The series: We look at decision makers among Canada's mid-sized companies who took successful action in a competitive global digital economy.
For Jarrod Levitan and his team at TriNimbus Technologies Inc., the biggest decision was a matter of timing.
"I recognized in 2008 that the cloud and cloud computing were going to be the future," says Mr. Levitan, who is co-founder and, appropriate for his business, chief cloud officer at TriNimbus.
Back then, though, it was too early to start a company based on cloud computing. "There simply weren't all the different services and technologies that are available today via the cloud," Mr. Levitan explains.
Making the right decision at the right time is a challenge for all businesses, but especially so now, as the world continues its way through the Fourth Industrial Revolution – all the transformative changes that come from digital technology, the Internet of Things and the cloud.
Mr. Levitan and his partners waited patiently until 2013, when they founded TriNimbus, which is headquartered in Vancouver and maintains offices in Toronto and in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.
The next big decision for the partners was a strategic one – zeroing in on a particular niche within the cloud-computing sector and working exclusively with clients seeking to establish a business presence on Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of U.S. tech giant and online retailer Amazon.com Inc.
"We enable companies to work in the cloud," Mr. Levitan explains. "We work with all sorts of technology companies, public- and private-sector small and medium enterprises, and we help them take advantage of the AWS platform. Our own positioning when we started was to seek to become the No. 1 company in Canada that provides this service."
Today, thanks in part to that early decision about timing, TriNimbus has just been named one of Canada's top startup companies on the STARTUP 50 index published online by Canadian Business magazine. Over the past two years, TriNimbus's revenues have grown by 399 per cent.
"We have nearly 70 people on staff," Mr. Levitan says. "By the end of 2018, it could be 200."
TriNimbus's timing appears to be prescient, given how research shows that Canadian companies have been lagging in adapting to the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution and the technological changes it is bringing to business.
A global survey of 16 countries, released less than a year ago by Dell Technologies, found that Canadian businesses ranked near the bottom in terms of attitudes to digital transformation. About 4,000 business leaders in 12 industries were polled for the survey, which was conducted by Vanson Bourne, an independent market research company in Britain. According to the report, as recently as mid-2016, only 35 per cent of Canadians polled said they had experienced significant disruption in their industries over the previous three years.
This finding was less than the global number of 52 per cent. Only 48 per cent of Canadian businesses last year noticed new competitors in their markets, compared with 62 per cent of international respondents.
These perceptions by Canadian businesses appear to be at odds with anecdotal evidence that disruption is happening fast across many sectors in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – for example, in the taxi industry, in travel and in financial technology (fintech).
Mr. Levitan and his partners combined the anecdotal evidence of change with market research to determine that TriNimbus should focus narrowly, helping customers with one aspect of their efforts to move to the cloud – through AWS.
AWS, which has a branch in Canada, lets subscribers, including companies, use its cloud facilities for computing, file storage, databases, analytics, networking, app development and Internet of Things services. TriNimbus recognized that companies and organizations might need professional assistance using AWS.
"For example, every time you come through some airports into Canada and use those automated customs kiosks, we put the whole back end of that system onto AWS to make it work," Mr. Levitan says. "It's in 30 airports across North America."
TriNimbus's value proposition is a distinctively Fourth Industrial Revolution one in that it's a service that works with intangible concepts to help connect clients to their own customers and users. That's quite different from the first revolution, which used steam and hydraulic power; and the second, which came with the advent of electricity; and even the third, which was based on mass communication to connect faraway people and places to expand trade.
What is TriNimbus's advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs who need to make decisions in this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Pay attention to timing, of course, but also, perhaps surprisingly, don't be afraid to make the wrong decision.
It is a view that echoes the "fail-forward" philosophy now espoused by many leading educators – the idea that getting something wrong is not a mistake but, rather, a step that can point to the right decision.
“You have to embrace failure,” Mr. Levitan says. “Many organizations see this as a bad thing, but you have to try different things and hire people who are willing to try.”