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.

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

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 Pay-Off of Joining a Start-Up.

The digitization and globalization of everything has made the career seeking process quite a daunting one. Of course, it’s a positive dilemma to have a world of options; however, the paradox of choice would tell us that we could become stuck by too many options. I can attest to this.
Before settling into my current role at Left, I felt nervous about the seeking process. Not because I was nervous about interviews, but because there were various paths I could choose to go down and how was I to know which one was right for me? It’s a big commitment to decide which path will bring you the greatest pay-off, whether you dedicate your life to getting a job at one of the big players like Google, finding a job abroad, taking a chance on a small start-up, and the list could go on.
Where things get interesting is the pay-off I mentioned. Everyone thinks they’ve got us millennials all figured out, and don’t get me wrong: many of their claims I can completely relate to, but realistically we’re all very different. Naturally, as you are discussing your job hunt experiences with other fellow job hunters, you realize everyone is seeking a different pay off. Some people want the resume enrichment a big player brings, others want the experience of travelling, others want autonomous responsibility, and again the list could go on.
Truthfully, I was conflicted by the benefits of all three, and I wish I had someone to steer me in the ‘right’ direction.
Luckily for me, I was introduced to the start up scene that is gaining traction out in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. I feel very lucky and compelled to share with you the immense benefits of working with a start-up. With the right attitude the opportunity to work in a start-up is like a regular job on steroids. The growth potential is so big it’s almost scary.
Here are just a few of the offerings that can lead to immense learning and development if you are prepared to take responsibility for getting yourself involved:

  • You can be involved in the day-to-day processes and practices of the entire business that you might not see in departmentalized businesses elsewhere
  • You have a larger impact on the company as a whole
  • You’re joining a family, not just a group of co-workers
  • You get an insider perspective of each department, because sometimes it’s just one person
  • You can probably help in every area of the business because you are a family and if something needs done, it’s all hands on deck
  • You’re learning many important life and business lessons that textbooks often can’t teach you because you are in arms’ reach of your CEO, CMO, CFO, etc.
  • The like-minded individuals around you are passionate about making a disruption and that’s why bumps in the road are really just an opportunity to prove your team’s strength and ability
  • These like-minded individuals that you are constantly surrounded with are extremely talented and it’s an inspiration to be your ‘best self’ as well
  • As long as you aren’t afraid to speak up, your opinion will be heard
  • You’ve got to act quick because the flat structure and the time pressures for output mean a lot happens in a short period of time. This means a plethora of opportunities to gain experiences and expand your abilities
  • If you want to learn something, you just have to ask
  • You’re trusted to be a responsible adult and get your work done in a way that best suits your productivity style
  • Because budgets can be tight, it’s everyone’s job to consider financials, embrace your entrepreneurial spirit, and do what you can to do more with less

So as you hunt for your next job, consider what you really want to get out of the next chapter of your life. The potential for continuous learning and the opportunity to expand your pool of knowledge, skills and abilities is invaluable.
So particularly, if you’re looking for a co-op position, why not take a chance on a small start-up so that moving forward in your life you can pipe up about your ability to take initiative for your learning and capitalize on every opportunity. To quote Sheryl Sandberg’s favourite piece of career advice she received from Eric Schmidt, “if you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don’t ask which seat. Look for growth, look for teams that are growing quickly, and look for companies that are doing well.”
I am four months (what already!) into my yearlong contract and the payoff has already been immense.  I feel grateful I have found a position that meets all my expectations of a job: it brings me joy, challenges me and in turn provides opportunities for continuous growth both personally and professionally. I am a firm believer of the old saying, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’-Confucius.
Photography by Alan Bailward Photography - http://bailwardphotography.com

Photography by Alan Bailward Photography – http://bailwardphotography.com

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.

Left of the Dot is now Left™

We are Left – just one word, but it has so much meaning!

Imagine if you could do the impossible. Imagine if you were free to soar high with unrestrained opportunity. Imagine if you could make your mark, play with your family, and impact your Community in ways never before imaginable. The kite flies because of its tail, meaning those little things we do every day – they matter. They matter more than you know. Imagine if… we were Left.
After an incredible five-and-a-half years operating as Left of the Dot Media, we are now rebranding to Left™. It is just one word, but it carries with it a whole lot of meaning.
So why the change, why now? A big factor in the rebrand was to more accurately reflect today’s reality that we have pivoted away from a business model where we had domains at our core (and really from building out sub-domains ‘to the left of the dot’ which was our original business concept). Today, Left’s core is our people, and the left-field, left-brain, road-less-traveled, innovative ideas that these people can create.
Yes, we build businesses. Great businesses. But Left is more than just a media company; it is more than the sum of its parts. We believe that everything and anything is possible. We believe that a company can make great, profitable businesses without sacrificing the joy in life. We believe that making our mark on the world, taking care of our families, and impacting our Community positively is the foundation to building incredible things. Our values are not just things that we believe in, they are the way we do our jobs, live our lives, and engage with the world around us.
We have been working hard to create a brand that we can all be proud of… one that we will place joyfully onto everything we do and onto everything we create: from apparel, to the side of our office buildings, and all points in between.

We are Left™

The brand features a custom font and symbolism throughout.  We wanted a logo that had a certain vibrancy to it, one that reflected our cultures and core values. We wanted the brand to feel alive and be symbolic of the creativity and innovation that is at the heart of what we do. We wanted it to show connection and movement. I think this has been achieved.
Starting with the word mark…

  • Look at the ‘’L”… your eye moves from left to right quickly, following a continuous line that runs through the entire brand. This line shows movement and represents the ten core values that bind us.
  • Next is the “e”… this is inspired by Google, and the same letter is in their word mark. We were inspired by them, not because of the traffic that they generate for many of our brands, but because like Google, we wanted to add a bit more playfulness to the mark (and we also admire their innovative style). We like to have fun and do things a little differently, so we didn’t want to have just a regular old ‘e’. Our ‘e’ leans leftward, but still looks like it is gaining momentum, rolling forward.
  • Then comes the ‘f’ and ‘t’. These are connected. We had looked at potential acronyms in our branding exercise, and while we couldn’t agree on what the first two letters would represent, we do believe the last two were symbolic of ‘Family’ and ‘Team’. The fact that they are connected is kind of like what we do. We like to think of them as holding hands.

We take flight with the Kite…

  • We have always had kites on display in our offices, watching over us in a way. The ones above the desks of our employees today were flown by our first Lefties on their first day in the office. When Chris and I were first writing out the projects we had in front of us, we scribbled diamonds on the wall and wrote the big projects. Beneath these, we had small rectangles listing all of the sub-tasks we needed to do to achieve these tasks. We created kites.
  • In our last office, we had an old Hawaiian proverb on the wall reminding everyone, “The kite flies because of its tail.” In tech companies, you often have the metaphor of rocks and pebbles where rocks are the big projects and pebbles are the small tasks. We liked the symbolism of a kite way more than that of a rock. A rock is about looking down. A kite is about looking up. There are many more possibilities in life and in business when you keep your head up and you look around and marvel at the world.
  • A kite is playful. We want to enjoy what we do. We need to take time to play games and appreciate life. If we don’t, what’s the point?
  • A kite flies in the blue sky. You can control it, you can pull the string, but in the end if you let go, it will fly for a while before falling back down to earth. A kite needs attention.
  • The kite’s tail forms a stylized ‘L’. As a result, our hope is that it can eventually stand alone as a mark.
  • The kite’s colour was inspired by the lights we used to have on our first few desks: the warm glow of a green banker’s lamp. When looking at the colour, we wanted it to be bright enough that it, alone, would show the vibrancy and life of the team and company.

We have had a great 5.5 years as Left of the Dot, a brand that had served us well and saw a lot of excitement. But you know what’s really exciting? Imagining what’s left to come. We have a lot of string left to be let out.
Editor’s Note:
The new Left brand was created by the incredibly-talented Joe Deobald, our Creative Director, and principal at Full Frame Marketing. Joe was one of our original Lefties, and he was there working with us at the very beginning (even before there were any Lefties, in fact).
Several years ago when we didn’t have enough work for a full-time creative team, we formed a unique partnership with Full Frame. Left of the Dot would be their largest client, and we would incubate their design and branding team out of our offices, which they still call home to today. Since that time, we have built many award-winning brands together. And while we look forward to our ongoing collaborations, it gives us immense satisfaction to see his agency take flight.