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IS OTTAWA READY FOR THE NEXT GENERATION?

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IT TO-DO LIST

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SYSTEM UPDATE

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Advanced Symbolics shaking up opinion polling using customized Artificial Intelligence Ottawa’s Advanced Symbolics is building a brisk business out of taking the pulse of public sentiment, and it’s doing so without ever picking up the phone.

A

Overcoming the growing pains of early success Advanced Symbolics recently won a contract with the municipal government of Quebec City for origin destination research to optimize public transit routes, and a threeyear standing offer from Destination Canada. Investors have come knocking. So have potential clients from the U.S. and the U.K. The company is already cash-flow positive, but needs additional capital to fund its growth plans. That’s a lot of progress for a company that incorporated less than two years ago. Last summer, Kelly and her team realized they needed professional legal counsel to ensure they were ready to receive investors. “We needed to put a stronger ownership structure in place, to make us as efficient as possible and put us in a good place to grow internationally,” Kelly said. They turned to Dirk Bouwer, Partner in the Business Law Group at full-service Ottawa law firm Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. “Like any fast-growing company, Advanced Symbolics faced a lot of challenges, both from a business perspective to keep up with the demands of customers, and from a legal perspective to ensure the company’s structure is well thought out and adaptable for growth,” said Bouwer. Securing investors, without sacrificing the vision Crucial for Kelly and her team is securing the growth capital the company needs for its expansion, with appropriate shareholder agreements. The visionaries behind Advanced Symbolics don’t want to lose control to larger investors, or be hampered

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017

ccording to CEO Erin Kelly and her team, traditional telephone polling is dead. Online polling tools that expect citizens to take the time and accurately self-report are a long-shot, at best. Enter Polly. Polly is Advanced Symbolics’ customized artificial intelligence (AI). Polly is a patented self-learning system that reads and analyzes what people say and do online to get the true measure of what they really think. It’s polling without having to ask anyone a direct question. “With Polly, we can get good representative samples by age, gender, geographical location and other demographics,” said CEO Erin Kelly. “For crisis communications situations, we can turn a request around in 48 hours. It truly is the ‘better, faster, cheaper’ alternative to the status quo.” No subject is too esoteric. Polly has successfully forecast the outcomes of the Canadian federal election, the American presidential election and the Brexit vote. At the other end of the spectrum, it has tracked the sentiments of small business owners and public servants within a single municipality. A new project involves the controversial Netflix show about teen suicide, 13 Reasons Why. Polly is studying the online/social media activities of teens to see what impact the show’s subject matter is having on their perceptions, and intentions, regarding suicide. “We increase democratic engagement,” Kelly said. “Polly allows us to see what

people are truly concerned or frustrated about and get insight into what societal trends are really at work.”

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Dirk Bouwer, Partner in the Business Law Group at full-service Ottawa law firm Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. by a multitude of small investors all trying to have their say in the operation of the business. This requires a complex share structure that allows for different classes of shares. “Dirk and his team are ensuring we have the corporate structure and controls in place to make it easy for investors to work with us,” Kelly said. “Advanced Symbolics needs a law firm with a broad base of knowledge and a broad base of skills,” said Bouwer. “We have the tax, patent, securities and multimillion-dollar financing experience Erin and her team need. It’s exciting to work with a business at this stage and I have every confidence that Advanced Symbolics will continue to take off.” To learn more about how Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall can help grow your business, visit www.perlaw.ca.


OTTAWA HEALTH HACKATHON BREAKS DOWN SILOS BETWEEN PHYSICIANS, TECHIES TECHOPIA.ca

OTTAWA TELECOM INDUSTRY GEARING UP FOR HIGH-POTENTIAL 5G

but compete again when they leave the room. Waterhouse says the network technologies of the future will require immense interoperability: “You cannot develop in a vacuum these days.” In order to find out exactly what 5G is, and what the technology might mean for Ottawa businesses, CENGN seems like it might be a good place to start. Boris Mimeur, director of engineering and operations at CENGN, says 5G isn’t just about faster network infrastructure. It’s about smarter, more flexible infrastructure. Picture a 16-lane highway: As our networks stand, eight lanes of traffic probably flow east and eight lanes flow west. Today, using 4G capabilities, networks are unable to easily anticipate high demand, which could leave you stuck in a traffic jam while other lanes move stress-free. Eventually, we could open and close lanes as needed, but it’s far from responsive. With the advent of 5G, the highway BY CRAIG LORD becomes elastic by nature. The network itself can identify, by geography or There’s a buzz in the Capital. Business activity, where bandwidth is needed and leaders from Kanata to Parliament Hill allocate it accordingly. In an instant, 15 – telecom players, especially – have lanes could be opened for eastbound turned their eyes to the future: to nexttraffic. generation networks, and the promise of The potential of an elastic network 5G. The next generation of connectivity is incredible, especially when partnered will deliver bandwidth more than 20 with technologies such as artificial times faster than current speeds, but intelligence and autonomous drive. that’s just the start of what excites Take smart cities, for example: Home industry observers. fire alarms could automatically trigger Ottawa tech magnate Sir Terry an orchestrated response across the Matthews, the founder behind Mitel, city’s traffic lights, guiding emergency Wesley Clover and hundreds of other response teams to a blaze with almost no startups, has stirred plenty of the hype interruptions. around 5G. He and Mayor Jim Watson led “It’s giving control to the a crusade to Queen’s Park in February, infrastructure,” Mimeur says. waving the Ottawa flag and declaring Next-generation networks will serve the capital a high-potential hub for as an enabler for autonomous vehicles, CENGN CHIEF EXECUTIVE RITCH DUSOME, RIGHT, AND BORIS MIMEUR, DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING AND OPERATIONS. PHOTO BY CRAIG LORD. developing and commercializing 5G in as well. Latency connectivity, a measure Canada. of how rapidly network infrastructure Jenna Sudds, executive director of the makes connections, will be vastly Kanata North Business Association, was a hands-on education. improved on 5G. The importance can’t on that trip. She sees big players in 5G “That no longer exists,” says Richard be understated: You may not even notice every day in her tech park: Mitel, Nokia, Waterhouse, vice president of business if your mobile device skips a half-second Ericsson and Ranzure Networks among development and marketing. when it’s loading a web page, but if your them. The advent of 5G also has the potential self-driving car is detecting an oncoming Huawei, another contender for the to fill another void left by Nortel. While vehicle, a half-second delay is half a 5G throne, announced a $313-million Ottawa is still home to scores of telecom second too long. investment in its Ottawa operations last talent, it lost visibility as a global highIn short, the potential uses – and year, ramping up previously announced tech hub with Nortel’s downfall. The commercializations – of 5G are vast. plans to accelerate its next-gen network locally-based engineering teams working “This is a platform that is going development. Mitel and Kanata on 5G could once again give the nation’s to develop an awful lot of needs,” neighbour DragonWave announced a capital high-tech bragging rights and Waterhouse says. — RICHARD WATERHOUSE, VICE PRESIDENT OF BUSINESS partnership in 5G last year as well. draw more attention – not to mention Many in the city believe that the DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING. For Sudds, a specialization in nextinvestment dollars and skilled workers – work being done in Ottawa and Kanata generation networks is the logical to Ottawa. North, whether inside CENGN or by its progression for a city that grew its tech Networks (CENGN). Development of 5G is increasingly multinational partners, is integral to the sector on the telecom boom of the ’90s. Funded through the federal critical, not only for Ottawa, but for commercial success of the entire nation. “As a city, we need to look at our government’s Centres of Excellence the country. Canada was ranked 14th “The innovation that’s here, and the skills strengths,” she says. “It is digital for Commercialization and Research worldwide last year in the World and level of knowledge, is second to none communications, it is next-generation program, Kanata-based CENGN is Economic Forum’s annual Networked in Canada,” Waterhouse says. networks.” a consortium comprised of Invest Readiness Index, which measures nations’ While Waterhouse says global Governments both provincially Ottawa, Rogers, Cisco, Nokia and other preparedness to capitalize on digital competitors such as South Korea, Silicon and federally seem to be paying close multinational firms. The organization revolutions such as 5G connectivity. Valley and Scandinavian countries are attention to 5G as well. Sudds believes aims to bridge gaps between innovation “The reason that CENGN exists is that excelling in 5G R&D, he believes Canada’s Kanata’s networking expertise makes it a and commercialization in Canada by the telecom industry in Canada is falling capital has the potential to be a world prime candidate for a slice of the federal helping startups validate their project behind,” Waterhouse says. leader, and looks no farther than outside government’s $950-million supercluster ideas and training students with skills CENGN provides its multinational CENGN’s windows for proof. From there, funding announced in its latest budget. suited for the modern telecom industry. partners a forum for what CEO Ritch he can see the parking lot at Nokia, and Just a few weeks ago, the provincial Many of the roles CENGN fills today Dusome calls “co-opetition”: A place says there’s never an empty spot. government put its own stake in 5G, were previously filled by Nortel, an where they can get together to put their “If you go to Silicon Valley, their announcing $63 million in funding for the industry leader that could incubate rivalries aside, discuss ideas and provide parking lots aren’t full. We really are in a Centre of Excellence in Next Generation companies and give hundreds of students input on developing network innovations, growth stage and it’s really exciting.”

Next-gen networks will revolutionize global communications, and Ottawa leaders believe local companies are primed to take advantage

The innovation that’s here, and the skills and level of knowledge, is second to none in Canada.

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CANADA LAGGING BEHIND ON DIGITAL GOVERNMENT TRANSFORMATION: NEW CIO With a rapidly evolving tech landscape in front of him and public sector IT verging on archaic, Alex Benay has a big to-do list BY CRAIG LORD

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CAPTAIN OF THE SHIP: ALEX BENAY IS THE NEW CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON.

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017

You can’t just turn this thing on a dime. It’s the largest tech operation in the country.

For more than two years, Alex Benay manned the helm of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. His role, he says, was largely to bring the artifacts, stories and exhibitions documenting our nation’s technological innovations into the modern era, and make the museum more accessible to today’s digital population. Last month, though, he began a new role as chief information officer of the federal government. Now, Benay has a much bigger task ahead of him: Take the largest technological operation in the country – an aging one, at that – and set it on a course to serve Canadian citizens through the impending digital future. Since he began the role in April, Benay – a 2016 Forty Under 40 award recipient – has been working 15-hour days. When he’s not bouncing between meetings on Parliament Hill and his home base at the nearby Jim Flaherty building on Elgin Street, his LinkedIn feed is filling up with sales pitches for a new piece of tech to streamline the business of government. At the end of the day, the father of two says he either passes right out or, if he’s lucky, plays a little hockey before starting the hectic routine again. In an interview with Techopia (squeezed between two other meetings), Benay says he’s getting used to the schedule. While he admits to underestimating the scope of some parts of the job, he says the enormous scale of his work is the entire reason he took it on. “I think the CIOs of the future in government have a chance to shape how we do government,” he says. The role of the CIO, in both the public and private sector, is changing. At first, it meant being a provider of technology: ensuring fax machines were in every office and infrastructure was in place. Now, Benay says, it’s about being an enabler of business. Today, that means ensuring government can embrace the technology needed to operate in a digital world. “Now it’s about, how do we engage with people, how do we collaborate more, how do we do things faster, how do we make people


OTTAWA EARNINGS WEEK: WHO’S UP, DOWN, FIRING AND ACQUIRING? TECHOPIA.ca mobile, how do we process certain transaction points more quickly … The world is moving towards these things, and blockchain and AI, and then you’ve got government. So I think the role that I’ve inherited is about trying to bring a different lens to the technology landscape of government.”

A TITANIC IT DEPARTMENT As part of his CIO role, Benay works very closely with Shared Services Canada, the government’s tech consolidation arm, to ensure the biggest IT department in the country has the technology it needs to deliver services for Canadians. The feds spend roughly $6 billion annually on IT between Shared Services and other departments, with around 17,000 people working on the tech side of government. Benay says many of these skillsets could “use a polish”: Discussions in government IT today largely revolve around background infrastructure and problems the public sector has been focused on for decades, not the priorities Benay sees the outside world moving towards. “It’s almost like we look at that like it’s a bridge too far. It shouldn’t be.” The challenge in pivoting Shared Services and the rest of government towards digital is immense. Think about it: A department that once focused on buying and maintaining servers across the government must make space for the cloud; the public servants who once had to design fillable forms may soon have to work alongside an artificial intelligence. Benay compares his job to docking a

Alex Benay’s “diverse” background Crown Corporation – Science and Technology Museums Corporation: President and CEO, 2014-2017 Private Sector – OpenText: Vice president, 2011-2014 Director, 2009-2011 Public Sector – Government of Canada (various roles): Canadian International Development Agency, 2003-2009 Natural Resources Canada, 2001-2003 Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 2000-2001

THE MAN FOR THE JOB ship in space: Even though he’s light-years away from his goal, he has to start lining the shuttle up now to get the trajectory right. Otherwise, he’ll miss his target and sail off into oblivion. “You can’t just turn this thing on a dime. It’s the largest tech operation in the country.” Benay is a staunch believer that the digital world is the real world, with no separation between the two. Society has moved away from hardware and into app-

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and software-based services in our mobile phones or AI assistants. As consumers – especially the millennial generation – we’re not differentiating between where digital ends and physical begins; the government shouldn’t either. “If we don’t change how we do things, we will potentially become more and more obsolete,” Benay says. “It is a big gap, and it is growing.” There are a number of contributors to this gap between the government and digital, Benay says, with institutional culture being a significant one. For example, he says the hesitation to allow for more third-party service delivery, often considered to be a bastion of the public sector, hinders the development of useful service apps. Traditionalists are concerned about what happens when the government takes its hands off the wheel and allows private, more nimble partners to replace its role as a service provider. Benay is concerned about what happens if it doesn’t.

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“I think someone called my background eclectic once. I’d like to consider it more diverse,” Benay says with a laugh. Before his role at the museum, Benay spent nine years in the government working on IT and international trade files. He left after nearly a decade for a spin in the private sector at OpenText, where he worked on the firm’s public sector relations. There, he saw governments around the world that were excelling in digital and he realized how far

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behind his own country was falling. “Canada needs a wake-up call in that space. We can be innovative in the public sector with digital.” His work at the museum saw it become the world’s first open-by-default institution, a complicated process that now sees the organization automatically publish all internal documents for public consumption. The push for openby-default, one Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has outlined in his mandate letters to Liberal ministers, is one that Benay supports. While his background is certainly diverse, the path to his current role seems more clear to Benay. “The goal at the museum, the goal at OpenText, the goal at all the other things, is one space: the physical and the digital,” he says. In the next few months, Benay and his team will lay out a plan for his tenure. It’ll be a mix of discussions from his many meetings, his own experience in digital transformations, and what he sees around him in the digital landscape. The new CIO isn’t naive about the size of the challenge, and he’s not hoping to fix Canada’s entire tech gap in one fell swoop. He’s just hoping to get the ship on course, and a little closer to the target. “It’s always, what’s the next move, what’s the next move, one step ahead, one foot in front of the next and moving things forward,” he says. “If you do it right, the impacts could be really, really cool and meaningful to how we deliver services to Canadians.”

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What’s missing to drive hockey stick performance in your business? Stratford Managers know what it’s like to sit in your chair

J

im Roche can appreciate if the executive team of a mid-sized company is skeptical about the value an outside consultant can deliver. “When I hear the word ‘consultant,’ even I think of someone who is going to borrow my watch to tell me the time,” he said. “They’ll tell me what I already know, they won’t really understand my business and they certainly will not know what it’s like to sit in my chair.”

“We take a high degree of ownership in anything we do with our clients, to help them overcome the friction points that are limiting their potential.” Jim Roche, President and CEO Stratford Managers JIM ROCHE, PRESIDENT AND CEO STRATFORD MANAGERS (LEFT) AND COLLEEN KELLEY, VP AND PRACTICE LEAD BUSINESS OPERATIONS STRATFORD MANAGERS (RIGHT) DISCUSS HOW SMES CAN LEVERAGE CONSULTANTS TO SCALE THEIR BUSINESS. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY “As a new CEO I was looking for a firm that could provide strategic advice around a number of topics as I looked to grow the company. My decision to go with Stratford was based on the strong diverse capabilities of their team. I have now engaged Stratford on several assignments in areas such as market assessment, enterprise risk management, strategy and communications. I have been very satisfied with all aspects of their work and consider them to be an excellent source of talent to support our growth objectives.” - Kevin Ford, President and CEO Calian Group Ltd.

“Stratford Managers provided actionable recommendations and practical implementation guidance informed by their extensive operational experience. In contrast to some consulting firms we’ve worked with, Stratford’s highly engaged approach ensured that they really understood our business and provided us with a clear path forward as we evolve our product management and go-to-market capabilities.”

- Byron Holland, President and CEO Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA)

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‘embedded executives.’” Stratford has the multidisciplinary expertise to tackle any business challenge, with practices aligned to all the major functions within a growing organization that must be improved to achieve scale. “Clients can retain a consultant for coaching and advisory services up to the executive level, embed them for a specific role within the organization either full or part time, or call on us for a specific project,” said Kelley. “We build long-term relationships with our clients and many come from market verticals beyond high-tech.” “We feel we are ‘a part of,’ versus ‘consulting to,’” Roche added. “Being accountable is cooked into our DNA. We take a high degree of ownership in anything we do with our clients, to help them overcome the friction points that are limiting their potential.” For most SMEs, working with a consultancy isn’t a natural part of the toolbox as it is for multinationals, but it should be, says Roche. “It’s like building a strong hockey team – you need to practice with the help of an A-list player and coach. We are that A-list ingredient.”

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017

But he and the rest of the team at Stratford Managers are not your typical consultants. They have lived as entrepreneurs, executives and CEOs of both small and multinational enterprises and know what it takes to scale an organization. Roche himself has a long history in Ottawa’s telecom sector. He co-founded Tundra Semiconductor and as CEO, built that company up to a $1.5-billion valuation. During his time at Tundra, Roche came to realize how small to midsized companies (SMEs) just didn’t have access to the kind of external consulting help they needed to scale their businesses. The big consultancies focused on multinationals—a much different dynamic. In one instance, Tundra had before it an excellent opportunity to make an acquisition, but the executive team was too consumed by operational needs at the time to make a proper go of it. “I really felt an opportunity passed us by because we didn’t have a partner like Stratford to help with due diligence,” he said. So, what’s different about Stratford? “We give SMEs the flexibility to benefit from the expertise of a senior executive in whatever way makes sense for them,” said Colleen Kelley, Stratford’s VP and Practice Lead, Business Operations. “Consider us


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OTTAWA GROWN: KLIPFOLIO FOUNDER ALLAN WILLE AND FARMLEAD CO-FOUNDER ALAIN GOUBAU KICKED OFF THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE WITH A FIRESIDE CHAT. PHOTO PROVIDED BY INVEST OTTAWA.

FOUR KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM ACCELERATEOTT BY MARTIN SMITH

The fifth-annual Accelerate Ottawa event offered valuable insights into growth hacking, a marketing and tech hybrid that emphasizes creative, empirical methods to rapidly test and evolve ideas while relying on datadriven metrics to keep what works and cut the rest. Here are Techopia’s top four takeaways to help your startup master the art (or science) of growth hacking.

EXPERIMENT MORE

THE BEST SALESPEOPLE ARE INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS

Mark Organ, founder and CEO of Influitive, advised entrepreneurs in attendance to practise what he calls “devotion hacking.” truth about what they need. “If you are a founder today and you “The words have to come from their are considering building a company, mouths, from their fingers, not yours,” you should start first and foremost Sheppard said. by thinking about who is your Indeed, speaker after speaker stressed community,” said Organ. Indeed, he the importance of doing background said, your first product is community. research and getting the source to reveal By understanding who they are, when more information – a time-honoured the time comes to build and sell your journalistic method. product, you can mobilize them to help Sheppard put it most eloquently when sell it. he explained why many startups fail Organ has come up with what (Hint: it’s not running out of money): By he says is a systematic way to have not doing the research, “you’re spending customers do your marketing for you, time with the wrong people, having the including cultivating the feeling of wrong conversation at the wrong time, exclusivity amongst your advocates. about the wrong shit.” Make sure to let your advocates know they are making a meaningful FORGET THE PITCH SCRIPT. impact on the growth and success of TELL A STORY your company. Techstars’ Eamonn Carey told the “If someone’s written a guest blog crowd that if you have a great idea, post for you, or created some other don’t keep it to yourself. content (such as a) five-star review, “Tell people your ideas,” he said. “Talk let them know that, yeah, that really about your ideas, talk about the problems worked for us,” he said. you are having, talk about the solutions Above all, to make your advocate that you’ve found.” program work, it needs to be fun. However, he also underlined the “It shouldn’t feel like work,” importance of avoiding what has come to explained Organ.

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“Why? Because objectively, their job is to get to the truth,” said Sean Sheppard, founding partner of GrowthX Academy. One mistake startups make is to assume they know what the customer is thinking. An important skill is to encourage potential customers to tell the

GET YOUR CUSTOMERS TO DO YOUR MARKETING FOR YOU

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017

True to the growth hacking ethos, Klipfolio founder Allan Wille had this to say when asked what he would do differently if he could start over again: “I would have probably experimented more.” “That’s something that we’ve adopted over the past five or six years,” he said. “We experiment like crazy. I don’t think anything goes out the door that we cannot somehow measure. I mean, we’re a dashboard company.” He added that having a culture of experimentation in the early years

would have helped his company grow more rapidly. Fellow Ottawa startup founder Alain Goubau of FarmLead agreed, but emphasized that the low-tech route can be just as efficient. He gave the example of trying out a new marketing idea, but instead of spending the time, money and effort building a complete technical back-end to support it, a quick hack might be to create a simple online signup form for customers. In this scenario, the form emails the information to a staff member who then manually sets up an account. “We can put this up in a day, and within a week we’ll know if this is going to work.”

be the default setting of many first-time entrepreneurs when explaining their idea to other people, especially your fellow entrepreneurs. “It’s not a pitch,” he said. “You’re opening a door, you’re building a relationship.”


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gaming experience Mood wishes he had when he was growing up.

TRADITIONAL MEETS MODERN

CHARACTERS FROM SNOWED IN STUDIOS’ INDEPENDENT PROJECT MONSTER CHASE.

OTTAWA GAME STUDIOS DISCOVER NOVEL PATHS TO REVENUE Local developers forging indie success through non-traditional streams BY CRAIG LORD

BLACK INK

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Even if you haven’t played Bendy and the Ink Machine yourself, you may well have seen somebody playing it. Popular YouTube personality Markiplier, one of many online video producers who films himself providing commentary on the games he plays, has racked up more than six million views on his Bendy and the Ink Machine videos. Bendy and the Ink Machine began as a side project for Ottawa’s Mike Mood and his partner. The game imagines a more twisted backstory behind beloved early animations – think early Mickey Mouse short Steamboat Willie meets Five Nights at Freddy’s, a genredefining game for modern horror. Mood develops the game series with his partner, an artist known as “The Meatly.”

MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017

Developers of high-budget, blockbuster games for the Xbox and PlayStation consoles are nowhere to be found in Ottawa. While Ubisoft has found a home down the road in Montreal, for example, triple-A developers (the bigger brands focused primarily on console gaming) haven’t come searching for Ottawa talent. That doesn’t mean it’s not here, though. Independent studios are making games in Ottawa, and making money to boot. Techopia profiled two such companies, The Meatly Games and Snowed In Studios, that are taking two very distinct paths to revenue and redefining what it means to be a successful gaming studio.

Snowed In Studios has not abandoned the traditional console market, but has made a conscious effort to diversify its revenue streams away from the boom and bust cycles of working with triple-A developers. Jean-Sylvain Sormany, founder of Snowed In and one of this year’s Forty Under 40 award recipients, says plainly that Snowed In is a risk-averse company, and he’s not trying to generate astronomical returns with an indie hit. The company’s origins reinforce Sormany’s approach. When Ottawa’s Fuel Industries decided to discontinue its PC and console developer division in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, Sormany and a number of Fuel’s former employees decided to stay together and form their own studio. Without access to external capital or many creative types to accompany the team’s technical expertise, Snowed In bootstrapped and relied on more inventive ways to stay afloat. “These are good ways for us to keep a well-rounded expertise beyond traditional gaming,” Sormany says. A majority of Snowed In’s revenue He’s not sure what does come from work with console impact the YouTube developers. For example, the firm spectating trend has had provides technical support to Square Enix on his game, but he knows for its Deus Ex series. But Sormany says that an effective marketing while console gaming is a lucrative stream, campaign when he it’s not consistent. sees one. Consoles follow developmental “It basically went cycles: As the PlayStation 3 nears viral, and millions its end of life, for instance, game of eyes were on development hits a standstill until us,” he says. “It’s the PlayStation 4 is released; Xbox essentially free and Nintendo systems follow similar advertising.” patterns. The high revenues at the peak of Bendy and the Ink consoles’ life cycles are offset by the low BENDY, TITLE CHARACTER Machine – much like the valleys between generations. FROM MEATLY GAMES’ BENDY creepy animations at “For us, it’s very important to be AND THE INK MACHINE the heart of it – took on diversified. We never know when a sector a life of its own, and the will go down and we need to be able to two creators made its development their spin off,” Sormany says. full-time jobs. To that end, Snowed In has a number of The computer game, available via online client relationships outside of traditional marketplaces such as Steam, is a story told gaming, many of which draw on the studio over five chapters. The first chapter is free to create games as a means of interactive to play and will always remain so, with each advertising. subsequent chapter costing $6 each to play. There are a variety of ways to do this, Chapter two was released in April, and so from educational apps or games with far more than 300,000 total players have questionnaires in the middle to promote tried the first two chapters. Revenues rolling an associated product. Snowed In Studios in for the second chapter are financing developed an app for marketing agency the production of the next; a creepy teaser Intouch Solutions as a strategy for garnering announcing the development of chapter attention on the exhibition floor. three already has more than 500,000 views “We sold them on the fact that they on YouTube. could attract people to their booth at Mood says the intense fan engagement conferences and trade shows by doing an has influenced the game’s chapter-based interactive camera app,” Sormany says. “It development. As players find bugs or have was an immediate success. The booth had ideas for how they’d like to play, Mood, the lineups.” game’s primary developer, is able to provide Though he doesn’t have an exact patches for existing chapters and build breakdown, Sormany estimates about 10 those features into the new ones. per cent of Snowed In’s revenues come from While Mood says he and his partner non-traditional game development. It’s could easily do a Kickstarter campaign not intended to be the main focus for the to crowdfund the development of all five studio’s developers, who, at their core, just chapters, that would mean waiting a year want to build games. and a half for a game that, in the end, won’t With a team of 25 that Sormany hopes to be the polished version fans want. grow to 40 by the end of next year, Snowed The continual development process In’s diversified revenues allow the studio to Bendy is undergoing is the responsive do just that.


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TECHOPIA May 22 2017  

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