How does a tech company prove it’s committed to its employees? You can provide the pro forma ergonomic workspaces, attractive salaries and bonuses, onsite yoga classes and organic cuisine. But if you’re Silicon Valley-based RevJet, you do it by spearheading the successful launch of a new international office to help your staff and their families out of an increasingly precarious conflict zone and into the safe and welcoming climes of New Brunswick, Canada.
Working with Opportunities NB (ONB) and leveraging relationships forged in Silicon Valley’s startup culture, RevJet’s new location really showcases the full scope of ONB’s expertise. In fact, RevJet’s R&D staff from two Ukrainian locations experienced first-hand ONB’s role in investment attraction, procurement of necessary skilled workers via immigration and the successful settlement of those workers in their new community.
In 2014, Silicon Valley-based LifeStreet Media (a leader in global in-app advertising for Apple iOS, Android, and Facebook developers) spun off some of its technology into a new company— RevJet.
New Company, New Location
Several members of the RevJet R&D division worked in two offices in the Ukraine and wished to work in a new location. As a result, RevJet began to evaluate a way to accommodate them. Due to limited visa openings and the lengthy process in the United States, RevJet decided to look north to its Canadian neighbour for other opportunities. With RevJet’s official launch set for October 2015, the company needed to be secure in the knowledge that its established development staff would remain safe, happy, and healthy. To accomplish this, it was decided that the New Brunswick connection was the right choice.
The New Brunswick Connection
John Swan, President of Swan & Associates, is a former CIO with New Brunswick’s Irving Oil Ltd. After leaving Irving in 1999, Mr. Swan opened his management consulting company in Saint John. Crucially, however, he would spend the next decade as part of Exigen Group’s Business Development division in San Francisco. It was during this time that he would work with Serge Ioffe, the company’s VP – Strategy. Mr. Ioffe would go on to co-found LifeStreet Media in 2005, and now serves as CTO of RevJet.
New Brunswick Meets Silicon Valley
With the information technology industry identified as a key sector to pursue for economic growth, ONB made the San Francisco Bay Area a priority target.
As part of a strategy to connect with Silicon Valley companies, ONB went to great lengths to source the best contacts in that region. Those efforts ultimately led the ONB Investment Team to New Brunswick native and Silicon Valley investment veteran John Swan.
In his role as a consultant for ONB, Swan made introductions to several Silicon Valley companies, including RevJet. In 2014, Swan introduced ONB to Serge Ioffe, co-founder and CTO of RevJet.
Ioffe and Swan had worked together previously, and Swan had told him about New Brunswick in the years prior to the move. When exploring options for the Ukraine team, RevJet executives recalled their previous conversation with Swan and began exploring a move to New Brunswick. After weighing the options, RevJet decided to move forward.
RevJet and Opportunities NB
During consultation with RevJet leadership, ONB provided valuable information on available credits such as the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (SR&ED), as well as the Province’s R&D Tax Credit (a refundable tax credit that helps fund research activity).
In this case, a successful move would also involve coordinating with additional players, specifically the province’s Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour (PETL), and The Saint John Multicultural & Newcomers Resource Centre (SJMNRC).
Step 1: Immigration
The Province of New Brunswick has made immigrant attraction and retention a top priority in order to drive economic growth, and many New Brunswick governmental organizations are eager to help immigrants succeed. For the RevJet case, ONB worked closely alongside senior officials from PETL’s Population Growth Division (PGD) on immigration.
PGD staff participated in several calls with ONB providing extensive advice on immigration to Canada, particularly on the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (the Province’s immigration program made possible through arrangements with the Federal Government). ONB and PGD helped RevJet prepare their staff for the transition to New Brunswick, including assistance accessing work permits and entry visas.
In order to facilitate this project and expedite the process, PGD staff met with RevJet representatives in two Ukrainian cities (more than 600 km apart), and organized information sessions about New Brunswick in general, and on immigration in particular.
They also coordinated with Canadian Embassy staff to help expedite and streamline the immigration process. There were an initial 20 Provincial Nominee Program applications received and all were officially nominated within a matter of only four weeks, which is record time.
Together, ONB and PETL staff saw to it that the RevJet team had everything it needed to move its workers through the process of successfully settling in Atlantic Canada.
Step 2: Settlement and Acclimation
One of the important commitments made to the company was the appointment of a Settlement Officer dedicated to the successful integration of the workers in Canada. With New Brunswick’s port city of Saint John finalized as the company’s desired location, the final
step involved ensuring RevJet employees would have proper support upon arrival; enter The Saint John Multicultural and Newcomers Resource Centre. The SJMNRC is a non-profit organization offering “an integrated approach to services for newcomers. All services are free for immigrants in order to encourage and promote cultural diversity” in the Greater Saint John Area.
To support the ONB-RevJet project, SJMNRC arranged for a temporary Settlement Officer (fluent in English and Ukrainian) to assist the arriving workers with a host of services. Over a six-week period, this Settlement Officer took the lead on everything from the development of individual settlement plans to arranging English tutors, providing information on real estate, banking, local community groups, religious institutions, health services, and more.
Altogether, between RevJet employees and their family members, the city of Saint John has seen a total of 48 new arrivals as part of this arrangement, including 20 employees and 28 spouses and children. The company wanted to be sure their team felt welcome and that the right amount of development talent would be ready to hit the ground running in New Brunswick from day one. Their ideal situation involved existing employees continuing their work in a more secure, stable political environment. ONB coordinated with its partners in the private (Swan & Associates), public (PETL-PGD), and non-profit (SJMNRC) sectors, and managed to successfully meet this challenge.
‘‘Our organization has experienced an amazingly supportive relationship with the Opportunities NB team. ONB has been extremely professional and helpful in their engagement with our employees, and their extended circle of support has made our decision to commit to the province of New Brunswick an extremely easy one. Their business focus, assistance to our staff, and attention to detail has already made our employees feel welcome as they complete their move to Saint John.”
— Serge Ioffe, Co-Founder and CTO, RevJet
Achieving success with a project of this magnitude required all parties to have a strong knowledge of what each partner could deliver, at which stage(s) their roles were most instrumental, and where they could each take the appropriate lead. This case represents an initiative in which the full scope of ONB’s services is on display.
RevJet’s situation was a unique one. Its successful resolution demonstrates the agility that ONB and its wealth of strong partners throughout the province bring to the table in order to create new opportunities. It’s definitive proof that both New Brunswick and ONB are built for business.
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Written by Jason Boies