Asian Telecom Company Makes the Move to B.C.

The arrival of a South Korean telecom company is key in B.C. becoming a global tech powerhouse.

South Korean tech | BCBusiness
The arrival of South Korea’s Moimstone makes the case that attracting mature tech companies is integral to B.C.’s tech sector growth.

The arrival of a South Korean telecom company is key in B.C. becoming a global tech powerhouse.

We have grown many world-class technology businesses in B.C. in the past 40 years, and that has led to more jobs, more tax revenue and a critical mass of talent for the sector. Organic growth of the industry is fantastic, but a quicker way to grow the base is to attract mature companies. Fourteen months ago, I discussed a company called iQmetrix Software Development Corp., and how the founders moved their headquarters to Vancouver in search of senior management and development talent. Regina to Vancouver is an interesting story, but this month I have an international move to share with you.

C.W. Lee started a technology business in 2003 in Seoul, South Korea, that grew rapidly, selling its products into Asian markets. South Korea provided excellent engineering talent and the local banks had reasonable debt options. But he wanted to grow a global business, and in order to do so he needed to raise significant equity capital while also tapping North American and European markets for his products. Most importantly, he wanted expertise in sales and marketing and senior management. So, in 2008, he began looking for options to move his headquarters to North America. 

Lee’s company, now known as Moimstone Co. Ltd., is a superb designer and manufacturer of voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) products for home and enterprise. The products have been “white labeled” into Asian markets, meaning the seller and brand on the device is an Asian telecommunications company (Moimstone’s direct customer). Moimstone’s Android home and office phones work like smart phones without the cell connection (they connect with Wi-fi for data). The company also makes Android tablets and other office telephony products.

Lee could have located his company anywhere, but he wanted a location renowned for telecom leadership. We Canadians may not believe it when others call us global leaders, but RIM, Nortel, Telesat and others have given our country a highly respected perch, even if these companies all suffered market meltdowns. Canada represents a fertile location for telecom software developers, sales and marketing personnel, senior management and board members and advisers. All of these pieces are necessary for Moimstone’s growth plan.

Within Canada, Vancouver was an easy choice for Lee. With its strong Asian culture and large Korean population, it was a comfortable choice. But the real reason for choosing Vancouver was the access to capital, both private and public, that he would need to grow his business. The first connection (and frankly one of the best ambassadors for Vancouver within Canada) was Rob Bakshi, who sold Silent Witness Enterprises Ltd. in 2006 and was “semi-retired” in 2008 when he met Michael Uhm, who matched Asian companies with potential financiers in Canada. Lee had reached out to Uhm, and Bakshi became intrigued with the Moimstone opportunity, flying to South Korea to meet Lee. Bakshi shared Lee’s vision that the shift to VOIP telephony is still in its growth phase worldwide.

Rob McJunkin, a seasoned telecom and finance executive, was working with the “semi-retired” Bakshi looking for interesting mature technology businesses to help grow. They joined Lee’s team (Bakshi as working chair and McJunkin as CFO), incorporated Moimstone in Canada, established a Richmond world headquarters and started the process to hire and grow.

In 2010, Moimstone had over $20 million in revenue and was profitable. In 2011, the company grew rapidly, with new customers in Japan and Indonesia, while adding a seasoned North American board member. The next step is capital raising and North American expansion. Lee is very happy with the move so far, and looks forward to being an active member of B.C.’s technology industry. I look forward to more companies around the world seeking out Vancouver like C.W. Lee did.