Windsor Location Attracts Silicon Valley Tech Company
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Windsor’s location, access to a lucrative and sophisticated North American manufacturing market and depth of highly-skilled technical talent are being credited with convincing founders of a Silicon Valley-based company to open an office in the region.
Khizer Hayat, co-founder along with Albert Kao, of i-50, said that Windsor’s proximity to major manufacturers especially in the automotive industry played a key role in the decision to open i-50’s second location in the border city.
A large pool of software and artificial intelligence talent and an opportunity to tap into a growing highly-educated immigrant workforce were also key factors.
“We met with Ontario’s trade commissioner to California and she was able to convince us that Ontario was a prime area for our second office,” explained Hayat. “We visited Toronto, Hamilton and Waterloo but ultimately decided that Windsor was what we were looking for in the end.”
Matt Johnson, director of Investment Attraction with the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, credits the organization’s network of contacts with trade commissioners with providing the lead which led to i-50’s decision.
“It’s critical to have these contacts and networks in place because it gives us a heads up on companies looking to expand, they are the boots on the ground in our target jurisdictions” explained Johnson.
The company, which was established in San Francisco in October 2018, provides time and motion study expertise, a role formerly conducted by engineers on the shop floor, by providing high-tech monitoring systems designed to increase efficiencies and improve compliance.
“The i50 product is poised to be an industry leader, and their teams ability to raised funding, combined with the Wrap Around services provided by the Canadian and Ontario Governments are a winning combination when it comes to rapidly growing a company.” said Adam Castle, Director of Venture Services with WEtech Alliance.
“We are able to provide those monitoring services on a 24-7 basis and the data is instantly available to company engineers and production managers which improves efficiencies and saves both time and money in a very competitive industrial climate,” said Hayat.
Johnson said that bringing i-50 to Windsor is another step in creating a more diversified economy less dependent on heavy manufacturing and focused more on highly-skilled, technical expertise created by companies capable of offering their AI services to manufacturers.
Johnson also said that key factors in the company’s decision to locate in the Windsor-Essex Region are location, access to U.S. markets, readily and affordable office, availability of talent and Canada’s immigration policies which allow companies to pull talent from around the world.
“As a referral Partner with Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada, prospective employees can have work permits and processed within two or three weeks, providing they qualify, as opposed to months in the U.S.” added Johnson.
“It’s (i-50) a nice addition to boast about because we are always looking to work with companies with high growth potential,” said Johnson. “We believe there is excellent potential for additional jobs with i-50.”
Hayat spent five or six years as a manufacturing engineer conducting time and motion studies for his former employers and when he and Kao identified an empty space in the manufacturing marketplace, they decided to step into the breach.
“It took us six months to sign up our first client but we’re now seen growth across the automotive, heavy industry and medical device sectors,” said Hayat.” It’s often hard to convince people used to the old way of doing business that there is a new and better way to achieve the same goals but with increased efficiency.
“The landscape is changing dramatically and automating your monitoring systems is the next step in that evolution,” he added. “Our systems can cut down on the number of engineers required which makes our clients more competitive in the marketplace.”
Hayat said he and Kao are not disappointed in their decision to open an office in the region, adding that the company is planning to add more talented people as their business expands.
“We believe the growth potential is phenomenal and having a large pool of talented people close by will be extremely important,” he said.
A growing number of companies like i-50 in the Windsor-Essex Region are positioning this manufacturing region to be leaders in Industry 4.0 and beyond evolutions.