On Making Your Mark

Note: I figured this was a good place to start my journey on Medium. This is a transcript of a talk I gave to our team over in Khulna, Bangladesh in May of 2017. It tells you, dear reader, a bit about my journey thus far.
John Lyotier, Co-Founder, Left — Team-wide Address to Left Bangladesh team May 25, 2017

I am taking the unusual step of writing out my words to you today, less so that I might read them to you, but more because I want you to have a copy that you might share with your families and friends. It is my hope that the words may reverberate — echo if you will — from person-to-person-to-person, much like we hope that messages, content, and yes even currency … will move between devices on the technology that we create.
Because today’s talk is important. It is about having a sense of purpose and making your mark in the world.
On my journey over from Canada to Bangladesh, I finished a blog post that was shared on the Left company website and out through Facebook about the Importance of Storytelling. I don’t know if anyone here read that post, and I won’t take offense if nobody here did, but in that post I described why I believe in Storytelling.
As an entrepreneur, your life depends on your ability to tell a story. You need to be able to convince investors, your customers, your partners, your employees, and most importantly your wife and family that the journey you are on is one that is worthy of your time, energy, and passion. Your journey must give you purpose.
So let me tell you a story:
The Left story began, not 7 years ago as everyone assumes. It began far before that when Chris and myself, each separately, started forming our sense of self, our sense of identity. When we became friends in 1998, we both had already established who we were and what we stood for. Our very nature was crafted in childhood, in elementary school, in high school, and in university. We became who we were through the interactions and the experiences we had along the way.
So when we met, it was already pre-determined by our journey that far that we had a lot of similar values and ideals. It was what made us friends who respected and trusted each other, it has helped us weather storms, and it has helped us craft a shared vision for the future that we try to create.
Back when I was in university, I was having one of those existential, early-life crises where I questioned, “What is the point?”, “Why are we here?”, and “Where will my life take me?” … You know, typical twenty-something-year-old angst when you are uncertain of the future and about the role that you were going to play in the world.
I remember the day clearly: it was March 15th and it was a cool, somewhat misty Vancouver day. I decided to take a walk and went down to this beach near the university. I sat there for a while, contemplating life, doing not much other than … existing.
I started to watch a small, little shore bird chase small fish in the waves, running back and forth in the froth and foam… doing nothing… other than existing … and surviving.
With every wave, the small little bird would run back and forth, leaving footprints in the sand scrambling to eat, and each subsequent wave would come in and wash its footprints away, but bringing more food to discover.
I looked back at the path from where I came and I saw my footprints in the sand. And like the bird, the rising tide and waves had started to erase my path, my footprints, my proof that I existed.
At first I was dejected. There goes all meaning I thought, any evidence that I was there was being eroded one wave at a time.
But then like a crash of a really big wave, it hit me. I had made my mark. Yes, the waves had come and washed them out, but my footprints in the sand were proof that I existed. They were there, if but for a moment, there was my lasting impact on the world around me.
I picked myself up off the log on which I sat and began to walk, at a rather brisk pace I might add, back up to the campus. Along the way, I grabbed a leaf off a small tree and held it in my hands, twirling it by the stem. It was just a green leaf, but I realized that I had made my mark on my environment.
I walked further along and I smiled at a pretty girl coming towards me. She smiled back. I realized that you don’t just make your mark on the physical world, but with a simple smile, you can make your mark on others. Throughout the day, I continued to make my mark. I held a door open for someone. They said thank you. I had made my mark.
I went ice skating and there before me was a clean sheet of ice, not a single mark on it. I laced up my skates and pushed forth, my skates cutting deep grooves into the ice with each stride. Now, you probably don’t know this here, what in this 40c degree heat that we have, but after you finish skating, a machine called a Zamboni — comes along scrapes off the surface of the ice and melts a new layer. The end result is a clean sheet for the next period of hockey or the next group of skaters.
I remember watching the Zamboni erasing all of the marks that I had made, and I wondered again about the futility of it all. Yes, I had made a mark if not a hundred, but they were gone not a moment later. They were transient. Non permanent.
At that moment, I knew my life’s calling. I had to make my mark… make a mark so deep that it could change the world.
But where to start? I was not a scientist, nor an engineer. The odds of me creating the next great Canadian invention or curing cancer was few and far between. Well maybe if I had lived forever, I could create such a mark, but life and science itself prevents such a feat.
Except it also provides a way. When you go through life, your words and your actions touch people. You impact their lives. The things you do every day… they matter a lot. You have the opportunity to make a mark on those you interact with, and you can choose to make a positive mark or a negative one. It is a choice.
I spoke yesterday with Rashid and Piash about another way of making your mark, and that is through teaching others. Be it to friends, colleagues, or your children. Every one of you is a teacher. Every one of you has the skills, the knowledge, and yes … the responsibility to teach others.
It is a Canadian trait, and it appears to be in the nature of most Bangladeshis as well, to believe that there are others who are better and more qualified to teach and to inspire others. We look at the world around us and we ask for guidance from others. And while it is perfectly fine to be inspired and learn from those you come into contact with… they too are making their mark on you, after all … you have a chance to lead and make your mark in ways that you can’t even imagine.
The journey we are on at Left, together, is one in which we have an enormous challenge in front of us. We believe that we can create products and technologies that can make the world a better place. We believe that we can make our mark on this world, so we must choose to make our mark for the better.
As a company, we have to lead by example.
You may have noticed that on all of my presentations and talks that I gave here this week, that I had this icon on the first and last slide. This is the symbol of B-Corp. and I am very humbled to share with everyone here, that as of last week, Left officially became a certified B-Corp.
What is a B-Corp? B Corps are companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. To become a B-Corp, companies must adhere to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. This designation was something that we worked on obtaining for over one year, and we will continue to work on to improve upon our score each and every year.
Why? Because it is the right thing to do.
I wanted to leave you with one final thought before we open things up for questions.
I spoke a few moments ago about making your mark and creating something of real and lasting value. There is another way to obtain immortality and create a mark that if done properly, could change the world… and this is through children.
Many of you are new parents yourself, so you know of which I speak. Through your children, you see yourself. You see yourself in them when they laugh, and it physically pains you when they cry. You want a better world for them, a world that builds bridges and not walls. You want a world that has unimaginable opportunities, choice, equality, and justice. You make your mark with your children every day.
We talk openly at Left that ‘Family is Important’, and this is part of the reason why. Many of you know that I have two sons: my youngest who just turned 11, his name is Alec. My oldest becomes a teenager next week as he turns 13, a great milestone in any man’s life. His name, not coincidentally… his name is Marc.

Hour of Code: Inspiring Children by Inspired Lefties

We always speak of the importance of our core values here at Left, and not that I play favourites, but “Make a Difference in Your Community” is one of my personal favourites. The internal satisfaction and gratitude you get when you have an impact on others are undeniable. Particularly with kids. There is something about their excitability that has a lasting impact. Knowing that the little things that we so often take for granted are genuinely shaping the minds of the youth is incredible.
Inspired by this, last Thursday we opened our doors to the community and had 4 classes (100+ kids in grades 4,5,6) come in and learn about what it is like to work in tech and talk about how "work can be fun if you are following your dreams and passions". We spent an hour and a half with each class doing some Scratch coding lessons, innovative demonstrations (play time with geeky toys), and a tour of the office. By the end, I think we were all inspired by the questions and excitement from the kids. Sure, we were exhausted by the end (kudos to all the teachers out there), but also extremely rewarded. When we were asking the kids some of their dreams and getting responses such as, “make a robot”, “create a game using virtual reality” or “own a company like this”, it was a good reminder that this is an amazing opportunity to have a positive influence. Of course, this was after the kids spent time playing with our geeky things that our team has passions for: Oculus, Robots, Raspberry Pi hacks, 3D printing, and Drawing.
It’s important that we share with our youth the endless possibilities that are in front of them. Sharing that Jenna is the amazing artist who not only created our huge chalk mural but also draws the characters in our app was inspiring to the artists in the group. Highlighting that tech isn’t just about coding and developing was a way for us inspire kids who didn’t think they would work in a tech company.
Believing in the incredible is another one of our core values at Left and it was truly incredible to share our passions and knowledge with the brilliant kids of the future. With some of their questions and ideas, I was ready to hand out application forms. Hopefully, they won’t forget about us once they’re all grown up and become smarter than all of us!
Computer Science Education week starts on December 5th and within that is an Hour of Code event that you can read more about here. We kicked it off a little early with our office tour, but we usually try to do things a little differently. You might also see our Lefties out volunteering at other schools for more Hour of Code fun this week. If so, don’t be shy and ask them what their favourite part of the day was!
To see some of the action, check out our video here.
BeFunky Collage

Innovating More Than Just Technology at The Canadian HR Awards

Left at the Canadian HR Awards

Now before we get started, I know what you might be thinking, ‘I thought Left didn’t do the HR thing?"

You’re right... well sort of!  As with most things we do, we challenged the status quo and went with Employee Experience instead of HR. This speaks to who we are as a company, a community member, family and friends. It may only be one role in the company -- our Employee Experience Manager -- but the whole team truly takes part in making our culture what it is today. So with that being said, not only do we do the "HR thing sort of", but we were finalists at the Canadian HR Awards that were just held last week in Toronto on September 15th. Lucky me, I was whisked across the country to get all spiffed up and show off Lefty Pride. You see, we were actually up for two awards this year:

The Venngo Award for Excellence for Financial, Physical and Mental Wellness and The Ultimate Software Award for Best Workplace Culture. Both of these awards emphasize how our best-practices are making a difference in the lives of our employees both at work and in their personal lives.

For the most part, we are stereotypical modest Canadians that don't like to brag; however, when you take the time to reflect it becomes clear that we don't give ourselves enough credit. Our traditions and initiatives are not only unique and innovative, but they also go above and beyond standard HR practice. It is a rewarding task to reflect on the aspects of our day-to-day culture that make us who we are and share those with people on the outside.

Between The Dream Program, our award winning Community Engagement Program, or our use of real-time measurement of Employee Engagement (which currently sits at 9.1/10), we are constantly adapting our practices to keep our Lefties having fun at work. I recall a student asking two of our Lefties, "What is it about Left that you love" and the responses were similar in that they both talked about it being like a playground. Left is a place where people can work on things they are passionate about with the freedom to explore new things. To me, this was a priceless response.

When I entered the field of HR, everyone scrunched their nose up and said, "nobody likes those people". From then on, my dream has been to work for a company where I can be part of changing that fundamental belief. That's exactly what we are doing at Left by ensuring the employee experience is the best it can be. Our people are the core of everything we do, and we work hard to make them feel valued. Win or lose, these awards were an opportunity for us to mingle with other change makers who are setting the standard of putting people first in their business.

In the end, we didn’t triumph this time around. And while we do want to send out big congratulations to the winners, we also wanted to give a shout out to all Canadian companies who were nominated for these prestigious awards. Every nominee, win or lose, is shaping the future of how employment experiences ought to be. 

Melissa Quinn
Employee Experience Manager at LEFT

PS… A few weeks ago, the awards committee sent out a film crew to get some interviews with our founders. And while we may not have won the awards that night, I think we may have won the best video of the night award [if that was a real category]. In typical Leftie fashion, we had a little bit of fun with it. And for your enjoyment, here it is:

Left wins 2016 Tech Impact Award for Community Engagement

So we woke up this morning as the repeat winner in the Community Engagement category for the 2016 BC Tech Association’s TIA awards. And while the wine was flowing in celebration afterwards, less than 8 hours later it was back to ‘business as usual’… though our Wednesday morning ‘usual’ is hardly that as we start each Wednesday with an early morning cardio bootcamp for the team at a local fitness club.
In the office, there were some high fives that spread around the room with those who could not make the gala, and a quick passing of the heavy-as-brick trophy from person to person (with a few carrying it aloft like Lord Stanley’s cup).  But the celebration quickly abated before our Lefties settled into their daily routines.  Everyone had work that needed doing.
As the day progressed, and while the mood remained positive (it almost always is), I started to reflect on the previous night's gala and the next-day energy of the team. Yes, there were a few guffaws about having to get a bigger (and reinforced) shelf to hold this latest embodiment of success. But honestly, I noticed a distinct almost ho-hum nature to the team today.  You see, between the win last night, last year’s win in the same category, our Best Workplace win from a few months ago from Small Business BC, and the Business of the Year award from the Maple Ridge Chamber, we have kind of become used to having this winning feeling.
Now, before it sounds too much like I am bragging by citing these accomplishments (and the team's somewhat laissez faire attitude to this success), I need to qualify this with a very humble… we are so very honoured to be recognized by our Community and our peers with each and every award. And it is hard to brag or be arrogant about this success when we are genuinely shocked each time we hear our name called out (especially given the calibre of the companies we were up against with VictorySquare and Traction on Demand -- both excellent and admirable companies).
However, I don’t think our team actually realizes the magnitude of what they just accomplished. They just showed us something incredible, a word that carries a lot of weight around these parts.

A few Lefties after winning the 2016 TIA for Community Engagement Award.
A few Lefties posing with that winning feeling

A bit more  background for those unfamiliar with the BC Tech Association and the Community Engagement Award that we were just blessed with:

“Founded in 1994 by the BCTIA, the Technology Impact Awards (TIAs) celebrate the successes of our industry and the companies, people and innovation that continue to put British Columbia on the map....[The Community Engagement] award recognizes a company that embraces corporate social responsibility. By engaging their employees, winners of this award are focused on building a corporate culture that has a positive impact on the community in which they live, work, and play.”

This particular accolade was first introduced in 2010, replacing the Leader in Sustainable Technology category, which was awarded at the gala event for the 10 years prior to that. Past winners (of both awards) include a veritable who’s who of successful BC Technology companies, including: TELUS, IBM, Business Objects (SAP), Sierra Wireless, Global Relay, Traction on Demand, AbeBooks, Westport Innovations, and several other notable names.
But last night, our little experiment in doing the right things right, saw little old LEFT become not just the first back-to-back winner, but also the first two-time winner… something that all those other iconic BC companies never achieved. Incredible indeed.
While I won’t go into detail in this post about what we do that makes our Community Engagement program award winning (that is covered quite extensively in this article here), I do need to highlight just one thing that I think makes us special and somewhat unique. You see, our community engagement program is embedded into the very DNA of our team. It is what makes each Lefty do what they do. As a company, we are all aligned to our 10 core values and we are driven to make our mark in the world, a mark that starts by impacting things at home in our province, in our cities, and in our neighbourhoods. This is our Community, and we could not be more proud of it.
Thanks again for the privilege of being the 2016 TIA recipient of the BC Tech Association’s Community Impact award.
We are truly honoured.

The Spirit of BC Tech – What is it and why you should vote.

On Thursday night we learned that Left had been named a 2016 TIA Finalist in the category of Community Engagement. This is the same award that we were so humbled to win last year, the criteria for which states:

“This award recognizes a company that embraces corporate social responsibility. By engaging their employees, winners of this award are focused on building a corporate culture that has a positive impact on the community in which they live, work, and play.”

For those of you who know Chris or myself (or for that matter, for those who know any of the proud Lefties that give up their time to get involved in our Community, and make Left the Best Workplace in BC), you know that Community is at the heart of both ‘what’ we do and ‘why’ we do what we do.
However, this blog post is not about that nomination or our Community Engagement program. It is about another BCTIA nomination announced the same night, where all Tech Impact Award finalists are eligible for a People’s Choice Award’ to be awarded the night of the BCTIA Gala on June 7, 2016.
This is called the Spirit of BC Tech award, and yes, we want to win… but this one is actually bigger than us.

Click here to vote for the Spirit of BC Tech

A few years ago, I went to the BCTIA Gala banquet as a guest of the Maple Ridge Economic Development department whom had sponsored one of the tables for ‘Tomorrow’s Tech Titans’.
I must admit, my first thought was, “Hey that’s cool, they think that we are one of tomorrow’s tech titans!” But then I learned that I was invited because they wanted me to advise a few of those that were actually tomorrow’s tech titans. Apparently, we had already achieved the level of success that would classify Left as a tech titan for today.
[Editor’s note: Coincidentally, one of tomorrow’s titans that I sat with was Jane Chung from Perked.co. We are now a beta customer of their Culture Intelligence Platform and I would encourage everyone to check it out.]
At the gala, however, I started to talk with a lot of the other students in attendance and other young tech entrepreneurs. I shared stories from both our company’s history as well as my own personal journey through BC’s tech scene. I talked about how we started, where we received our first angel funding, how we dealt with failure, how we built our team, what was working well (and what wasn’t), and probably most prophetic … I talked about the 10 Core Values that we had built our company around, our value of Community, and how important Our Values were in building a company that could be proud of.
Earlier this year, the province announced a multi-year #BCTECH strategy that involved, $100M BC Tech Fund for investment, grants for training employees, and perhaps most importantly, several programs focused on youth tech education. And while a lot of the debate post announcement focused on implementation details, I believe many missed the underlying tone of the strategy and the plan.
The BC of tomorrow will have technology at its core. I believe that every job will be a tech job or will require those employed to have a technical competency: from reading GIS in forestry, to operating diagnostic equipment in healthcare, to drone maintenance in agriculture, to inventing new wireless mesh technologies (as we are doing), and so on and so on. And likewise, the tech job of the future is not limited to the engineer, the programmer, or the researcher. The tech job of the future is for anyone interested in business, finance, marketing, project management, logistics, or customer support. These roles are just as important to creating a sustainable tech ecosystem as the engineer or application specialist.
When I was in high school back in the 80’s in small-town northern BC, my high school guidance counselor questioned my decision to pursue post-secondary education with the rhetorical question of, “Why would you ever want to go to university, when you already have a great job in the sawmill?!?
My personal journey saw me go on to UBC for what I thought was going to be a pursuit of Law, but within a few years after graduation with a Bachelors of Arts, I had landed my first job in tech working in an entry-level marketing position with Prologic (Richmond, circa 1997, which became Fincentric). Fast forward a few years and I was working in this new field called ‘E-business’ and was fascinated by this new ‘Internet’ thing that I had a feeling was here to stick. And now, another 15+ years after that, here we are working to create brand new communication protocols that can connect the next billion in off-grid, decentralized mesh connectivity using affordable smart devices – concepts that were unfathomable just a few years ago let alone 25 years back.
I guess I could forgive that guidance counselor for not suggesting a career in technology as the world in which he was advising tomorrow’s titans, looked nothing like the world in which we live today.
The ‘Spirit of BC Tech’, thus is not just a popularity contest for those who are already active players in technology, it is a clarion call for all parents or grandparents to get informed about a few of the technology companies that are spread across this wonderful province. And while it is possible that your children or grandchildren may find themselves working in companies like this year’s finalists, it is just as likely that they will be working with a technology that has not yet been invented.
Click here to vote for the Spirit of BC Tech  and share this post with others across the province too. Together, we can make BC soar.
[Editor’s Note: After being informed that Left was eligible for this BCTIA People’s Choice Award, I went in search of the decision criteria, and more importantly, I wanted to read the stories about each of the finalists, hoping to make an informed decision about who to vote for … OK, who am I kidding, I voted for ourselves.
However, for your convenience, here is a quick matrix of the 2016 BCTIA Finalists that can be considered for the Spirit of BC Award. The lone criteria is simply which company gets the most votes. However, I would recommend you considering the mission and values of the BCTIA, which is guided by their vision, "To make BC the best place to grow a tech company, supported by the core values: Be of Service, Succeed Together, and Pay it Forward."
The descriptions below are copied directly from their listed BCTIA description, the finalists' own websites, or other public sources.]

Company & City URL Description
Allocadia (Vancouver) http://www.allocadia.com/ Allocadia is cloud software for Marketing Operations that helps marketing teams manage their marketing investment planning, budgeting and marketing ROI. Enterprises see immediate financial benefits by re-allocating marketing budgets to the highest-performing campaigns. Customers include F5 Networks, VMWare, Juniper Networks, Stepstone and Trimble.
Aspect Biosystems (Vancouver) http://aspectbiosystems.com/ Aspect Biosystems has developed a 3D bioprinting platform and human cell culture technology capable of creating living human tissues on demand. We have a long-term vision to expand beyond drug development by creating human tissues on demand for broad applications in personalized medicine, organ transplantation, cellular and molecular biology, and the development of safe cosmetics and personal care products.
Bit Stew Systems (Burnaby) http://www.bitstew.com/ Purpose-built for the Industrial Internet, Bit Stew’s MIx Core™ Platform automates data ingestion, applies machine intelligence to learn patterns in the data, allowing industrial companies to discover actionable insights that optimize operational performance. In 2015, Bit Stew was named to Greentech Media’s Grid Edge 20 list, as one of the top 20 innovators architecting the future of the electric power industry, and was ranked as one of the Top 100 Analytics Companies and Top 100 IoT Startups by Forbes Magazine. Incorporated in 2009, Bit Stew is a venture-backed private company that is headquartered in Canada with offices in the USA, Australia and Europe.
Buyatab Online Inc. (Vancouver) https://www.buyatab.com/ Buyatab is a leading supplier of advanced eGift Card online infrastructure and marketing services for medium- and large-sized businesses. With clients in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia, Buyatab provides eGift Card services to merchants in a wide variety of sectors, including retail, hospitality, restaurant, shopping, hotels and others.
Buyatab is recognized for its solution and design flexibility, focus on merchant brand standards, high quality customer support and fraud protection guarantee. As a result, merchant clients are able to grow their gift card business, enhance their brand, gain a competitive edge, and leverage the rapid growth in mobile device usage and social media.
Clio (Burnaby) https://www.goclio.com/ Clio is a cloud-based legal practice management platform that lets you access your all-important matters, contacts and documents anywhere. If you already use other popular cloud services like Dropbox or Google Apps, Clio will make you smile by tying them together in a single, easy-to-use system. With dozens of features like terrific time-tracking, comprehensive calendaring, and beautiful billing, Clio will save you time, make you money, and help you look polished and professional to your clients.
Copperleaf Technologies Inc. (Burnaby) http://www.copperleaf.com Copperleaf Technologies is a dynamic and growing company offering an exciting work environment. Copperleaf provides Asset Investment Planning solutions and technology that improve the performance of energy companies and utilities. Our solutions allow our clients to re-think their approach to life-cycle asset planning and budgeting by integrating planning, analysis, approval, and execution. Our goal is to help our clients make asset investment decisions that are effective, transparent, and focused on long-term performance, thereby earning the confidence of shareholders, partners, ratepayers and regulators.
EDP Software (Vancouver) http://www.edpsoftware.com/ EDP Software is engaged primarily in the consulting, research and development of computer based information systems and software. Our emphasis is on SchedulePro, a sophisticated and easy to use web based employee scheduling software service. SchedulePro automates employee scheduling while adhering to labor laws, safety regulations, and union agreements where applicable.
Freightera Logistics Inc. (Vancouver) http://www.freightera.com/ Freightera offers cloud-based B2B online freight marketplace with 100s of reliable LTL & truckload carriers, where you can search and compare instant all-inclusive freight quotes & book shipments online 24/7.
Our vision is to offer you a better way to ship freight, the best way, transparent, best priced and stress-free shipping. That's how FREIGHTERA was created, a 5-star B2B freight service now trusted by over 1,700 manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and other businesses shipping freight in Canada, the US, and Canada-US cross-border.
Global Relay (Vancouver) https://www.globalrelay.com/ Founded in 1999, Global Relay is the expert in Compliance Messaging Solutions — including Compliance Archiving, eDiscovery, Mobile Messaging and Collaboration. Global Relay Archive securely captures and preserves email, instant messaging (AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, GoogleTalk), BlackBerry, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, Pivot, YellowJacket, social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) and more. Users have easy access to messages via Global Relay Search for BlackBerry, iPhone, Outlook and web. Global Relay Message, delivered via cloud computing, provides businesses with the tools to communicate and collaborate while staying compliant — anytime, anywhere. Global Relay’s 15,000 customers include broker-dealers, hedge funds, investment advisors and public companies, as well as 22 of the world’s top 25 banks and two public exchanges. Global Relay delivers services in 90 countries and has strategic partnerships worldwide, including a global Strategic Partnership with Thomson Reuters for compliance archiving.
InvestX Capital Ltd. (Vancouver) https://www.investx.com At InvestX Capital Ltd. and InvestX Financial (Canada) Ltd. (collectively "InvestX"), we believe that the largest changes in our lifetime are currently emerging in the financial markets.
These changes began in the fall of 2013. On September 23rd, an 80-year-old US securities law was finally lifted, with the creation of Title II of the JOBS Act. For the first time, Title II allows private companies to raise capital (known as “private equity”) over the internet.
But these regulatory changes aren’t just happening in the U.S. They are also happening in Canada and more than 20 other countries globally, creating a massive disruption in the way capital is invested by retail investors.
At InvestX, we see these changes as an opportunity for all investors to finally gain access to private equity - an investment that has historically outperformed any other asset class.
Left (Maple Ridge) http://www.left.io Established in 2010, Left (formerly Left of the Dot Media) is a Canadian-based multinational media and technology company with holdings in mobile and Internet-based businesses.
A few of our most well-known and innovative brands include:YO!™ and Stays™. YO! is an award-winning app and platform that provides free and fast off-grid, mesh connectivity to emerging markets. Stays is a portfolio of best-in-class travel and vacation rental brands powered by cutting edge marketing and technology.
OpenRoad Communications (Vancouver) https://www.openroad.ca For over 19 years OpenRoad has enabled organizations and brands to create, demonstrate, and deliver value online and beyond. We’ve combined the creativity of a design agency with the ingenuity of a software development firm to make new experiences possible, thanks to complete end-to-end capabilities that include strategy, design, development, and maintenance. Please visit our website for more information.
RESAAS Services Inc. (Vancouver) https://www.resaas.com/ RESAAS is a social and global referral network for licensed real estate agents, REALTORS®, brokers, franchises and associations. RESAAS is designed to help you connect with other professionals from around the world, engage in discussion, exchange referrals, and obtain leads. You can also upload listings, market your brand and increase your online exposure by synchronizing RESAAS with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, automatically converting your posts into marketable content available on various social networks.
ResponseTek http://www.responsetek.com/ Recognized as a 2014 Top Small & Medium Employer in Canada, ResponseTek is the leader in enterprise customer experience management software solutions. World market leaders in finance, telecommunications and retail – including 14 of the world’s top telcos, and Bloomberg’s top ranked bank – trust ResponseTek to drive millions of customer interactions every week. The ResponseTek Listening Platform™ eliminates silos of information by integrating customer experience data and reporting throughout the entire organization to improve customer satisfaction. Founded in 1999, ResponseTek is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada and operates in over 30 countries throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
Ronin8 Technologies Ltd. (Richmond) http://ronin8.com/ At Ronin8, we are a diverse, global team of experts, drawn from different industries that would normally not intersect. Based in Canada, we are driven to leaving a positive legacy through leading global standards in e-waste recycling by recovering and re-using 100% of the materials contained in electronics while quantifying the real impact of our actions. We are solutions providers. We consistently seek out new ideas and technology to ensure we leave a positive legacy for future generations. We enable our strategic partners to participate in a beyond-closed-loop economy, driving their brand value, and increasing their relevance and profitability for the long term.
Rx Networks (Vancouver) http://rxnetworks.com/ Founded in 2005, Rx Networks is a private mobile positioning technology and services company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. We develop mobile software and deliver data services designed to accelerate the location performance of any GPS-enabled device. Rx Networks focuses on the fast growing Location-Based-Services (LBS) market, specifically to the GPS-enabled mobile phones and personal navigation devices sectors. Conceived and developed to yield a Click n Go GPS user experience, our GPS solutions help dramatically speed up initial GPS location acquisition times, reduce battery power consumption and improve performance in limited satellite signal strength conditions. Working with NASA/Jet Propulsion Labs, our GPStream framework of real-time and synthetic Assisted-GPS (AGPS) reference and assistance data solutions are licensed, endorsed and/or deployed by global mobile operators, major network equipment vendors and a growing number of GPS chipset manufacturers, such as Nokia Siemens Networks, Qualcomm, Ericsson, NEC, ST Microlectronics and Atheros
Traction on Demand (Burnaby) http://tractionondemand.com/ Traction is a consulting and cloud software development firm with unparalleled expertise in Salesforce.com implementations (customer relationship management system), data quality, marketing automation and force.com development. Our ultimate goal is to streamline business process by bending cloud based technology around business users. Our enemy is redundancy. The results: reduce barriers to success and ultimately increase our customers’ bottom line through sales, marketing and operational alignment.
Trulioo (Vancouver) http://www.trulioo.com/ Trulioo is a global ID verification company that provides advanced analytics from cyber and traditional data sources to verify online identities. The company’s mission is to solve global problems associated with verifying identities online by powering fraud and compliance systems for hundreds of clients worldwide. Founded in 2011, Trulioo is a U.S. venture backed Canadian technology company headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. and recent winner of Deloitte’s Fast 50 Companies-to-Watch and one of Canada’s Top 20 Tech Startups
Victory Square Labs (Vancouver) http://www.victorysquare.com/ Victory Square Ventures provides decades of management expertise, deep distribution networks and in-depth deployment knowledge to help startups scale globally. We exist to help entrepreneurs create lasting value for the world. In addition to operating a venture fund, Victory Square runs Launch Academy. Since 2012, Launch Academy has led the effort to help over 350 early-stage startups to get off the ground. To this date, they've collectively raised over 80 million and created more than 650 jobs for Vancouver's economy.
Visualping https://visualping.io/ VisualPing is a website change monitoring tool with 300,000 registered users and growing by 6,000 new customers/month driven mostly by Google search. We are growing 37% clip month on month and achieving $20k MRR by YE.
Visualping is unique as is the easiest and most convenient way to visually track changes to websites and we have proven that our customers are willing to pay for superior UX and UI.
It is being used for job, apartment, deal, price hunting, event and product availability, procurement and request for proposals, hurricane alerts, parcel tracking and competitive monitoring.
Our customers use our platform for personal and professional reasons in almost in every country around the word (except 3 Saharan countries) and paying users are from over 30 countries.
We targeting a million users by year end. Some of our current customers include: Google, Citigroup, Apple, Uber, Mail Chimp, Ford, Unilever, Nike, The Wall Street Journal, Expedia, Amazon, Dell, Staples, Target etc.
Watergenics Inc. (Vancouver) http://watergenicssolutions.com/ WATERGENICS Inc. is a Canadian-based private company
that holds the exclusive worldwide license to the patent-pending Hybrid Atmospheric Water Generator (HAWGen), an atmospheric water generation technology invented in the Laboratory for Alternative Energy Conversion at Simon Fraser University (Surrey, British Columbia). The Company is positioned to introduce the next generation of atmospheric water generation technology and products in both custom-engineered systems and proprietary standard off-the-shelf solutions.


The Women Who Inspire Us

I have been writing this blog post for a while. In fact, it has almost been one year that it has been in development. Last Spring, when LEFT (then still Left of the Dot) moved into our new offices, we created an “inspiration wall”. Basically, every employee was asked to suggest five men and five women who inspired them, and we would put their photo up on the wall in a central location to inspire themselves and the other Lefties.
The guidelines were very vague: “Name five men and five women who inspire you. The only rule is that you actually had to think of them, and when you did think of them, thinking of them made you want to be better.” In other words, they had to have impacted your life in some way or made you want to be a better person.
Given where I was at that moment of my life, I gravitated towards business leaders initially. That sounds simple right? After all, we all have people in our lives who made a mark on our outcomes, or people that we admired. The hard part would be narrowing it down to only five. And then I started. I listed off five men easily. In fact, I probably had a shortlist of about 15-20. I could go on about these men, who they were, and point to certain passages in books, blogs, or TED talks that inspired me.
However, this post is not about my list of five men. It is about the women.
When it came to trying to identify my list of five women—particularly business leaders—I was stumped. In fact, I kind of panicked a little bit. When I broadened my criteria to include leaders in fields outside of business (Science, Sports, Politics, Community), it became an easier task. But there were very few that jumped to the forefront.
However, that little voice was asking a heartfelt question: why did I find it so difficult to identify five business leaders or entrepreneurial women? And in my panic, I asked myself one other very important question: am I biased towards men and against women?
Normally, this is not a question that one talks about, and definitely not one that one blogs about publicly. Gender bias, even if it subtle, is one of those things that gets pushed aside and rarely brought up in water cooler talk.
I looked at the small, but growing team that we had assembled both in Canada and in Bangladesh. Yes, in Canada the first seven hires we had were all men. Yes, in Bangladesh, we had a disproportionate number of males in technical roles over women. I had never thought of myself as biased. In fact, I actually kind of thought that I was the opposite, perhaps even somewhat of a feminist [a term itself that had been manipulated over the years].
So I shared these thoughts with both my wife and our Employee Experience Manager [female]. I told them that this concerned me. I know I don’t intentionally judge anyone on whether they were male or female, white or brown, Canadian or Bangladeshi, but on their ability to do the task at hand.
Eventually, I did create a list of five women, but more importantly, I made a pledge to try and learn more about all ten of my nominees—male and female—by reading books or stories, or watching TED talks, or simply browsing beyond the headlines. And this is where my personal exploration got interesting…
You see one of the women on my narrowed down list of inspirational women was Sheryl Sandberg. For those unfamiliar with her, Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and currently sits on their board of directors. And in my introspection, I started to read and learn more about the ‘Lean In’ movement and her book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
While I would encourage all who are reading this to read the book in full, at a minimum everyone should read these Tips for the Workplace. As summarized by Wikipedia, “the book looks at the barriers preventing women from taking leadership roles in the workplace, barriers such as discrimination, blatant and subtle sexism, and sexual harassment.”
In society, we often slap each other on the back and say 'Good Job' and 'Atta boy!', praising each other about how far we've come since incorporating anti-discrimination, diversity, and inclusion policies in the workplace. I have often thought that these were unnecessary as you simply hire, compensate, and reward the best candidate regardless of all factors. If you do this, there should be no need to have such policies. However, when you look at the grand scheme of the business world and in particular the tech/startup world (as modern as we portray ourselves as being),  I do believe that gender stereotypes are holding us back from our potential of achieving what is possible.
What I learned about myself and my personal interactions -- and I am somewhat ashamed to admit it -- is that like many, I was probably guilty of passive/subtle/subconscious sexism and bias. One statement really rang true with me, “Women are often hired based on past performance while men are hired for their potential.”
Maybe reading some of this book did change my actions, or at least maybe it opened my eyes a bit to how I should approach things in the office and at home. We have always tried to hire for potential and fit as the most important criteria, but if our society is more prone to hire men for potential and women on past performance, did we miss out unknowingly on great female candidates in the past? It is quite possible.
I debated about whether I ever would share this blog post, but as I wrote earlier: gender bias, even subtle biases, are all too frequently pushed aside, or if they are talked about at all, it is done in cliques of men and women – rarely together. I even shared a nearly complete version of this post with my partner Chris as well as Melissa, our Employee Experience coordinator who does our recruiting, as I was worried about potential fallout from the simple act of admitting to a past subconscious bias created potential legal issues down the road. But it is too important a topic to suppress, and it needs to be brought to the forefront.
Earlier this month, we saw both a celebration of International Women’s Day  and the third anniversary of the Lean In movement that Sandberg started. I figured that it was important for me to finally publish these thoughts, and I would encourage you to share with your colleagues. It is important conversation to have.
Causation or correlation: 2.5 years ago, we only had one woman working for us in our Maple Ridge office. Today, we are almost 50% female and six of the seven most recent hires have been women. None were hired because they were female. We hired them for their skills, their talents, their passion, and yes… their potential.
Things can change quickly.
Note: In my final edit of this post, I removed the names of the five women and men that made it onto my list of inspiring people. Stop by our offices, we will give you a tour, and I will point out the people who inspire me. However, I will not point out the individuals on the wall. I will, instead, introduce you to the women who are helping drive our business forward. And to this end, I leave you with a few photos of the women in our offices, both in Canada and in Bangladesh. You are the ones that inspire.
Photography by Alan Bailward Photography - http://bailwardphotography.com

On Winning the Best Workplace in BC

Dear Chris,
We did it. Now back to work.
[Editor's Note: Curious what we did to get recognized as the Best Place to Work in BC?  Come by for a beer or read a summary of our application here].
Best Workplace in BCP.S.  I was going to write a nice long blog post this morning in the form of a letter from me to you, talking about the almost 6 years in partnership that we have had, and the 19 years of friendship. I would probably have even dropped in a fancy metaphor or two, maybe even a colourful analogy along the way. Something along the lines of "There are floor people and there are chair people…
You see I wanted to find a way to express some of the thoughts and emotions from the team’s win last night, and normally I am pretty good with words (written ones anyhow). However, being named the BEST WORKPLACE IN BC kind of speaks for itself though does it not? And yes, I just wrote the award name in SHOUTCASE! because if there is anything that we should be shouting from the rooftops, it is this.
It was going to be an awesome post. It really was.
I was going to reminisce openly about some of the trials and tribulations that we have had along the way, maybe even going way back to those nights we used to sit around pondering about what life would be like if were to combine talent and run a company together? How would we do things differently? What would matter to us, and how could we change the world. I was going to ask if this counts to us being ‘Proud of the mark we have made,’ and thus… does this mean we have hit the end of the journey?
But then the kids woke up, and life started again. The coffee was poured, and I realized as I read the words of Ernest Hemmingway, “Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual…” that that nothing really changes that much. There is still so much left to be done.

2015 BC Technology Innovation Award Winners!

Left of the Dot Wins BC Tech Award for Community Engagement

2015 Technology Impact Awards (TIAs) celebrate BC’s best companies, people, and innovations
MAPLE RIDGE, BC, CANADA – June 05, 2015 – Left of the Dot Media Inc. (LOTD) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded the 2015 Technology Impact Award (TIA) from the BC Technology Industry Association. The award is given annually to a BC company who most demonstrates, “through the engagement of their employees and as part of their culture, the practice of corporate social responsibility programs or initiatives that have a direct impact on the community in which they live, work, and play.”
Founded in 2010, Left of the Dot lives, works, and plays in Vancouver’s suburb of Maple Ridge, BC. With 24 full-time staff in Maple Ridge and another 60+ in two development offices in Bangladesh, the company builds and manages web and mobile brands based on high-value domain names. The company’s most recent project, YO.com, is focussed on connecting the next billion unconnected users with a free mobile app that lets people share and connect without the Internet.
“Left of the Dot is deliberately located in Maple Ridge rather than downtown Vancouver because we want our team to be a part of the community,” said Chris Jensen, Co-Founder and CEO. “Living and working locally allows the team to attend school events, manage day care responsibilities, and do the little things that make not just our employees’ lives a little better, but also make a meaningful impact on the world around us.”
Said Jensen’s co-founder John Lyotier, who accepted the award on behalf of company, “When Chris and I started 5 years ago, we established the idea of ‘Community’ as one of our core tenets that was going to guide a lot of our business decisions. I am proud of our team and what this recognition means, and I thank the BCTIA for recognizing the contribution that every Lefty has made in his or her community.”
At its core, the Community Engagement program for Left of the Dot believes that every employee defines the word ‘Community’ a little bit differently, and as such each employee is given an unlimited number of paid Community Days to volunteer and make a difference with that which is important to them, whether this is volunteering at a child’s school, coaching youth sports, being a Big Brother, or other social and civic initiatives. The end result is a 100% participation rate and a much more engaged and motivated team.
Continued Lyotier, “I think what may have made us unique in the judges’ eyes is that we are also not just defining community as being involved in Maple Ridge (or Langley, Coquitlam, Burnaby, or Vancouver… or wherever our Lefties might live), but through our new YO! brand, they saw that we are impacting the global community while connecting those who cannot afford to connect. YO! is empowering people around the world—from BC to Bangladesh—and improving lives in the process. How cool is that!”
About Left of the Dot Media Inc.
Established in 2010, Left of the Dot builds and incubates web and mobile properties, including Christmas.com, RentByOwner.com, Cruiseships.com, and countless others. The company’s latest project is YO.com. YO! is a free mobile app and patent-pending communication protocol that empowers users to share and connect hyperlocally without the Internet. For more information about the company, visit www.LeftOfTheDot.com
— 30 —
Media Contact
Sarah Livsey
Marketing Communications Manager
Phone: 604-477-5686
Email: sarah@leftofthedot.com

Tough Mudder Anticipation: Success comes from repetition and doing the little things right

Tough Mudder Anticipation: Success comes from repetition and doing the little things right

[Editor’s Note:  We rocked that course!]
I wanted to declare this now for all to see: I am proud of our team. Tomorrow, we have our entire office from Maple Ridge taking part in the gruelling Tough Mudder event in Whistler BC. No one has or will be left behind.
For those of you who are not familiar with these events: this is 18-20km of running up and down the Whistler Olympic park. Rocky, forested terrain that more suitable to the local Grizzly bear than it is for the 10 of us who sit working in front of our computers all day. Oh… and to make things more ‘fun’ … there are 19 obstacles along the way to break up the monotony of our Sunday stroll. Obstacles that have joyful names like “Arctic Enema”, “Balls to the Wall”, and “Electroshock Therapy”. As I said… fun.
We’ve trained as a group for this since January. Early morning bootcamps of high intensity training along with an overall healthier living (yes… we have had less Beer O’clocks than in the past, but they are still around… we are not savages!) And regardless as to how we do tomorrow, we will have done it together.
We have blogged in the past about our company values and the PowerPoint slide that showed that which is important to us. One of the images on the slide is a small graphic showing the 98lb weekling and George Atlas advertisement that used to appear on the cover of comic books during our youth. The ad copy (which is brilliantly written) declares, “You too can look like this in just 15 minutes a day!”
We show this image as it represents the value of perseverance and repetition and about doing the little things right. Yes, we can in fact look like that if we set our minds to it. Just as we can build, launch and grow successful internet brands in any industry. It is just a question of when, not if if you persevere.
So here’s to the team. Congrats on your perseverance and willingness to go outside of your boundaries, to push past that mythical barrier of “there is no way” and find yourself smack dab in the middle of “You know, maybe we can.”  And to those who doubt, we will see you at the finish line.

Success comes with perseverance and repetition
Success comes with perseverance and repetition


4 Years Later And We're Still Having Fun!

4 Years Later And We're Still Having Fun!

Looking back on the Last 4 Years at Left of the Dot!

It is hard to believe, but it was 4 years ago this morning that I sat next to Chris listening to him tell Rick Latona over the phone that we we were seeking a “$100k investment on a valuation of $500,000 for our new business.” We have had ups and downs along the way, a few pivots and business model revisions, but nothing was as momentous as that first phone call.
Here is why:
Chris and I were sitting having breakfast one Friday morning with another friend and the conversation turned to the big T.R.A.F.F.I.C. domaining show that was coming to Vancouver the following week. I had just finished telling Chris that the company I was then with was going to do a round of layoffs and I would either be the one being laid off or I would be laying off a large percentage of my team — neither a very good option in my opinion. We had often talked about running our own company together “to do things right” so we decided sort of spur-of-the-moment, might have been the espresso talking … “Hey we should pitch something at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Test Track on Monday and see if we could land a domain name to work on?”
The Test Track event was sort of a Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank sort of pressure cooker that the domain industry was putting on whereby eager entrepreneurs pitched to four successful and wealthy Domainers about their latest and greatest business idea.  For us, however, the only idea that we had was that “We should start a company” and “we need a great domain name to start with”.  Yes, we had tossed around the sub-domain ecosystem angle for a few years previously thinking that there was gold in them thar’ hills if we could figure it out (and sub-domains were really ranking well organically).  But unlike most businesses, we didn’t have a business plan, a cap table … heck we didn’t even have a company name.  Then Chris made the phone call:
[abbreviated and not to be taken as real quoted dialog]

Chris:  “Hi Rick  … Chris Jensen here. John Lyotier and I want to pitch at Test Track. Can we?”
Rick:  “Sure, how much are you looking to raise?”
Chris:  “Nothing. We are not raising any money. We just need a good domain to work with for our new stealth business idea.”
Rick:  “We are not accepting companies like that. You need to be raising money.”
Chris:  “In that case, did I forget to mention that we are seeking a $100,000 angel investment for 20% of the company?”
Rick:  “Welcome aboard. You pitch on Monday.”

I was dumbfounded. A few minutes before we had no company idea and I was on the verge of being unemployed. Now we were raising $100k on a half million dollar valuation. If ever there was an apropos time for the WTF acronym this was it. What had we got ourselves into?
The next 72 hours were a bit of a whirlwind. I took the lay off from my job that afternoon and ensured that I was contractually free and clear with no Intellectual Property issues to handcuff future opportunities. We spoke for another hour or so and sketched out the workings of the model that we had discussed off and on for the previous 3+ years. Then we divided and conquered a 10-slide PowerPoint deck: Chris took 5 slides to explain the financial and operational side of the business, I took 5 slides for the market opportunity and product side.
We met again for the first time late on the Sunday night to combine the slides into one deck, then a moment of panic set in …
“Wait. Are we able to use a PowerPoint for our pitch? How long of a presentation slot do we have? What time are we presenting? What is the company going to be called?”
We had way too many questions and no time for answers.

  • Let’s assume that we can use a PowerPoint. We will put the presentation onto a memory stick, but order about 10 printed copies from Kinkos “just in case”. DONE!
  • No idea how long we have. Let’s just speak passionately, honestly, and eloquently about that which we knew — We knew there was a market opportunity. We knew Domainers were starting to feel a pain. We knew we wanted a shot to figure it out. DONE!
  • We pitch tomorrow just after lunch. Oh F^@K… that is not much time. But nothing we can do about it now. DONE!
  • Name? Let’s call it “Left of the Dot” … I had grabbed the domain a short time before as I thought it would be good for a personal blog. DONE! A few business cards were added to the print order from Kinkos and a 1-page “Coming soon. We are in stealth mode” website was sprung up.

The morning had us pick up half of the business cards (the second half were still being printed), the printed slide deck, and we registered for the conference. It was a bit of a reunion the first few hours as we had great relationships with many in the Domaining community from our days at Reinvent and HitFarm. Then we pitched …
I would like to say it was a great presentation, but I really don’t remember it. It was a bit of a blur. What I do remember is that we had struck a nerve with the panellists and by the end of our pitch, we had 3 out of the 4 ‘Dragons’ wanting to explore an investment. And by the end of the night, we had someone else also offer to invest at the valuation that Chris had pulled out of nowhere.
Fast forward to today … we are now on the cusp of our 4th birthday. We now have a team of approximately 40 people between our offices here in Maple Ridge and abroad in Bangladesh. We have had our share of ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures. We couldn’t have got to where we are today without the support of our investors, Directors, friends, family, and team mates (3-2-1… Lefties!). But rarely do we take the time to look backwards and remember how it all started…
Four years ago we were just two guys with a willingness to fail but a passion to succeed. The only difference today is that there are now forty of us. We haven’t changed a bit.

Pitching at TRAFFIC Vancouver (Photo Credit: Ron Jackson DNjounal.com)
Pitching at TRAFFIC Vancouver (Photo Credit: Ron Jackson DNJounal.com)

Editor’s note.  OK… maybe we have a lot more grey hair (or less of it), we would much rather wear shorts and flip-flops, and Chris only looks like a startled llama on a rare occasion — but the passion is still there.