• Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Emerging Rockets list features 4 Victoria-based tech startups, plus 1 based in YVR that began in YYJ see more


    Ready to Rocket is a unique business recognition list that profiles British Columbia technology companies with the greatest potential for revenue growth. Ready to Rocket companies, on average, have exceeded a 50% annual growth revenue growth rate and have significantly increased their employee headcount each year.

    "Emerging Rockets" is a recognition program for British Columbia technology companies that are not yet in a high revenue growth stage for the "Ready to Rocket" list, but have great potential for investment and market breakthroughs in the coming year. An Emerging Rocket company is a company with great potential for market milestones but may be a few years away from maximum revenue growth. Previously called the "Ones to Watch" list, these companies have commercialized a product and are undergoing early stages of market adoption. Occasionally, this early market entry is so impressive that these early stage companies are acquired (FlickR is an example of a B.C. company recognized by this list in past and acquired shortly afterward). Frequently, "Emerging Rockets" become "Ready to Rocket" within one to two years.

    The 2016 ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Emerging Rockets list features 4 Victoria-based tech startups, plus 1 startup based in Vancouver that began in Victoria. Crowd Content, Youneeq and Riipen (Riipen is based in Vancouver) are all alumni of VIATEC's Venture Acceleration Program (VAP), and EchoSec and ReferralSaaSquatch also made the list. Congratulations!

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The Victoria-based company will report year-end revenue of more than $68 million US. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    When Carmanah Technologies reports its year-end financial results at the end of this month, the solar-lighting company will paint a picture of strength, stability and promise.

    The Victoria-based company will report year-end revenue of more than $68 million US, a 56 per cent increase over 2014. Its forecast for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will exceed analysts’ predictions of $8.2 million US.

    It’s impressive, considering the recent history of the 20-year-old firm.

    “I’ve been a student of and a participant in turnarounds for the last 20 to 25 years and I’ve never seen anything turn around this rapidly,” said Carmanah chief executive John Simmons. “I can’t help but think the best is yet to come.”

    Simmons’ optimism is a product of the work he and his team have put in over the past two and a half years to change the culture, outlook and profitability of a company that appeared headed for a cliff in 2013.

    The company, founded in 1996 by David Green, was never really profitable, Simmons said. While it had grown over the years through acquisition, the net result was that by 2013 it had carried forward a $25-million tax loss.

    The company, which now contracts out the manufacture of its products, had become globally known for its solar lighting gear, including LED and solar technology used in signal systems for marine aids to navigation, airfield ground lighting, offshore wind marking, aviation obstruction and traffic markets.

    “The reality is [Carmanah] never actually made any money,” said Simmons. “And in the five years that preceded a shareholder-driven change in 2013, revenues fell from $60 million Cdn to $25 million US (reflecting a change in reporting).

    “The company also lost $5 million on average each year and was clearly running out of runway.”

    That point was driven home by board chairman Michael Sonnenfeldt in a letter to shareholders in the 2013 annual report. “Years of failed initiatives and operating losses had not only diminished financial capability, but had also sapped the confidence of our staff and our customers,” Sonnenfeldt wrote. “Cash was running out rapidly and the way forward was unclear.”

    That prompted shareholders to act. They withheld votes for two incumbent board members at the annual general meeting in April 2013, which led to the resignation of chairman Robert Cruickshank and director Daniel Nocente, and eventually the resignation of chief executive Bruce Cousins.

    As the company’s largest shareholder, Sonnenfeldt stepped in as chairman while Simmons, another shareholder, joined initially as a director and eventually CEO.

    “The company didn’t have a lot of time, we needed to get to work,” said Simmons of his appointment.

    He said it was poor execution more than anything that landed the company in its predicament. “The long and short of it is it didn’t work and, toward the end of 2012, the company was running out of money, the stock price was almost nothing and things were pretty bleak.”

    At the time, Sonnenfeldt said it was a series of events that fundamentally changed Carmanah.

    The new board established a new direction and focus.

    Simmons said when he stepped in they focused on improving performance. “We created a whole bunch of changes in structure, embraced an open and forthright culture and created alignment around profitability.” The company tied compensation to profitability, added a broad stock-option plan for workers and gave employees more responsibility — having them control their costs and expenses and being compensated accordingly.

    “We treated them like adults, told them what we were trying to do and we didn’t permit people who weren’t engaged to be there,” said Simmons. “When you have engaged people who are smart and tell them what we are trying to do, alignment comes very easily.”

    The change in alignment meant major personnel changes.

    Carmanah, which at one point employed more than 260, had about 68 employees in 2013. Simmons said in the first year that number dipped slightly to 66, but they had also hired 40 new people.

    The company also brought back some key personnel who had left when Carmanah started to slide.

    “We were successful in getting some of them back,” said Simmons. “They understood the DNA of this place and helped us in rebuilding.”

    Carmanah set its sights on its future, once again being a leader in signal lighting and marine aids for navigation.

    Simmons said they have already grown via acquisition and there is more opportunity ahead.

    “The market is fragmented with lots of small competitors around the world,” he said. “We think we can start to acquire those and bring them into our company over time.”

    Last year Carmanah completed the acquisition of the Sabik Group from Finland, which added to its bottom line in 2015.

    “We went from $25 million US in revenue in the first year [2013] to $43 million US and turned a $5 million EDITDA loss to $3.4 million in profitability [in 2014],” said Simmons. “And in 2015, revenue will be $68 million US. It’s an amazing trajectory.”

    Over that same period, Carmanah’s stock price has gone from hovering around a quarter per share in 2013 to closing at $5.13 on Monday.

    Analysts who have covered the stock now rate Carmanah as either a buy or strong buy.

    Simmons said for those on the inside, the turnaround has not come as a surprise. “There’s not a lot of magic in this, but we work hard and people are engaged and enjoying what they are doing,” he said. “When you have [that], good things happen. I’m a huge believer in the people and their capability to come together and go beyond.”

    The next steps are to continue looking for acquisitions, increase points of sale around the world and spend on innovation.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The RevUP Program is vital for technology companies with rapid-growth issues. see more

    New Program Focuses on Critical Tools for Fast-Growing Technology Companies

    November 4, 2015 – Vancouver, BC, Canada: The RevUP Program is vital for technology companies with rapid-growth issues. BC Acceleration Network (BCAN) members Accelerate Okanagan, VIATEC and Wavefront announced today that they are mutually introducing RevUP as a custom-developed program that will be offered in the Okanagan region, Victoria and Vancouver. Individualized action plans, personal leadership coaching and targeted skill development are what make RevUP effective in efficient business growth. 

    RevUP seeks to overcome the common challenges that growth stage entrepreneurs often encounter: building scalable revenue and customer acquisition models, ensuring efficient operational processes and accessing capital opportunities. By participating in RevUP, companies are given the tools to address these needs. Participation benefits include: customized business growth plans, mentorship and coaching for the leadership team, tailored training opportunities and peer-to-peer engagement with other businesses that possess similar pain points. 

    Application intake commences immediately.

    “The pain points of growth-stage technology companies are unique in that the pain is not only felt by the Founder or CEO, but by the entire leadership team,” said Pilar Portela, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. “The peer-to-peer format of RevUP is designed specifically for those top-growth issues. We’re grateful to be collaborating with our BCAN partners on the delivery of this effective program.”

    “We’ve worked very hard with our partners Accelerate Okanagan and Wavefront to speak with scores of entrepreneurs in the three regions to ensure we’re offering the right mix of resources and opportunities.” said Robert Bennett, COO and Program Director of VIATEC. “We heard quite clearly that RevUP must deliver what they need, when they need it, tailored to each venture’s current stage and strategy. We are excited about what RevUP has to offer growth-stage companies in our regions!”

    “We’re thrilled to introduce RevUP, which will help provide crucial support to growth-stage companies,” said Brad Lowe, VP, National Accelerator Operations at Wavefront. “BC is home to some of Canada’s fastest-growing technology companies. Through RevUP, Wavefront and our partners will address an area of need for these businesses who are ready to take their growth to the next level.”

    About Accelerate Okanagan: For technology entrepreneurs and their companies, Accelerate Okanagan is the business accelerator that provides the specialized tools, disciplines, and structure required for success. They offer unrivalled category expertise, experience, and environment through an innovative not-for-profit, zero-equity-stake model. To find out Accelerate Okanagan can help your technology business, please visit

    About VIATEC: VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology & Entrepreneurship Council), was incepted in 1989 and serves as the one-stop hub that connects people, knowledge and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria technology sector. In addition to member benefits, VIATEC offers flexible office space and entrepreneurial advice in their building called Fort Tectoria. It's equipped with open work stations, private offices, boardrooms, a lounge and a cafe. /

    About Wavefront: Wavefront is Canada’s Centre of Excellence for Wireless Commercialization and Research (CECR), accelerating the growth and success of wireless companies by connecting them with critical resources, partners and opportunities, to drive economic and social benefits for Canada.  To learn more about Wavefront’s diverse program and service offerings, please visit



    • Pilar Portela
      Accelerate Okanagan
      250-870-9028 Ext. 2108

    • Dan Gunn

    • Jonathan Sue
  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    BC's tech sector has broken an employment record with more than 101,000 ppl now working in its ranks see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    B.C.’s tech job force bigger than mining, oil and gas, forestry

    British Columbia’s technology sector has broken an employment record with more than 101,000 people now working in its ranks.

    Data Wednesday from the province show the tech sector — which employs about 20,000 in Greater Victoria — employs more people around B.C. than the mining, oil and gas, and forestry sectors combined.

    According to B.C. Stats’ Profile of the British Columbia Technology Sector: 2016 Edition, technology employs 101,700 who earn a weekly average salary of $1,590 — 75 per cent higher than the average wage in B.C. and higher than the Canadian technology sector average of $1,480 per week.

    “For the fifth year in a row, B.C. has seen significant growth in its diverse technology industry. We have more technology companies than ever, with more technology workers earning higher wages than the Canadian average,” said Amrik Virk, minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services.

    “Our strategy is further creating the conditions that are helping the sector continue to grow and thrive.”

    B.C.’s tech sector, which has more than 9,900 companies, also leads the country in terms of job growth. Employment in the sector rose 2.9 per cent over the previous year, surpassing B.C.’s overall employment growth of 2.5 per cent and national tech-sector employment growth of 1.1 per cent.

    Technology now employs about 4.9 per cent of B.C.’s workforce and is the third-largest tech workforce in Canada.

    The gross domestic product of the province’s tech sector grew by 2.4 per cent in 2015, contributing $14.1 billion to B.C.’s overall economic output. At the same time tech revenue increased five per cent to a record $26.3 billion.

    “I think it is wonderful news and a long time in the making,” said Victoria tech veteran Eric Jordan, CEO of Codename Entertainment. “This didn’t happen overnight, but is the result of decades of effort from many people and organizations in our community.”

    Jordan said Victoria’s tech community has a lot going for it. “Victoria continues to be a great place to build technology companies, including video-game companies. We are large enough to have a variety of critical supports, such as educational institutions like UVic and Camosun, as well as easy access to key hubs such as Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto and San Francisco,” he said.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    We decided to crunch some numbers about the size and scope of Greater Victoria’s tech sector. see more

    Click here to download.

    We decided to crunch some numbers (actually, we went out and spent time surveying local companies and then commissioned an independent professional researcher to collect and analyze the data using a rigorous methodology) about the size and scope of Greater Victoria’s tech sector.

    Well, the numbers are in, and we’re astounded by the results.