We are back. Here’s what is UpNext.

One year. This is what we told ourselves and our respective partners. We would take one year to recharge and reset and ensure we were free of any conflicts. We owed it to them after a rollercoaster of ups and downs, of tears and triumph. As of this week, one year will have elapsed since our journey with Left Technologies came to an end, the company we co-founded and poured our hearts into for more than a decade.

Yes, we dabbled a bit here and there since last summer. We pulled together a consortium to acquire the assets of Left Technologies after its valiant struggle to survive. Once acquired, we kept monetizing, we caught our breath, and we watched the world unfold.

But now, the wait is over, it is time to soar... upwards.

Left Travel will become UpNext Travel Later in 2021 as we evolve our platform and brands.

We are building a decentralized travel marketplace to connect travelers to property owners and managers. This marketplace will operate under the Rent By Owner brand and be available in multiple languages and geographies around the world, operating on more than 50 unique domain names. The pandemic has highlighted how inefficient the existing travel ecosystem really is, especially in the short-term rentals market. This inefficiency manifests into higher fees absorbed by travelers, resulting in less travel being taken and less memories being made. When Left Travel becomes UpNext, we will build an efficient market in which travelers can connect directly to the property owner or manager, seamlessly transact and trust, and worry less about whether the place they book will meet expectations. Rent By Owner will be for travelers, by owners.

We believe that better memories are made when we foster better travel.

We will be talking and sharing a lot more of our vision soon and our belief in this statement, but we wanted to start here with these thoughts and this post. This blog entry will be added to a few more blog posts written over the past year (backposted to the time when they were written), as they help to paint the picture for this next chapter and the journey that has led us to create our ‘why’.. This includes:

Being better means not settling for good enough. Being better means exceeding expectations. Better implies we can improve on the negative impacts of travel while enhancing the positive. We also believe that because travel connects us to other people, other places, and to new ideas, the world grows closer the more we interact and travel. Thus, if we can make travel more efficient, more people will be able to travel, meet new people, expand horizons, and enhance understandings. Thus, when we build a more efficient marketplace, we will create more travelers and create more memories worth sharing. This is our north star.

We are still known as Left Travel Inc formally, but we will soon be rebranded to UpNext Travel and both this current Left Travel website as well as that of Left Technologies will be pointed to this new site. We do want to keep some elements of the old Left website operational as those stories and those memories are worth holding onto, even with this new beginning. UpNext will be operating five primary brands that will evolve in the coming weeks, months, and years:

  • Rent By Owner – For Travelers. By Owners. This is a more efficient marketplace for travelers to find and book short term rentals.
  • Hotala – Connecting travelers, particularly those traveling internationally, with better accommodation and travel choices
  • Varoom – For things to see and do on the journey itself.
  • Charters – For luxury experiences, transport, and one-of-a-kind memory making
  • OneDegree – We believe we can (and must) encourage the world to travel sustainably.

Just before the pandemic began, Left had been repositioned itself as a company that enabled “Travel with Purpose.” We believed then and still do today, that the best companies should be measured by not just their bottom line, but on their overall contribution to the world. The core values we espoused helped us create a new kind of company that was recognized locally, nationally, and even internationally as being “Best for the World” in how we treated our team, how we participated in the community, and how we tried to model what we wanted to see in the world. These values were inside us, and while Left itself is no longer, we will carry forward those ideals into UpNext.

After ten years, there was a lot to be proud of in that which we created. We were proud of what we had built at Left, Left Travel, and the other companies and projects we were involved with along the way. We were proud of our team, both in Canada and in Bangladesh. We were proud of the innovation and technology we had created, including our approach to data-driven marketing and our breakthroughs in mesh connectivity. We were proud of the impact we made in our community and other companies, including inspiring others to join the B Corp movement.

A year ago, we would have also said that we have a lot of regrets: regrets for projects unfinished, or objectives unmet. However, every decision made in the past has brought us to where we are today, to a place of optimism and hope for what comes next. Everyone has a choice to live in the past, to dwell on what might have been, or to look up and forward. Life is about what is up next.

In the beginning, we went left. Then we went right. But this next chapter keeps our values alive yet aligned towards a new direction.


John, Chris, & Rakib

It is Kind of Fund to do the Impossible

Well, this is interesting and a little unexpected. The past year has been full of surprises: tears, joy, sadness, fear, extreme loss, and a lot of uncertainty. But as of Thursday February 11, we have been approved as the successful bidder of 100% of the assets of our previous company, Left Technologies. This includes all of Left Travel Inc, the travel company spin out we had formed back in 2015… five years after we started Left Technologies itself.

Walt Disney's famous saying stenciled above our desks (2011-2015)

How did we get here you ask? The pandemic blindsided the parent company, Left Technologies. We were amid an amazing growth streak for the travel business. Revenues were growing month over month before the pandemic. We had just been named, for the second consecutive year, onto Deloitte’s Fast 50/500 for Canada and North America as one of the fastest growing technology companies. We had built an automated demand generation engine that was built on billions of data points and one million bookings.

We had attempted to recover and rapidly correct course, but our growth had put us into a precarious position. As a B Corporation, we had a duty to all stakeholders and not just to our shareholders. By April of 2020, we were fighting for survival, and fight we did. But by June, we had filed for creditor protection as the weight of our debts outstripped our projected revenues and our ability to service these debts. By July, we had to say goodbye to the entire team (ourselves included). What was in the best interest of our team, partners, community and creditors outweighed our duty to shareholders. By the end of August, the company had fallen into bankruptcy and the assets were turned over to a court-appointed trustee.

In September, as we had started to formulate some ideas about what we were going to do next, we realized that while the future remained uncertain, it did make sense to put our best foot forward to acquire the assets as, were we to be successful, we could shortcut our path to whatever came next. We always believed in Walt Disney's famous quote, "It is kind of fun to do the impossible," and we had 'dreaming rooms' in every office in which we conceived of impossible ideas that if we were just crazy enough, they might just work. To pull off the acquisition and make this impossible possible, several team members liquidated savings, refinanced homes, and stepped up to put together a bid. Our success was not a forgone conclusion as there could be any number of buyers who would also see value in the assets.

The process dragged on. And on. And on. We had to operate and plan and assume that we would not get the assets back. We had to create plans and business models that looked at all sorts of opportunities. We had acquired Varoom.com and a whole lot of other assets and were prepared to go forth with our new strategy entirely on that domain, but what would we do if we did get the assets? What would we do if we did not? Everything was on the table.

But here we are. The courts accepted our bid and has provided us with something more valuable than the assets themselves: we bought ourselves some time to think, time to plan, time to spend moments with our families, and time to research what it is we want to build, the problems we want to solve, and focus on our ‘why’.

Chris & John - The adventure continues

And if the pandemic has taught us anything, time is the one thing that we should not take for granted.


John, Founder

Note: This post was written in February 2020, yet not published onto this site until August 2021.

2020 is Not the End But the Beginning

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.

Adventure is out there

Hello [again] World.

“Hello, world!”

That phrase has been uttered and typed a million times in computer programming. It symbolizes a start, a new beginning, the adventure yet to come. For us, however, I am attempted to write “Hello again, world.”

This is not a start, but it is a new beginning. Years ago, when I (John Lyotier, the writer of this first blog entry) was working on a new project called ‘YO!’, my friend and then Creative Director, Joe Deobald, challenged me to document the journey. He said at the time, and I paraphrase, “You never know where the story may go. It may be really big, so sometimes it is good to create a journal of what got you to your destination.”

I promised him then, in that story, that I would document my thoughts and create a living log of the journey taken. After all, I love telling stories. And after ten years of creating my last adventure book, I am not done yet.

Adventure is out there
“Adventure is out there!” (From Pixar’s animation masterpiece, ‘UP!’)

I do not know yet where these posts will live. That is one of the first challenges in front of us: to create a brand that matches this audacious undertaking.
Who is us? We are the team behind Left Technologies, Left Travel, RightMesh, W3 Engineers, and a whole world of other brands. For ten years, we had built a home and company in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada and in Khulna, Bangladesh. Yes, these are two unlikely locations from which a company could be built, but that is essential to understanding that which we want to create and why.

To understand our new story, it is important to understand where we have come from. Ten years ago, in June of 2010, myself and my good friend, Chris Jensen, started up a company called Left of the Dot Media Inc. We did not know what we were going to be building at the time, but we knew that we wanted to build something of real and lasting value that made our mark and impacted our Community. It was called “Left of the Dot” because we were working on generic domain names and building out brands and companies that were left of the ‘dotcom’.

John Lyotier and Chris Jensen
John Lyotier and Chris Jensen in 2010, working out of Starbucks

Even before we knew what we were going to be building, we got together and created a shared list of ten core values. These values would be our ‘unwaverables’. They would be with us, and guide us, and offer us comfort in times of stress. These values were quickly summarized with our tagline, “We are Left. We do things Right.”

Over the next three years, the company grew. Our first employee was someone we had found online, Rakib Islam (then a stranger, now a friend). Rakib was a young and talented engineer who worked out of his home in Khulna, Bangladesh. Our second, was the aforementioned Joe, a talented designer with whom I had worked previously. Then we grew again, adding Ayesha, Rashid, Sabbir to our team in Bangladesh, and many more here in Canada. I mention the names because this team is with us still on this new adventure, building again something which we felt we had left uncompleted.

In those first few years, one of the brands we had developed out was Villa.com. Our initial goal was building out sub-brands “left of the dot”, so we had launched sub-domains off that original domain name. They became sites like “Tuscany.Villa.com” or “Orlando.Villa.com”. We never really got traction with this business model, but it exposed us to travel and alternative accommodations specifically.

The original mockup of our old Villa.com website, circa 2011.

Then, in the Spring of 2013, one thousand days into our journey and on the edge of insolvency, we sold Villa.com on behalf of the owner and used our share of the proceeds to fund the creation of a new subsidiary that we called Left Travel. The goal with Left Travel was to build a demand generation engine that connected travelers with places and accommodation options from those who had travel to sell. Think large OTAs with a lot of inventory that had an insatiable demand for high-intent travelers.

We used the domain names belonging to initial shareholders, be it RentByOwner.com, RentalHomes.com, BedroomVillas.com, or

Rent By Owner
An early version of the Rent By Owner homepage

Renters.com as our starting blocks. Our initial focus was on alternative accommodations as we saw these as the largest growth area and needed to meet the expected surge in international arrivals. For context, this was still in the early years of Airbnb and prior to Vrbo being a part of Expedia. Over the years, the domains changed, but our commitment to building a platform that connected travelers with travel sellers did not.

However, that initial spring was momentous for a different reason. It was also the year of our first trip to Bangladesh to meet our colleagues in person. Up to that time, all business was done remotely over Skype. I had never been anywhere like Bangladesh before, and this first experience changed me while transforming the company.

Opening of Bangladesh Office photo
Chris Jensen opening the office in Khulna, Bangladesh in 2013 while John, Ayesha, and Rashid look on.

I have said on other occasions that when we left the Vancouver Airport, we had a 7-person company. But when we had returned, we had grown to a team of 25. For it was on that first trip, that our team of 7 and Rakib’s team of 18 became one. Not economically or legally, we had already tied that knot with an interdependence of circumstance and choice, but with friendship and understanding. This is what travel does to you. It opens your eyes and hearts to new possibilities and new worlds. Hello world, indeed.

Over the next seven years, the company grew and transformed, never forgetting our roots or our values. “We are Left. We do things Right” was emblazoned on our front door. We built several different products (some successful, and some less so). We were recognized by industry peers for the culture we had created. This had included being two-time winners of each of the BC Tech Association’s TIA award for best Community Engagement balancing “Work, Life, and Play”; twice being recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers (and the smallest on the list); and twice honored by Deloitte’s Fast 50 as one of the fastest growing technology companies as measured by growth in revenue.

Tough Mudder team photo
The team celebrating our 2nd Tough Mudder completion, a different kind of win.

I raise these awards not to toot our own horn, but to highlight the dichotomy of how quickly success can turn to failure—to emphasize how quickly that which you hold close can disappear overnight. In the Spring of 2020, Left Technologies became victims of the pandemic.

We did not see it as first. I mean, we saw the physical signs. In February, I traveled through Hong Kong on the way back from Bangladesh and saw the airport was a ghost town. But our numbers masked the underlying seriousness. In February, we were up more than +90% YoY as the Left Travel growth engine was in full force, chugging along. By March, cancellations swept over the industry. By April, it was all-hands on deck in a fight for survival. In June, we filed for creditor protection. And in August, after more than ten years of love, sweat, and tears, the company had filed for bankruptcy. It was over.

However, if you are reading this, it means that I have found a home for these words. It means this time of rest and uncertainty has manifest into a new project we have started has taken root. In those final few months of Left, I communicated regularly with the team, telling stories from the years that had passed. I signed off on each post with the word, “Upwards”. We had gone ‘left’ and ‘right’, but the writing was on the wall that it was time for a new direction.

Left Technologies offices in Maple Ridge
After 10 years with Left, cheers to a new beginning.

So once again: Hello world. Cheers to a new beginning and to a new direction.



John Lyotier, Founder


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