Brian Fry is your ordinary Rossland guy — a former national ski team racer who sold a multi-million dollar tech company and created a consortium of practical geniuses now revolutionizing the industrial world.
In 2015, he sold his cloud company Rackforce for a cool $33 million, and started an industrial Internet of Things lab called i4C, essentially a one-stop Big Data shop. A hub of partner companies located physically and virtually, the 40,000 square foot headquarters in Trail, BC offers specific industries a giant Big Data dashboard.
“We’ve got a planet full of, let’s say, ‘traditional’ industry,” Brian explains, “and most of the planet knows, if an industry is going to survive, you have to be sustainable.”
Until now, industries tended to collect data on a specific problem. An industrial IoT solution, such as i4C, makes that sort of problem-solving seem oddly old-fashioned. These days, information on efficiency, environment, risk and so on, flows in real-time, so companies can use Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to augment human beings at their jobs.
“It’s the ability to have all these data collection points coming back to a place where you can analyze, make sense and make decisions far faster than we’ve ever been able to do before,” Brian said. The rate of new information opens up exponential technologies.
‘Breakneck’ is a word often used to describe the speed of modern technology — but Brian knows a thing or two about actual breakneck speed.
At 19, he was one of the original Crazy Canucks — a contingent of kids from the Red Mountain alpine ski team in Rossland, who went on to race for Team Canada. His hometown already produced more than its fair share of Olympic athletes, but this was an anomaly. Raised in an otherwise quiet rural town, Fry had no idea how significant the sport, with its intense focus and diehard pursuit, would be in his life.
“When you’re a kid and you experience unbelievable success — not just personal success but team success — and you watch this happen, you expand your realm of possibilities,” he said.
But then suddenly, it all ended.
Brian had a bad skiing accident while competing in Europe. He took a long fall, flying off the course, and woke up later in a hospital in Morzine, France with a major femur break. After weeks of doctors manipulating a jigsaw puzzle of bone fragments, Brian hung up his skis.
“I pushed the whole sport of ski racing behind me. It was too painful to think about,” he said. Instead, he went to BCIT and got a diploma. The sport world was behind him and tech, his future.
It may be too soon to call Brian the Elon Musk of the Kootenays. (While Musk is his favourite tech entrepreneur, Brian laughs at the comparison “—those are huge shoes to fill,” he says.)
But there are parallels. Both are pioneering an inevitable shift in big industry. Both hope for success on a major scale. Both leverage their knowhow in big ways. And Brian says in some ways, the Kootenays can innovate faster than Silicon Valley.
“I think much bigger than most people do, and I truly feel that most people just haven’t had a chance to learn how to think big and realize your chance of success is actually quite high, especially if you have an exciting enough opportunity for everybody to grab on to.”
This blog post is part of an ongoing series focused on people who work in the technology sector. It is supported by Imagine Kootenay and Kootenay Association for Science & Technology (KAST). Read our previous story from the series: Vancouver entrepreneurs find unlikely tech refuge in Kimberley.