Entrepreneur of the Year 2014: Information Technology finalists

Ho Kim | BCBusiness

President and CEO, CAMACC Systems Inc.

If you filled up your tank recently, chances are Ho Kim’s cameras were watching you. Founded in 1998, at the height of the tech boom, CAMACC Systems Inc. (CAMera ACCess) is one of North America’s largest installers of video recorders and access control systems, with more than 200,000 cameras and 100,000 remote door locks in gas stations, grocery stores and across Canada. CAMACC—which specializes in full-service, national rollouts of security equipment—designs, builds and installs both its software and hardware for the likes of Suncor, Gateway Casino Corp. and London Drugs. “We’re very unique,” says Kim, a 47-year-old college dropout from Victoria who moved to Vancouver Island from South Korea at the age of two. “We’re one of the very few in our industry to have everything under one roof.”

CAMACC’s headquarters, a 10-minute drive from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, houses Kim’s most valued asset: the company’s 24/7 customer support centre. Nine 50-inch monitors line the walls of CAMACC’s situation room-like facility, where seven full-time tech support employees can check over 300 live feeds from clients’ cameras from coast to coast (with their permission, of course). “In a lot of cases, we can let a client know that there’s a problem on their site before they’re aware of it,” says Kim.

While CAMACC now has a dedicated software engineering team for client requests and revenues that top $17 million a year, in the early years, Kim and his partner devoted their working days to signing clients‚ and evenings to building their product: tinkering with the cameras, fixing bugs, loading and testing software. “When you’re a small company starting out, you wear every single hat,” says Kim. “Manufacturing was one of those hats.”

Stephane Bourque (FINALIST)
President and CEO, Incognito Software Inc.

A low-risk, low-growth business strategy may not square with the average trajectory of a successful tech company, but it’s worked out well for Stephane Bourque, founder of Incognito Software, which makes off-the-shelf enterprise software for Internet service providers (including Shaw, Telus and Brazil’s NetServices) to help them manage their subscriber equipment. Back in the early 1990s, Bourque was a recent transplant from Montreal, working as an engineer at Banyan Systems, when he saw a need for companies to connect with their customers online. “What we can do with a phone can now be done over a computer—and the way to do this is through the Internet,” he recalls thinking in those early days, adding: “Most companies did not see the Internet as the future in 1991.” Flash forward two and a half decades, and Incognito has survived—and maintained profitability—through three recessions. But his proudest accomplishment? He’s never let go of an employee for lack of work.

Jack Newton (FINALIST)
CEO, Clio

Over lunch with a lawyer friend in 2007, Jack Newton thought he might have an answer to the high-cost woes of running a boutique legal practice in an industry notoriously committed to paper: highly secure, cloud-based software that streamlines time tracking, billing and other administrative tasks. A software developer by training, Newton had “caught the startup bug” working at Chemex Inc., a medical diagnostics company spun out of the University of Alberta, in 2000 (“You’re rolling up your sleeves and building something that didn’t previously exist,” he says of that experience). Six years after launching Clio, Newton and co-founder Rian Gauvreau have scaled the company into a 100-person firm, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Dublin and a $20-million venture capital investment from Bessemer Venture Partners, an early investor in Yelp and Skype.