11 Questions — A Q&A Series With Alberta Innovators

Cybera has started a new series of blog posts that will showcase Alberta's innovative technology and research community. Within this community are many enthusiastic and innovative people, and this blog will highlight some of these talented individuals. For the next 11 months, we will be asking 11 people, 11 questions related to technology and research in Alberta.

Our first interview was with Sean Healy, an entrepreneur based in Edmonton who has been listed as one of Techvibes' "Digital Media People to Watch" for 2010 and 2011. He's one of the creators of TouchMetric and is currently working on a music delivery project for Original Joe's restaurants.

1. What brought you to Edmonton and what's kept you here?

I grew up on a farm just outside of New Sarepta, AB. I moved to Edmonton after I graduated high school to attend the University of Alberta to take Computing Science. After I received my degree, I was hired by Nexopia, a youth-oriented social networking site created in Edmonton. There, I met some really great people, and after a few years, I eventually decided to pursue my own startup projects.

2. What three words would you use to describe Alberta's tech sector?

I would say:

  • creative
  • talented
  • strong

3. What would you say is the greatest challenge of working in the tech sector in Alberta?

It's frustrating that Alberta is mostly known for oil, because people assume if you're from Alberta, you must work in that industry. So overcoming that stereotype can be difficult. At first glance, you wouldn't necessarily expect Alberta to be abundant in tech companies.

4. Following on that, what would you say is the greatest benefit of working in the tech sector in Alberta?

Alberta is forming a really strong tech scene. The technology community has so many really creative and talented people.

5. How do you stay connected in Edmonton's tech sector?

A lot of it is through social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and also attending tech-specific events, such as Startup Weekend or other startup events. The people who you work with and the people who you are friends with starts to get blurry. It's just a culture you get into. The Edmonton community is so connected that you only need to meet a few people in the beginning to get immersed quickly, which helps you network.

6. Who inspires you and why?

Cabel Sasser of Panic, an American software company that specializes in shareware applications for Mac OS X; it's just incredible what he did for Apple. He's an "old-school", Mac developer who started doing Mac dev back when Apple was going through it's dying phase. He has a good taste on design and creates really great products. I admire his creativity.

7. What book are you currently reading and what do you think of it?

I'm currently reading two: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, which is all about how you make ideas catch on. I'm also always rereading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It's one of my favourite books.

8. What do you think of when you hear the word "cyberinfrastructure"?

Cloud computing, and maybe robots…

9. In your opinion, what are the most exciting technologies out there right now?

I think the web is going in really interesting places. I also think mobile devices are becoming very powerful and there are many possibilities for development. I'm really excited to see more augmented reality apps, like the new language translation app, Word Lens (Watch a demo of the app on Youtube), that translates text when you hover your phone's camera over it.

10. Are there any other fields you're not currently involved in that you would like to see yourself / your company working with?

There are a lot, and there always will be. The possibilities are endless. I like solving computing problems for organizations, so when I see a hole or a potential issue, I like to try to get in there and fix it. For example, I'm currently working with the restaurant Original Joe's to develop a music delivery system, originally called Robot Rhythm. Robot Rhythm allows the Original Joe's patrons to influence the music playing in the restaurant, using their smart phones. We are currently testing it at the Original Joe's Varsity location, but it will soon be in all the Edmonton locations, and hopefully across Western Canada later this year.

11. What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur?

I would say get involved in the community as much as possible, go to the events like Startup Weekend or DemoCamps. Just get out and do things and make connections. Social media, like Twitter, is important, but it's still important that you go out and meet people in face-to-face.