So You Think You Can Fly?

WEBSTER MEMORIAL COMPETITION WINNER CORY RABY

WEBSTER MEMORIAL COMPETITION WINNER "CORY RABY"

Last week-end, Cory-Daniel Raby, a pilot who received his flight training at the Ottawa Flying Club, won the prestigious Webster Memorial Trophy Competition, an annual event aimed at determining the Top Amateur Pilot in Canada.  The Webster Trophy Competition includes 9 regional competitions and the national finals, held this year at the Bramption Flight Center.  This is a prestigious event and quite a coup for Cory and for the Ottawa Flying Club.

Cory started training with the Ottawa Flying Club in September 2008 as part of the Aviation Managent Program at Algonquin College, a sixteen month diploma program that aims to prepare students for careers in commercial aviation.   The Ottawa Flying Club provides all the flight training and grounds school courses to the program participants.

Congratulations to Cory and to his instructors! Bravo Zulu.

Leadership Training

I just spent the last week on a training course with Scouts Canada.  It was an interesting course focused on teaching us to better develop the children through fun experiential learning.  One comment really struck me - Scouting is the only organization that I know of that starts training and forming its future leaders at age five.  Only a volunteer movement could hope to accomplish such a task.

Two OFC Alumni in Space

I’m proud to look up and see colleagues Julie Payette and Bob Thirsk in orbit on the International Space Station.  I worked closely with both of them and have high regard for their abilities.  Now that I’m working with the Ottawa Flying Club, I’m reminded of them and all the Canadian Astronauts daily since our pictures are on the walls.  Before the Canadian Space Agency moved to St. Hubert south of Montreal, the Astronauts recieved their primary flight training at the Ottawa Flying Club under contract with CSA.  It was great fun.  Julie and I did our first cross country flights on the same day back in 1993, dodging snow squalls as we flew small Cessna 150’s between Ottawa and Kingston. 

The Station is quite visible in the sky (when its clear).  If you want to see it, check out the sightings page at the NASA web site (http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/sightings/).

Why the Wet Summer?

I had to turn the heat on in my car this morning.  I needed to defog my windshield as the rain and humidity where causing the windshield to mist over.  This is typical in late September, but not now.  It is near the end of July, the height of summer. 

Have you also noticed that the summer is colder and wetter than usual?  For a flying operation like the Ottawa Flying Club, the weather has a big impact.  Apart from the benefits of Instrument training in actual IFR conditions, very few of our students can get practice time when there are low clouds and nasty weather.  So far this summer, our hours flown are significantly below what we would historically expect.

There may be a reason beyond bad luck.  I was passed this link to a Weather Channel Report by Chris St. Clair where he explains that the bad weather is based on a phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation.  According to the report:

The North Atlantic Oscillation is a variance in the location of a large area of strong and stable high pressure. For the past many weeks it has developed over Greenland and the Labrador Sea.

The emergence of the North Atlantic Oscillation has lead to a block in the usual, steady west to east migration of unsettled low pressure across our continent.

Simply, the cool rainy weather is stopped once it gets to the Great Lakes Basin because it cannot get past the big, stable high pressure over the western Atlantic. Not until the high pressure, that has manifested itself further east, relaxes will there be a change in the pattern.

Certainly this morning, a quick check of the surface analysis chart shows a ridge of high pressure running from Newfoundland up to Baffin Island.  Keep your eye on it and hope it goes away soon.

A New CEO for the Ottawa Flying Club

This is my first post as the CEO of the Ottawa Flying Club. It is a honor to be given the responsibility for such a venerable organization. The club has been active since 1928 and has a long history of promoting aviation in Canada. In the last few years, a strong partnership has formed with Algonquin College where OFC provides professional flight training to students at the Algonquin Aviation Management program. While this is beneficial for the club in terms of increased activity and revenue, it is also creating new challenges for a club that is now a multi-million dollar business. Properly managing the growth in the next few years will be critical to ensure that the club continues to benefit from its new business activities. I look forward to these challenges and would appreciate any comments the club members may have regarding the way ahead.

Google to offer virtual desktops? Maybe.

A number of news articles and items of interest lead me to conclude that Google will be offering virtual desktops as a service in the near future.  Consider the following:

  • Google introduced the Chrome browser last year and is widely considered to be competing directly with Microsoft explorer
  • Google is dropping the beta term on some of its software products - the term is preventing enterprise sales of their Apps and Docs products
  • Google has announced its own operating system-intended to get the user to the net faster on boot-up
  • The Google’s recent release of the open-source NeatX - an open source version of NoMachine’s NX Server that allows servers to host virtual desktops.

These elements could be the building blocks for the provision of virtual desktops.  With this service, Google could offer virtual desktops in the same way they offer gmail.

Whether they pursue this will depend on their focus on organizing the worlds information.  If they expand that concept, they could use the virtual desktops to become the world’s computer.

Virtual Corporate IT: Eseri.net is Starting Beta Trials

Eseri.net, one of my clients, is starting beta trials of their virtual corporate IT service and is accepting applications from interested customers.

Targeted at enterprise IT, the Eseri service provides a complete corporate IT solution, including individual virtual desktops, hosted in the cloud.  To use the service, the customer’s administrator visits Eseri.net and registers a corporate domain and provides a credit card.  The Administrator receives an e-mail link to their personal desktop and can then create additional desktops for other employees.  These people receive the links to their desktops and can start using them immediately.

The desktops are all connected by an organizational layer that provides common file storage, integrated e-mail and single-sign-on (SSO) to all the applications.  The desktops are loaded with 24 productivity and collaboration applications including:

  • e-mail and Internet browsers;
  • graphics software for images, vectors and diagrams;
  • The Open Office suite of applications;
  • Nuxeo document management;
  • vTiger CRM;
  • HR applications;
  • GNU Cash; and
  • Project management tools.

Internally, we’ve been using the system for over a year and I think it is a great alternative to the traditional IT model.  Eseri customers only need to have access to the Internet and a simple browser capable of running the NoMachine thin client.  There is no need to own a server or expensive software.  There are no capital expenses, only operating expenses. It is a fully outsourced IT model.

Please contact info@eseri.net for more information if you are interested in trying the Eseri virtual IT solution.

Are All Companies Tech Companies?

When we think technology and business, we naturally think products.  But it is not always so.

I recently met a friend and we were discussing venture capital and the state of commercialization in Canada for tech companies.  Part of the conversation stuck with me - every company is a tech company to some degree.

Technology is know-how and every company must have some special processes, knowledge and capabilities that make them unique in the market.  This technology usually ends up in the proceses and data stored in the IT.  Even if the provision of the IT services is outsourced, the data and processes still are part of the core competence of the company.

The technology, then, can be any part of the business - logistics, business planning, financial wizardry, marketing, partnerships, … as well as product related.

While this may be a semantic argument about the meaning of the word, it is an interesting point for all those of you who think you aren’t running a tech company.

Using Social Media as a Marketing Tool

Here is a presentation I’ve given a few times now on social media as a marketing tool.  It draws heavily on (i.e. plagarizes) a presenation by Alec Saunders which he originally gave at OCRI last September.  I’ve expanded on his theme, updated some of the slides and added additional information on twitter.  I hope you find it useful.  (Note: some of the text on the graphics is small so its best to view this full screen.)

What does EDC have to do with VC Funding?

My post on Sunday discussed my dismay at seeing good Canadian entrepreneurs being told that they would have better chances getting funding if they became good US entrepreneurs.  As an example of how blogs are really pulpits, my issue was picked up by Liberal MP Scott Brison, who addressed the point in Question Period yesterday.  (See the Hansard, #32 for 24 March 09).

The Honorable Stockwell Day responded with facts about EDC and how it is facilitating $85 billion in financial activity etc….  While EDC does good work and I would recommend their services to exporters, I’m not aware that EDC provides any Venture funding.  BDC would have been a better example.  So I don’t find the answers of any help, but then perhaps I’m expecting a lot out of Question Period.

The point that the VC community is in trouble is not new.  In its latest report (January 2009), Why Venture Capital is Essential to the Canadian Economy: The Impact of Venture Capital on the Canadian Economy, the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association outlines some of the key issues:

  • Wishing to move to a knowledge based economy, the government has, in the past, created a vibrant VC community with tax incentives, government venture funds and massive R&D investments.
  • The VC funds have not generated sufficient returns to attract new investment and (in the last four years) the government (both provincial and federal) has moved to indirect support while reducing the direct funding and tax credits. Both these factors have significantly reduced the ability of VC funds to raise new capital.
  • The loss of Canadian funding, which declined by 35% since 2003 until the start of the financial crisis in Q4 2008, has been compensated by an increase in US based funding but that this sometimes results in a shift of company activities to the US. (US VCs will invest in Canadian companies if there is a majority Canadian investor. A majority US investor will want the company located in the US, usually within a hour’s drive of the VC’s office.)

Why is it important to fix the VC situation?  The relatively large amounts spent on R&D in Canada produce results in terms of innovation.  For this innovation to have any impact on the Canadian economy, it needs to be turned into businesses and this requires funding.  Venture Capital is an important part of the economic ecosystem that facilitates the creation of these businesses.  Without it, the innovative technologies developed in Canada will find their way to other countries.

What is to be done?  Find innovative ways to develop the funding and do so quickly.  If VC funds develop such poor returns and yet are so critical for the economy, perhaps it would be prudent to consider increasing direct funding from the government, not as an investment but as infrastructure for the economy.  Let’s start a conversation on the topic.