Going Global: Dispatches from the front lines
Mohamed Elhabiby draws a straight line from Alberta Innovates’ Global Partnerships Programs to the success of his Calgary-based company RoboGarden Inc. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without these programs; they connected us with international partners and helped us develop the confidence to enter international markets,” he says.
RoboGarden’s “where we are” is very impressive for a company that’s just three years old. It has developed and is now selling a web-based application that teaches students—from kindergarten to high school—how to code. Sales are taking off in 14 countries, at last count. Revenues from first quarter 2019 sales are one and a half times greater than total 2018 sales. The company now has nine employees.
While Elhabiby always felt that selling into global markets would be RoboGarden’s path to success, it wasn’t clear how the company would make an international breakthrough. That all changed when RoboGarden was invited to participate in a matchmaking event hosted by the Alberta-Jalisco Innovation Commercialization program, one of the Global Partnerships Programs.
“Alberta Innovates is awesome at matchmaking,” says Elhabiby. “They put a lot of thought and effort into ensuring that you could potentially collaborate with several companies.”
As a result of the matchmaking event, RoboGarden found a Mexican software development partner. Together, the two companies applied for and won project funding. The result was the commercialization of the RoboGarden application as well as continuing hardware development. Another big win—beyond technology development—is that the partner is now a distributor of RoboGarden in Mexico.
“Our experience through the Alberta-Jalisco program was great because we not only developed technology for international users, it also served as an icebreaker,” says Elhabiby. “We developed the confidence to go forward and show the world what we can do in Alberta.”
Success in Mexico encouraged Elhabiby to further his global plans. He attended two Global Partnerships matchmaking events in China and calls the results “explosive. We secured two distributors and they are generating revenue now. We are also currently in talks with a large Chinese firm to expand the business beyond distributorships. On top of this, our international growth helped us raise capital in Canada. All this came from matchmaking.”
RoboGarden is now moving into the adult domain. A pilot project is underway in Calgary to teach coding to underemployed or unemployed oil and gas workers. While most adult education programs focus on improving the skills of people who already have some background in coding, the RoboGarden program is designed for people who have no coding experience.
Sandra Candie, Director of Global Partnerships, is thrilled with RoboGarden’s success because it clearly demonstrates the value of the programs. “RoboGarden is one of a number of Alberta companies that have used our Global Partnerships programs to develop technology for international markets,” she says. “What’s most striking with RoboGarden is the speed at which they have scaled. Not only did they develop the concept, but also they were selling licenses around the world in less than two years.”
What is coding?
Coding is essentially the computer language that professionals use to create software, smart phone apps, websites and robotic control systems. It is an in-demand skill for many jobs today.