Why I’m Moving 5,000 Kms Across Canada to Join Busbud!
I’m happy to announce that, in the coming weeks, I’ll be moving across the country from Victoria, British Columbia to Montreal, Quebec to join Busbud as the VP of Engineering!
I have lived in Victoria for the last 20 years and have been proud to call this wonderful place my home. Here, I’ve served for over 7 years as CTO of Varsity Tutors, a learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. Students have accessed more than 1 million hours of live instruction on the platform. At Varsity, I was responsible for all web & mobile software development, technology, infrastructure, data engineering, IT, scalability and hiring. I grew our software engineering team from 0 to 65+, creating small, high performance, empowered teams. During this time, we raised US$57 million in venture capital.
Throughout my life I have never shied away from change. My attitude has been to recognize it, understand it and take action. When a fantastic opportunity presents itself, take it!
With a chance to join Busbud, for myself and my family, that opportunity is here – and we could not be more excited.
Over the last two weeks, I have had a number of people ask me “why?”, and each time I answer I get even more excited and energized for the journey ahead. I have three primary reasons why we are making the move: the potential for impact, the team, and the adventure.
1. The Potential for Impact
For most of my career I have wanted to work with companies that I believed were making our world a better place.
I have spent years in the educational space because I strongly believe a smarter world is a better world. For instance at Varsity Tutors, we improve people’s lives in dramatic ways. Whether it was helping someone learn a new language, understand how to balance a spreadsheet, get an excellent score on the MCAT, ace the SAT (and get into the school of their dreams) or build confidence in children by showing them they can tackle, and solve, the hardest problems with the help and guidance from a talented tutor. The younger generations are our future and with a great education, maybe things will turn out ok!
Here’s the thing though, our climate is changing, and there are a lot of unsettling scenarios where we may be heading if we do not radically change our actions.
Intercity bus travel is the most environmentally friendly form of motorized travel. Each bus can transport the same number of people as 30 cars. That’s a lot of cars! Globally we are trying to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and travelling by bus produces the least amount. How little? An intercity bus will produce 0.03kg of CO2 per passenger/km. Compared to train (0.12 kg passenger/km), car (0.130 kg passenger/km) and plane (0.18 kg passenger/km) it’s clear travelling by bus makes a big difference.
In the past, when compared to other forms of travel, travelling by bus was not the friendliest or easiest way to travel. That’s where Busbud comes in. The “bud” in Busbud is your buddy, your pal, your friend.. and your bud wants to help you make intercity bus travel easy to do. We are honoured to be working with some of the best bus operators in over 75+ countries and 16,000 cities to bring you a simple and convenient way to travel by bus.
We aggregate millions of bus routes globally, serving over 10 million departures daily, to present the information for you in your language, show you the fares in your currency and allow you to sort & filter based off your wants and needs. In one place, you can compare routes, prices, amenities and read reviews. By making it easy for you to travel by bus, we are all helping our planet and in the process saving you some money too!
2. The Team
With a small but very talented team, Busbud has been able to accomplish a lot. After recently closing a C$14M Series B round of funding, we have laid out a bold vision to build a more connected world for the next leg of our journey, and we are looking forward to growing and accomplishing even more.
Here is how we are creating a tech platform for the future:
- We want to be creative and reach our goals through facts. We use instrumentation and metrics to understand how our software is being used. It allows us to focus in with precision on what matters most to our customers and continually improve our product and services. To better understand why our software is used we use crowd testing and gather incredible feedback.
- We want our customer’s experience to be exceptional and strive to make our Busbud product better each time you use it.
- We want new features and improvements available to you as soon as possible and we do that through continuous integration and continuous deployment. We have managed translations so you can read it in your preferred language.
- We recognize that reliability is critical, we need to be there when you need us, so we have put in place monitoring, logging and alerting to give us clear insight into how our services are operating.
- With an exceptional technology stack and infrastructure it allows us to creatively solve problems and take risks. Our work is challenging and it’s a lot of fun.
I’m excited to partner with Mike, Busbud’s CTO and co-founder, to further this vision and keep improving our tech platform. I’m happy that Mike also shares my passion to help the planet and leave this world “a little better than we found it”, as well as my approach to scaling an engineering team and building tech products.
On my second day working with the team at Busbud, I had the opportunity to participate in the developer bi-weekly retrospective. I’m a fan of retros and was happy to see them thoughtfully discuss as a team what they wanted to start, stop and continue. I was surprised though when another team joined and we began a second retrospective. In the second one, the groups discussed how we could work better together. It was clear each person cared about each other and through continual assessment and improvement our experiences at work would improve.
In hindsight, this should not have been surprising. As a company, the team has been thoughtfully working to improve, to define its core values, and to become a more diverse and inclusive organization. In 2017, they launched the Omnibus project, which was their commitment to carry out 5 actions to promote diversity each quarter and publicly report on their progress. It’s exciting to see that they were able to complete and achieve their goals through 4 consecutive quarters. I can’t wait to see what we plan to do in 2018!
It’s clear lots of thought has been invested into building a great company culture, from the employment agreement to the office to the weekly activities. On Wednesdays, as a company tradition, lunch is brought in and everyone sits together and enjoys a great meal. This week, Indian food was on the menu. Sometimes when we hit a significant milestone in a different country we’ll try and bring in food from that country to mark the occasion.
Nearly the entire office has been designed with a sense of purpose and meaning. On the wall near the entrance the original hand drawn storyboards are hung. Every room and meeting area has a whiteboard wall for collaborating with coworkers. The company’s core values and mission statement are prominently lit up at the front. Country flags for each country we help people travel in are hung from the ceiling. The rainbow flag is also hung to recognize the positive impact of the Omnibus Project, as well as a reminder of the importance and impact of diversity and inclusivity in our workplace. A pirate flag symbolizes our regular company wide hackathons that have produced some really fun and useful projects over the years, such as the Dollar bus club.
3. The Adventure
Of course, the change of location from one coast to another has been surprising to my friends and family, especially after living in Victoria, BC for the last 20 years!
Like every place, Victoria has its pros and cons..It has very mild winters compared to the rest of Canada with temperatures rarely dipping below 3 degrees Celsius. The mild winters though mean the seasons tend to blur together, unlike most of Canada which have 4 distinct seasons in the year. For my family, we are really looking forward to that. Autumn in Montreal is colourful and beautiful, winter is cold and snowy but there are an incredible number of outdoor activities we will be able to enjoy together for the first time. With Spring nature blooms again and gets us ready for the Summer heat.
Weather aside, Victoria has changed an incredible amount over the last two decades. It has evolved from a government town and tourist destination. Organizations such as Viatec and grassroots efforts such as YYJTech have really helped grow the technology sector.
Like Victoria, Montreal is a Canadian burgeoning tech hub. 2016 was a breakout year for the province, adding 85,400 full-time jobs, more than all other provinces combined.
Montreal is home to a thriving tech community. In August of 2017 Business Insider published their latest report that ranked the top 25 most high-tech cities in the world, Montreal ranked 18th. With an incredible amount of growth in the tech sector in Quebec, the Technopolys initiative was founded in 2017 as a means to bring together the tech community, raise awareness, build pride and promote the the strengths and impact of the tech sector in Quebec. Busbud’s CEO LP Maurice is one of Technopolys’ ambassadors, alongside tech leaders such as AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio and IT giant CGI founder Serge Godin.
Montreal also boasts a very active grassroots startup community. While visiting Montreal last week, I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by coding bootcamp Le Wagon at La Gare, a beautiful collaborative co-working space for entrepreneurs, where our CEO LP Maurice was the guest speaker. The evening was a lively Q&A session with LP who gave thoughtful and entertaining answers on Busbud’s history, challenges, forward outlook and entrepreneurship in general. The event perfectly captured the growth and change that is happening here. It was an engaging event and I’m looking forward to spending more time in the Montreal startup community.
Overall, my family and I are very excited to start this new adventure in Montreal, Quebec. For all of us we will have the opportunity to learn and use another language, to experience the diverse culture the city and province has to offer, and to explore new places – by bus of course!
Next stop: Montreal!
Interested in learning more?