In this Game Changer article, Vanguard would like to highlight Scott Dewis, CEO and Co-founder of RaceRocks 3D Inc., a technology company that is leveraging its media and gaming expertise to provide innovative learning services and solutions to Royal Canadian Navy, the government and private sector.
1) How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you where you are today?
I started out with a Visual Effect and Video game business that was invited into defence by a company looking to increase the fidelity of its simulations. Trainers couldn’t understand why their multimillion dollar simulator didn’t look as good as their kid’s Xbox. From there I attended CANSEC in 2011 and saw a major opportunity to bring Hollywood and gaming into the defence industry. Strong relationships built between then and now with advisors, government, clients, and partners have brought us where we are today.
2) What is your role in your organization today?
I’m one of the Founders and the CEO. My role is to chart the company’s course, advise clients on future training strategies and emerging technologies, be the client’s voice within the company, lead business development, oversee creative, and conduct final QA of products.
3) What was your most challenging moment?
As a small company, cash flow is king, and payroll can sometimes be a white knuckle event, add to that the climate in Canada – no support for innovation other than R&D, and the climate in the West – no financial support for business other than the lowest tax, rightly believing that viable companies will simply succeed. So during the slow times over the last three or four years, as our competition was financially subsidized by various regional agencies and Ottawa, we had to pivot and make hard decisions; ultimately those decisions lead to a lean and sustainable business that can offer huge cost savings, and the sustainable long term contracts we are executing today, but there were definitely a few sleepless nights while we were first navigating the industry!
4) What was your a-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us the story?
We started out believing that the only way to work in Canadian defence was to subcontract to foreign primes and pursue IRB’s, but after realizing IRB’s were paid lip service, and talking with end users RaceRocks implemented a new business strategy and started responding to RFP’s and working directly for the crown. We carved out a great piece of business for an SME as a trusted supplier to the Royal Canadian Navy. This lead to partnerships instead of subcontract relationships with companies like Boeing and Federal Fleet Services that really believe in economic impact and supplier development in Canada regardless off offsets.
5) What is the one thing that has you the most fired up today?
Project Resolve and the RCN have given RaceRocks the opportunity to help “imaginer” what Future Naval Training will look like, on the first clean slate Canadian naval platform of the digital learning age.
6) What is the best advice you received?
When you jump off a building, make sure to celebrate every window on the way down… That and when you are in Ottawa, where a suit in a solid color, blue, grey or black – no patterns or stripes, patterns are radical, and that makes you look rouge, rouge means insurgent.
7) What is a habit that contributes to your success?
Building strong relationships throughout our supply chain – advisors, contractors, clients, and partners. Contributing to advance our industry and constantly learning.
8) What is your parting piece of advice?
Never give up, or give up right away, everything in between is a lot of hard work.
9) What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
Boeing, (one of only 12% of companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1955, still on the list today.) Elon Musk, Apple.
1) How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?
RaceRocks believes learning should be entertaining, and aligned with the way people think work and play. We understand the demographics of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and know how to engage learners with the same media and technology they use in their daily lives. We are forging partnerships with like-minded small Canadian companies such as Modest Tree and Marine LMS to give CAF trainers and subject matter experts (SME’s) access to best in class Technology Enabled Learning (TEL)
2) What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in our industry sector?
The biggest impediment to innovation in Canada is how Canada defines the innovation it can invest in. Canada loves to support Scientific Research and Development, but R&D is only a small part of innovation. Innovation takes place across the entire value chain from corporate vision through to how you market your product. R&D by nature often fails, and although it can create IP or a new Widget, it takes innovation to a company to create a vision, hire Canadians, commercialize the successful R&D and market and sell a product. R&D can create a new form of strong malleable metal; innovation turns it into the first paperclip. Canada needs to invest in innovation at all levels including commercialization, not just R&D. Innovation creates jobs.
3) How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
Our mission to make learning entertaining, and aligned with the way people think, work and play, was born in visioning sessions that included every employee, and purposely makes no mention of a single technology, because tools will change with every generation and technological advancement. RaceRocks looks at all sectors to find innovation that will enhance our learning products. For instance, Hollywood has perfected information transfer, video games have mastered engagement, and social media has revolutionized the sharing of ideas. New technologies are embraced if they can make learning better like Modest Tree’s software, not because of hype. We are tools agnostic, because who knows what technology will be available in 10 years, or 20.
4) What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
I believe that in the short term, emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will drive the biggest changes in our industry, but long term, trinkets always give way to great content. Great content is driven by story and the innovative use of technology to make learning more engaging, and more like life. Technologies that “get out of the way” of learning are the key. From a business perspective, I think top heavy companies that try and tell their client what they should think will give way to more nimble supporters and enablers like RaceRocks, that give their client access to the tools and support they need to transfer their knowledge and culture. The CAF members are the subject matter experts, they know how to train, and they simply need access to the creativity and technology of the industry.