N.B. tech industry becomes more relevant because of COVID-19
Kognitiv Spark CEO says the pandemic accelerated growth and brought in new clients
Three New Brunswick tech CEO's say the industry has been thriving since the onset of COVID-19, as ways to simplify working from home or alone on the field are needed now more than ever.
Introhive CEO Jody Glidden says his Fredericton-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to help businesses increase productivity and spot potential security risks, has seen revenue increase by 60 per cent since March.
Kognitiv Spark's software allows remote workers to connect with engineers from afar, and access blueprints or instructions from a set of virtual reality glasses. CEO Yan Simard says the pandemic made the company's technology more relevant across a wider range of industries, fast-tracking its growth plan.
He said a lot of companies were used to paying for engineers and contractors to fly where they were needed, and were slowly working to incorporate new technologies into their operations to save on travel-related costs.
COVID just exposed our philosophy and made our process more needed within corporations
- SnapAp CEO Jean-Daniel Drapeau
When non-essential travel was no longer possible, Simard said these companies needed to get on board with new technology fast.
"Our market has matured faster, so people are more receptive to the kind of solutions we have as a result of COVID," he said.
"It's accelerated our growth path."
He said Kognitiv Spark didn't have to change its offerings or branding, those just became more relevant on their own.
Simard said the company saw a "significant" growth in revenue and clients, but declined to give any numbers.
Dieppe company SnapAp, allows businesses to ditch paper with software enabling all accounting needs, like invoices, to be done online, which its CEO Jean-Daniel Drapeau says has worked out in its favour this year.
"We definitely had an impact since COVID, especially because of the things that we enable," said Drapeau.
"We get rid of paper and, once you get rid of paper, you become more mobile and more disconnected and there's less of a (struggle) to put strategies around working from home."
Not easy getting tech up to speed
Glidden said Introhive had to entirely shift its focus and the way it did business.
"We took some time, when all of this was starting to become very serious, to really look at everything that we were doing inside the company," he said.
In response to COVID-19, the company launched products that use algorithms to help companies understand how employees are spending their time and pinpoint which employees are most successful.
The software was already in the works before the pandemic struck Canada's economy in March, but was only intended to launch this fall.
Introhive went full speed ahead on the project, as the demand for products well-suited to help businesses cope with staff working from home was on the rise, and got the software to market about six months ahead of schedule.
"Time Coach and Deal Coach have made a pretty major impact since it's been released, it's one of the fastest adopted products in our company's history," said Glidden.
"Almost as soon as we released it, we started having some customers sign up."
New clients, wider markets
Kognitiv Spark's technology was designed to help frontline workers with the Canadian navy and air force easily access information or guidance from experts while repairing boats or airplanes from all over the world, but Simard said the company has gained a new scope of interest from businesses.
"What I think changed the most this year as a result of COVID is the interest of the manufacturing sector for mixed reality solutions," said Simard.
"We just saw that explode this year."
Glidden said Introhive has gained interest from industries it hadn't before COVID-19, including legal, real estate and accounting companies.
"We're seeing even more of this trend where a lot of new industries that we hadn't even really actively been targeting, are hearing about us and coming inbound now," said Glidden.
Glidden said he believes the trend of working from home will continue beyond a vaccine, as many are moving from their big city apartments to rural areas in order to save money.
He said customers are also faster to sign on, with most consultation periods cut in half from before the pandemic.
Drapeau said the pandemic made businesses more focused on efficiency tools, cost savings and limiting shared physical contact, which helped SnapAp thrive.
"COVID just exposed our philosophy and made our process more needed within corporations," he said.
Tech firm's focus, priorities shift
Introhive Executive Vice President of Marketing Bart Molenda said he's had to completely change how he does his job.
"Historically, enterprise sales were very focused on facial interaction and a discussion at trade shows and live events, sometimes it would require lunches or dinners together, that's all changed and gone away," said Molenda.
He said the company now looks to host webinars and events digitally, but that's not enough to fill the void of what the company used to have.
It needs to put extra time and effort into engaging with people on social media channels, including Instagram and Twitter, now and continues to look for new ways to get the brand's message out on a large scale.
Glidden said he's noticed a shift in client interests, as they are focused more on what they need versus what they want.
"The great thing is, since COVID and since a lot of these new ways were found on how to use our software to help replace things that were really a major obstacle for our customers, we are absolutely in that 'must have' bucket," said Glidden.