Laura has come here to share her experience and drive, and look forward to seeing what she does in the future!

Tectorian of the Week: Jesse Learmonth

Jesse Learmonth is our Tectorian of the Week for July 18th.

Jesse is an inspiration: since helping launch web and mobile startup Bet Smart Media in 2010, Jesse has not only built a successful tech company right here in Victoria, he has also worked tirelessly to connect fellow entrepreneurs in town with resources and support – the very spirit of a Tectorian.

But first, more about Bet Smart.

Bet Smart has been developing web and mobile betting products since 2010. Jesse and his team have taken an idea (we remember a presentation they made at the Tech Park on a rainy winter day back in 2010) and have turned it into reality. That’s Tectoria, for you.

Bet Smart focuses exclusively on the mobile “iGaming industry”, and more specifically, the sports betting category. The team helps people find and choose bets, and their strategy is to partner with sportsbook operators to supply them with content-driven products that deliver value to the bettor, whilst helping drive bets to the sportsbook.

Bet Smart also has a service offering, lending itself out to other companies looking for some extra horsepower and expertise in the area of app development and more.

Jesse has also channeled his drive and enthusiasm into the Victoria BC Startups group on Meetup.com.

The group provides true technology entrepreneurs with regular meetups with other local startup founders to exchange ideas, share stories from the trenches, and liaise with others who have a true appreciation for what it means to start a company!

It’s an technology entrepreneur group run by other entrepreneurs – a cohort that typically works night and day to build their businesses with little time for socializing.

So Jesse is helping build community, helping share information, and helping build Tectoria.

Thanks Jesse!

Tectorian of the Week: Greg Bobolo

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Greg Bobolo is our Tectorian of the Week for July 11th, 2014.

Greg Bobolo and the team at Tectoria’s own SendtoNews have signed an agreement for the global syndication of short videos for Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, a deal SendtoNews estimates will bring in more than $100 million over five years.

The vast library of content generated during the 2,500-game baseball season is the “holy grail of sports video highlights,” according to Greg (think of all the baseball highlights, interviews, top plays you have ever watched on TV), and now SendtoNews has the global syndication rights “across a variety of platforms.”

The Wharf Street-based company generates revenue via the ads attached to each video. Ad revenue from the video is distributed between the rights holder, media outlets and SendtoNews.

Prior to MLB, SendtoNews had already inked deals with NASCAR, the American Hockey League, and other organizations. These sports highlights are sent to more than 1,000 newsrooms all over North America.

Not bad for a tech startup that’s just four years old.

SendtoNews is the based on the vision of Keith Wells, a veteran broadcaster and familiar local face who understood that a rapidly changing media landscape presented a lot of opportunities.

In response, Keith developed a platform that allowed non-accredited media to relay video from the 2010 Olympics to their local station.

Greg Bobolo then led an A-Team of some Tectoria’s most talented tech veterans to transform Keith’s vision into a grand-slam success story.

Before joining SendtoNews, Greg Bobolo had already founded and built two startups into multimillion-dollar operations in seven years, winning him an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Award finalist nomination at just 31 years old.

“When I was brought on to SendtoNews I saw enormous potential,” he told BIV recently, “News organizations have a huge need for sports content and are lacking in resources to purchase it. I saw a clear direction for the company and started developing partnerships.”

Greg’s hard work pounding the pavement in Los Angeles, London, New York and other global media hubs has paid off.

By the end of 2013, Victoria’s own SendtoNews was the largest provider of short-form sports video content in Canada.

“We have a digital network that sees millions and millions of viewers every month, and it’s growing steadily at about 100 per cent month-over-month,” Greg told the Globe and Mail about a year ago.

By the end of 2014, Greg is predicting there will be more than 100 million monthly viewers on the SendtoNews network in North America.

Besides Greg’s energy and drive, what sets him apart is his ability to “network at a high level” to develop the partnerships that drive SendtoNews’ success.

He estimates he’s met with over 120 sports owners, from the NHL to the NBA, preferring to go directly to the top.

Never feeling self-conscious about his Tectorian “small island in the Pacific Ocean” roots, Greg always feels confident when negotiating with a room full of Ivy League graduates, relying on “doing his homework” to secure a deal.

Greg Bobolo and the team at SendtoNews provide a lot of inspiration for fellow Tectorians trying to make it big. Congratulations on the newest major league partnership, and we’re pretty sure this is just the beginning.

Tectorian of the Week: Carli van Maurik

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Carli van Maurik is our Tectorian of the Week for July 4th, 2014.

Many Tectorians will recognize Carli thanks to her constant presence as a “booster” in the VIATeC Accelerator, where she mentors start-up businesses and appears as a frequent guest speaker.

Carli provides much-appreciated insights about technology start-up formation, debt and equity financing, corporate and capital structuring, corporate governance, maintenance and compliance, as well as shareholders agreements.

In short, if you’re a building a tech company in Victoria, you want someone like Carli in your corner, not only because of her knowledge and expertise, but also because Carli has been there too, trying to do something that’s never been done before in order to reach her maximum potential.

Since graduating from with a law degree from Dalhousie, Carli van Maurik has chosen to find her own path, inventing her own opportunities. Carli van Maurik could have joined one of the big law firms to toil away racking up as many billable hours as possible, but it was during one interview in Calgary when she realized she had to practice law her own way:

“The interviewer in Calgary actually talked to me about my goldfish for the entire half hour slot,” Carli says. “I spent $800 on a flight for that interview.”

So, with the goldfish triggering a certain satori, Carli ended up in Victoria, where she quickly rolled up her sleeves doing pro bono work while working for some top-notch local boutique law firms.

Now Carli van Maurik is Senior Business Solutions Lawyer at Whiteboard Law, where she works with BC tech industry champions Jim and Joan Mutter to help businesses in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna grow and achieve their full potential.

They help everyone from early stage growth-oriented companies to acquisition-ready companies that are raising money and doing deals – the kind of successes the VIATeC Accelerator program is trying to foster.

Thanks, guys!

Whiteboard Law is unique in that it is a completely virtual law practice, and uses cloud-based technology that allows the team to be on the move, with full access to client files from any global location with internet access.

This is actually innovative for the legal industry, which even in 2014 still typically relies on paper-based information management – this means companies must take time out of their day to travel to a law office to review files.

Whiteboard’s online approach provides startup companies with an agile process that saves time and money – crucial in a tech scene that is always changing.

Carli’s sense of enthusiasm, and her focus on entrepreneurship and innovation make her the perfect fit for Accelerate Tectoria, and make her our Tectorian of the Week.