Building a Business Around Technology

April 24, 2017

Your new car has one of those nifty back-up cameras that makes you look like a parking pro. What if you put your car in reverse and the camera does not come on? In the old days, figuring out a solution would be straightforward. Today, the complexity of the systems running our everyday lives means a far more sophisticated tool is needed to find the answer. 

               QRA Corp

QRA Corp, a 100% IT export company founded and based in Halifax, works to solve complex system errors. For example, QRA’s software can figure out that the back-up camera didn’t work because the car was placed in reverse, then the brake was pressed down, and then the turn indicator and air-conditioning were turned on in this certain order. 

“As systems like airplanes, naval ships, submarines and now cars become more automated and have autonomous systems – like how your heart pumps blood without you thinking about it – they are becoming more complicated,” says QRA co-founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis.

“An upfront diagnostic investment is needed that evaluates initial design plans and written engineering documentation to ensure all systems do what they are supposed to do – and not do what they are not supposed to do.”

QRA started officially in 2013 when Jordan, originally from Toronto, left his teaching position as a Physics professor at Dalhousie University. He joined forces with his long-time friend, Dean Tsaltas of Dartmouth, co-founder and CTO. They had met as undergraduates at Dalhousie in the 1990s. 

“I had been experimenting with algorithms in natural systems like quantum mechanics at Dal. Dean had ideas about how to analyze complex software by using visual patterns on screens,” says Jordan. They knew engineering advanced control systems powered by software was becoming increasingly complex and errors after project completion could be costly to fix, dangerous to human life, or both. Together they created QVtrace and QVscribe.

QVtrace ensures system designs implement the intended system behaviour in complex model-based designs. QVscribe helps engineers increase the clarity, consistency and quality of their technical documentation all within the requirements of authoring and management tools already in use today. Both products find faults fast, cut through noise, increase development efficiency and enable engineers to get back to engineering.

Moving from academia to entrepreneurship is not a trajectory most professors choose, yet it is one Jordan has navigated very successfully.

“Tech companies hardly ever fail because of the technology. They fail because they don’t build a business around the technology,” says Jordan. “For that, you need an organization like the Halifax Partnership to provide an ecosystem and support.” 

Through the Partnership’s SmartBusiness program, QRA accessed Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) with Industry Canada. This gave them access to industry information and exposure to foreign businesses.   

The SmartBusiness program supports business growth in Halifax by helping remove barriers and opening doors to resources. Through the SmartBusiness Action Team, businesses are connected with the expertise and experience of over 30 business and government organizations and programs designed to help businesses succeed. SmartBusiness can connect businesses with recruitment and training experts, address location and relocation needs, access financing, and more.  

SmartBusiness also pointed QRA to the provincial Human Resource Portal, a site which provides comprehensive HR information, a particularly useful resource for those who do not have on-staff HR professionals.

In four short years, QRA has grown from 2 to 18 people.  All but one is living in Halifax. They have exceptional experience in applied mathematics, physics, enterprise software, and complex systems engineering – real depth of knowledge needed for a world of increasing complication.

“We are committed to Halifax. QRA was born and raised here,” said Alex McCallum, QRA Corp COO. “With a proximity to local naval activities acting as the hub of Canadian military activity and central to other clients around the world, Halifax is a great place to serve our global market. And most importantly, our team loves it here, and we’re excited to be a part of the movement that is changing Halifax into a new hub for technology and innovation.”