Good afternoon. My name is John Rivenell. I arrived in Canada at the age of 35. It is therefore difficult for me to speak to you in French, and it would be even more difficult for you to understand me. That is why I will speak in English. I apologize.
I'll introduce you to my company, a little bit to me, and to our experience with the CIC program, or CICP. This will set the context for any questions you may have, so you can better understand our answers.
My company, SageData, which is my second company, has been in business for 20 years. We're based here in Ottawa. Up until some years ago, the majority of our clientele was with Nortel, Alcatel, JDS, and so forth. When they disappeared, it was a bit of a bump for us.
But we survived that and we're still here. Our major clients include pretty much every part of the federal government. In fact, the TVs in the corner have my bar codes on them; we're tracking your assets here. We have a couple of other projects going on with the House of Commons and the other place, as I believe you call it, which also uses our kit. DND, RCMP, and Atomic Energy of Canada use our systems.
What are our systems? We build on three base technologies: mobile hand-held computing, bar code technology, and radio frequency identification, i.e., the magic chips that tell you where you are. This business naturally leads to materiel management applications. Within the federal government, that would be IT tracking. When Nortel was here, we had a bar code on every computer in the national capital region.
To move on, for the RCMP, we supported them through the Olympics and through the G-8 and G-20. As well, our systems are in Kandahar with the troops. We have a wide range of systems everywhere from Agriculture Canada through the alphabet to the Wheat Board, with hundreds of government installations. That's a little bit about the company.
The thing we found, especially with the high-tech sector disappearing, is that we're okay. We're a company that can survive and we're profitable. This year has actually been a good one for us.
But there's been a problem of breaking out. A lot of clients come to us with specific requirements, and we think that if only we had the time and the money, we could make some changes and sell to a wider audience. We're a small company and totally self-funded. I started the company on a cash advance from my VISA card some 20 years ago. It's difficult for us to find the time and money to move out. That's why this program is very attractive to us.
I'll tell you little bit about me. I would be a professional engineer in Canada, but I was educated in the U.K., so I'm a chartered engineer. I'm also a member of the Institute of Quality Assurance. In addition, we're members of the Institute of Asset Management. In fact, I'm a contributor to their national magazine. That's a U.K., European, and Australian concept that has not yet come to Canada. I think it's coming. My background covers all of those areas. I guess my prime job is running the company and making sure we have the funds for the new projects.
Let me turn to CICP. GTEC was yesterday, as we've come straight from GTEC. Our first contact with the CIC program was about one year ago. The big-picture story is that I'm quite happy. I think this is a good program. It's excellent. We found out about it one year ago. We had to move quickly, because we found out about it a little too late, so we moved very quickly to get our application in. I think we first heard about the program in October and put in an application in November. We got a verbal say-so around January or February, or maybe in February or March, and I think the final documentation was cleared by July.
So yes, there's a lot of paperwork, and yes, it was kind of a horrendous process. If I'd had to do it, I think I wouldn't have done it, but I have someone in my company who enjoys doing this sort of work, so he ran with this project and ran it through. We've had excellent support from the small business office, from the folk on the other side of the wall, and a lot of conversations with PWGSC. I think there were some bugs in the process, but first time around, that's to be expected, so I have no criticism. We also have very good feedback, in that people are asking us to tell them how it went and what they can do better next time.
So kudos to the people who are running the program. I think it's very good.
Where are we now? Our first test department, as it's called under this program, is the Correctional Service of Canada. I'm going to jail next Thursday, I believe, to install one of our systems there. We'll make sure that all the folk who are our guests—is it still “guests of Her Majesty”?—are served food that is safe. That's part of the program.
Where do I think it's going? I'm very pleased about this because it does give us the opportunity to break away from the sort of hand-to-mouth existence a lot of small companies have, and it gives us a little bit of strength to plan for the future and to make some investment.
What practical difference does it make on the ground? I have more people working for me today, I am paying wages, and I guess you guys are taxing these folks, so you get a little bit of money back as well. That's all working well. We look forward to good things in the future from the program.
In listening to this today, there was one extra thought that occurred to me after I arrived. With regard to government funding of business, I would not be here were it not for the Canadian government's attitude towards business and its support. I worked for a British multinational. We had a vendor in Ottawa that was in trouble. We came across.... We didn't know whether to pull the plug and walk away or quite what to do.
We had the Foreign Investment Review Agency, which some of you may remember, and without wishing to poke fun, I had two meetings, one in the morning when the Foreign Investment Review Agency said, “We're not going to let you support this company because you're foreigners and we don't want your money”, so I was ready to go back to England. But in the meeting in the afternoon, Industry Canada said, “If you don't save them, no one else will, so here's a quarter of a million dollars”. If Industry Canada hadn't coughed up, we wouldn't have saved that company. We saved 30 jobs. And as for what was supposed to be a three-day business trip…you still have me here all these years later. I would not be here today if it were not for government support for industry.
That might not be a good thing, of course.