Posted tagged ‘Edmonton Tech Community’

Triticale… a new source of bioproducts

April 8, 2009

Who needs oitriticalel from Saudi Arabia or Fort McMurray   when you can grow triticale in the back forty?

Triticale is a cereal grain hybridized from wheat and rye half a century ago. It never took off as a substitute for wheat flour. But in the 21st Century, the Alberta Research Council is betting triticale will make a dandy substitute for petroleum.

The Council has just received $15 million dollars from the federal Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program to show us how.

Richard Gibson is the business development manager for Industrial Bioproducts at ARC, and marketing manager with the Canadian Triticale Biorefinery Initiative. He says the main interest in triticale is its potential for chemical and material applications. “If you had crude oil coming out of the ground and you put it into a refinery, you’ve got crude oil turned into a whole range of products. And if we think about triticale as the crude oil for a biorefinery and put triticale in one end of the refinery, we’d get a whole range of products coming out the other side—anything from materials to chemicals and energy as well.

Gibson points out that triticale is a crop well suited for growing in marginal areas, and it is a good addition to a suite of industrial crops for biorefining, including hemp. √

~ Cheryl Croucher

www.arc.ab.ca

What’s your event IQ?

March 16, 2009

We dine and dance, bid and buy, walk and run for causes. We don sunscreen, rain gear and mittens to take in outdoor festivals and community activities. We attend workshops, seminars, conferences, meetings and parties on any given day. We host neighbourhood, national and international events.
Success hinges on organization… whether you’re appealing to patrons for a major fundraising drive or notifying colleagues of a business meeting. Administering and managing events, coordinating suppliers and volunteers can be mind-boggling, time-consuming and nerve-wracking. Even professional event planners need tools to streamline the process.
Trust the organized mind-set of a chartered accountant with an appreciation for the capacity of customized software to provide user-friendly packages to ease the burden.
Meet Dave Bodnarchuk, a BComm. grad from the University of Alberta who received his CA designation in 1993. He acquired years of technology experience with industry leaders like Apple and Oracle, and with KPMG as a computer audit specialist.
He recalls, “I was always the guy from KPMG that was called in to help out the not-for-profit boards [to track pledges] because they were doing a fun-run.” Bodnarchuk adds that when KPMG worked with organizations like Edmonton Crime-Stoppers, he would be put to task to implement computerized fund-raising systems to manage those aspects of its telethons.
As the dot-com era emerged, Bodnarchuk saw an opportunity to bring a reasonably priced, easy to use product for not-for-profits to issue invitations, track RSVPs and do on-line registrations. But, while most events required some administering, not every event needed or could afford a heavy-hitter like Bodnarchuk. He readily admits most organizations “…don’t need a guy like me or tech guru to get things up and running.”
A community-oriented person, he has always had a soft spot for not for profits, having served on many boards including the 12×12 Runners Challenge, Edmonton Grads Association, Crime Stoppers Association, Alberta Foundation for Diabetes Research Fun Run, GO Community Centre. He currently sits on the Caritas Hospitals Foundation Board.
Bodnarchuk knew that using technology would save time, reduce manpower and increase accuracy. “It also allows for more time to promote the event… making it easier for people to sign up rather than getting bogged down on the admin.”
Thus, eventIQinc was born. Bodnarchuk is the founder, president and CEO—Chief Event Officer. The firm develops and provides software solutions for notification, signup, payment, printing and other services for events of any size and for the people that organize them.
However, from the outset, the real challenge was to sustain a viable long-term business model, given the limited resources of not-for-profits. Entrepreneur Bodnarchuk quickly realized the real untapped market was office admin professionals: They might have to manage events, but didn’t want or have to become event planners. Moreover, not even event planners would need to be too tech savvy.
“Our vision had morphed. We wanted to develop an easy to use content-centric system, taking the best of event content, technology, and forms design and put them into a single wrapper or box.”
Bodnarchuk enhanced the product and the user experience by listening to users and a number of professional event planners and rolled the feedback into the product that provided content or generic features they could share.
The re-branding exercise resulted in InviteRight, the company’s flagship product. The comprehensive web application works with e-mail, at 30 percent of the cost of the competition, while offering more flexibility by not forcing the user to conform to rigid forms.
Users can look at a sample event or template and add their own details. A simple click makes it easy to change text, and fields can be relocated with a simple drag-and-drop. Users can add specific questions like, “Are you bringing a guest?” The system also offers prompts like asking about dietary needs.
In addition to sending invitations and tracking RSVPs, it’s easy to schedule meetings, recruit speakers, volunteers and exhibitors and even accept payment by credit card.
The results look professional and make the planners look good. It keeps them organized, helps them reach more people with less work—at not much more than the cost of postage per invitee.
“They can get up and running very easily, flexible and they feel like they’re pretty smart. An office event planner wants to get it up and running and ‘get out of Dodge’, while the planning professional can still do what they want to do themselves.”
Mike House is assistant dean of development at the University of Alberta School of Business and president-elect of the Edmonton chapter of the Association for Fundraising Professionals. He chaired Philanthropy Day in Edmonton which utilized eventIQ’s products. “It allows non-profits to maximize what they are good at, and leave the technology and registration to the software.”
House adds that it also made his wife Kathy’s job easy in her role as treasurer for the Homes for the Holidays, a fundraiser for the Junior League of Edmonton.
The buzz Bodnarchuk has created now goes beyond the not-for profits. Some of his clients include ATB Financial, Workers’ Compensation Board, Alberta Research Council and the University of Alberta, as well as organizations.
Bodnarchuk’s offerings do not stop there. In addition to InviteRight, other core professional products have been developed: PlanRight for planning and organizing events; contactCentral for maintaining a database, managing membership and sending out newsletters; and eventXtras for creating anything ancillary to the event such as name tags, lanyards and print material. Together, these components are packaged as eventIQ Xpert.
For smaller, personal get-togethers, eventIQ offers a lighter version called skOOchie. It’s free if users agree to have a sponsor’s ad accompany their invitation. A nominal charge applies if no sponsor is selected.
Bodnarchuk chuckles when he talks about the name “skOOchie”. He felt it was a cute word that could stand for “schedule and organize events”. However, subsequently, the same word appeared in an urban slang dictionary as a less than flattering synonym for a particular woman of ill repute.
Bodnarchuk admits he learns from all his experiences including his mistakes. He’s successful, with nine employees and seven consecutive profitable quarters. He’s come a long way since his first tech experience in the real world which launched him to where he is today.
It was a summer job in the 1980s at Coronet Trust as a mortgage administration clerk. Growing weary quickly by the repetitive tasks of typing forms and letters, he brought his own Macintosh to work to automate the process. Despite the company’s policy against using personal computers, Bodnarchuk was able to demonstrate its value. He successfully negotiated with the CFO to rewrite one system on an IBM PC in return for a part time job that fall—and got permission to wear Topsider brand shoes without socks to work. Certainly a foreshadowing of a free spirit in a profession dominated by checks and balances.
The Topsiders are long gone, but Bodnarchuk has that first Macintosh proudly displayed in his office at LeMarchand Mansion. √
By Greg Gazin

Why Edmonton is better than Vancouver and Toronto

November 25, 2008

It’s funny how Toronto and Vancouver always seem to be suggested as a couple of the best places to do business in Canada, at least when it comes to technology companies.

What everyone doesn’t realize is that it’s actually Edmonton. This city far outstrips those other two cities in terms of quality of life and a number of other factors.

If you’re thinking of starting any kind of technology company, the Edmonton tech community is the perfect place to set up shop.

Why not Vancouver?

Quality of life is one thing. Resources are another. Sure the mountains are great, but Vancouver is a polluted valley with terrible traffic problems. And do you really want an office looking out at those mountains? Your employees will either want to climb them or ski them. They won’t be focused on work. Oh, on those rainy days they might want to work. So, that will account for half the year. And if you want to live in a shoebox, go for it. That might be all you can afford there with Vancouver’s real estate prices!

Toronto? Puh-lease!

Where do I begin? If you would like to be a human air filter to clean up the big brown smog dome over the Greater Toronto area, go for it. You’ll be doing it while you’re stuck in traffic or recovering from a car accident. Toronto might think it’s the centre of the universe but it’s go less going for it than Vancouver.

So Edmonton is better?

Yes, I am being a little tongue in cheek, but Edmonton really is a great city. From a quality of life perspective, the air quality is far better in Edmonton. If you’re looking for an attractive city, Edmonton is. Yes, a prairie city can be beautiful. The city is full of beautiful architecture, it’s nicely treed, there are great walking trails throughout the river valley and other parts of the city and if you like festivals, Edmonton has more than its fair share.

Who wouldn’t want to live in one of the 21 smartest cities in the world? Edmonton is on the cutting edge when it comes to developing its high tech infrastructure. Governments are on board when it comes to supporting and developing the high tech community in the province, and the Edmonton tech community is the province’s technology hub.

With world-leading educational institutions like NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) and the University of Alberta, life sciences discoveries and other technological achievements are announced regularly. Both of these institutions provide a steady stream of creative and energetic grads that are eager to work and contribute in the Edmonton tech community. Angel investors should take note of this. Edmonton has a strong tech community with great investment opportunities.

Economic fundamentals are good

From an economic standpoint, Edmonton has experienced an incredible boom that is still continuing. The slowdown felt in so many places hasn’t really been felt here yet and will likely not affect the province as much as other jurisdictions. Unemployment has remained stable. The same can’t be said for many other places.

While the boom has led to increases in real estate prices, the market is still strong, but prices are still better than in places like Vancouver.

The province is blessed with abundant energy and other natural resources and Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, is an important hub that services the energy and other industries. Edmonton’s growth prospects remain strong for the foreseeable future.

The Edmonton tech community is vibrant, the economy is strong, Edmonton has great educational institutions, many successful tech companies and more. Why wouldn’t you want to come here?

Good time to be an angel investor?

November 19, 2008

With the obviously weak economy, I wonder what angel investors are thinking right now. Is it really a great time to start a business and invest in speculative ventures?

You’d think that right now would be a great time to be an angel investor. Layoffs and a bad economy spur creativity in many ways, even just for survival. There’s a growing pool of creative people out there that now have some free time to be able to work on their ideas. That’s not necessarily a positive thing from one perspective, but opportunity grows from adversity.

From an angel investor perspective, you don’t want to be putting money in at the top of the economic cycle, if you can help it. It’s better to invest at the bottom to be able to maximize your returns.

Yes, it is a good time to be an angel investor

It’s a timely subject, as it’s Global Entrepreneurship Week and according to this article it would seem that being a startup right now is a good thing. There are more employees available and better quality candidates. Looking at the economic side of things, it’s better because there’s less emphasis on high wages, people are willing to work for equity and basic expenses like rent are more affordable too.

The credit crunch has tightened credit up to the point where even established businesses are having trouble getting the funding they need, as witnessed by Linens ‘n Things and Circuit City.

While that may be the case, if you’ve got a solid business model, good management and have the groundwork in place, you might be able to find the right angel investor to come along. By the time we’re out of the woods on this recession, you could be well placed to profit from the next upswing in the economy. It feels like the end of the world now, it always does, but it always rebounds.

Edmonton angel investment

Edmonton is a good place for angel investors to be looking for their next deal. Many of them already are, from what I’ve heard. The Edmonton tech community is active and creative. Perhaps some people write off Alberta as all oil and gas, but there is a lot of creativity in the Edmonton tech community and they’re not just working for the oilfields.

Edmonton might not be Sand Hill Road, but it could be the Sand Hill Road of the future. The city has a lot going for it. The University of Alberta is a life sciences sector leader and it seems like there are important life sciences discoveries announced there every week.

NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) is a leader in the tech education community, turning out highly skilled grads in a number of fields. NAIT grads are certainly out there shaking up the world.

While the rest of the world’s economy is weak, Alberta still has a strong economy and has good prospects to weather the recession well.

If you’re looking for a pool of creative talent in a vibrant and successful city, Edmonton might just be the right place to start your next venture or find your next angel investment deal.