This article is part of the Bright Leaders of Calgary series which features prominent corporate leaders in Calgary and their insights on the business community and economic future.
Calgary is where innovative companies can scale their solutions to global challenges. That’s the story of Xerris, a Calgary-based tech startup, launched at the onset of the pandemic in late 2019.
Starting with three employees and a remote-first policy, the software development firm grew its team to over 150 people by mid-2022 and was acquired by Accolite Digital, a private equity backed firm based in the United States. The firm works with big names in diverse industries including aerospace, agriculture and construction.
With Calgary ranked a top tech talent and job market in North America by CBRE, Xerris is one of the over 1,776 privately held software startups making moves in the city with one of the highest-educated populations in Canada.
In fact, Calgary saw 18 per cent tech workforce growth over the past five years and momentum in Calgary’s tech and innovation ecosystem continues to accelerate. The city has one of North America’s fastest-growing tech talent workforces, outpacing all Canadian and U.S. tech metros in LinkedIn’s Talent Insights report in April 2022.
Jeremy Tooley, co-founder and CEO of Xerris is passionate about Calgary as the place where bright minds and big ideas come together to help solve global challenges – the vision of the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.
We caught up with Tooley to provide insight on the success of Xerris and how other companies can seize the opportunity in Calgary’s innovation ecosystem.
Attracting talent is a global competition for companies. Tell us how your approach to hiring beyond tech-specific talent has worked so well for Xerris?
First and foremost, we hire based on personality and culture fit. If you’re motivated and eager to learn, we can teach the skills needed. For us, specific tech skillsets are actually on the bottom of our list, because tech is teachable.
We're a professional services firm with a wide array of clients, several of which are big companies.
To ensure our team members are confident on projects and our solutions are up to our standards, we train all employees for a few weeks before putting them on projects. We want to make sure that all new Xerris employees will land with their feet planted, feeling confident going into new engagements.
This strategy has enabled us to grow a team of passionate employees from Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver as well as locations in South America and the US.
Our policies have made it so we’re winning in Calgary – despite the opportunity to have staff work from wherever, about 75 to 80 per cent of employees live in Calgary. Our employees have the flexibility of remote work, but we have the ability to show up locally, too. This set us up for success right from the get-go of COVID. Companies that don’t offer remote work are falling behind.
What sets Calgary apart from other business environments?
Alberta, in general, has a different way of working. The environment here is trust based, and we’re unique in how we show up together. Calgary has a handshake mentality.
Here, you build outcomes and solutions together with your client – we’re not just performing a service. We’re partners and work together as one team.
How have you seen Calgary change over the last five years?
Calgary is experiencing a new, young generation of tech startups. The city has completely exploded in the last few years. With Calgary’s foundation as an energy and oil and gas town, the city is home to highly skilled talent and many of these professionals took COVID as an opportunity to try something new. We’re seeing innovation across industries and it’s amazing to see.
Calgary is experiencing a perfect storm for tech innovation.
What would you say to someone who is considering transitioning to work in tech?
Do it. It’s totally worth it. It’s chaotic, fun and rewarding. There will be a ton of highs and a ton of lows, but when you get success in tech, it’s super fun. There are few things more satisfying than building relationships, working with a client, and solving a challenge for a client.
What’s your vision for Calgary? Where do you see the city in the next five to 10 years?
I see a healthy mix of industry in Calgary and I think this continues to set the city apart. Calgary has tech, oil and gas, startups working in the energy transition and green economy space. We have new businesses setting up head offices, and big international players moving here. We have new tech companies coming here.
I don’t think Calgary needs to just focus on tech. Our city is resilient because we have focused and continue to focus on a few industries, including our foundation as an energy city. In doing so, Calgary’s future is sustainable and prosperous. When we experience hard economic times in one industry, we’re balanced with success and progress in the others.
For a more in-depth feature on Xerris, visit Live Tech, Love Life.
The Team Calgary corporate partnership program engages our community’s visionary thought leaders to influence Calgary’s economic growth and create long-term prosperity and opportunities for all Calgarians.
Together, we advance the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, as the path to make Calgary the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit to help solve global challenges.
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