Hello again.

In my first post, I described my plans to be documenting our journey, our restart — from our moment of creation, straight through to launch and beyond. Consider this your backstage pass to the creative process that is entrepreneurship, filled with a world of uncertainty and doubt along the way.

The bankruptcy of Left Technologies is now official. While I know the ending of that journey is not what any associated with the company had wanted, sometimes life is not fair. The pandemic has changed life for everyone. Offices have been shuttered (including ours); lives have been lost; education and schools have been disrupted; borders have been closed; and fear and uncertainty reign supreme.

Left Technologies in Maple Ridge, BC
The sun sets on the old Left Technologies office, closed in August 2020.

But within this, there is hope and opportunity. Stories abound of nature healing itself. Marine life is returning to places not seen in generations, carbon emissions have dropped, and scientists are cooperating and sharing in search of solutions to a global problem. If we can fight this together, then this gives me optimism that we can tackle climate change and other ills that plague the planet.

Most of this post is going to be talking about The Great Acceleration, a concept that describes:

“The dramatic, continuous and roughly simultaneous growth rate across a large range of measures of human activity.”

We have used this concept to identify opportunities in the past, and I believe it will play a large part in this next adventure too, whatever that proves out to be. More specifically, we believe that opportunities exist at the intersections of massive global trends. Concurrent to this is our responsibility to deal with the negative consequences that emerge when these trends collide, stack, and overlap.

But before I expand on this concept, I want to share some insight into the name we likely will be using for this next chapter of our journey (assuming we can close out the acquisition of the dotcom domain, a step we feel is important to creating a globally recognized brand). I feel it is important to tie our chosen name into a post about The Great Acceleration because the name and concept are intertwined closely going forward.

We will be Varoom.

Varooooooooooom. It is fun to say whether and even more fun to imagine what we might create.

Why Varoom? For us, the name is multi-layered, and each layer should be revealed slowly, like a nice meal with friends that lasts deep into the night. Or Ogres. Or parfaits. They all have layers.

First, some additional background about myself for those who don’t know me (which is most who will be reading this). In university, I studied English and Art History. While many joked that this is a great combination of useless skills, it turns out a background in Liberal Arts became a unique combination to dabble with and create startups. My first venture was back in 1997/98, which is also where my friendship with Chris began. He and I were working on different ventures but would meet up to discuss ideas and speculate on how the Internet and our businesses were going to change the world.

When in school, I had assumed that studying English would propel me into a career, be it law or some other such recognizable field. However, I was fascinated by my Art History classes. It wasn’t, “Wow, look at that pretty painting,” but more so, “Why did the artist create a specific work at a specific time? What was socio-economic commentary that was being made? What influence did past masters have on a specific artist or work, and how did that work influence future generations?

Personally, I did not consider myself an artist. I had met many, and I didn’t have any talent nor inclination.

Two real artists (Jenna & Laura) painting a mural in the old Left offices.

It was not until many years after my studies, when well into that first start up, I realized I too was creating art. We all create art. But for me, my canvas was not acrylics, nor marble, nor music, nor charcoal. My art was the company and the ideas that propelled and willed it into existence, sometimes even into the physical manifestation of the office space or employee experience.

What I wanted to create, and the things I would want to build were to be a manifestation of the world around me, and hopefully provide commentary on the socio-economic conditions of the life that I saw. My ethos was that if we built things well, hopefully our ‘art’ would influence future generations and bring about the change we want to see in the world. As with art, only time is the judge of whether it creates this lasting mark. Many companies learned from what we created at Left and copied elements from our culture playbook, or saw that one could build a company to the benefit of all stakeholders, so this did manifest into reality.

The Company’s values being sketched onto a chalk mural inspired many and became a focal point of culture tours.

Which brings us back to our choice for the name/brand of Varoom.

In 1963, an American painter and pop artist named Roy Lichtenstein created a work called Varoom! (and a similarly named Varoom, sans exclamation mark in 1965). While Warhol may be more well renowned today, Lichtenstein was as prodigious and has garnered as much acclaim for his pieces. The painting Varoom! was part of a collection of comic-book style paintings and onomatopoeic words on canvas that was a partial commentary on the militarization of the world. However, to best understand the piece, one has to look at what was also happening in the artist’s world at the time.

Varoom! by Roy Lichtenstein (1963)

In Lichtenstein’s 1963, the world was not far removed from the Cuban Missile Crisis of late October 1962. Children would practice nuclear drills in schools. The global space race was in full swing with Kennedy having pledged to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Civil Rights and Gender Equality were becoming more than just topics around the evening dinner table. And technology was ramping up at what appeared, then, to be a breakneck pace.

In 1963, the world was also experiencing a global consciousness. There was a collective realization that what happened “over there” would impact life at home. A generation before, the idea of flying internationally was unfathomable. Now, PanAm and Trans-World Airlines made the dream of flying across the country, the ocean, or to the other side of the world a realistic possibility. But perhaps the most defining element of the time was the photos that emerged from space, giving the planet a collective selfie for the very first time. With the first photo, we became one.

I like to think that Lichtenstein captured all of this in Varoom! The explosion of technology; commentary on the military-industrial complex; the intersection of the common (comics) with the high-brow world of art; and the realistic and ever-present danger that too-much technological advancements, if left unchecked, could have a disastrous impact on the planet. I also like to think that by using the onomatopoeic word of varoom, his work was a commentary of the speed at which all of this was happening. Whereas paintings like Jackson Pollack were using Action Painting to capture the frenetic pace of life, Lichtenstein did it with the singular word Varoom! exploding into our consciousness.

Dr. Martin Luthor King said in his famous I Have a Dream speech that same year:

1963 is not an end, but a beginning“.

Thus, in my opinion, Lichtenstein’s Varoom! was the artistic starter’s pistol that records the beginning of The Great Acceleration.

The Great Acceleration Explained

What is The Great Acceleration and why should we care? As noted earlier, it refers to the concept that the world is experiencing roughly simultaneous growth across a large range of human activity and the resulting impact that this activity has on the planet and its systems. That which is changing (and being measured) includes:

Socioeconomic trends

  • Population
  • Real GDP
  • Foreign direct investment
  • Urban population
  • Primary energy use
  • Fertiliser consumption
  • Large dams
  • Water use
  • Paper production
  • Transportation
  • Telecommunications
  • International tourism

Earth system trends

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Methane
  • Stratospheric ozone
  • Surface temperature
  • Ocean acidification
  • Marine fish capture
  • Shrimp aquaculture
  • Nitrogen to coastal zone
  • Tropical forest loss
  • Domesticated land
  • Terrestrial biosphere degradation
Earth and Socio-economic Systems since 1750 (Source: IGBP)

For the past 50-60 years, each of the above is changing and accelerating at a rapid rate: sometimes to the benefit, but often to the detriment of the planet and those of us who inhabit it.

Upon returning from our first trip to Bangladesh back in 2013, we decided that we needed to focus our company thesis on building solutions and focusing efforts on opportunities that existed at the intersections of five megatrends, each of which is closely aligned to The Great Acceleration. These megatrends remain:

  • Rapid Urbanization
  • Empowerment of the Individual
  • Digitization of Everything
  • Aging & Changing Nature of Work
  • Connectivity of People & Things
Thesis: There are 5 Global Disruptors and the Largest Opportunities Exist at the Intersections

For the next 7 years, Left was focused on applying technology and marketing knowhow to impact the world around us. This culminated in our efforts to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), which collectively gave the world the ability to measure and create targets for our impact on the people and systems being affected or in need of affectation.

In January of 2020, just before the pandemic, we announced to the world that Left’s corporate goal was to become a “Travel with Purpose” company. We believed that through travel—particularly through international travel—we could impact the UN SDGs. By enabling travel (particularly sustainable travel), the world could grow closer together, become more understanding, find ways to fight injustices and biases, and simply be better and more compassionate. We argued it would be hard to go to war with someone or commit injustices if you have broken bread with their families. Just as our lives were transformed by our first trip to Bangladesh, so too might others experience the world through the eyes of others when they travel.

Which brings us back to the name Varoom and why this brand embodies who we are and what we are trying to create.

We are living in a world of amazing transformation. Life continues to accelerate. With the positive comes the negative, and we must have a collective awareness to address these issues head on. While travel and tourism have untold benefits, over tourism has negative impacts on the world. International tourism was one of the 12 socioeconomic trends that was accelerating at an unbelievable pace. And while this pace has been momentarily slowed during the pandemic, we believe that it is not only going to come back, but it is going to come back faster and have an even greater impact on the world in the next 50 years.

So for us… ‘Va’ means ‘Go’ or ‘Goes”. We also like to think that ‘Va’ is also short for ‘vacation’, of which we all can benefit from having more of. ‘Room’ is a place where we stay and where we live. But ‘room’ is also what we want and need more.

  • More Room to Stay
  • More Room to Play
  • More Room to Sleep
  • More Room to Dream
  • More Room to Work
  • More Room to Relax
  • More Room to Read
  • More Room to Romance
  • More Room to Laugh
  • More Room to Explore

We have big plans for Varoom and for rebuilding the company to address problems that exist in the world. While we will recreate a lot of what we did at Left and Left Travel, we have a lot of other sub projects that will live at the intersection of the megatrends that are affecting our planet. While not all products or features will be available at launch—after all, this is not the end, but the beginning—we feel that Varoom is something that will allow us to launch and soar to new heights.

Today, Varoom is short for ‘Vacation Room’, but it also stands for fast, spacious travel to nearby places and the activities you will do during your journey. We envision making it easier for everyone to travel. We want more people to not just travel, but to travel better. We want to create a world in which everyone has more time and room to play, to relax, and to work (if you must). We want to give people the opportunity to have more room to dream, and more room to enjoy those important moments we used to take for granted.

We want Varoom to be the ideal place that works for you, your needs, and those you chose to share your time with. We know that international travel is off the agenda for most people for the near future, but we will soon be able to go further again.

Varoom – Coming Soon

We look forward to being with you on this next great adventure.


John, Founder


Note: This post was written in October 2020 following the bankruptcy of Left Technologies, yet not published onto this site until August 2021.