Smooth sailing for Yukon tech start-up
Ian Stewart/Yukon News
In the booming field of software development, you can be working from your garage one day and lounging on your yacht the next.
Two Yukon techies have spotted success off the starboard bow.
Geof Harries and Michael Johnson are the crew behind Subvert Marketing Inc.
The business specializes in website design, software, and mobile and desktop applications.
Their latest invention came out of an interoffice frustration.
They found they wanted to share things with each other - like links, videos, files or snippets of text - but there was no good way to go about it.
Email was too slow. Manually sharing files through the office network was too much work.
They also needed a way to quickly and easily chat to one another. Even though they sit side by side, they usually have headphones on and nobody wants to be interrupted with a question about coffee.
They needed a program that would allow them to easily send information and files to one another.
So they built Flik.
It’s a new program that makes it easy to chat and send files over a Windows network.
You just drag a file into the Flik window, release it on the icon of the person you’re sending it to and it goes through the network.
These can be single files - documents, photos or videos - or they could be entire folders. Flik will automatically zip the folder to send and unzip it on the other end.
The transfer takes place over the local network which makes it faster and more secure than email.
But the program’s greatest selling feature is that it’s easy to install and use. Unlike Windows products from the past, the program doesn’t jettison style for functionality.
Subvert got some help designing the app from Yukon College’s Technology Innovation. It’s one of six key programs run by the Yukon Research Centre.
The program put up $20,000 to help Subvert refine the product and get it ready for market.
Version 1.0 of Flik has been on the web for about two months now.
The biggest obstacle has been marketing and trying to get a buzz going.
“It’s gotten a fair amount of traffic,” said Harries. “People are downloading and buying it, but to actually get to the point where we can buy a couple yachts, it’s a little ways off yet.”
Both Harries and Johnson have families and mortgages to take care of before they can blow their money on ocean-going vessels. But those yachts - or at least a new snowmobile or two - might not be far off at the rate they’re going.
Harries started Subvert in a spare bedroom at his home about five years ago.
Several years later, he brought Johnson on as technical director. Today they are housed in a spacious new office above Coast Mountain Sports on Whitehorse’s Main Street.
It’s the type of office that you might expect from a young programming start-up.
There’s a basketball on the floor, video-game guitars and drum kits in one corner. Johnson’s ukulele sits on a shelf.
The white-board walls are covered in a mixture of doodles and programming code.
The space actually looks too big for the two desks where all the work gets done, each cluttered with a laptop and monitors.
It all looks very impressive, although Harries admits that he only uses his third screen for iTunes.
Typically, a client comes in with an idea for a website or software and Subvert designs it, builds it and gets it running.
The small company began locally, doing work for Yukon government, Northwestel and Yukon Energy.
But it has been receiving an increasing amount of attention from outside of the Yukon.
Most notably, it’s been doing work for Microsoft thanks to a friend of Harries who put in a good word for his company.
Last week, Subvert won a worldwide contest put on by the software giant.
The contest involved designing a business application for the new Windows phone.
Microsoft picked the top five designs and gave them a development deal to build and market the application.
Other winning teams were from Korea, Australia and Spain.
“It needs to be on the market by February,” said Harries.
“They offer a lot of marketing and support for us. So it’s pretty wild, but now we’ve got to build it.”
For the time being, it appears that digital business is booming.
“It’s been pretty good,” said Harries, with a confident smile that wouldn’t look out of place behind the wheel of a yacht.