Five Ws with the TIAs Finalists: GameChanger: Diversity and Inclusion

Unbounce, Virtro Entertainment and Wealthbar (now CI Direct Investing) at the 2020 Technology Impact Awards Finalist Announcement on April 28th, 2020.

In the lead-up to the 2020 Technology Impact Awards, BC Tech is profiling all 38 finalists in 11 award categories. Today, we celebrate our finalists in the GameChanger: Diversity and Inclusion category, an award that celebrates those companies who go above and beyond to successfully move the needle on Diversity and Inclusion in the tech sector.

In light of social and political movements across the world, coupled with the effects of COVID-19 changing how we approach day to day life, this year’s theme of “purpose” and acknowledging those who make the world a better place is more important than ever before. 

The GameChanger: Diversity and Inclusion award is presented in partnership with PwC.

Unbounce

Who: Unbounce was founded in 2009 when CEO Rick Perreault, a then frustrated marketer, set out to redefine how marketers build landing pages after continually relying on developers for every marketing campaign. Rick joined forces with Carter Gilchrist, Oli Gardner, Carl Schmidt, Justin Stacey, and Jason Murphy to bootstrap Unbounce which today is the world’s leading landing page platform. Unbounce is a people-first company with a team of over 200 employees spread across offices in Vancouver and Berlin and is widely known as one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies. “I’m proud of where we’ve come from, and where we’re going,” shares Leslie Collin, VP of People and Culture. “From day one, we’ve believed in the philosophy that when your people are happy, your customers will be happy, and your business will reach its full potential. Part of being people-first at Unbounce also means creating a culture that’s deeply rooted in diversity and inclusion. Being named a finalist in this TIAs category is a great reminder of the importance of this work.” (Visit Unbounce’s hiring page here.)

What: Unbounce is a drag-and-drop builder that was created with the goal of empowering marketers to create landing pages quickly and easily and without any technical expertise. Now with the company’s investment in AI, Unbounce is helping marketers to not only create content but to become conversion intelligent by achieving the most conversions possible. “Unbounce landing pages are easy to build and offer insights and analytics to show you how you can optimize your pages for even better performance,” said Collin. “We make marketing easy and attainable for even the newest of users.”

When: Over the past 10 years, Unbounce has experienced year over year growth, and has now powered over 1 billion conversions on behalf of its customers world-wide. “We’ve hit two really big milestones recently,” explains Laura, Social Impact Manager at Unbounce. “In November of last year, Unbounce achieved gender parity, with 50% of our employees identifying as women (including at the senior leadership level) and many of these women being hired and promoted into technical roles. On top of that, we analyzed for gender pay parity, concluding that gender is not a factor in determining salary at Unbounce. Being recognized by BC Tech for our efforts to make the tech sector a more inclusive place for women is extremely rewarding. We’re proud of our accomplishments so far but we’re committed to all of the work we know still needs to be done both when it comes to gender and for all other factors contributing to a truly diverse and inclusive sector.”

Where: “Vancouver is home to Unbounce and we’re very proud to be part of Vancouver’s thriving tech ecosystem,” explains Leslie. “Now more than ever, we’ve seen how willing the community is to step up and provide help to those in need.”

Why: “At Unbounce, we believe businesses can be a force for good, and that belief guides everything that we do, says Laura. “Our values — Ambition, Courage, Being Real, Empathy, and most importantly in the case of this award nomination, Diversity — are the bedrock of our business and we approach everything we do with these values in mind.”

Virtro

Who: Jordan and Lee Brighton founded Virtro in 2016, having launched three companies prior. Leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), Virtro has developed an AI character-driven conversation engine that lets people practice language, soft skills and undertake vocational training. The technology is cutting edge, pushing the boundaries of training and education, and gaining ground at a rapid pace.

“With this company we made a conscious decision to be diverse and inclusive from the outset, to make it a part of the fabric of the company,” said Lee Brighton. “You could say diversity is in our DNA.”

What: Virtro harnesses the power of VR to develop competency-based immersive training simulations for Virtual Reality and PC platforms. Utilizing AI as a means to offer unparalleled levels of engagement, their VR technology is powered by their proprietary conversion engine, delivering faster and more focused learning experiences. Virtro offers training simulations in a variety of industries, from healthcare, to language skills, to the trades. 

To date, Virtro has successfully launched titles on all major VR platforms and was awarded the highly esteemed 2018 Oculus Launchpad Grant in support of content creators from diverse backgrounds. 

When: Virtro is a bootstrapped company that has grown at a rapid pace. Virtro has doubled in team size and revenue each year and this year is shaping up to show further growth and expansion. In July, they are welcoming six new team members and are delighted that as a Digital by Design company they are now attracting talent throughout Canada.  

Where: Located in the tech hub of Gastown in Vancouver, Vitro is already providing their unique tech across Canada, and will be exporting their experiences to the U.S. and Australia by the end of 2020. “What we’ve done is leveraged our tech into a system that allows us to do competency-based training. The ability to try to do things inside a simulated environment is extremely valuable and something students benefit from right here in Vancouver,” explained Lee.

Virtro continues to hire, adding seven individuals to their team in recent weeks and continuing to expand. (Visit Virtro’s careers page here).

“We came from a place where diversity was a policy, but not the norm. We came to a country [Canada] that actively talks about being diverse and inclusive, and wanting to reflect that we took that approach from the start,” explains Lee. Jordan and Lee lead a team of 36 people that are over 50% women with representatives of the LGBTQ community and 18 different countries.

Why: Jordan and Lee believe that diversity and inclusion is a major contributor to Virtro’s success, explaining “our diversity adds so much value to the company. Meetings have people with different experiences and life journeys. This diversity adds so much depth and richness to our teams and helps shape products to our customers.” Virtro is a testament to how diversity and inclusion can bring value to a business from the startup stage and as a company grows and scales. 

WealthBar (now CI Direct Investing)

Who: WealthBar (now CI Direct Investing) was founded by Tea and Chris Nicola in 2013, motivated by the need to democratize the investment process and make accessing investing information easier and more intuitive for Canadians. “We wanted to empower people to take control of their investments,” explains Tea Nicola, Co-founder and CEO. “Whether you have one-dollar or a million dollars, your investment experience matters and is important. That’s a core purpose and driver for us. To democratize the investing process; not just the wealthy should be able to invest in their financial future.” (Visit WealthBar’s careers page here). 

What: WealthBar  is an investment platform designed to give Canadians control of their financial future with access to professionally managed investments and financial advice. WealthBar  takes a long-term approach to investing, and offers all-weather portfolios designed to withstand even the toughest storms. “WealthBar offers customers, regardless of their financial investment level, full financial transparency and freedom,” explains Tea. “We take this philosophy of equality and democratizing seriously. We are a team that is 50/50 gender balanced and we’re proud to say of our original 10 employees, eight are still with the company. How we treat our people and how we invest in our people is very important to who we are. It’s very rewarding to be recognized by BC Tech for exactly this – honouring diversity and our people.” 

When: Founders Tea and Chris Nicola pioneered the robo-advisor model in Canada in 2013, and WealthBar has been growing ever since. Now a team of over 40 employees, a mix of financial advisors, creative professionals, and senior leadership, WealthBar continues to invest in their humans who power the robo-adviser in order to better serve Canadians. 

“We’re very proud of our 4.6 star rating on Glassdoor,” explains Danielle Klassen, Senior Manager, Communications. “It shows our investment into creating an environment our team loves. We’re also proud of the successes of our employees and love celebrating our wins. Tea, for example, has been recognized on multiple occasions by the Women in Wealth Management Awards. Most recently, she was a finalist in the Woman Innovator of the Year category; we love to celebrate our team.” 

Where: “We’re a Vancouver company through and through, and are based in Yaletown,” says Danielle. “Our Vancouver roots are important to us, and we’re grateful to be part of the BC Tech community, a community that is vibrant, rich, and thriving.” 

“We’re excited to bring more diversity to the BC Tech community as well,” shares Tea. “As an immigrant and refugee to Canada, not only does this resonate deeply with me, but I believe a diverse workforce makes for a more collaborative, supportive, and happier environment.” 

Why: “Purpose should be at the core of everything you do,” says Tea. “Our company’s purpose and message of diversity and inclusion is well reflected in our company goal: to democratize investing for all Canadians, regardless of financial status. Everyone is equal. That’s what we believe at WealthBar.”