Engagement is what Mobify is all about, so it’s fitting that the Vancouver-based tech company
emerged from Canada’s most engaged research university
Mobify uses the power of connection to transform the way people use their mobile devices for commerce. And with a recent investment by Acton Capital Partners, a European technology investment fund, Mobify will continue to ensure that its digitally-savvy clients and their customers remain loyal friends.
Mobify was co-founded in 2007 by SFU computing science alumni Igor Faletski and John Boxall, and later joined by Peter McLachlan. Working in Igor’s mom’s basement, they developed what would one day become Mobify’s first product – MyBus, an app to deliver Translink’s bus schedules by text message. Today, the company is a global leader in mobile customer engagement, driving hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year for its 230 clients, including Eddie Bauer, Carnival and L’Oréal. It employs 150 people in its Yaletown space and London office, including several people that Igor and John first met in their student days at SFU.
“Relationships are the key not only to our success, but our customers’ success as well. Whether it’s the future business partner you meet in university, or the relationships you build and maintain with your customers through our Mobile Customer Engagement Platform, people are the foundation of everything we do.”
Igor and John, both recipients of BC Business Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 award, haven’t forgotten that it was at SFU where they were first given the opportunity to connect, engage and innovate, so they continue to give back. Igor presented at TEDxSFU in 2013 to encourage students to start companies of their own. Mobify hires SFU co-op students, which has proved to be a mutually beneficial relationship. And Mobify has recently donated a total of $40,000 to help SFU computing science students and recent graduates try their hand as entrepreneurs.
“Being an immigrant definitely helped me with starting a company – I didn’t know how the country worked when I came to Canada, but I did know that the old rules didn’t apply here anymore. When we started out, getting funding for a tech company wasn’t as commonplace as it is nowadays – so it took us a few years to get the business off the ground.”
Like older siblings, startups like Mobify—which is today one of Vancouver’s anchor tech companies—have helped pave the way for today’s upstarts. Its headquarters were recently used as the location of Premier Christy Clark’s announcement of the province’s $100 million technology innovation venture capital fund.
“At Mobify, we know from personal experience how critical early stage investments are to startups. Increasing access to venture capital in BC is a major boost to many growing technology companies and the overall economy—but we have to support students and create opportunities for innovation to avoid a brain drain to bigger centres.”
As CEO and co-founder, Igor has successfully scaled Mobify from three people working in a downtown Vancouver apartment to the global leader in mobile commerce and engagement solutions for retailers. With a strong background in computer science and software engineering, Igor is a passionate spokesperson for the future of mobile and its positive impact on society. He is frequently quoted in media outlets such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Mashable and VentureBeat. In his spare time, Igor trains as an open water swimmer aspiring to one day cross English Bay from West Vancouver to Kitsilano.
Q & A with Igor Faletski
What motivates you as a researcher?
The opportunity to make something new and useful, “make a dent in the universe” – while having fun and working with amazing people. Life is not a spectator sport – most of the objects that enable the modern lifestyle are hard-won creations of scientists, artists and entrepreneurs – we need to keep it going! There are many new products that need to exist and even more that need reinventing to support the world we live in today.
SFU bills itself as “Canada’s most engaged research university.” How does your own work exemplify this spirit of engagement?
Mobify’s product is a “mobile customer engagement platform” so I guess we’re 100% on brand!
What do you see as the most noteworthy emerging trend that will shape the direction of university research over the next 50 years?
There is a strong secular trend for more and more higher education materials and expertise to be available online. This means that universities will increasingly compete on the quality of their networks, support programs, funding and research – not providing baseline courses to students.
SFU has much to celebrate on its 50th anniversary. Looking ahead to our 100th anniversary in 2065, what do you think SFU will be most notable for?
I think it’s up to all of us – especially the next generation of students – to pick a path for SFU and get to the milestones that we want to get to. Personally, I’d like to see SFU become known for the quality and quantity of entrepreneurs and companies that we produce. British Columbia and SFU have all it takes – from talent, to immigration policy and increasingly, capital and mentorship available – we just need to take the leap.