Local Tech Going Global

Nathan Kroll and his team work with some of the biggest tech brands in the business, and they do it all from right here in Nova Scotia.

Kroll rebranded his media business in September, taking the name from Ad-Dispatch to Current Studios. They’re hard at work on their second project with Marvel, they’re starting another project with Intel in Best Buy stores, and their augmented reality blankets and pillows are selling well at Toys ‘R Us. While many virtual reality projects rely on an oculus (headset), Current Studios uses mobile devices to give users a more authentic virtual reality experience.

The majority of Current’s business comes from U.S. clients, but Kroll says their team is content to raise their families in Nova Scotia and rack up frequent flier points — although it can be painful to spend so much on airfare.

“People ask us how we penetrated those markets, and the answer is that we got on a plane and flew there every week for a year and a half — because relationships have to be made in person,” says Kroll. “It really requires patience, an enormous amount of effort, and a sizeable investment.”

Kroll says the best advice he’d give a local business owner looking to start exporting is to be prepared to spend a lot of time at 20,000 feet — taking meetings and building connections. But once the contract is landed, he says it’s not a problem to do the actual work thousands of kilometers away from his clients.

“Our customers don’t care where we are, because even if we were in New York, we could be working with clients in L.A.,” says Kroll. “With our expertise and our workflow, we don’t have to be geographically close all of the time — just when we’re there building the relationship.”

James Boyle, coordinator of Halifax tech conference Collide, says the global nature of the tech sector is allowing more young Nova Scotians to stay here at home, open their own businesses, and export quality products and services worldwide.

“I’m discovering all of the time that you’re only one Skype meeting away from anyone in the U.K. or Japan. I mean, I can email a file to China just as quickly as I can send it to Toronto, or to my next-door neighbour,” says Boyle. “Technology allows you to have a home base here, and still work anywhere in the world.”

Jean-Paul Deveau, president of Acadian Seaplants agrees. “We can succeed by focusing on producing new and differentiated goods and services, in innovative ways and selling them in non-traditional markets,” Deveau says.

He is a member of the One Nova Scotia Coalitionand is leading a team looking at Global Competitiveness and Trade.  The Coalition is developing a 10-year plan to achieve the vision and goals of the report from the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy.

 “There are opportunities for Nova Scotia products and services in emerging markets. And there are tremendous examples of Nova Scotia companies that are succeeding, such as Current Studios. But our economy needs more examples,” says Deveau.

James Boyle encourages local tech companies to reach out for guidance and support from NSBI. “They exist to help our sector. If you’re not having meetings with them, you’re doing yourself a disservice,” says Boyle.