The CEO of Vancouver-based Mobify, Igor Faletski, says that Canada needs to do more to keep its homegrown tech talent from heading south, a problem that’s still stifling growth and hurting investment.
“It’s a brain drain 2.0, it seems,” says Faletski in conversation with Cantech Letter. “One of the challenges we still face in Vancouver and in Canada generally is having enough highly qualified graduates. As a nation, we should be doing whatever we can to make sure there’s more training available to start with and that we give them the right opportunities when they come out of university.”
It’s an issue that means a lot to Faletski, who sits as an external advisor to the Faculty of Applied Sciences at his alma mater, Simon Fraser University, and whose company last year donated $30,000 to SFU’s School of Computing Science to help fund more student-led projects.
While Faletski sees tech companies like his as playing a role in training their own employees, he thinks that government needs to do more to help launch people into tech. “The big challenge is going from zero to one, from someone having no training to having enough training so that they can start being a productive member of a team,” says Faletski. “After that, companies like Mobify can accelerate them but it’s that initial step that we’d like to see more support from the government.”
On hand at the SASS North conference in Ottawa this week, Faletski led a breakout session on the do’s and don’ts of bootstrapping your startup, something he and his team have plenty of experience with through Mobify, the mobile customer engagement business he co-founded with Peter McLachlan and fellow SFU grad John Boxall ten years ago.
“We bootstrapped for eight years,” says Faletski. “I think that when you start something, and you’re really confident in the direction but you want to take some time to develop, then bootstrapping is the way to go. You’re really just focused on two stakeholder groups, your team and your customers, you’re not trying to please your investors who might be expecting quick growth.”
But Falestski says that the talent escaping to the US from Canada is a real problem for new companies.
“When we started in ’07-’08, it was the financial crisis and so people weren’t going to the States as much, they were staying closer to home,” he says. “That allowed us to build a great team. But if we were starting today, it’d be so much more expensive to compete for talent with more opportunity and higher salaries calling from the US.”
This September, Mobify raised $15 million in a Series A funding round, a move which comes after last year’s purchase of AI company Pathful. Faletski says that adding Pathful has significantly boosted the company’s data-crunching powers. “That helped us a lot,” says Faletski. “The data that’s produced when people are shopping on their phones, we can convert that into insights that can help people have a more relevant, more personalized experience.”
“[AI] is becoming more and more a part of web infrastructure,” says Faletski. “There’s sort of an arms race right now between the big three -Microsoft, Amazon and Google— on who’s going to be ‘the’ machine learning provider, with the most data for their algorithms.”
Faletski says, “We’re really excited to be in the e-commerce technology space today. We think that there’s a lot that brands can do to be more competitive, both amongst themselves but also with the online leader, Amazon.”