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This article was published 11/12/2015 (1958 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg has become the headquarters for efforts to expand Western Canadian information technology companies around the world.
Last month, a delegation of about 20 people from B.C. to Manitoba attended the Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland, a three-day technology conference that attracted more than 30,000 attendees from more than 100 countries.
It was the first excursion for the newly formed ICT West, a consortium of western Canadian provincial IT industry associations.
It is being run out of Winnipeg by Kathy Knight's ICTAM (Information and Communications Technology Association of Manitoba) office.
The idea is since the Canadian market is relatively small, the IT sector could get a boost from more international exposure, both in terms of attracting potential international investors and international customers.
Funded by Western Economic Diversification -- to the tune of $2.5 million for three years -- ICT West will coach and support smaller companies to make the leap onto the global stage.
'It was good to put myself out there and give it a shot'‐ Jason The (below), founder and CEO of Blueshift Innovations
Kathy Knight, the CEO of ICTAM, has been taking Manitoba companies to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona for a few years and has developed a relationship with her peers from other provinces.
"We started to talk about why we were presenting as independent provinces and not as Western Canada," she said. "The idea is that we would brand Western Canada as a region that is really ripe for ICT investment."
Jason The, the founder and CEO of Blueshift Innovations in Winnipeg, didn't come home from Dublin with new investments, but he described the experience as "inspiring."
The's Winnipeg company specializes in delivering intranets, websites and portal solutions using Microsoft technologies.
He said the Dublin conference would not have been a top priority for his company, nor would he have likely gone, had it not been for the support from ICT West.
"The best thing was meeting so many amazing people," The said.
In particular, he got exposure to the kinds of things he might expect to encounter when Blueshift, like so many other IT companies, will have to transition into a new iteration of the business.
"It was good to put myself out there and give it a shot," he said.
"In this day and age, lots of businesses talk about pivoting... We're thinking about what would make sense for us and what we need to do to prepare for that."
Suzanne Braun, from Quipped Interactive Learning Tools, another Winnipeg company that was part of the ICT West mission, made some important connections with potential investors from the U.S. and the U.K. and also some potential European partners.
"It went really well," she said. "It exceeded expectations on a number of fronts."
Her classroom-assessment software, Quio Learning Map, has several pilot programs on the go and in particular is being tested in Manitoba with immigrants at the Seven Oaks Adult Learning & Settlement Services Centre.
Among other things, she had an hour-long meeting with representatives from Virgin Investments, the educational venture capital arm of Richard Branson's global Virgin enterprises.
"It probably won't result in an investment, but it was an opportunity we would never have gotten otherwise," she said.
She also met a couple of European companies in the educational-software business, and they are now holding weekly Skype meetings to see how they might collaborate with each other.
"The structure of the conference is rather chaotic," Braun said. "It was really beneficial to have someone navigate it for us."
In addition to the Web Summit, ICT West will lead Western Canadian missions to the annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Manitoba companies can apply to the province's Commercialization Support for Business program to receive 50 per cent of the costs of airfare and conference attendance.
Knight said the thinking is with support from the provinces and individual company spending, it will add another $2.5 million of investment to this global outreach.
The overall goal is to add $18 million in revenue by the end of the three-year period.
"ICTAM's goal is to grow the ICT sector in Manitoba, and every other province has the same goal," Knight said. "With ICT West we want to grow the ICT sector in the West."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.