Day4 Energy | Bycast

No. 6: Bycast Inc.

Software developed by a small Vancouver company is being trusted to handle millions of critical medical images around the world, in products marketed by computing giants such as IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Development Co. LP (HP). But that’s really just a taste of what makes this product impressive.

Bycast Inc. – which was founded in 2001, employs about 70 people and broke even for the first time last year – works mainly with hospitals to help them easily share their growing collection of digital medical images, files far too big to simply email. But the greater problem with digital information, Bycast CEO Moe Kermani explains, is that irreplaceable data can be lost if physical hard drives are destroyed in a disaster and information systems constantly have to be rebuilt as new technology makes old storage methods obsolete. Bycast’s StorageGrid software was created to overcome these limitations.

StorageGrid sits between users’ computers and the server where their files are stored. So when a user in Vancouver opens a file stored on a server in New York, their computer will find it on StorageGrid, not the server itself. Now imagine a giant monster attacks New York or someone invents a way to write computer data in protein and the stored files have to be moved to a new device. An IT manager can use StorageGrid to transfer the files to a safer or more advanced server, and the user will continue to find all his files on StorageGrid, where, from his perspective, they’ve always been. And because StorageGrid can copy files to numerous devices in different locations and shift them around if any of those devices become unusable, it becomes an adaptable and virtually indestructible storage system. All of B.C.’s major hospitals are now connected through a StorageGrid network.

Nobody else has really come up with anything that does what Bycast does,” says David Mosher, health-care business manager for HP Canada, which has been including StorageGrid with a line of health-care computing products since 2004. “I think Bycast predicted this was going to be a need, developed something before anyone else thought of it and came to market at pretty much exactly the right time.”

No. 5: Day4 Energy Inc.

Solar power is by no means a new innovation, but our panel believes that Day4 – with a unique, highly efficient design spirited from Russia and a global manufacturing system set in place – stands a chance to capitalize on the technology like no other company.

Day4 was sparked in 2003 when John MacDonald, co-founder and former president and CEO of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (our No. 1 innovator), met physics professor Leonid Rubin in Russia. The two decided to pack up Rubin’s invention of a highly efficient solar panel – which differs from conventional panels in its ability to lessen electrical resistance, reducing wasted energy – and try manufacturing it in B.C. Our experts agree that this was the catalyst for Day4’s innovation; new technology is one thing, but recognizing one with potential, moving it across the planet and trying to turn it into a mainstream product takes some vision.

Now with 175 employees, production facilities in North America and Europe and a customer base of solar installers and utilities around the globe, Day4 is positioning itself for rapid expansion. The company reported revenues of $31.7 million in its third quarter of 2008, up almost 200 per cent from the previous year. But with the slumping economy, most solar companies are now feeling the pinch of a drop in demand and an oversupply of solar modules, according to Michael Willemse, a research analyst for CIBC Equity Research. Indeed, Day4 laid off 95 staff in January, part of a plan to outsource some of its manufacturing to Jabil Circuit Inc. in Poland – though Willemse says this may prove a smart move for the future: “The logistics for manufacturing and shipping solar modules are much better in Europe than they are in Vancouver.”

Willemse believes that as the economy picks up in 2010 or 2011, the solar market is likely to revive as well, with Day4 at a competitive advantage due to the efficiency of its panel. If it can increase its scale of production to compete with other manufacturers on price, he says, Day4 stands a good chance of thriving.