Matias Marquez, Founder and COO, Buyatab Online Inc.
With a little more forethought, Matias Marquez might never have founded Buyatab. Marquez was a 21-year-old SFU student in 2008 when he ran into a problem: he needed to send a gift card to someone whose birthday was that day. It was too late to send one by mail, and no online cards or time machine were to be found. So Marquez did what great inventors and entrepreneurs have done since the beginning of time—he created the solution himself.
Marquez didn’t plan far enough ahead to send that card on time, but he’s doing plenty of thinking ahead now. Most of the gift-card industry still revolves around coloured sheets of plastic, but Buyatab is charging into the digital landscape of the future. Electronic commerce is rapidly shifting toward mobile technology, and Buyatab is helping retailers get ahead of the trend.
The company already counts hundreds of big-name brands across the continent among its clients, including Whole Foods Market Inc., Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Cineplex Entertainment and Tim Hortons Inc. Buyatab custom-builds gift-card tools for merchants, allowing their customers to buy, send and redeem cards on both desktop and mobile devices, through email, mobile messaging, social media platforms and wallet apps like Apple Inc.’s Passbook. The product list keeps expanding as technology advances, with the company also providing security and data-management services for its cards.
Buyatab is seeing so much demand that Marquez (a 2016 BCBusiness 30 Under 30 winner) cites growth management as the company’s biggest challenge. He wants the business to continue expanding but in a way that maintains the company’s culture. Finding qualified developers in Vancouver to add to its 40 employees can be a struggle too. “It’s an exciting challenge,” Marquez says, acknowledging that managing growth is a far better problem to have than not growing at all.
Johann Starke, President and CEO, FCV Interactive
Johann Starke’s digital agency FCV Interactive has blossomed from a humble start in 2005. For the company’s first nine months, Starke—a Rust Belt transplant from Youngstown, Ohio—toiled alone in his Yaletown apartment delivering digital strategy and other technology consulting services. Within months, he had hired a designer and developer but was still taking the trash out himself on weekends.
Nowadays, FCV offers a menu of services that rivals a Chinese restaurant’s in its breadth: web and mobile application development, technical architecture services, systems integration, quality assurance, organizational design, service and product design, prototyping, data analytics and measurement, customer experience, brand identity, content strategy, user interface design and much more.
FCV has 140 workers in offices in Seattle, Washington, D.C., Victoria, Toronto and Halifax. The quality of the company’s work has attracted a growing roster of corporate and government clients, including Nike, Inc., WorkBC, the Vancouver Canucks and ICBC.
Morgan Carey, CEO, Real Estate Webmasters
Morgan Carey had a hardscrabble childhood—bouncing from one foster home to the next. At 15 and a high-school dropout, he learned his then-girlfriend was pregnant. “Unfortunately most of the people who grew up like me, their stories didn’t end up so well,” he says. Fatherhood drove Carey to pick himself up, return to school and build a new life for himself and his new son.
By 21, Carey had a university degree and had stumbled into a job doing Internet marketing. He started his own SEO business when his bosses refused to give him a raise, and real estate clients soon flocked to him. In 2004, he officially founded Real Estate Webmasters to serve those clients. He describes his first 10 years as a “lifestyle business”—he didn’t expend great effort trying to grow and didn’t hire any managers. In 2010, another life change—this time, divorce—made Carey re-evaluate his priorities and decide to go full throttle. Today his company employs 140 people in Nanaimo and has revenues in the tens of millions.