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THE INNOVATION ISSUE Made-right-here technologies and ideas for health, agriculture, finance and energy NEVER STOP STARTING UP
Serial entrepreneur and tech-sector über mentor Alice Reimer
How Calgary and Edmonton are working together on the province’s next economy
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contents SUMMER 2020 25 YEARS OF CITY| LIFE| STYLE| CALGARY
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SUMMER 2020 THE INNOVATION ISSUE | ALICE REIMER | ALBERTA INNOVATION CORRIDOR
8 EDITOR’S NOTE 50 WORK OF ART
THE INNOVATION ISSUE Made-right-here technologies and ideas for health, agriculture, finance and energy NEVER STOP STARTING UP
Serial entrepreneur and tech-sector über mentor Alice Reimer
How Calgary and Edmonton are working together on the province’s next economy PM# 40030911
O N T H E COVER
A new documentary explores the link between Alberta’s horse and film industries. A local fundraising run goes the (social) distance. Plus meet a prop maker who crafts delightful dinosaur mugs and Gareth Lukes who is changing his family-run neighbourhood drugstore for the current times.
Alice Reimer, site lead for Creative Destruction LabsRockies, CEO of startup Fillip and co-founder of The51. PHOTOGRAPH BY Jared Sych ART DIRECTION BY Venessa Brewer
Where to dream about trying stand-up paddleboarding now and where to plan to SUP when it’s safe to go to our mountain communities again.
The Innovation Issue Shining a light on local technologies and innovators in business and finance, food and agriculture, health, and energy. By Thomas Bogda, Christina Frangou, Colin Gallant and Alannah Page
The Alberta Innovation Corridor was created to foster co-operation between Edmonton and Calgary and attract more tech business to the region. By Michelle Magnan McIvor 6
Profile: Alice Reimer
Über-mentor Alice Reimer walks the talk about fostering the future tech economy right here at home.
This tech-enabled, super-customized smart home would make the Jetsons jealous.
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of doing things. And Calgarians have long been defined by their optimistic look toward change and innovation. Speculation about the future, a once pleasurable pastime, is now a fraught and exhausting obsession for many of us. We are understandably afraid about where this time will take us. But things can also change for the better. And for all that we’ve lost, we still have so much. Like so many other local organizations, the pandemic has affected our ability at Avenue to do business while keeping our readers, partners and staff safe. We have decided to consolidate the publication of the June, July and August issues of Avenue Calgary into this summer issue while we work toward being back in the fall with our Made in Alberta Awards, Best Neighbourhoods and Top 40 Under 40. In the meantime, a very small core team will continue to publish online and create our four weekly newsletters as we temporarily move all of our publishing activity online so that we can concentrate on the stories that our readers need most right now. While our work through the summer will be virtual, it has never felt more vital or rewarding.
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We hope you will continue to support Avenue and our efforts to share Calgary’s stories. Please consider signing up for our newsletters at AvenueCalgary.com and for our print subscriptions for the future at redpoint-media. com. If you are a current subscriber, your account has been credited for two additional issues. We have both paid and free subscription offers and while of course money makes a difference to any small business, a strong list of interested readers is very valuable to us and could make all the difference in how we develop in the future. We hope you find the stories of innovation in this issue as optimistic as we have, and we look forward to sharing more stories with you soon.
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Photograph by Jared Sych
ur focus in this issue is innovation in the city. We take a look at new developments in four categories: energy, health and medical, business and finance, and food and agriculture. While these are traditional industries in Calgary, the innovation in each of these categories is moving the city forward. What we found through our research was optimistic and enlightening. Even though much work needs to be done to support the growing tech sector, there is a lot of activity and many amazing companies developing here — far too many in fact to cover in these pages. Visit us online to find out more. In addition to our exploration of innovative local companies, we also profile Alice Reimer, a local tech-entrepreneur, advocate and mentor. And we take a look at the Alberta Innovation Corridor, (AIC) a new organization that brings together tech-focused advocates in Calgary and Edmonton to support growth in the sector throughout the region. While the work of the AIC is on hold during the response to the pandemic, it certainly seems to be a case of better together. Innovation is always about change — new companies, new products and new ways
Editor-in-Chief Käthe Lemon, firstname.lastname@example.org Executive Editor Jennifer Hamilton Senior Art Director Venessa Brewer Senior Editor Shelley Arnusch Art Director Sarah Nealon Assistant Editors, Digital Content Alyssa Quirico, Alana Willerton Assistant Editor Colin Gallant Staff Photographer Jared Sych Editorial Intern Alannah Page Production Design Intern Ashley Leong Fact Checker Amber McLinden Contributors Thomas Bogda, Christina Frangou, Michelle Magnan McIvor, Ben Weeks, Katherine Ylitalo Print Advertising Coordinator Erin Starchuk, email@example.com Sales Assistant Robin Cook (on leave) Director, National Sales Lindy Neustaedter Account Executives Liz Baynes, Janelle Brown (on leave), Melissa Brown, Michaela Brownlee, Jocelyn Erhardt, Deise MacDougall, Chelsey Swankhuizen Digital Producer Katherine Jacob Pickering Printing Transcontinental LGM Distribution City Print Distribution Inc. Avenue is a proud member of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, Magazines Canada and the International Regional Magazine Association, and abides by the editorial standards of these organizations.Print magazine, social media, newsletters and website readership audited by CCAB BPA Worldwide.
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We’re looking for game-changers, possibility-seekers, and get-it-doners dedicated to making this awesome city of ours better. Interested in doing or learning more? Visit us at thestride.ca AvenueCalgary.com
DETOURS Film On the Range New documentary captures the link between Albertaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s horse and film businesses.
Film still by Jamie Wensley, Rundle Films
ilmmaker Victoria (Vicki) McFadyen grew up in Calgary tending horses and teaching herself how to operate cameras. In her early 20s, she moved to California and began her career as a filmmaker specializing in polo events. This led to gigs around the U.S. and South America, and contracts with clients like Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Prentice. She moved back to Calgary in 2008 to raise her daughter and now operates her company Atomic10 Films Inc. locally, often working on horse-related films. This combination of experience has made her the perfect storyteller for her latest project.
True West: The John Scott Story premieres this summer on Telus Optic T V On Demand and was funded by Telus’s Storyhive. 12
his year, the Calgary Run for Water annual fundraising race is dubbed The Alone Together Run and will take place on whatever route racers feel comfortable using — whether that’s their favourite trail or even the treadmill in their basement. With five- and 10-kilometre race options, entrants will complete their run between June 13 and 20 and submit their times through the online registration portal. Although this year’s race relies on the honour system, Calgary Run for Water will tally and post the winners later this summer. Calgary Run for Water normally raises money for clean drinking water in Ethiopia, but this year’s event supports a COVID-19 response in the 12 rural Ethiopian villages that have already been provided clean drinking water by Run for
Water. This includes things like masks, gloves and reading materials on hygiene techniques in their local languages. Heather Maat, Calgary Run for Water chair, has been involved with the event since it began nine years ago. “It’s always been an organization that’s been near and dear to our hearts as a family,” says Maat, who adopted her son from Ethiopia. The run is free to enter, but fundraising is encouraged. All proceeds go directly to the response and will be matched by corporate sponsors. Run for Water encourages all ages to register for the race and Maat says it’s a great way to get the whole family active while practicing social distancing. —Alannah Page For more information and to register, visit runforwater.ca/calgary
True West film still by Vince Varga
McFadyen’s documentary, True West: The John Scott Story, tells the story of the ranch-and-rodeo world’s contributions to Alberta’s film industry, with a primary focus on how one man has been at the heart of it for 50 years. “We need to celebrate someone like him,” says McFadyen of John Scott. “He is a huge advocate and he works 24/7.” In True West, we see Scott on his ranch-and-film-set property in Longview, working at locations like the Calgary Stampede and speaking candidly about how the province’s film industry emerged and grew. Scott got his start in 1970 working as an animal wrangler on Little Big Man, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. From there, Scott went on to become a stunt person, host, director, producer and all-around industry champion. His company, John Scott Productions, has been part of seven Oscarwinning films. He has been profiled before, but McFadyen’s pitch to showcase him alongside the community of specialized horse-and-film professionals in Alberta offered a new take on his story. “I just thought, well, it’s a chance to honour some of the people that helped me start the company and put it together and build it together to what it is today,” says Scott. “I’m working now with third generations of people that started with me.” Rather than focusing solely on Scott’s personal legacy, the film showcases the work of animal stunt trainers, chuckwagon racers and other specialties in the Albertan film community. In this way, True West illustrates both the cultural and financial value of Alberta’s film industry. “To invest in the film business is really a job creation piece of business,” says Scott. “The spinoff of a movie dollar is five or six to one.” “I just feel like as filmmakers we need to educate people about the industry. It’s really important that we tell the story of Alberta and our culture” says McFadyen. —Colin Gallant
Meet Artist and Prop Maker Paige Harris
n any given day, Paige Harris can be found welding the metal skeleton of an alien or forming the Styrofoam bark of a massive model tree. The Calgary artist’s day job with Studio Y Creations means creating lifelike props for displays in malls, dental offices, hospitals, amusement parks and other locations. Past projects include crafting pandas, rhinos and sloths for the South Health Campus and parade floats for the Calgary Stampede, which involved everything from making the internal metal structure, or armature, to sculpting, finishing and painting the exterior. “I think every person that goes to art school, they’re scared that they’re never going to be able to use the skills like welding or woodworking ever again,” Harris says. “My job’s kind of structured it so that I’ve refined my skills a lot more and put them to use.”
Harris’s work connects with people – adding to their experiences and enhancing their surroundings. From her home studio, Harris continues forging those connections. While her personal work varies across media, her ceramics have become her signature, particularly her series of Dino Mugs. “I think it’s one of the most intimate pieces of art you can buy,” she says. “These things go into people’s homes and into people’s cupboards. They have their morning coffee with a dinosaur mug.” Whether with ceramics or her prop work, Harris says she hopes to spread positivity. “I’ve seen people walk by my [art market] booth and see a mug with a dinosaur attached to it and they just smile,” says Harris. “Just a smile from something that I made is enough for me.” —Nathan Kunz Harris’s work is available on her website, paigesharris.com. She also streams her creative process on Twitch at twitch.tv/paigesharris
Paige Harris and a collection of Dino Mugs
Introducing Cambridge Manor The Brenda Strafford Foundation is proud to be bringing our ‘people-first’ approach to our innovative new seniors wellness community. Our seniors wellness lifestyles include Assisted Living, Enhanced Care and Memory Care. 403-536-8675 | cambridge@theBSF.ca Visit us online at: cambridgemanor.ca | theBSF.ca | 253 Smith St. NW
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• A purpose-built, state-of-the-art neighbourhood dedicated to advancing research and innovation in seniors care and wellness • The University of Calgary’s Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging The Brenda Strafford Foundation was proudly awarded ‘Innovator of the Year’ (Alberta Continuing Care Association) in 2018.
It has long been a truism that we need to diversify our local economy and now more than ever it is clear that whatever we had in the past, the future will be vastly different. The only way through the current situation is to go forward — there’s no going back. That path will require great ingenuity and entrepreneurial thinking. Fortunately, Calgarians have those characteristics in spades. In this issue, we explore just a sampling of some of the innovations happening in the city right now in industries including business and finance, health and medical, food and agriculture, and energy. In addition, we take a look at the Alberta Innovation Corridor, a co-operative innovation in itself. And in our cover story, we profile Alice Reimer, an innovator, entrepreneur and übermentor helping to make Calgary into the tech hub she believes it can be. Plus, you’ll find even more online at AvenueCalgary.com.
SHINING A L I G HT O N LO CA L TE C H N O LO G I E S A N D I N N OVATO R S I N FO U R K E Y I N D U S TR I E S .
BY Thomas Bogda, Christina Frangou, Colin Gallant and Alannah Page
FINANCE & BUSINESS
FOOD & AGRICULTURE
HEALTH & MEDICAL
OUT OF THIN AIR
THIN AIR LABS IS BOOSTING CALGARYâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S TECHNOLOGY ECOSYSTEM BY TACKLING MANY FACETS OF IT AT ONCE.
THIN AIR’S MISSION IS TO HELP THE LOCAL TECH ECOSYSTEM GET TO 1,000 STARTUPS.
im Gibson thinks Calgary should aim to be Canada’s next technology hub. And as one of the co-founders of Thin Air Labs, a Calgary-based venture capital firm with a twist, he’s helping make it happen. Thin Air raises money for startups — at the time of writing it had invested around $3 million in more than 15 companies. What makes Thin Air unique though is that it also develops and designs business models, sometimes from the earliest stages — that’s the “lab” part. Right now, the group is working with about a dozen startups that have an idea and need guidance to build from the ground up. The Thin Air team also works with developed businesses that want help adapting for what’s to come in the future of technology. The three founders, Greg Hart, James Lochrie and Gibson, met through Rainforest Alberta, which Gibson also helped found. The partners are all veteran entrepreneurs, with Hart specializing in design thinking and Lochrie bringing experience on the investing side of things as the cofounder of Wave Financial and an angel investor across Canada. Rainforest aims to show Albertans there is a market for innovative ideas in the province and that entrepreneurs don’t need to move away to be successful. And Thin Air helps build up the local ecosystem in part by fostering a number of new companies at the same time. Gibson says Thin Air’s mission is to help the local tech ecosystem get to 1,000 startups.
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Officially launched a year ago, Thin Air is still in its beginning stages, but the founders have already seen an unexpectedly high number of requests from companies looking for help. Gibson notes that because of the founders’ networks in the sector, they are aware of most of the deal flow throughout Western Canada. “We call ourselves Velcro right now, because a lot of people are really interested in the ideas of ‘how do we build a new economy,’” says Gibson.
“ [HEALTH] IS A VERY INTERESTING SPACE. A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH LEADERSHIP WE HAVE ALREADY IN SOME OF OUR HEALTH RESEARCHERS HERE IN THE PROVINCE.” — J IM GIBSON, CO-FOUNDER, THIN AIR LABS
Thin Air’s fundraising has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic although the crisis has somewhat delayed those efforts. The group plans to raise three formal venture funds — a health fund of $100 million to $150 million, a gaming fund of $30 million to $40 million and a general enterprise fund of about $75 million. “[Health] is a very interesting space. A lot of people don’t know how much leadership we have already in some of our health researchers here in the province,” says Gibson. As for gaming, it is already proving viable. Thin Air Games (TAG) is a collaboration between video game developer New World Interactive (NWI) and Thin Air Labs that saw the U.S. company open an office in Calgary last year. TAG will provide up to 50 new gaming ventures the opportunity to launch in Calgary in the next four years, essentially creating an industry where none existed before.
Keith Warner, CEO of NWI and partner in TAG, said there is not currently a large gaming presence in Calgary, but that didn’t deter him from starting an office here. “From a gaming-ecosystem standpoint, there’s nothing that makes it advantageous. Alberta is the only province without an interactive digital media tax credit. There are no other incubators in the gaming industry in Calgary at this time, and there are virtually no developers [in Calgary] that work in the program that we work in to build our games,” says Warner. But the fact that Calgary was in a recession was attractive to Warner because he knew that the opportunity for business in the city would only get better with time. Despite the fact that Calgary is slightly behind other cities of the same size when it comes to innovation, both Gibson and Warner are hopeful for the future. Gibson says it’s the community and the people in Calgary that will attract entrepreneurs, like Warner, to the city. “We’re late and we need to get moving, and the only way that’s going to happen is through a culture of trust and a belief that we’re all working together on this,” says Gibson. —A.P.
BRIGHTSIDE BY ___ ATB Brightside is a digital banking app created by ATB Financial that aims to help users save money. In order to be eligible to sign up for the app, users must live in Alberta, be at least 18 years old and have photo ID. After that has been verified, users can then sync the app with their bank account. Current features include “Round Up,” an automatic saving program that allow users to put savings aside when they purchase things like their daily coffee and “Save Automagically,” a system for scheduling transfers from a chequing account to Brightside savings. The app is currently available for Apple and Android devices.
PLATFORM CALGARY ___ Platform’s main goal is to help build the next economy in Calgary. It does this by creating programs and resources for tech startups that will help them navigate the innovation landscape. A key part of Platform’s mission is to collaborate with organizations at all levels to launch 1,000 start-ups by 2031. The 50,000-square-foot Platform Innovation Centre will open inside Calgary Parking Authority’s “future-forward” parkade on 9th Avenue S.E. near the Central Library in 2021.
SHAREWORKS BY MORGAN STANLEY ___ Solium was a Calgary-based software company startup before it was purchased for $1.1 billion dollars in 2019 by the international investment bank Morgan Stanley, which purchased Solium’s Shareworks software. Marcos Lopez, the former Solium CEO and current CEO of Shareworks by Morgan Stanley, said the aquisition was an easy decision and was the logical next step for the company. It wasn’t a hard sell for Lopez to keep the head office in Calgary as part of the agreement because he says Morgan Stanley always recognized Calgary as a rich environment for tech startups. —A.P.
Calgary was built by innovators, people with a dream to create and contribute. People who at their core have a passion to make a difference. People with heart.
This is what binds Calgarians. And this is why our city will rebuild. Every step of the way, we will be here to support you. And we couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be more honored.
“ F OOD WASTE IS GOING TO BE THE BIGGEST FOCUS OUT OF THIS. IF YOU LOOK AT GLOBAL FOOD-WASTE RATES RIGHT NOW, IT’S AT APPROXIMATELY 38 PER CENT.” — ERIK WESTBLOM, CEO, PROVISION ANALYTICS
BUSiNESS IS BLOOMING PROVISION ANALYTICS AND OTHER AGRI-TECH COMPANIES ARE CHANGING THE WORLD’S MOST VITAL INDUSTRY.
rovision Analytics foresees a future where there’s nothing we don’t know about food. The big-data/software startup is on a quest to make every step of food production — from growing to retail — easier to analyze, trace, make transparent and keep safe. As well, Provision sees a long-term road to high-value data sales and a future where food is more than a commodity. Co-founder and CEO Erik Westblom launched Provision with a partner (who has since moved on) in 2018, about halfway through completing his MBA at University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. The concept for Provision was originally conceived for the wine industry, but Westblom pivoted after seeing a greater potential for success in food. In a viability study, Westblom and Provision looked at approximately 12,500 different food manufacturers in North America, then compiled 177,000 records from other parts of the food value supply chain. They discovered that 94 per cent of companies in the market had fewer than 100 employees each and that 97 per cent of companies were keeping records on paper spreadsheets. This demonstrated that there was a gap in the market for powerful data tools and, because the food industry is made up of diverse, specialized businesses, that competition would not be a major barrier to success.
Soon after, the company’s data collection and analysis software, OneTrace, was born. OneTrace includes a variety of uses for food manufacturers, wholesalers, warehousing entities and distributors. From helping companies manage food safety compliance forms and go paperless on the simple end, to helping expedite and mitigate loss from a product recall on the sophisticated end, OneTrace streamlines the communication of information between every step of the food supply chain.
IN MID-APRIL, PROVISION ANALYTICS ANNOUNCED THAT IT HAD RAISED $3.2 MILLION IN PRIVATE EQUITY AND GRANT FUNDING TO BUILD OUT ITS DIGITAL TOOL FOR FOOD SAFETY AND TRACEABILITY. Westblom says that the tech’s traceability engine is its most valuable component. In the case of a recall or other inquiry, OneTrace can quickly summon data on specific products and raw ingredients based on vendor, location, time frame or even what pieces of equipment and which employees touched the product along the way. “You just send [OneTrace] the criteria you want and it will tell you exactly which products were shipped to which end customer,” he says. Shannon Snaden, who has consulted with Provision Analytics on behalf of clients as part of her MBA work and has worked for the trade group Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta, of which Provision is a member, says that what makes Provision stand out from other companies is “that they fit a niche for the smaller food manufacturing industry companies that are required to have traceability in their supply chain; those that need the software to be flexible as they scale up, but also affordable enough for them to implement.” The company’s early successes have led to dividends. In November, 2019, a $250,000 US investment was announced from Edmonton’s TrustBix, a similar company specializing in livestock. In February, 2020, Protein Industries Canada (PIC), a not-for-profit innovation supercluster, announced that Provision would be one of three Calgary companies chosen for a 24
$9.25 million collaboration with Coutts Agro in Kindersley, Sask. Protein Industries Canada will pay for half of the project with the four companies on the hook for the remainder. Provision will receive anonymized data, mostly pertaining to food waste at the farm level, generated from tech trials on the farm over the course of three years. “Food waste is going to be the biggest focus out of this,” says Westblom. “If you look at global food-waste rates right now, it’s at approximately 38 per cent at aggregate worldwide, and 80 per cent of that number occurs before products even make it to retail.” And in mid-April, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Provision Analytics announced that it had raised $3.2 million in private equity and grant funding to build out its digital tool for food safety and traceability. Combined, these funding announcements have provided major votes of confidence for Provision, and are critical milestones on the company’s long-term path. Beyond the profit and satisfaction of improving food safety, transparency and traceability by licensing OneTrace to clients, Westblom sees new ways of monetizing both food and data. Going back to wine, what Westblom calls “the only de-commoditized consumable on Earth,” he imagines a future where the prices of carrots can vary as drastically as those of cabernet sauvignon — directly because of the transparency OneTrace and Provision can create. If his prediction is correct, food producers will have no choice but to see their output as products rather than commodities, and may flock to Provision to help provide the transparency that will give them an edge in the market. —C.G.
OLDS COLLEGE SMART FARM ___ The Olds College Smart Farm will welcome its first students this September after launching for curriculum development in the summer of 2018. The 2,000-acre working farm will act as a “sandbox” for researchers and students, as well as farmers, tech companies and agricultural businesses, said Dr. Joy Agnew, director, applied research, Centre for Innovation at Olds College.
The farm’s flagship technologies are the DOT autonomous seeding robot, a multi-sensor cluster of different instruments that collects and organizes massive amounts of data simultaneously for researchers and, naturally, a farm-wide, high-speed WiFi network. In consultation with farmers, CEOs and innovators, Smart Farm intends to find out which agri-tech products have the most valuable and practical applications for farms while teaching students real-life working skills in the process. “It’s a functioning, living farm and yet we have the flexibility and the authority and the ability to play with whatever technologies we want,” said Agnew. “The fact that we have the ability to do that is unheard of, quite honestly.”
THE ___ HARVEST HUB The Harvest Hub’s “HubTub” is an aerated container-farming unit that uses living soil to grow deep-root vegetables quickly and with a high nutritional yield in a controlled, indoor environment. Created by co-founder and COO Sean Fillion, the HubTub can grow international crops with a high degree of control that could one day improve access to healthy, affordable food. This past winter, The Harvest Hub grew saffron at its own indoor farm, but once what the company is doing with its HubTub at its R&D farm can be scaled, Fillion imagines The Harvest Hub partnering with real-estate developers on what he calls “ag condos” — rental or purchase units where suppliers, restaurants and even individuals could easily and efficiently farm their own food. “Look at those empty towers downtown,” said Fillion, whose background is in development. “Agriculture is where we started in Alberta and it’s where we need to get back to.” —C.G.
Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re using this space to acknowledge the work that our partner, United Way of Calgary and Area, is doing to help our community. Visit calgaryunitedway.org/covid-response-fund to learn more about the fund and how you can help.
PEOPLE. POWER. COMMUNITY.
SAVE A LiFE, WASH YOUR HANDS W21C, A LOCAL RESEARCH CENTRE, IS ENGINEERING SIMPLE SOLUTIONS TO FIGHT COMPLEX AND DEVASTATING INFECTIONS IN HOSPITALS.
ash your hands. Don’t touch your face. These are easy instructions to follow, but we’re in the midst of a pandemic in part because humans are terrible at hand hygiene. That’s one of the challenges facing W21C, a one-of-a-kind research centre at the University of Calgary. W21C’s goal is to generate ideas about how to make health care delivery safer and then test those ideas to make sure they work before rolling them out to different health care systems around the world. Human beings are creatures of habit. Knowing that something is good for us isn’t always enough motivation to change our habits, says Dr. John Conly, professor of medicine at UCalgary and medical director for W21C. “Sometimes we need technical and engineering solutions to help facilitate the changes we want,” he said. It may sound like overkill to talk about engineering solutions to get people in modern hospitals to clean their hands. But it’s not. In hospitals, people do not abide by the rules of good hand hygiene. In a study published in 2019 in the American Journal of Infection Control, only two-thirds of Canadian adult inpatients said they washed their hands after using the toilet (the toilet! In the hospital!) and only 49 per cent said they washed their hands before eating. Of the 268 inpatients at five large Ontario hospitals who 26
were surveyed, three-quarters said they did not want to receive any more information about hand hygiene while in the hospital. The math speaks for itself: some people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet also don’t want any more information about why they should. Infection risk is everywhere in a hospital. The invisible micro-organisms that can make us deadly sick flourish in hospitals. These bugs live in ceiling tiles and bed mattresses, in toilets and under them, and on doorknobs and in faucets, on skin wounds and in poorly sterilized equipment. They thrive on the drapes that hang between patient beds. They hitchhike on our clothes and skin when we go from one place to the next. They take advantage of design flaws with horrific results: between 2004 and 2006, 12 transplant patients died in the Toronto General Hospital from a bacterial infection, spread as water droplets from sinks at nearby hand hygiene stations splashed out of the basin and onto nearby surfaces. Infections come with a high price tag, both in lives and dollars. According to the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, about 8,000 Canadians die from hospital-acquired infections each year. Another 220,000 get infected. In a study from researchers at W21C, the burden to the health care system of hospital-acquired infections is enormous: hospital-acquired cases of the intestinal
bacterium Clostridium difficile, or C. diff., in Alberta alone cost more than $19 million per year on average. “When a patient has an infection, the resources required to look after them are tremendous. The patient has to go into isolation, staff and visitors need personal protective equipment. Sometimes patients are antibiotic resistant and so we need new antibiotics,” said Wrechelle Ocampo, a research associate at W21C. “A lot of effort goes into responding to infections and it’s very, very costly.” W21C, short for Ward of the 21st Century, was built for finding out-of-thebox solutions to challenges like infection. The institute is home to an interdisciplinary team of specialists from medicine and engineering who partner with experts in architecture and even visual arts. It consists of two separate spaces: Unit 36 of the Foothills Medical Centre, and a research and innovation centre at the Cumming School of Medicine. The latter includes a simulation lab, complete with simulated patient, “Ward,” who groans, coughs and instantly develops high blood pressure when a researcher triggers it via a computer order. Unit 36 is Canada’s only “living laboratory.” It functions just like any other hospital ward, but it was set up by W21C with a dual purpose: to treat patients while testing new medical technologies and health system designs.
“ W E LIVE IN A COMPLEX WORLD WHERE WE LIVE IN TIGHT QUARTERS IN WHICH INFECTIOUS VIRUS TRANSMISSION EVENTS MAY OCCUR … THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A NEED FOR HAND HYGIENE.“ — DR. JOHN CONLY, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, W21C
To walk through the living laboratory is to see a history of health care design over the last 15 years, both what worked and what didn’t. The unit was the first in Alberta to use COWS (computers on wheels), the mobile computer stations in hallways where health care workers can access a patient’s medical record. Outside the patient rooms, empty little cupboards hang on the wall with their doors removed. The cubicles were originally built so that the personal protective equipment (PPE) that health care workers don to protect them from infection would be at hand when needed. But the cubicles were too small for the large outfits. One of the first big successes for W21C was in the area of infection control and came almost a decade ago. A nurse complained about frequent rips in the mattresses of patients’ hospital beds at Foothills. It’s expensive to replace mattresses but dangerous to ignore tears. In 2013, the FDA issued a safety caution about mattress surfaces, saying that damaged mattresses can be sources of contamination during infection outbreaks. In Calgary and elsewhere, staff often covered flaws with tape, a technique neither proven to decrease contamination, nor durable.
“ OUR FEELING WAS THAT IF WE MERGED SCIENCE WITH ART AND INTERACTION DESIGN, WE WOULD BE ABLE TO COME UP WITH A BETTER SOLUTION THAN WHAT OTHERS HAVE DONE BEFORE.” — D R. JOHN CONLY, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, W21C
The nurse brought her concerns to two graduates of the university’s biomedical technology program, Iwain Lam and Fabrizio Chiacchia. At the time, they were looking to develop medical products they could bring to market quickly. The pair drew out a sketch for a repair patch on a napkin, started a company now called Surface Medical Inc., and turned to W21C. Over two years, W21C organized trials for the duo’s prototypes, and carried out microbiology 28
studies and focus groups. The end product, CleanPatch, was tested on beds on Unit 36. W21C gave Surface Medical a way to validate its product in a “real-world setting,” said Lam, president and CEO of Surface Medical. “Without that support, it would have taken us a lot longer and a lot more money to turn the idea of a repair patch into a medical device.” The company released CleanPatch in 2012. It works like a bandage for hospital beds and other equipment like wheelchairs, and is the only class 1 medical device for repair of the surfaces of mattresses in the world. Registered and approved in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia, CleanPatch is now sold in 15 countries. To date, W21C has been involved in the research and/or testing of more than 100 products and processes, with several key studies related to infection control, said Conly. They include a washable computer keyboard made by an Edmonton company and later bought by a German manufacturer; XSensor, a pad that can sense pressure sores on bedridden patients; and procedures for PPE during an Ebola outbreak. Conly said one of the downsides for health innovation in Canada is that Canadian health systems rarely procure made-in-Canada products. W21C’s successful products are more likely to be picked up in American or European hospitals before Canadian facilities come on board. “It’s a microcosm of what we see in Alberta and in Canada. We always seem to think if it’s made in the U.S. or Europe it’s better,” he said. The next major challenge for W21C is hand hygiene, which we know all too well now is critical to control the outbreak of infections. In 2015, researchers from W21C partnered with artists at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art + Design with the goal of creating a cheap technology that could increase use of alcohol-rub hand dispensers. These dispensers are mounted on the walls of hospitals, medical clinics and public places like airports. Once the lever is pulled, the nozzle squirts a foamy cleanser onto the hand of the user. In hospitals, staff and visitors are supposed to use it before and after every patient contact. W21C researchers set out to modify the standard dispenser with an interaction design — that is, something interesting enough to keep people thinking about hand hygiene. Interaction design is what draws people to iPhones
— they’re designed to increase the interaction between the product and user. “Interaction design could keep hand hygiene at the forefront of people’s minds and increase compliance,” said Conly. The W21C team designed a sensor that fits into any wall-mounted dispenser and connects to a screen. When someone pulls the lever on the dispenser, three responses are triggered: first, the cleaner spurts out. At the same time, data is sent to a centralized server so researchers can track hand hygiene, important for monitoring during infection outbreaks. And a visual display starts on the nearby screen. In the version that researchers tested on Unit 36, colourful cartoon hands fly across the screen. Before the COVID outbreak, another version for kids was planned for roll-out at the Alberta Children’s Hospital this summer, featuring cartoon animals and a voice that says “good hand-washing!” “Our feeling was that if we merged science with art and interaction design, we would be able to come up with a better solution than what others have done before. We consider that to be an innovative step in promoting hand hygiene,” said Conly. The evidence to date suggests people are more inclined to clean their hands with an interactiondesign dispenser. In surveys conducted by W21C published in abstract form, 75 per cent of staff and patient families surveyed said the device increased their awareness of hand hygiene, while 92 per cent agreed it was a helpful reminder to practice hand hygiene. Frequency of hand hygiene use went up 20 to 30 per cent, said Conly. Researchers hope the technology will be used around the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Though it sounds like a high-tech approach to a simple act, the model was designed to be affordable. The sensor can be locally sourced anywhere in the world, for less than $10 CDN. Even old black-and-white televisions can be connected to the sensors, and the software is available for free online, along with a tutorial and set-up guide. Hand hygiene and infection control will become even more important in the context of new and emerging viruses, says Conly. “We live in a complex world where we live in tight quarters in which infectious virus transmission events may occur ... there will always be a need for hand hygiene. The importance of these health care innovations cannot be overstated.” —C.F.
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“ W E COULD TURN ALBERTA INTO THE HYDROGEN CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, WITH RESPECT TO PRODUCTION, GIVEN THE RESOURCE WE HAVE HERE.” — G RANT STREM, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, PROTON TECHNOLOGIES
THE CLEAN FUEL OF THE FUTURE? PROTON TECHNOLOGIES’ PATENTED PROCESS FOR HYDROGEN EXTRACTION COULD BE THE START OF AN ENERGY RENAISSANCE.
opular demand is pushing more and more for green energy alternatives to oil and gas. As a province known for the latter, finding a way forward might be cause for an identity crisis. But if you think this oil stalwart of a province would be the last place to champion clean energy, think again. In fact, many of the brightest minds in oil and gas are turning their expertise toward the future of energy, and this is the case with Proton Technologies. Proton is a Calgary-based energy company that’s bringing hydrogen into the clean-energy discussion after years of having this abundant resource largely ignored. Its patented technology allows for hydrogen (H) to be separated from water (H2O) and extracted from oil sands (or other hydrocarbon reservoirs such as gas or coal) while leaving carbon and other pollutants in the ground. Grant Strem, the chairman and CEO of Proton, said he has always had a peripheral interest in hydrogen, even as he spent most of his career as a reservoir evaluator and research analyst in the oil fields. That interest is now top-of-mind, thanks in part to Dr. Ian Gates of the University of Calgary, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. Gates is also a co-founder of Proton, as well as co-inventor along with Jacky Wang, a research engineer in Gates’ research group at UCalgary.
Gates and Strem, who were friends before they partnered to start Proton, came up with the idea about the viability of hydrogen as a clean energy source together. In the course of collaboration, Gates referenced data from a 1980s oilsands study that showed if you inject oxygen into oil reservoirs — which are treasure troves of chemicals — you produce hydrogen. “When he mentioned that, I thought, ‘Wow, if we had a way to leave everything in the ground except for that hydrogen, boom! We’d have a clean energy business,’” Strem said. In the past, the main problem with hydrogen as an energy source has been the cost of producing it. Pure hydrogen is rare, so it must be separated from other sources. Unsurprisingly, the most cost-effective way to produce hydrogen is the least green: steam methane reforming. Other processes that are green, like electrolysis (separating hydrogen from water using an electric current) are costly. “The missing ingredient in all of this has been low-cost hydrogen from clean sources,” Strem said. Proton’s patented process involves injecting oxygen through pipes up to two kilometres underground, where it reacts with the oil in a process called in situ oxidation, which is normally used to heat the oil and help with its extraction. Above 300 degrees Celsius, it causes a number of reactions that rip the hydrocarbon apart into a bunch of trapped, synthetic gases, including hydrogen. It also rips apart the H2O in the oil sands. Strem said part of the challenge was finding the right membrane for their well that would filter everything else out and only let hydrogen pass through. Alberta’s advantage in all this is its wealth of resources to access. Canada holds 10 per cent of the world’s oil — the third-largest oil reserve globally — and a large majority of that is in Alberta, according to National Resources Canada. Because Proton is only taking advantage of the reaction, they don’t necessarily need oil good enough for extraction either. On top of that, the province is equipped with an infrastructure meant for transporting masses of product in the form of pipes, Strem said. He adds that pipelines should be future-proofed by making them capable of transporting hydrogen. “If we did this right,” Gates said, “We could turn Alberta into the hydrogen 32
capital of the world, with respect to production, given the resource we have here.” For the foreseeable future, Proton is working up to trucking its hydrogen out in commercial loads from its reservoir in Saskatchewan. From there, the hydrogen might be used for supplementary purposes like upgrading fuels or blending with natural gas, before being used for hydrogen fuel cells in vehicles or to produce electricity energy in the form of heat or electricity. Strem said you might even be able to fill your hydrogen fuel cell from home someday, but that future is a long way off. The most common hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle is the Toyota Mirai, which is only just coming to Canada now. You can count the hydrogen fueling stations between Vancouver and Quebec City on one hand. “The world needs oil, that is definitely the case,” Gates said. “But does it need Alberta heavy oil and bitumen? That’s the one thing I wonder about. As this world moves and it starts to shift things and folks move to other fuels — electrification renewables and other things — where does Alberta play a role? I think we need to be thinking about what happens in 20 years. We could either wait and react then, or we could actually now say, ‘Well, we’re going to change the nature of this resource and how we value it, how we move forward with it, and do that right now.’” —T.B.
EAVOR ___ Eavor (pronounced “ever”) is an Alberta-based energy company looking to geothermal for a green approach to generating power. Eavor has developed a closed-loop system, called the “Eavor-Loop,” that works like a radiator, unlike most geothermal systems that require a drill or pump. Kilometres underground, lateral pipelines filled with a benign fluid are heated by the earth through conduction. The heated fluid rises above the cool fluid, which is pushed to the lowest point to repeat the process. This continuous circulation generates power. One advantage of this system of natural chemistry is it doesn’t rely on mechanical or power-driven pumps, and isn’t dependent on the elements like solar or wind.
Excitingly, Eavor completed a demonstration site near Rocky Mountain House, Alta., at the beginning of February, 2020. Its math was checked by a Dutch assessment team, and Eavor is now looking to explore commercial projects. It has already struck a partnership with the Carmacks Development Corporation (owned by the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation) in the Yukon to provide baseline power for upcoming development projects.
CARBON CREDIT SOLUTIONS ___ In 2007, the Alberta government passed legislation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial emitters. It also developed a carbon market — essentially, a system that allows emitters to trade carbon credits or earn offset credits for good practices. For example, if an oil and gas company can prove it voluntarily reduced emissions, and it passes the guidelines set by the province, it may earn offset credits that can be sold on the market to another emitter. Like any financial market, it’s a complicated business, and that’s where Carbon Credit Solutions comes in. The company uses proprietary software to quantify and verify carbon emissions for clients like farmers and oil and gas companies and converts them into marketable carbon credits. It also consults with different industries, helping develop ways to reduce their emissions. For example, it might help a farm realize the potential of no-till farming or help increase the utility efficiency of a residential building. The goal is to bridge the gap between environmental responsibility and economic prosperity. —T.B.
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THE MOTHER OF INNOVATION IS COLLABORATION The organizers behind the Alberta Innovation Corridor hope co-operation between Edmonton and Calgary will help attract more tech business to the region. Critics wonder if it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just adding an extra layer of bureaucracy to the nascent industry.
BY MICHELLE MAGNAN MCIVOR with files from Steven Sandor
+ ILLUSTRATIONS BY BEN WEEKS
arly last year, Platform Calgary, Innovate Edmonton and Calgary Economic Development — organizations in Edmonton and Calgary that represent their respecE tive tech sectors — were preparing to attend Collision, one of the largest technology conferences in North America, to promote their cities’ tech startups. After months of informal discussions, they decided to try something new: working together. As a team, they negotiated better exhibitor rates for both cities, secured booths next to each other and showcased more than 30 of Alberta’s emerging tech companies. No detail of their cooperation was too small; Edmonton brought the doughnuts, Calgary provided the coffee (and some local beer). By all accounts, the cities generated more buzz working side by side, which never hurts when you’re competing for the attention of 25,000 attendees from around the world. “It is so hard to stand out as a country at these big trade shows and events, let alone as a city. We decided to work together to see what would happen,” says Terry Rock, president and CEO of Platform Calgary. “The feedback was, ‘Oh, Alberta’s serious,’ and people paid attention. We recognized that we can make way more noise when we show up together.” Following their success at Collision, leaders at the two organizations — Cheryll Watson, formerly of Innovate Edmonton and Terry Rock from Platform Calgary — banded together to launch the Alberta Innovation Corridor (AIC) in June 2019. Calgary Economic Development, headed by Mary Moran, also came on board as a “funding founder.” Showing up together is what the cities’ new initiative is all about. The group's activities are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the City of Edmonton's decision to reorganize its structure for supporting the innovation sector. But the joint pursuit plans to act as “an advocate for technology-enabled innovative companies,” committed to creating programs and services to help Alberta-based businesses succeed, while also attracting more talent, investment and companies to the province. Ultimately, the AIC is looking to drive economic prosperity for all Albertans. While the overarching goal is big, the initial steps have been small. So far, the founding leaders have posted a website, spoken publicly about the AIC and written the occasional op-ed. Each organization has committed money to cover nominal start-up costs and contributed staff hours for committee work tackling marketing communications, data collection and, eventually, to establish tangible programs. “We want to
move from just showing up at events together to having programming on the ground supporting businesses but we’re not there yet,” says Rock. When the organization springs back into action, the AIC’s main focus is spreading the word. And the word is Edmonton and Calgary are stronger together. “Edmonton is an academic and talent powerhouse, and we’re number three in the world for artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Watson before she departed her post as the Economic Edmonton Development Corporation’s vice president in charge of Innovate Edmonton. Watson’s departure was the first shoe to drop. In early May, city council voted unanimously to begin the process of replacing Innovate Edmonton with a new innovation entity, scheduled to be formed in the second half of 2020. The new body will no longer be under the EEDC umbrella. Instead, it will be run by an eight-person board, with members who have expertise in the innovation sector. The new entity will then formulate a plan which will be integrated into Edmonton’s wider economic development strategy, planned for the first quarter of 2021. But, if the new Edmonton innovation entity won’t have a real plan in place until early 2021, does that mean the AIC will be stuck in a holding pattern until next year? “We wouldn’t want to wait a year to discuss that,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said before council voted on the new innovation plan, but he added that talks will need to be held in private on how the corridor strategy will be revived, because so much of it depends on intergovernmental cooperation. And there were fears within council that leaving the AIC on the back burner for too long could end up burning Edmonton. “I am anxious to have that conversation,” said Coun. Michael Walters. “From a strategic perspective, unless we keep our eye on that very carefully, it could be damaging to Edmonton, if we’re not completely engaged in [the AIC] in the interim.” Calgary is known for energy and financial services and its tech scene has been quietly growing in leaps and bounds, particularly in clean energy, agriculture and life sciences. In fact, according to a recent PwC report, Calgary’s tech sector ranked fifth in Canada for financial deal flow in 2019, behind Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Waterloo, when it secured 22 of the 37 deals that took place across all of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
To take Alberta’s tech industry to the next level, the AIC has a handful of near-term goals, including establishing a program to accelerate business development for artificial intelligence startups and advancing joint marketing activities to raise the province’s profile. “This is what we have to do right now because, globally, we’re subscale. We have to combine forces,” says Brad Zumwalt, a Calgarybased entrepreneur who, over the years, has grown and sold technology companies, including the stock photo businesses Eyewire and Veer, to the likes of Getty Images, Corbis and Adobe. He has always believed the cities need to cooperate and, in 2016, he co-founded Rainforest Alberta, a grassroots organization dedicated to improving Alberta’s innovation ecosystem. When asked how people will know if the AIC’s efforts are successful, Zumwalt says time will tell. “Our 10-year goal is to grow 1,000 great companies in Calgary and 1,000 great companies in Edmonton. So, it won’t be like, ‘Kumbaya, it’ll feel nice, if we do this.’ It has to deliver that number.” The implied benefits of a thriving innovation corridor are massive — more jobs, greater investment, heightened ability to compete globally. But will it actually work? Logistics pose the most obvious challenge to both cities working together. Google Maps says 299 kilometres separate Alberta’s major cities, but people from the AIC’s organizations have said they don’t mind driving, jumping on a Red Arrow bus or, when the occasion warrants, chartering buses to make the trip. They meet in person whenever is convenient and have weekly calls to drive the cause forward. If anything, the physical distance just means working harder to keep the other city in the loop. Watson said it’s easy to remember people you run into in the hallway or see out at a restaurant. Throw in a 300-km divide and cooperation gets trickier. “We are 100 per cent committed to this partnership, but things move so fast in the tech space,” Watson said before the Edmonton shuffle. “We’ll get halfway down a path on something and realize, ‘Whoa. Hey, did anyone call Calgary?’” Making sure everyone is at the table is one thing. Making sure the right people are there is another. There are three government-funded organizations leading the AIC charge, but many others are advocating for the tech industry, at the same time. According to some entrepreneurs, it’s confusing and unnecessary. “There’s a myriad of organizations and no one knows what to make of all of them. Their wires are disconnected and there’s no cohesive purpose,” says Chris LaBossiere, the Edmonton-based co-founder and CEO of Yardstick Software Inc. He lists a handful of agencies working to advance the tech sector in the province’s capital alone: TEC Edmonton, Startup Edmonton, Edmonton Global, Western Economic Diversification 36
Canada and Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, among others. “I don’t know if the Alberta Innovation Corridor is just the idea of two or three people or if this is the start of a consensus in terms of how we talk about this in Alberta. Colour me cynical or maybe a little bit suspicious of how successful it will be,” says LaBossiere. Despite this cynicism, a central purpose does seem to be afoot. Edmonton’s new innovation authority is meant to be run by the people who best understand how the new economy works. The recruitment process for the board has already begun, and the City is willing to look not only at people in Edmonton’s tech sector, but expats who have moved to tech hotspots around the world. As administration reported to council, the new body would be “for the community, by the community” and would be more streamlined and nimble than Innovate Edmonton, which is scheduled to be shut down by autumn of this year. At the provincial level, Rock says Alberta Innovates, the organization that provides funding for innovation networks across the province, has encouraged Edmonton and Calgary to collaborate more in the future. And Rock says the AIC is up to the challenge — and will be transparent about its progress, if for no other reason than to keep the partnership’s efforts moving. As he says, “We want to be publicly accountable.” Mary Moran, president and chief executive officer of Calgary Economic Development (CED), isn’t concerned about who leads and who follows, or even who’s involved in the AIC, as long as the work gets done. She’s excited about the opportunity to reposition the cities as an innovation hub and says the AIC is just one of many CED initiatives designed to create jobs in Calgary. To her, getting the word out to the rest of the country and beyond will be one of the AIC’s biggest challenges. “Toronto and Waterloo, and even Vancouver and Montreal, are well known for their innovation ecosystems,” she says. “We’re a late entrant into the technology world because the story of innovation in Alberta has been grossly under-told. I always jokingly say, ‘I can retire the day we get federal politicians standing up and talking about the Edmonton Calgary innovation corridor, as opposed to Toronto/Waterloo.” If telling Alberta’s innovation story is one of the AIC’s biggest challenges — and opportunities — some may question who, exactly, is doing the telling. In the past, tech entrepreneurs have expressed concern over traditional businesspeople and long-
term bureaucrats leading government-funded organizations, such as those involved with the AIC. If the organizations don’t understand the ins and outs of the fast-moving sector, how are they expected to advocate for its success? “As far as I’m concerned, we’re the best at knowing how to sell our business,” says Daniel Riddell, chief technology officer at Kidoodle. TV, a Calgary company creating safe streaming services for children. Riddell himself is based in Edmonton and says the company has been grateful to receive funds from national and provincial entities, but their programs sometimes miss the mark. “For example, we might receive funding to go to a conference abroad, but we’re not able to receive more funding to give a presentation or be a sponsor to promote our business, which would make the biggest impact. The rules are so rigid, and they don’t see outside the box,” he says. “I do think there could be better knowledge amongst the staff of those organizations about opportunities like ours.” Dr. Breanne Everett, president, CEO and co-founder of Orpyx Medical Technologies in Calgary, believes the disconnect stems from the fact that the tech sector is relatively new in Alberta. But she says there has been progress at organizations like Calgary Economic Development, where staff are getting up to speed on the city’s emerging life sciences sector. “There’s a lot of learning that has to be done by the people supporting the sector,” she says, “but I think they’re doing a good job of recognizing the opportunities here and trying to understand the lay of the land.” And though she isn’t sold on the AIC’s plan to market the cities as one hub, she is certain someone needs to fight for tech entrepreneurs. In 2019, the United Conservative Party terminated two programs encouraging growth in the tech industry, one of which gave companies a tax rebate on research and development, and another that gave investors
a 30 per cent tax credit for investing in small, technology-focused businesses. Everett says the “backwards” move delivered a blow to Alberta’s tech companies that was both absolute and relative. She says Alberta’s industry is now at a disadvantage, forced to compete with provinces that still have similar, if not better, programs in place. In this way, Everett is hopeful the AIC can make a difference. “Anytime you can get people within the province creating a louder voice to push back on policy changes that negatively affect a growing sector, that amplification is key,” she says. “For that reason, I think something like [the AIC] is excellent.” Alex Hryciw was the director of strategy and government relations for Innovate Edmonton. She worked closely with Watson. She said the AIC’s members had been meeting with the Alberta government to lobby for new business-friendly initiatives, including a visa program for startups and a startup-in-residence program that would make it easier for small tech companies to land Alberta-based corporations and governments as their first customers. Collaborating on initiatives like these is just the beginning for the corridor. “Imagine how much more powerful the bids Edmonton and Calgary made for Amazon would have been had we pitched both cities’ strengths and the regions between them,” said Hryciw. “Long term, there are so many different spinoffs that could come out of the two huge municipalities working together.” And if one of those spinoffs happens to make travel between Edmonton and Calgary faster, that would be icing on the AIC’s cake (although it’s not officially tackling that cause, yet). “Wouldn’t it be great if we had high-speed rail between the cities?” says Rock. “It would not be a linear change in the amount of activity. It would be exponential.” As the AIC group strives to make Alberta a better place to do business, it’s keenly aware that people have to want to live here, too. Knowledge workers seek out cities that are livable and relocate accordingly. If Alberta wants to retain its own highly educated
WHO’S WHO IN THE TECH ZOO: THE ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING AND ADVOCATING FOR THE SECTOR THE A100 Through a people-first approach, the A100 supports up-and-coming tech entrepreneurs to create their businesses. As entrepreneurs themselves, the A100 members use their knowledge and experience to give back to the tech community.
CALGARY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Working with local businesses, government and community partners,
CREATIVE DESTRUCTION LAB — ROCKIES With eight locations globally, this program is helping support scienceand technology-based companies
Calgary Economic Development’s goal is to make Calgary an attractive place for businesses. This not-forprofit corporation is funded by the City of Calgary, community partners and other forms of government through the Team Calgary program.
all over the world. CDL-Rockies is based out of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary and specializes in energy and medical technologies, among other industries. creativedestructionlab.com
EDMONTON GLOBAL The vison of the team at Edmonton Global is to make the Edmonton Metropolitan Region a choice location for global investment. This regional organization works to attract
investment and talent from around the world. edmontonglobal.ca
HEALTH CITY Working with the health innovation ecosystems in the Edmonton area, Health City wants to showcase Edmonton as a hub for health technology. The goal is to bring the world-class research and innovation that is happening in the health sector into commercialized products for the public. edmontonhealthcity.ca
workforce and attract international talent, the AIC needs to start promoting its major cities, and fast. Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global, says when he polled 22 international site selectors (firms that help companies relocate to places around the globe), 82 per cent said they had never thought about the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. The rest said they did think about Edmonton. They thought of it as “cold, remote and disconnected.” LaBossiere says the image problem is real. “In 15 years of trying to recruit executives, we’ve never had any one of them want to come here,” he says. “Partly because of that livability conversation, we eventually moved [one of our company’s] head offices to Ottawa before we sold it.” If the AIC can succeed in shifting the existing narrative, as well as promoting the Alberta story, Bruce says both municipal regions will reap the benefits. “It won’t always be symmetric, but the fact is we will win together.” Earlier this year, the province scored a win when ESQ Business Services, a global software development company in the financial services sector headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, announced Calgary as the home of its new Canadian subsidiary, Cloudexa Technology. Bob Perreault, ESQ’s COO, says the company considered Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto and Calgary before making its decision. Executives were looking for a “livable city” for their employees, one with a good work/life balance, an affordable cost of living, plenty of leisure activities and easy commuting. “Calgary’s livability is one of the best in the world,” says Perreault, “so that gave us a focal point.” The most important factor, he says, was how the City of Calgary and CED worked together to make ESQ’s process easier. “Everything we needed, from leases to attorneys to service providers, they had already done the research for us,” he says. “That allowed us to open our office six to 12 months sooner than we would have elsewhere.” The AIC’s efforts didn’t play into ESQ’s decision-making process, but Perreault has seen the website and thinks it’s a fantastic idea. “If you want to diversify out of the oil and gas industry, as the province does, you have to find complementary opportunities for people who will be displaced out of that or who come in and do something different,” he says. Cloudexa is hiring locally and encouraging ESQ employees to move to Calgary, with plans to grow the office to approximately 50 to 75 people by its second year of business. As far
INNOVATE EDMONTON This organization is being phased out, and is scheduled to cease operations this fall. It will be replaced by a new innovation authority. eedc.ca
PLATFORM CALGARY A civic entity that operates on behalf of the City of Calgary to encourage innovation in the city. Platform supports startups and entrepreneurs and is in the process of launching the Platform Innovation Centre, which is scheduled to open in early 2021. platformcalgary.com
RAINFOREST ALBERTA Rainforest is a movement created in 2016 by entrepreneurs in Calgary and Edmonton. The program cultivates an environment where innovation can thrive and other local entrepreneurs can meet to bounce ideas off one another. rainforestab.ca
STARTUP CALGARY In 2017, Startup Calgary became part of Calgary Economic Development and now works to create connections for startups and local businesses. Startup Calgary guides entrepreneurs. startupcalgary.ca
as Perreault is concerned, Alberta’s innovation corridor currently extends “to north Calgary,” but that doesn’t mean he’s not rooting for the initiative. “If [the AIC] succeeds, then I have the opportunity to grow my business even more,” he says. “We’re starting with one city and once we make that successful, we’ll go from there.” Though Edmonton wasn’t in the race to win Cloudexa’s business, Alberta’s major cities will surely be forced to compete in the months and years to come. And what will the AIC do then? The AIC is working on establishing some rules of engagement. “If we’re competing for something, we have to have a way of having that conversation that doesn’t sour everything,” says Rock. When it comes to the battle, he is confident everyone involved will remember what matters most. “Ultimately, we have to forget the notion that it’s about our organization or our city. It’s actually about creating jobs and helping founders get their tech companies going.” On a Wednesday night in February, nearly 100 of said entrepreneurs gathered for a private event on the second floor of Trolley 5 Brewpub, a bar in the heart of Calgary’s Red Mile. Startup Calgary was hosting an event called Startup Drinks & Pitches. Founders, investors and supporters showed up to make connections, mingle and run their ideas past a room of like-minded people. Once everyone had settled in, organizers began pulling names out of a jar to determine the 10 people who’d get onstage and give their oneminute pitches. Signs next to the stage gave tips such as “Be concise, less is more,” and “Be enthusiastic.” (The first nugget of advice for the audience? “Be encouraging.”) The crowd listened intently to the ideas, among them an app to help consumers find the most affordable groceries and a widget to improve business communications. There was cheering. Conversation. Sharing. Though one table full of entrepreneurs had not yet heard about the AIC or its mission, it was clear that cooperation is a concept they understand well. “If you’re in the tech sector, you’re probably trying to solve a problem. If you’re going to solve it for Calgary, why not solve it for Edmonton and Lethbridge and Red Deer and everyone else, as well?” said Tyler Doell, who was there to chat about Fundsustain Inc., an online business he’s developing to help charities and non-profits raise monthly donations. “It’s important to have that fluidity between our two major cities, to have that community and to share resources. Hockey differences aside, at heart we all have pride in being Albertan.”
STARTUP EDMONTON With mentoring, coworking space and community events offered through Startup Edmonton, small businesses have the support they need. Tech-enabled products are the focus of this organization and it offers free memberships for students. startupedmonton.com
TEC EDMONTON This business accelerator helps health-technology companies to grow and develop. A joint initiative between the University of Alberta and
the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, TEC Edmonton is made up of both entrepreneurs and researchers.
WESTERN ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION CANADA This is the federal government’s organization responsible for economic growth in Western Canada. It provides programs and services and supports legislation that allows businesses in Western Canada to apply for funding and other services. wd-deo.gc.ca
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PROFILE BY Shelley Arnusch PHOTOGRAPH BY Jared Sych
Alice Reimer The serial entrepreneur has had multiple successes with tech startups, but perhaps her most significant work has been building up others and helping foster an innovation ecosystem here in Calgary.
tech year, like a dog year, is not a regular year. So when Alice Reimer starts talking about co-founding her first technology company in 1999, you have to understand that in tech years, that’s like two centuries ago. Reimer was 26 when she, her husband and a third co-founder created Evoco, a software as a service (SaaS) construction-management platform for big-box retailers, allowing them to share architectural plans and drawings. Twenty-one years ago there was no Dropbox, and no widespread access to cloud servers. You needed a lot of computing power to do something like share building plans. “When we built our first product, we were literally testing our software on dial-up modems,” Reimer recalls. Aside from high-speed internet, the other thing the Evoco founders didn’t have was a technology ecosystem, that is, an interconnected community of funders, innovators, mentors and other resources that startup companies can tap into to increase their chances of success and, in turn, to offer that same support to the next new startups. Though Reimer had an undergraduate degree from the University of Calgary and was enrolled in the part-time MBA program at the time, the SaaS they were developing wasn’t coming out of university research. While the business skills she learned at UCalgary helped her in developing Evoco, the university didn’t have any direct supports for the nascent tech company, and didn’t really know how to support the venture itself. “We really were kind of left to our own devices, in many regards, because there just wasn’t a technology ecosystem that we knew how to connect with,” Reimer says. “At the time, we just didn’t know what we didn’t know. We often joked about being too dumb to fail, and we just kept going and kept going and kept going.” Reimer doesn’t think that the tech startups of today should be left to their own devices as she and her partners
were with Evoco. She believes in the importance of a healthy tech ecosystem, and has worked hard over the last two decades to foster a culture of innovation and cultivate fertile ground for technology startups here in the province where she was born and raised and educated and determinedly remains. She’s a techno-polymath: entrepreneur and executive, mentor and facilitator, investor and advocate. Those with the initiative to bring a tech startup to life in Calgary will likely be drawn into the ecosystem Reimer helped create, and the lucky ones will be the direct beneficiary of her time and expertise. Being a mentor and helping develop other entrepreneurs is a driving passion. “I’m just super passionate about building high-performing teams, participating in high-performing teams and innovative technology,” Reimer says. “Being called a mentor is truly a gift, and I hold it as such. It’s not a word or responsibility that can be taken lightly. You need to show up when you’re a mentor.” Evoco came into the world just in time to experience the bursting of the dot-com bubble, but the company survived and thrived. In 2001, Evoco landed Walmart as a client, overseeing the online document management of the megaretailer’s U.S. construction program. Between 2001 and 2012, when Evoco was acquired by the Texas-based retail real-estate management firm Accruent, Reimer and her partners grew the company from their spare bedroom to an operation with 75 Calgary-based employees and a client list that, along with Walmart, included other large-scale retail chains such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s, as well as the eyeglass manufacturer-retailer Luxottica. During that period, Reimer emerged as a mentor and advisor with a passion for getting other startups off the ground. She was one of the original members of the A100, a nonprofit mentorship community for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs in the province, when it launched in 2009, and
Alice Reimer co-founded her first tech startup in 1999 and has since become a mentor, leader and advocate in her field.
purpose and movement. It’s not an individual exercise,” says chaired the organization from 2017 to 2018. She remains an active Kuipers. “What’s really unique about Alice is she gives back to the member to this day. community just as much as she focuses on what she’s trying to do Though Reimer had dabbled in mentorship prior to 2009, joining with her own business. She’s a really effective community leader.” the A100 was what got her into the overall innovation community, That reputation is also what landed her back at her alma mater in “and then it just sort of blossomed from there,” she says. “The focus 2017 as the site lead for Creative Destruction Lab (CDL)-Rockies. of the A100 is really about how do we develop the next generation of Creative Destruction Lab is a non-profit organization, started in Alberta’s technology entrepreneurs? So you have technology entre2012, with a series of locations embedded within business schools preneurs who have started, who have exited, who have operated, who in North America and Europe helping support mostly science and have found some measure of success, and how do we then help take medical technology seed-stage companies that are massively and mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs who want to do the scalable. There are five Creative Destruction same thing so that we can actually create a really “IF WE FOCUS ON Labs in Canada, including the one Reimer interesting and robust innovation ecosystem where manages at the Haskayne School of Business THE PROBLEM AND we can grow and develop companies?” at UCalgary, and three more internationally. In addition to the A100, Reimer also served as BUILD BUSINESS Participants don’t have to be students to be part the chair of Startup Calgary and helped facilitate BASED ON GOOD of CDL programming. the acquisition of that organization by Calgary FUNDAMENTALS, The key focus of CDL is to provide what Economic Development. She considers this project WE’LL CREATE Reimer deems “business judgement” mentoras having the greatest impact of any of her initiaSOLUTIONS AND ship to those who have marketable ideas and are tives so far. “Innovation and technology will be HOPEFULLY GOOD willing to put in the effort to bring them to life. a driving force for diversification in Alberta, and BUSINESSES.” “Capital will follow good ideas and execution, we need to diversify to include the energy sector, —ALICE REIMER and there is no shortage of effort — you don’t not away from it,” she says. “We need to focus on have to be in Silicon Valley to have hustle, you could have hustle energy transition, and we have the depth of knowledge, experience wherever you are in the world,” Reimer says. CDL-Rockies has, and talent in Alberta to define what the future of energy will be. We in the past, had participants from across Canada, the U.S. and have to decide to lead it.” Reimer has particular affinity for the Venture Mentoring Service of Europe. Travel restrictions in place on account of the COVID-19 global pandemic have resulted in CDL shifting to an online platform, Alberta (VMSA), a mentoring program for tech startup CEOs based while otherwise continuing to operate at full capacity. on a similar program out of MIT, championed and sponsored by the With more than two decades of experience creating, running, A100 and formerly hosted by Innovate Calgary (VMAS is now hosted advising and advocating for technology startups under her belt, by Platform Calgary). “The overall philosophy of VMSA is that in order to have a high-performing race team you need a high-perform- Reimer is also well versed in the discrepancies in funding dollars for companies founded by women compared to companies founded by ing car and driver,” she says. “It’s really about the CEO and how you men. True to form, she wasn’t about to just sit back and let this make them a high-performing CEO.” continue to be the status quo. Together with Kuipers and Judy When it comes to offering advice and guidance to startup CEOs, Fairburn, another key figure in the local tech ecosystem and a Reimer has a wealth of past experience to draw on. With Evoco Creative Destruction Lab fellow, the trio founded The51, a Canadashe worked closely with her own CEO, and from December 2014 wide “investment platform” to encourage women with access to to June 2016 she was CEO of Chaordix, a crowdsourcing software capital, as well as those who aspire to, to invest in female-led technology company founded by a former Evoco investor and consultant, startups. The name references women representing 51 per cent of the Shelley Kuipers. population. That number sits in stark contrast to another: only about Reimer also has current experience to draw on as the CEO of 10 per cent of Canadian venture-capital investment has been directed Fillip, a tech startup offering an app-based solution to buying gas that into companies founded by women since 2014. allows users to bypass paying at the pump. Fillip will soon add the “Things just get worse if you’re a woman of colour or LGBTQ. ability to pay for convenience store items remotely as well. The app is They’re staggering statistics,” Kuipers says. “[Reimer, Fairburn and currently in market, with a growing number of gas stations and users. I] have advised companies on raising money, and we ourselves have “The thing I talk a lot about, particularly with young CEOs, is getting done it. So we wanted to create a mechanism where we could access them to acknowledge how heavy the backpack is as a CEO, and that you don’t actually have to carry that backpack on your own. If you sur- female-focused capital.” Alicia Soulier is the founder and CEO of SalonScale Technology round yourself with a team, they’ll help you carry that backpack,” says Incorporated, a technology solution for tracking colouring product Reimer. “Everybody wants to be a CEO until they’re a CEO, and they usage in salons, and is a recipient of both mentorship from Reimer realize how heavy the backpack really is.” and investment from The51. Soulier, who is based in Saskatoon, That team-centric belief in lifting each other up is a key reason first met Reimer at a contest event for startup pitches. Not realizing Reimer has become a cornerstone of the tech ecosystem in her at first that Reimer was connected to The51 and, as such, could home city. “She looks at innovation as a collective mission and 42
CALGARY’S BOLDEST NEIGHBOURHOOD be a potential investor, Soulier reached out for advice when she found herself floundering. “She coached me through everything,” Soulier says. “She watched me go from having 20 days of money left in my bank account, to then raising $660,000 in about a month — and [The51] actually did the last cheque — so she was behind me from day one. She saw me through the hardest times and then coached me through it, and it didn’t matter if it was 9 p.m. after her son was playing soccer, or the morning, she was really there for me — even before she gave me any money. I think that shows her integrity.” Reimer’s ability to remain steadfast through difficult times will certainly be put to the test in this current era of economic uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Reimer has weathered the dot-com bubble bursting in the early 2000s, and recessions in 2008 and 2015, what’s happening now is clearly without precedent. Her advice right now is, first and foremost, to conserve cash and focus on solving a “real problem” as challenging times can be an opportunity to really understand how the solution you are creating is something that people truly need and value. “Build a support system around you — peer CEOs, mentors, advisors — because these are the really tough times and they help to define and shape (and sharpen) your skills,” she says. “Most importantly, if you do have to make tough decisions, treat everyone with respect and compassion, be grateful for their contribution and be there with them.” A solution-focused approach may seem out of step with the tech world’s current fixation on “disruption.” Make no mistake, Reimer is as competitive and ambitious as they come (“she is ambitious as hell,” Kuipers says). For Reimer, that ambition translates to elevating the tech sector as a whole rather than pushing others down to reach the top. “I don’t really love the word ‘disruption’ because I think it creates the wrong focus,” Reimer says. “We should be looking at problems and working to solve those problems rather than focusing on trying to disrupt an incumbent or an old or complacent industry. If we focus on the problem and build business based on good fundamentals, we’ll create solutions and hopefully good businesses.” The future might be uncertain, but the advice is sound. “Her advice is worth more than you would ever imagine,” Soulier says. “And when she chooses to be in your corner and back you, amazing things can happen.”
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Columbia River Paddle.
ALL FLOAT ON Amazing stand-up paddleboarding trips in the mountains for everyone from wobbly beginners to experienced SUP surfers.
tand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, may be a fairly new pastime at your favourite local lake, but it has been around for thousands of years in some form or another. Ancient cultures in Africa, Polynesia, Asia and South America used rudimentary boards and dug-out canoes — propelled by very fit people wielding long sticks — to catch fish and wage nautical battles, long before Princess Alberta was even a twinkle in her father’s royal eye. But even though Albertans have no claim whatsoever when it comes to being originators of stand-up paddleboarding, we’ve certainly latched onto it. And why wouldn’t we? SUP is super fun and a great way to be active in the outdoors. Even though you can SUP on pretty much any pond or stream, having a backdrop of mountain scenery as you float along certainly enhances the experience. Whether you’re a wobbly kneed beginner looking for a peaceful shoreline float or a SUP superstar seeking river rapids, here are some amazing excursions in the mountains not far from Calgary to try this summer if we are able, or to dream about for the times we can return to moutain towns, rivers and lakes. 44
Invermere on the Lake to Radium Hot Springs, B.C., on the Columbia River The easy-going Columbia River, especially the stretch of wildlife-rich wetland between Invermere on the Lake and Radium Hot Springs, B.C., is the perfect trip for shaky stand-up paddleboarders who want to develop their skills. Expect to be on the water for three-to-four hours for this little gem of an adventure, which delivers gorgeous mountain views the entire way, an impressive display of bird life (great blue herons, bald eagles, osprey, grebes, loons and swans are all common sightings) and some tucked-away sandbar stops to stretch the legs. Most importantly, there are no surly surprises as far as rapids or whitewater gnarliness. The Logistics A guide is not necessary for this
trip, but you will need transportation back to the launch site in Invermere from the end point in Radium Hot Springs. Columbia River Paddle, conveniently located at the launch near Pete’s Marina, offers an $85 trip that includes paddleboard and paddle rentals, PFD and shuttle service. Reservations are recommended.
Mountain High Adventures in Fernie.
HAV E SU P W I L L TRAVEL If you haven’t embraced SUP life because you don’t have a vehicle that can transport a board, an inflatable stand-up paddleboard may be just what you need. Inflatables may not be as fast or manoeuvrable
Bow Valley Stand Up Paddleboarding on Two Jack Lake.
as solid boards, but they get the job done just fine for anyone who doesn’t count themselves among the expert division, with the bonus of being compact enough in their uninflated state to stash in the trunk of most cars. As
Opposite page photograph courtesy of Columbia River Paddle; This page photograph by Katie Goldie/ Travel Alberta/Bow Valley Stand Up Paddleboarding; Photograph courtesy of Tourism Fernie
Elk River, Fernie, B.C.
Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park Mountain lakes don’t get much prettier than Two Jack. Gracefully slicing through the pristine reflections of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain atop the smooth surface is a soulsoothing experience for beginners and experts alike. Located just a 15-minute drive from the Banff townsite on the Lake Minnewanka Loop, Two Jack is more sheltered (and quieter) than the loop’s namesake lake. Cap off your cruise with a picnic at one of the lakeside sites.
is of the utmost priority when
The Logistics The Supsquatch group trip is two
spots tend to be frigid. Warm
boarding in downtown Canmore does daily guided tours to Two Jack. The tour is $69 per person and includes all your equipment. Bow Valley SUP also offers board rentals, learn-toSUP and intro-to-river-SUP (fast-flowing water) instruction, morning and sunset SUP tours, yoga SUP and camps. Yes, you could say this popular outfitter definitely knows what’s SUP.
hours long, with daily departures at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. from the Mountain High Adventures office at the Fernie RV Resort. A minimum of four people is required to book this experience, which is offered seven days a week through the end of September. The cost is $99 for adults, $89 for youth (ages six to 15), including gear and transportation to and from the river. An additional solo SUP tour can easily be added on if you want a full-day adventure.
The Logistics Bow Valley Stand Up Paddle-
with any water sport, safety
Mountain High Adventures in Fernie offers solo SUP tours during the summer months on the Elk River and to nearby Lake Koocanusa. They have also turned the idea of SUP being an individual pursuit upside down with their Supsquatch adventure. Supsquatch is a 17-foot super-sized inflatable paddleboard that holds up to eight people, making it a fun option for adventurous families, bachelor or bachelorette parties, or corporate team-building. You and your Supsquatch mates will splash through class I and II rapids on the Elk River as you try (emphasis on try) to stay upright. Expect to have fun. Also expect to get wet.
stand-up paddleboarding. Even on a serene mountain lake like Two Jack, winds can come up quickly and inexperienced paddlers can find themselves in trouble in mere seconds. Wearing a lifejacket is a no-brainer; it can save your life. Getting hypothermia in cold water is also a distinct possibility while stand-up paddleboarding, so consider investing in a wetsuit, especially if your go-to SUP water or cold, always wear your ankle leash to keep your board close by if you happen to fall in. SUP smart and have fun out there.
DECOR BY Colin Gallant PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jared Sych
Homeowner and electrical contractor Joe Fazakas repaired this motorized, rotating kitchen himself and implemented other ambitious structural changes to his home in Springbank’s Emerald Bay.
THE HOME OF THE FUTURE TODAY Joe Fazakas and Liz Nandee put imagination and expertise into a hyper-custom reno that takes advantage of their expertise in technology and home automation as well as design.
oe Fazakas knew he had found his new home in Springbank almost as soon as he arrived at a viewing in 2014. The 10,000-square-foot Emerald Bay property needed significant work, and Fazakas loves a challenge. Plus, the house had almost as much personality as he does. Fazakas owns three businesses in Calgary including Bright FX Electric Ltd., a contracting company that offers everything from basic wiring to home automation. He is a self-described workaholic whose idea of downtime is planning and executing ambitious renovation projects. “I would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes all night,” he says of the time he spent working on his home.
When Fazakas bought it, the home had issues including leakage but also some impressive existing customizations he took inspiration from and wanted to improve upon. The motorized revolving kitchen and island-mimicking floor design in the central entertaining area with its crowning skylight sourced from the Franklin LRT station showed just how amenable to customization the property was. “You can kind of get away with a lot of unique stuff with this house, because it suits it,” says Fazakas. He received an offer to collaborate on a redesign from designer Liz Nandee of Basic Black Designs Inc. after sharing photos of the home online. Nandee, who was featured in Avenue ’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2019, had worked on the home’s previous look. The pair embarked on a collaboration that would take more than five years. Fazakas brought big ideas and did most of the physical labour while Nandee provided aesthetic guidance and sourced the decor materials. “It was a lot of undertaking because he had very specific ideas. I wanted to make sure that they were going to be okay,” says
This unique stonefloor design was left intact, but Fazakas added his own flair including the coppercoloured rhino-head replica with a working fog machine inside.
RIGHT The motorized front entryway was redesigned to look almost like part of a superhero’s secret hideout. Touch screens like the one in the foreground control most features of the home.
ABOVE AND LEFT Fazakas spent nine months working on this motorized hideaway bar fabricated by Hammer Smith Custom Metal Crafting. It includes ample storage for alcohol, LED lights, seating and an overhead design based on a real constellation. It is remote operated and safe to walk on top of when tucked into the floor.
Nandee. “I loved implementing all of the crazy ideas that we both have.” Fazakas’s completed home is a marvel of ingenuity — part entertainment playground, part Batcave, each with “wow factor” and functionality. The revolving kitchen, part of the home when Fazakas bought it but which needed repairs, moves to enclose the space or opens up to an entertainment area adjacent to a back entrance that leads to an outdoor kitchen, hot tub and personal putting green. The hardest-won feature of the entire home is the motorized bar that rises up from out of the floor. The bar, which was fabricated by Hammer Smith Custom Metal Crafting, took Fazakas more than nine months to install and make operational. The process involved digging with pickaxes and using a pulley system to remove the unearthed dirt from the middle of the home. Above the bar’s shelves, a constellation design sparkles overhead and is part of the mobile-controlled LED light system that runs throughout the home. “There’s a rocket ship hidden in the starlight,” says Fazakas of the bar’s lighting design. “It’s an actual constellation. At a certain time of year, it would be the star pattern that’s above your head.” Fazakas’s primary motivation for the design was to create a space for home entertaining. His past bashes have included as many as 200 guests and live music, and often stretched to the lower level’s additional entertaining spaces, which include another bar and a movie room with a working flight simulator. What might come as a surprise is that this was a resale-minded endeavour from day one. Conventional wisdom says a hypercustomized home limits the number of potential buyers, but Fazakas isn’t concerned. He knows first-hand what tech-minded homebuyers want from operating Bright FX Electric, and he’s interested in finding a buyer who will appreciate the house for what it is. For him, resale is less about turning a buck than it is about doing what he loves and then starting anew on his next home. “I’m already thinking of the next project now that the house is kind of done” says Fazakas.
LEFT The lower level includes a bar built by Fazakas, pool and foosball tables on one side, plus the home theatre, flight simulator and mossy rock feature on the other.
T H E S MART HOME STARTER PACK You don’t have to build a motorized bar or revolving
BELOW LEFT Fazakas’s cozy home office space just off the kitchen shows both his rugged, hard-working side and fascination with new tech.
kitchen to start making your home work a little smarter. Joe Fazakas and Liz Nandee have some recommendations on how to get started with popular options. 1. Work with a management system. Some smart home products are compatible with multi-use management systems and some only with proprietary apps. If you’re planning to add a suite of different smart products, look for items compatible with management systems like RTI or Control4. 2. Start with lights and blinds. Fazakas says automated lighting is most people’s first experience with smart home tech. This allows you to set timers and other automated controls for when lights turn on and by how much. “They are easy to install as most of them are LED-powered and are energy efficient,” says Nandee. Similarly, motorized blinds and drapery can be programmed to optimize light and heat in the home. 3. Go With Discreet Options. “As a designer, I find TVs and speakers are always an eyesore in a room,” says Nandee. “New technology allows TVs to be
SOURCE Interior design and select decorative accessories by Basic Black Designs Inc., 403-590-3942, basicblackdesigns.com Smart home system by Bright FX Electric, 403-813-4791, facebook.com/brightfxelectric Select furniture and accessories throughout from Cricklewood Interiors, 6626 Centre St. S.E., 403-258-0050, cricklewoodinteriors.com Select furniture and accessories throughout from InspireLiving, 587-332-0580, 3279 114 Ave. S.E., inspireliving.ca Kitchen pendant light and circle bar unit from Restoration Hardware, Southcentre Mall, 403-271-2122, restorationhardware.com Living room sectional custom from InspireLiving Apple sculpture from Cricklewood Interiors, customized by homeowner and Basic Black Designs Inc. Motorized bar by Bright FX Electric and Hammer Smith Custom Metal Crafting, 4, 4357 14 St. N.E., 403-230-9348, hammersmithcustommetal.com Motorized front door renovated by Bright FX Electric Rhino head is a bargain find customized by homeowner and Basic Black Designs Inc. Basement bar tile by City Tile Design Studio, 532 42 Ave. S.E., 403-541-0017, citytilecalgary.com Office floor and basement bar countertop by Aesthetic Concrete, 237 39 Ave. N.E., 403-225-2515, aestheticconcrete.com
hidden more effectively or disguised as artwork, and speakers are being made smaller, sleeker and wireless, so there’s no need to hide cords.”
WORK OF ART
TITLE: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do, 2010.
CURATED BY Katherine Ylitalo
ARTIST: Joe Fafard (1942 to 2019). MEDIA: Powdercoated 5/8-inch-cut steel plate. LOCATION: Harley Hotchkiss Garden, 611 4 St. S.W. NOTES: This work was commissioned by the Calgary Stampede through the Calgary Stampede Public Art Committee with the support of PennWest Energy, Siebens family of Calgary and the City of Calgary. Other local exterior Fafard sculptures include Pacific Paskwamostos, a laser-cut bison installed in 1996 at 630 3 Ave. S.W., and Van Gogh Observes, a multi-coloured bronze, installed in 2019 outside Masters Gallery at 2115 4 St. S.W.
ight colourful steel horses cavort across downtown’s Harley Hotchkiss Park, a familiar Calgary landmark along the CTrain line. Altogether they form a spirited sculptural herd, though you are in for a treat if you single them out for viewing. The late artist Joe Fafard designed each equine as an amalgamation of snippets that form the convincing shape of a larger-than-life horse on the move. Discovering shapes in the cut-out openings, the solid sections of filigree and even the silhouetted edges is a brain tease, revealing cats, foxes, birds, people and stars. (A closer look reveals further shapeshifting as a tail transforms into a vice grip, another a small swoosh of a horse). Fafard’s Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do* was produced at a foundry in Pense, Sask. He used laser-cut steel off-cuts saved from his previous
works and repurposed them into the ingenious horse compositions. He would continue to recycle over the course of his career. Fafard enjoyed experimenting with materials and developing new processes. Another innovation he brought to Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do was his work with powder coating to achieve rich colours and painterly visual textures. With a base layer of white baked onto the steel plate, he worked into the next layer of sprayed-on colour to remove powder, often with a brush or a stick, to expose some of the white before baking the new colour in place. In this way, Fafard built up multiple layers of colour. Exploring details within each individual horse, one imagines moments in Canadian life since the first shipload of horses arrived as a gift from the royal stables of King Louis XIV to his
subjects in New France in 1655. The versatile breed would pull carts and sleighs, race, carry soldiers into war, become an official symbol of Canada and eventually Fafard’s inspiration. The Calgary Stampede commissioned Fafard to make a pair of identical sculptures, one as a gift to Quebec City in celebration of its 400th anniversary, the other for Calgary in recognition of the sister city relationship. “When I was asked to create a sculpture that would reside in both Quebec City and Calgary, I immediately knew the story I wanted to tell: the story of commonality across this great country,” Fafard said at the time of the official opening in Quebec City. “I have used the Canadian horse as a metaphor to represent sound — a song — a sense of harmony. I added a symphony of colours and then knew it was done.”
* Fans of The Sound of Music should be aware that the spelling of the seventh horse is as Fafard intended and is not a misspelling of, as sung by Julie Andrews: “a drink with jam and bread.” 50
Photograph by Mauritius Images via Alamy Stock Photo
Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do
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