Cybera is looking for the movers and shakers of Alberta; the ones who are using emerging technologies to innovate their fields and raise the profile of Albertan research and development. Once a month, we will sit down with one of these tech gurus to get a perspective on where they, and their industry, are heading.
This month, we spoke to Trevor Doerksen, CEO and founder of Mobovivo. Trevor has been at the intersection of media and technology his entire career. As a film and TV producer, he believes there are better ways to market and distribute these media. Trevor produced snowboarding films as a teenager and was the executive producer of a national science television series. A serial industrialist, Trevor has been named Entrepreneur of the Year by Digital Alberta, one of the 50 Most Influential People by Alberta Venture, and has been featured in the New York Times.
Cybera: What is your favourite book or movie about technology and why?
The Steve Jobs biography — it’s just on my mind right now. I’m not much of a sci-fi fan, so that would have to be it! It was good because it wasn’t just about technology, it balances liberal arts and technology. That was important for him and his career, his product design, and his approach to technology. I like that, and I’d like to see more of that. I saw Steve once but I never did get to meet him.
Cybera: What would you say is uniquely Albertan in technology?
Outside of valves that might allow more flow through an oil pipeline, perhaps the best example of innovation and success in Alberta — and probably what we’re best known for in the technology world — is the SMART board. Speaking more generally, there’s also the touch screen. I can’t say it was invented here, but before there were iPads, there were touch screens in classrooms and boardrooms thanks to an Alberta company based in Calgary.
Cybera: How do you think technology could/should make Alberta stronger?
I have two thoughts on this. The first is quite obvious: Outside of valves that make oil and gas flow better through pipelines, without diversification of the economy, all of Alberta will suffer. With a single-minded approach to our economy, that means people who would normally live here might choose to leave or never come, because they work in a different industry. Without diversification, there’s a lack of attraction.
Secondly, perhaps less obvious but even more important to me right now is diversifying our story — not just our economy, but our story. For example, Alberta has a bad environmental record, and California has a bad environmental record. No one knows about California’s bad record because they have a diverse story and they choose to tell that story whenever they can. Whether it’s about wine, food, innovations, retail, technology, software, hardware, or in energy, they tell those stories loud and proud because they’re sophisticated enough to understand that if they focus on things that make people feel good about themselves and about their economy, they don’t have to focus on things like burning coal. Nobody really wants to know that California burns more coal and pollutes the atmosphere more than Alberta does; nobody thinks that happens because they’ve done so well at diversifying their story. So diversifying the economy and livelihoods of our neighbourhoods, our downtowns… that happens when we look for technology to do it. Diversifying our story is important, even just to change the message so that oilsands and Alberta aren’t joined at the hip, like coal and California would be if they weren’t so sophisticated about their communications.
Cybera: Are there any obstacles or barriers in preventing this?
Leadership, plain and simple. Leadership of our government, leadership of our industries, leadership at the federal level, provincial level, and municipal level. Any leader in the community needs to be pulling towards diversifying. Our most vocal leaders are the type who believe they can educate everyone about Alberta’s main exports and their benefits. But confusing facts with messaging is something that good leaders figured out to not do a long time ago. Yes, you need facts to support you, but facts alone aren’t going to get your message across. You need to wrap that up and indicate a better message. If we have the right leadership, we’ll get more out of the people who live here.
Cybera: If you could sit down and speak with any mentor, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I was thinking about this quite a bit! Obviously Steve Jobs is somebody that I know I could learn from. He and a very good friend of mine that I got a chance to work with, Dr. Rob Buckman, died on the same weekend. I’d love to have the three of us in the same conversation. Lots to learn from both Rob and Steve; they’re both excellent at what they did. Both fantastic communicators. I got this line from Rob that I love. If we were at a hotel and wanted an upgrade, he would say “I’m not sure if you can say yes to this, but…”. If you wanted an upgrade and you started with that line, you usually got it. He was a fantastic communicator. The amount that we could learn from these men about communication is huge.
This is the sixth interview in this series. This past January, Cybera spoke to Chris Turner, an author, journalist and public speaker who covers climate change and sustainability issues. In February, we interviewed DJ Sures, a roboticist and entrepreneur in Calgary. Michelle Sklar, Vice President, Industry Relations with Poynt Corporation, and President, Board of Directors at Digital Alberta, was our subject for March. In April, we spoke to Angie Tarasoff, Senior Manager of Technology Planning and Management at Alberta Education. Tom Ogaranko of Redengine was our featured interview in May. If you have any suggestions for potential candidates you’d like to see featured, please comment below or send us an email.