Up-and-comers thrive in Kanata North
There are more than 500 companies operating in Kanata North, employing some 21,000 people. It’s the home of start-ups as well as industry giants. Here are stories about three of Kanata North’s up-and-comers and what attracts them to the area.
If a company wants to compete in the entertainment industry, it has to have the depth and breadth of products and platforms to compete in multiple markets.
The television industry is undergoing what is probably its biggest transition since the advent of cable. People demand their shows where and how they want them.
The big question facing providers is: how do they build applications for all the platforms that are out there? You.i TV has the answer.
The firm that has grown to fill almost 50,000 square feet in Kanata North over the last eight years has developed a product that allows companies to build a single app that runs identically wherever it appears.
“It saves an enormous amount of effort and gets it to the market faster,” says You.i TV co-founder and chief executive officer Jason Flick.
The company started out building apps for mobile devices, gradually gaining big-name clients like Sony, Canon, Kobo, and Mitel. Three years ago, it expanded into television.
A brilliant piece of strategy — You.i TV, it turned out, was in the right place at the right time. Shomi. Disney. Nickelodeon. Some of the biggest names in the business are among its clients.
The company has doubled in size every year for eight years running. It hired 100 people last year alone and now employs 150 to 170 with contractors.
Flick says there is more hiring to come, probably another 100 people in the next 12 to 18 months. TV, he says, is You.i TV’s “beachhead.”
“Our vision is really about owning the glass,” he says. “This idea that the world is so fragmented, there are so many operating systems, and everybody wants to get on all of them. We’re offering this way to get to all of them.”
And it doesn’t stop there. The next big thing for You.i TV is news and sports. While Fick says he can’t comment on details, “massive household names” are signing up.
After that, it’s advertising — You.i TV is part of a recently announced 28-member Turner Ad Lab Advisory Board. Comprised of industry experts, it will recommend linear and digital video innovations in light of the changing TV landscape.
“If you think about it, the current technology for ads, which is where the bulk of revenue is generated, is something we invented back in the ’60s,” says Flick.
It is unsustainable, he says. The industry needs to bring advertising “more in line with what’s going on.”
With so much behind him and so much more on the horizon, Flick says there’s room to grow in Kanata North, and there are the people with whom to grow.
“There’s such a massive talent pool, if you look at the companies here that have world-class software developers and the fact that we’re able to access almost an unlimited number of them.”
“The lifestyle’s great,” adds Flick. “The commute to work for most of our employees is five to 10 minutes. And we have lots of parking. Those are the reasons we like Kanata North.”
Back in the day — which was really not so long ago, but an age in technology terms — big and small companies spent fortunes on telephone technologies and expensive hardware to run them.
Then arrived Internet technologies, which could do all the work of that expensive hardware — voicemail, call recording, call-centre management, video conferencing — for a fraction of the cost.
Based on a subscription model, online services had the added advantage of no-risk investment. If the technologies changed, the customer wasn’t stuck with costly, obsolete hardware.
Martello Technologies develops and manages those online services, ensuring they work and work well. If they don’t, they fix them. The point has been to make the services so reliable that clients like banks, and their customers, can trust them.
The industry has caught fire over the last three years and Martello, which had developed technologies early in the game, was poised to ride the wave. Its sales grew over 600 per cent in four years, from $230,000 in 2012 to $3.6 million last year.
The firm went from a couple of hundred to several thousand business networks over the same period. Each pays annual fees for Martello’s services.
“Our skill set is aligned with making highly reliable, very robust services in voice, which is what Kanata North did for phone companies — meaning data communications companies — around the globe,” says Martello CEO Bruce Linton. “This sector’s taken off.”
Based largely on its rich history in the fields of research, technology and innovation, Kanata North remains a magnet for tech firms, says Linton.
The area contributes $7.8 billion to Canada’s GDP, double that of Canada’s 26 other research and technology parks combined. And its Top 20 companies generated $3.3 billion in revenues in 2015.
Tech employment in Kanata North has been consistently on the rise since 1991.
“There’s a really good base of people when you think about how many layers of technology companies have started, evolved and moved up. That helps.”
And they’re hard workers. Employees in Kanata North are three times as productive as the average Canadian worker.
“I tend to believe that the region has a reasonable balance between productivity and cost where sometimes you get into super-hot labour markets where that gets out of whack,” says Linton. “It’s not inexpensive, but it is highly productive.”