2014 Finalist: Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community
Supporting the Development of Innovative Geomatics Technologies
TECTERRA Inc. was born from an idea at the University of Calgary in collaboration with the Alberta government. The government wanted to better utilize the natural resources in the province and the university saw geomatics as providing the right tool set to achieve the goal.
Geomatics, also known as geospatial technology or geomatics engineering, involves the collection, management, integration, representation, analysis, modelling and display of geographically or spatially referenced information. Geomatics applications can be found in a variety of industry sectors from agriculture and energy to air navigation and disaster response.
As there was a need to invest in geomatics innovation, the government decided to focus more on the commercialization of the science and technology than fundamental research.
A Revolutionary Model
TECTERRA was founded in 2009, with operations starting in 2010, and the result was an independent not-for-profit corporate entity, separate from the government and the university. TECTERRA enables companies to bring innovative geomatics solutions to market, but this isn’t solely achieved by providing financial assistance. Their support goes far beyond the funding they provide.
“We help companies develop their business plans, develop their strategies, we coach and train highly qualified personnel, we help with marketing activities. Basically (we assist with) all the elements of running and growing a business,” explains Dr. Mohamed Abousalem, TECTERRA CEO.
“Our overarching goal is creating prosperity through innovation. Innovation has to be the tangible value gained from the use of technology in everyday life.”
Since its establishment, TECTERRA has significantly influenced the growth and success of the Alberta geomatics community. TECTERRA is generating an estimated $300 million in wealth from $30 million in investment commitment and more than $18 million in matching industry investment.
“The fact that we are a not-for-profit and are able to generate 10 times -what we have invested – is a great achievement.”
“The beauty of what we do and what makes us very proud and happy is that the wealth we generate is not just money going back to companies. The wealth we create is additional strength in the Alberta economy,” Abousalem says.
TECTERRA has supported over 160 small to medium sized companies, 27 breakthrough technologies and has created 242 new jobs.
TECTERRA received funding for a five-year term up front from provincial and federal agencies. This model of pre-funding allowed TECTERRA to focus on providing value they set out to deliver knowing the funding was secure in the bank. Furthermore, the organization is led by individuals from industry and they run the organization as if it were a for-profit company.
Abousalem says, “When you walk in the doors you don’t get a sense of us being not-for-profit. This is a real serious for-profit business. We don’t make the profits, it’s our clients that make the profits.”
TECTERRA works closely with industry and government with the end goal of helping organizations succeed.
“To be in a position of helping is such a great honour,” Abousalem says. “To help companies grow, to help entrepreneurs achieve their successes and in the process we also accomplish things we can be proud of, is a great set-up.”
TECTERRA’s funding model is unique: they do not take ownership of assets in the company, they don’t take equity share or license rights in the intellectual property of the company; their loans are repayable with zero interest upon the commercial success of their investees or are even forgivable if the project doesn’t succeed.
“It’s a very attractive way to help companies achieve their objectives faster and stronger than they would on their own. Our model offers a cost of capital advantage for emerging projects and fills an existing void between early stage funding and venture capital. We help our portfolio companies without exposing them to the potential liabilities that other investors or lenders may represent,” Abousalem says.
TECTERRA achieves success by giving the right help to the right recipients. Although TECTERRA’s first five-year term has ended, the value they have brought to the geomatics community hasn’t gone unnoticed. More funding commitments have been received from the Alberta government, allowing TECTERRA to continue to work as an instrumental support system in Alberta.
Furthermore, Abousalem says he sees TECTERRA’s proven and successful model applicable in other areas of ICT and the science and technology ecosystem.