DRAXware and Gemstone Logistics: Getting workers where they need to go
DRAXware, a University of Alberta spinoff company created with the assistance of TEC Edmonton in 2007, has recently struck a new deal with its operating company, the Sherwood Park-based Gemstone Logistics.
The partnership between DRAXware, a software company specializing in industrial project management, and Gemstone Logistics arose out of a need to manage the logistics of booking workers’ transportation and accommodation for large industrial projects. Tom McHale, President & CEO of Gemstone Logistics, used to manage large air transportation programs for oil companies and would encounter issues when trying to fly workers across Canada for major projects.
A fully integrated software solution specifically for the private industrial world simply wasn’t available, so McHale sought to solve the problem. He partnered with DRAXware in 2013 to tackle the travel component and then bought a complementary software company specializing in accommodation management in 2015, which led to the current integrated system, CIRYS, that handles room, flights, and ground transportation.
Partnerships with other companies like DRAXware is allowing the software to become fully integrated: “We are the Expedia for the private industrial charter world,” says Tom.
Though the two companies had a previously existing commercial partnership, Gemstone Logistics recently bought an equity stake in DRAXware. This deeper partnership is allowing the companies to achieve a larger reach and expand uses for the software, using DRAXware’s platform, UniEngine.
The deal resulted from a long standing relationship and synergy between the two companies. “They’re pretty much married,” describes Tom.
“The technology that we used to develop all of our software resided with DRAXware,” says Tom. The ensuing deal solidified an already long-standing relationship.
“DRAXware technologies offered great promise since its inception ten years ago, but when the GTMS product was conceived, the full potential of these technologies started being realized,” says Dr. Simaan Abourizk, Co-Founder and Director of DRAXware and Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at the University of Alberta. “Tom’s vision was critical in pushing DRAXware from a company focused on creating technologies for integrated software solutions to one that backends remarkable software that can generate solutions for the flight management and camp booking industry. This gives us significant focus and would not be possible without the marriage between DRAXware and Gemstone.”
The software is currently being used in large industrial projects throughout Canada and the United States. It’s used to manage travel and accommodation for major oil, gas, LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and hydro projects, for example.
In the near future, DRAXware and Gemstone Logistics want to expand their reach within North America and abroad. Last year, they entered into a long-term partnership with American Express Global Business Travel to develop a web-based solution for large corporate clients, obtaining access to new markets while providing an enhanced software solution to clients.
“The goal moving forward, is to consolidate with a singular focus to hit the market with our brand and our product,” McHale says.
TEC Edmonton’s Technology Management team works with regional innovators and companies, as well as serving as the technology transfer agent for the University of Alberta. Technology Management offers patent, trademark and copyright evaluation; IP strategy, protection and licensing; and licensing and commercialization services.
Edmonton’s technology entrepreneurs now have a new community workspace with the opening of TEC Innovation District. On Thursday, TEC Edmonton was joined by Honourable Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Dr. Larry Kostiuk, University of Alberta Associate Vice-President Research, City Councillor Andrew Knack, Jason Pincock, President and CEO of DynaLife, and Cheryll Watson, EEDC’s Vice President of Urban Economy to celebrate the space’s official unveiling.
The space, located in the hub of downtown Edmonton in Enterprise Square, is a point of entry for technology entrepreneurs to access mentorship and coaching from TEC Edmonton’s in-house team of entrepreneurs and experts.
Minister Bilous reiterated the provincial government’s support for the space and of innovation in the province at large, stating that “we need Alberta to be the place where great ideas begin and where they succeed.”
“Alberta small businesses have a bigger economic impact per capita than small businesses anywhere in the country, and support from incubators like TEC Edmonton are a big reason for it,” said Minister Bilous. “Their mentorship and expert advice for Alberta entrepreneurs means that working together we will continue to innovate, excel and build an economy for the future.”
“The Innovation District is much more than a workspace. We have an ‘entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’ philosophy at TEC Edmonton, where business owners learn directly from people who have built successful companies,” says TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb. “The street front space is another way for technology entrepreneurs to access our services.”
Companies interested in being a part of the program can learn more and apply here. Participating companies will receive, in addition to personalized mentorship and coaching, 24-hour use of the workspace, as well as access to TEC Edmonton’s network of partner companies.
Edmonton’s newest mentorship and co-working space for technology entrepreneurs
Edmonton, AB (January 19, 2017) – Edmonton’s technology entrepreneurs have a new community workspace, with the launch of TEC Innovation District. The space, located in the hub of downtown Edmonton in Enterprise Square, is a point of entry for technology entrepreneurs to access mentorship and coaching from TEC Edmonton’s in-house team of entrepreneurs and experts.
“The Innovation District is much more than a workspace – we have an ‘entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’ philosophy at TEC Edmonton, where business owners learn directly from people who have built successful companies,” says TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb. “The street front space is another way for technology entrepreneurs to access our services.”
“Alberta small businesses have a bigger economic impact per capita than small businesses anywhere in the country, and support from incubators like TEC Edmonton are a big reason for it,” says Honourable Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade. “Their mentorship and expert advice for Alberta entrepreneurs means that working together we will continue to innovate, excel and build an economy for the future.”
Companies accepted into the program will receive, in addition to personalized mentorship and coaching, 24-hour use of the workspace, as well as access to TEC Edmonton’s network of partner companies.
“This space provides a conducive environment for collisions of ideas, and an opportunity to meet and learn from other entrepreneurs,” says Hammad Jutt, Chief Operating Officer of TVCom, one of the TEC Innovation District’s newest tenants. “We will also have the chance to meet industry experts and seek support of TEC mentors.”
The space is made possible by funds provided by DynaLife and the University of Alberta.
We’re checking in with pastVenturePrize winners to see how their companies have changed since winning top spots in the Student, Fast Growth, DynaLIFE DX Health and TELUS ICT streams. This week, we spoke to Peter Schill ofAlberta Craft Malting, Grand Prize winner of the 2015 Alberta Innovates Student stream.
Alberta Craft Malting was the brainchild of Peter Schill and Tyler Rose, two Olds College students in the Brewmaster Program who were brought together by their affinity for the malting process.
The two noticed that although Alberta has a growing craft beer industry, the majority of specialty malts used (the ingredient that gives beer its colour and flavour) are produced either overseas or the United States. A new business idea was born, and the two set out to find a market for Alberta-made specialty malts.
Alberta Craft Malting’s journey to VenturePrize began at the RED Challenge in Red Deer, a business competition where students and young adults in the region present innovative ideas to win funding in order to move forward with their idea.
Winning the RED Challenge earned Peter and Tyler entry to VenturePrize, along with seed funding to bolster their education and resources. Tyler took the reins by revising the business proposal and presentation for the prize, and Alberta Craft Malting again took first place in the Alberta Innovates Student Stream.
Winning two business competitions in a row is quite the feat for a brand new company: “We thought we had identified an under-served market,” says Peter. “We always had a great response from whomever we gave the pitch to.” Alberta’s numerous craft breweries and general enthusiasm for craft beer certainly helped make malting a hot topic and business idea.
Since VenturePrize, Alberta Craft Malting has gone through somewhat of a metamorphosis as Tyler has since moved on to focus on brewing. Since malting comes with a large barrier to entry (as capital costs for the equipment are high), Peter is working in partnership with a maltery in Southern Alberta. Currently, they are performing test runs while looking at expanding the existing plant into a full-scale malting plant in conjunction with the brewery.
Peter recalls that the most valuable part of the VenturePrize process was the preparation and presentation of the pitches: “it clarifies what is important and the steps to get there” Peter explains. “You can’t go into a presentation based on ‘what if.’”
Peter continues to move ahead with Alberta Craft Malting, and is developing a capital program in order to begin construction and expansion of the Southern Alberta maltery.
His advice for this year’s VenturePrize participants is simply to believe in your idea: “Once you have belief in your specific idea, the ‘how’ will come later. You need the ‘why’ first.”
There’s still time to be a part of this year’s VenturePrize competition! Register before the end of January to take advantage of the 2017 Seminar Series included in the registration fee. Learn more and register here.
We’re checking in with past VenturePrize winners to see how their companies have changed since winning top spots in the Student, Fast Growth, Health and TELUS ICT streams. This week, we spoke to Zack Harb of Zacxon Inc., finalist in the 2016 Alberta Innovates Student stream.
Anyone who has lived through an Alberta winter knows that Zacxon Inc., founded by Zack Harb (a NAIT Engineering graduate), is in the perfect location to launch a business that aims to improve the lives of people in cold climates. Zacxon’s Property Protection System (PPS), a warning system that alerts property owners when pipes reach temperatures that are too low, ensuring that no damage occurs. The product has the potential to save property owners in cold climates a lot of money and headache by avoiding frozen, burst water supply pipes.
After going through the VenturePrize process from the initial application to pitching on stage, Zack emphasized that the process was very helpful: “it gave me a lot of exposure so people knew about [the company], and gave us credibility in our meetings and during the competition.”
Although the funding boost also helped the company move forward, Zack emphasized the value of working with the experts firsthand. “The network is the most important part of it,” says Zack.
Since becoming a finalist in the Alberta Innovates Student stream, Zacxon secured a spot in the NAIT incubation space, where a pilot project for the company’s first prototype was carried out. Only two months after the VenturePrize competition, Zacxon presented at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary, where it won the Doghouse pitch competition for Leaner Technologies.
Zacxon was also successful in receiving Micro-Vouchers from Alberta Innovates in 2015 and 2016. At the moment, Zacxon is looking to ramp up its growth. The company is currently in the commercialization stage and expects to have a product on the market in Spring 2017.
If growing companies are thinking about being a part of VenturePrize, Zack says go for it: “[VenturePrize] was a great experience with great mentors,” he says. “If [companies] have a good idea, they should show TEC Edmonton.”
Don’t miss your chance to be a part of Alberta’s premier business competition! Register for VenturePrize here.
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