Johann Starke first came to Canada from the United States in 1999, participating in what was then a popular pilot project by the federal government aimed at recruiting qualified foreign software development workers. After a few years working at Microsoft and Expedia, he set up shop in Vancouver as a new entrepreneur in Canada’s tech sector. In 2005 he founded FCV Interactive, a leading provider of innovative strategy, design and technology services for public sector organizations as well as large corporate businesses across Canada and the U.S.
Growing the company and expanding into international markets is top of mind for Starke as CEO, especially as FCV is bringing to market a portfolio of smart digital products that enable organizations to solve complex business problems in a SaaS model. “Fast-growing companies like ours are important contributors to Canada’s overall economic growth and we remain focussed on innovation, increasing our investment in R&D and growing our talent and skills in emerging technologies,” says Starke. “In the next five years I see us expanding into additional international markets and ultimately to have tripled in size.”
Like many SMEs with global growth aspirations, finding the right support quickly and efficiently is crucial. Starke knew he needed help navigating the available programs and resources that would give his firm an advantage and set them on the right track. But where to begin?
For 13 years FCV Interactive has excelled in the tech sector as one of Canada’s largest digital consultancies, counted among the leading industry players contributing to innovation in Canada. With headquarters in Vancouver B.C., the company now has over 100 employees in offices located in Victoria, Toronto, Halifax, Seattle and Washington. Their impressive list of clients they have worked with includes brands like Microsoft, Nike, RBC Royal Bank, Sobeys, Starbucks, TELUS and Westjet. But Starke’s vision for growing and expanding into new markets meant searching out funding and other assistance that would help make this dream a reality.
“The client-centric approach across government stakeholders and partner organizations at an accelerated speed is particularly important in the tech sector, which moves quickly! This has been invaluable to our business.”Johann Starke, CEO, FCV Interactive
Search for support made easy thanks to Concierge
“It can be a bit daunting trying to figure out how to access all the support available and I had concerns about how long it would take, how much paperwork would be involved, etc.” says Starke. After discussing these concerns with Riz Kheraj, his Industrial Technology Advisor with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Kheraj recommended he connect with the Government of Canada’s Concierge service and introduced him to Innovation Advisor Rob McGarry.
McGarry met with Starke, COO Derek Whyte, and VP Product Development Ben Aston, and learned the details of FCV Interactive’s business strategy, which allowed him to identify a variety of support resources specific to their business growth needs. “As our personal concierge Rob has been outstanding,” says Starke. “It’s been great to have a real person we could have honest conversations with about how much time application processes would take, which programs we should apply for, and when. This really helped manage our expectations.”
Accelerating growth through program collaboration
McGarry also recommended FCV Interactive for the Accelerated Growth Service (AGS). This initiative coordinates government support for high growth companies, providing a one-stop shop for businesses to access government expertise in areas such as financing, advisory support, export and innovation services. “After meeting with Johann and learning about FCV’s business needs, I noticed they had not yet taken advantage of any of the available support offered through the key players in the AGS initiative,” says McGarry. “Because of their high-growth potential they were a perfect candidate to benefit from this kind of coordinated federal support.”
With the customized support received through the Accelerated Growth Service, FCV Interactive is now connected to a wide range of services and programs to help them continue to grow and expand their business. Some of the specific support they are currently pursuing includes:
- Personalized advice and guidance on the most relevant programs and services from the Government of Canada’s Concierge service
- Capital and financing to support business growth from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
- Financing from Export Development Canada (EDC) and assistance developing a strategy for expanding into new international markets from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS)
- Advisory services, funding and technological expertise from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP)
- Access to capital and financing to advance R&D through the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program
- Access to commercialization support through the Western Innovation Initiative (WINN) program
- Various hiring and training grants to expand their team of highly skilled workers, including NSERC Experience, Mitacs Accelerate, Canada-BC Job Grant (CJG), ECO Canada Internship program, and CICan Clean Tech Internship
- Funding support to accelerate development from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)
While it’s still early in the process, Starke is impressed with how the AGS helps companies identify growth challenges and works collaboratively with the network of government programs. “AGS makes it so much easier to navigate the various programs that can provide assistance in areas such as financing, advisory support, exporting etc.” explains Starke. “The client-centric approach across government stakeholders and partner organizations at an accelerated speed is particularly important in the tech sector, which moves quickly! This has been invaluable to our business.”