At its heart, Eight Solutions Inc. is a company that tells stories. It may sound strange, but before it’s able to tell its stories, it also acts as a janitor.
That’s because the company has a big-data solution that takes complex data and unlocks their potential. Rather than just collecting the data, the company’s products analyze them and create a narrative. This puts the data’s usefulness to humans at the forefront, something that differentiates Eight Solutions from its competitors.
The founders started off in the video game world, but soon saw that they could do big things with big data.
“If you collect data and put it into a narrative or a visual form, you can start getting a predictive nature to that data,” said Rory Armes, the company’s CEO. “We launched ourselves into the local market in Vancouver.”
Since then, they’ve expanded sales of their product, Cumul8, to India and the U.S. with other potential markets being explored all the time. For example, the company is working with the forestry sector, specifically in mills, where it’s collecting data from the mill’s sensors — information that’s there anyway.
“That data delivers a story and you can understand what’s happening,” Armes said. “In the case of a sawmill, you can get predictive on a machine, a saw, or a conveyer belt. You can say that based on the history from the data, it’ll break down in two weeks. That’s information these mills really want.”
The product takes the data from those sensors, “cleans them up” — this is the janitorial role — and then puts them in the cloud for the company.
“We give you a web-based solution that lets you look and play with that data,” he said.
The company’s exporting journey is something it “stumbled onto,” after Armes did a talk on big data for a government-funded U.S. non-profit. The woman who ran the non-profit sent him to his first U.S. client and after that, he started pursuing that market and then moved on to India and China.
In India, Eight Solutions has a licensing partnership with Prime Focus, a large post-production house that does a lot of Hollywood and Bollywood work in visual effects and 3D conversion.
Armes said the difference between Canada’s domestic market — where he does a lot of work as well, particularly in transportation, forestry and entertainment — is in how deals come about. In Canada, he can just sell his Cumul8 product, but in India, his customers want his technology.
“I think the success in India will be to partner with a company doing something similar to us,” he said. “I don’t think I can just knock on doors and sell my product there.”
He also advised being careful when dealing with other cultures. His experiences in India and China have sometimes resulting in him revealing too much about his business, only to be turned down in the end. Now he’s much more cautious. He also advises being realistic, and says only about three per cent of deals actually work out, adding that when they do, they’re well worth the trouble.
Having international sales also gives him some street credit at home.
“A lot of companies we’re talking to have international sales and the international customers validate that,” he said. “They give us additional credibility. It gets me through the reception door.”
Asked what character traits he’s most needed to export successfully, he said patience and respect for the would-be customer’s culture.
“Also, don’t bring your own culture to their country,” he said. “Don’t do the stereotypical ‘American goes to Japan and orders fries and a burger.’ If you can’t respect and embrace that culture, don’t do business there.”
Armes said selling into the U.S. is easy but Canadian sellers have to be bold. “You have to pitch the blue sky,” he said. “As Canadians, we’re very conservative, we’re humble and it just kills us down there. It doesn’t work.”