A pair of Canadians, who worked together on Wall Street, set up a software development services company in the remote town of Gananoque in Eastern Ontario, Canada a few years ago despite the population being not much more than 5,000 residents.
The company big river technologies, taking its name from the St Lawrence river flowing on the town’s southern border, and was founded towards the end of 2015 by John Free and Robert McGeachy.
Free, the CEO, and McGeachy, the COO, have decades of experience in finance and banking. But what propelled them to establish a firm in a far off-the-beaten path town that few outside of the region have ever heard of?
Kade Medd, the company’s Marketing Director, told Nearshore Americas that Free and McGeachy were ready to settle back in their native Eastern Ontario and believed Gananoque offers an attractive quality of life that contrasts with the increasingly busy and expensive hubs of Montreal and Toronto.
It is a town usually known for its tourist industry in the summer but they considered it ripe for the technology sector. The founders had previously built offshore and nearshore teams before and the economics in Eastern Ontario seemed particularly favorable.
One of the reasons for this is thanks to its geographical location, Gananoque is located near to at least five North American metropoles including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Syracuse, said Medd.
For this reason, there are also five large universities near to the town, including the Queens University in Kingston and the University of Waterloo, which are potential places to recruit from.
Value Over Price
The company is based on three pillars: fintech, enterprise computing and user experience discovery. It also claims to be the only fintech service provider in the region.
The services it tends to focus on also include: regtech (designed to enhance regulatory processes), mobile solutions, developing systems to support high transaction volumes, complying with evolving regulations, moving back office regulations to the cloud, enhancing frontend and backend user experiences, enterprise integration, and blockchain and big data.
“We are primarily interested in investment and regional banks. For example, we are working with a European bank on an open banking project and migrating their back office to the cloud,” said Medd. “We have a partner in New York city and we are advising on their digital transformation and helping them deliver that.”
The company tries to position itself as standing apart from the standard definition of “Nearshore.” Clearly, the firm has the classic attributes of “Nearshore” – including proximity, time zone and cultural compatibility – however the firm argues that because its value is centered around capability and not cost, the firm prefers to be classified boutique design center.
The company currently has over 60 staff members and its growth rate has tripled year on year.
It wants to increase its employee number to 200 by the end of next year. It recruits developers locally and has local people working for the company but also has a number of remote workers it contracts work out to.
“We have a development engine here in Gananoque with a lot more junior developers where we are training them to use the technologies required,” said Medd.
Big river technologies has two offices: a small satellite office in New York and one in the town which was refurbished from one of the old mill buildings.
It is not looking to open new offices in the near future but first wants to have remote workers all over the world. This is where it finds talent, as lots of employees like to have a flexible lifestyle, including those who work at the office have the option of working remotely.
Big river’s aim for the future is to grow a large community in Gananoque through the company’s 10 year plan.
“We are working with the town of Gananoque to attract more tech companies to their town and actually hopefully making a tech campus,” said Medd.
Medd hopes more people will choose this lifestyle instead of the metropolitan lifestyle. The firm believes that as millennials age they aren’t going to want to live in the city as much especially as the cost of living in the town is much more affordable compared to the other big cities nearby.
“We are already seeing trends of people coming back to these remote areas, especially if there are jobs here,” said Medd