British Columbia is a great place to start a tech company: it provides talent, imagination and tax incentives, as well as lifestyle amenities that allow entrepreneurs space to kick back or kick up. Small surprise, then, that accounting firm Deloitte’s annual Technology Fast 50 list, a celebration of the country’s fastest-growing tech firms, includes nine based in B.C., led by No. 2 ranked Corvus Energy.
B.C. companies on the list in past years include Avigilon Corp., Vision Critical and PNI Digital Media; last year, local darling HootSuite jumped on with a startling revenue growth of 56,514 per cent.
This year’s rankings include four companies that represent the breadth of the B.C. tech sector, all of them nimbly responding to the importance of big data management in business growth.
Traction on Demand, Burnaby • “Traction is a CRM [customer relationship management] consulting and software development firm,” the company’s web says, but founder and CEO Greg Malpass claims the company has grown beyond this to do so much more.
Revenue growth of 1,003 per cent over the past five years was driven by not only consolidating data that lets sales staff better manage customer relationships, but managing a company’s entire value chain from suppliers to consumers.
“Once you have [a CRM] system in, you have a very strong listening centre and speaking centre to your customer,” Malpass says. “Now you need the rest of your supply chain and your value chain to be able to keep up.”
Recent development work has sought to help companies manage staff, trucks and, effectively, just about any resource at their disposal.
It is helping companies reroute trucks to make better use of the vehicles. It has also devised software to help hospitality businesses manage seasonal hiring demands, making it easier to contact and re-engage past staff as well as gauge the need for new staff.
“Every company is becoming a technology company,” Malpass explains. “We’re essentially going in and understanding their processes, understanding what people do day in and day out, and then speeding it up with technology.”
Zafin Labs Inc., Vancouver • Boosting bank profits isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but for Zafin it’s been a mutually beneficial arrangement that’s boosted its own revenues 343 per cent in the past five years.
By allowing banks to correlate customer data with available services, Zafin provides customized information on the products clients want while maximizing the value of those services to the financial institution.
“We determine what is the price, what is the rate, they should be charging you,” Karim Somji, founder and CEO of Zafin, explains. “It’s all about how you provide the right product to the right client through the right channel at the right price.”
And, of course, it all has to be done legitimately.
“When you call up the bank and say, ‘You’re charging me these fees …,’ they should be able to know why they’re charging you the fees and they should be able to explain that to you in very simple English,” Somji says.
Its systems allow staff to provide these explanations, ideally improving customer management.
Zafin has landed contracts with four of Canada’s five major banks, and operates eight offices in four countries around the globe to serve its international clients. This year, it’s focusing on opportunities in North America, building on a partnership with Fidelity National Information Services.
While it works with four of the five big banks in Canada, the U.S. is home to approximately 5,500 commercial banks.
“We are still scratching the surface when it comes to the U.S. market,” Somji says.
Aquatic Informatics Inc., Vancouver • Water management has become a global priority as climate change alters precipitation and countries seek to maintain access to clean water.
Those factors have allowed Aquatic Informatics to clean up when it comes to environmental data, gathering real-time information on environmental conditions that help governments and water managers better understand this precious resource.
“There’s a lot of reasons why you would monitor water, both water quality and flow. We have the data management system that can take all the data and organize it and manage it,” says Ed Quilty, president and CEO of Aquatics Informatics. “It can be for flood forecasting, it can be for water allocation, for farmers, for drinking water.”
Aquatics Informatics’ systems issues alerts that trigger action plans should there be a flood risk or pollution event; alternatively, it might suggest that stream flows are such that power generation can be deferred until sales are more lucrative.
“You need to have water expertise, because it’s not only about [sourcing] the data; you have to know about the data,” Quilty says.
Revenues for Aquatics Information have increased 214 per cent over the past five years as the company expanded to 50 countries and landed a major project with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Real Estate Webmasters Inc., Nanaimo • Real estate is one of the most hotly discussed topics in B.C., and Morgan Carey is helping agents garner their share of the chatter and the transactions.
With reported growth of 190 per cent over the past five years, Real Estate Webmasters has ascended to $13 million in revenues and 150 staff with a portfolio of services that handles everything from hosting websites to content management. It’s an end-to-end service that stops short of managing the actual real estate transaction.
“Part of our pitch is, ‘Give me $50,000, I want to make you $250,000, and when I do, you come back and give me $100,000 and I’ll make you $500,000,” Carey says. “We get them in the mindset that the more you spend, the more you make. And then we prove that positive.”
This year, it’s opening an office in Vancouver, and embarking on a new partnership with InsideSalesAgents.com, a Florida company in which Carey has a 70 per cent stake.
The new venture will help property brokers convert leads into sales.
But real estate also comes down to bricks and mortar, and Carey’s activities also include Carey Real Estate Holdings, which pursues construction opportunities, and Rewsters Restaurant, located adjacent to the company’s Nanaimo campus.