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Once again, time for another GeoGeek rapid fire, this time I have Karl Swannie, CEO of Echosec Systems Ltd. Note, Karl and his team are located right here in Victoria BC, Canada and I know them well – we’ve even tipped a beer or three together in the past.
Echosec is somewhat of a pioneer in information analytics. The company provides organizations and individuals a new way to for search social media data and other information based on location information. Echosec has developed an effective method for seeding investigations and monitoring live incidents in real time. They’ve been getting some great traction from the National and International media this year and have a fabulous, and addictive service that is also a great tool for law enforcement, military, and the GeoInt space. I had a chance to meet up with Karl this summer (2015) at the ESRIUC where his team was part of the Esri Starup Pavilion.I’m pleased to share a few questions I had for Karl and hope this helps to introduce you to the Echosec team.
GeoGeek Rapidfire – 10 Questions
Q – PC or MAC and iOS or Android?
Macbook Pro 13 – Battery life, reliability and conference stickers look great on brushed aluminum.
Android phone – Because I don’t really need a phone that works all the time. Its really just a convenient tiny backup laptop that sometimes acts like a phone.
Q – Coffee or Tea & Beer or wine?
Coffee in the morning to make up for the wine at night.
Q – ArcGIS or QGIS (or other)?
Q – ESRIUC or FOSS4G?
ESRIUC, because ESRI’s startup team has treated us extremely well.
Q – If I was to look on your bed table or coffee table, what are you currently reading? (Sorry of this sounded creepy!)
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World – by Niall Ferguson
& Wool Omnibus – by Hugh Howey
Q – On the job front, is your company hiring or have you recently made a hire? Also, are there any challenges you face in hiring Geotech talent?
Echosec started Location Based Search in 2013 and has since grown to over 400 corporate customers. The company has been hiring constantly throughout the last year, forcing it to move offices 3 times. We hope we are now in a permanent location which is much larger, and has a helicopter inside the office! The office also has skiing gondolas and the largest privately owned rooftop patio in Victoria. The challenges we face in hiring have more to do with finding people that fit into our corporate culture. We’re a nimble team that need people who are technically flexible, know how to work hard and know how to play harder.
Not kidding about the helicopter: check this out…
Q – I’m a College student wanting a career in “GIS” / or GeoTech, what words of wisdom can you give me? Also, I often get people asking what courses or prof. development can I suggest. Is there a short course through Coursera or code academy, skill etc… that you would suggest for a geogeek?
Build something, build all the time, love it. It doesn’t have to be tech related.
My job didn’t exist a few years ago, yours may not exist right now.
Most of my team have been building little projects all their lives. You can tell. You can see the passion in a persons portfolio, which is often more compelling to me than anything else.
Oh, and always wear sunscreen.
Q – I’m a bit of a skeptic regarding the economy at the moment and don’t view things as being completely rosy. How do you see the current business climate unfolding within your industry/sector?
Technology is always changing, companies are growing and companies are getting crushed all of the time. As a person in the GeoTech space, we’ve been told ‘our jobs are finished’ so many times in the last 15 years. I tend to ignore the doom, and build something new. There is always opportunity, sometimes you just have to make it for yourself.
Q – Can you share a snippet of what’s exciting and/or on the horizon for you or your company?
We have a sign in our office created by one of our senior architects that says “Days since last weird thing”. It’s always been at 0. So we really don’t know what’s coming, but in the next couple of months we are traveling extensively and meeting with very interesting people. We’ll also be inviting our first financing, solidifying more partnerships and launching a couple of those incredible features that Echosec team has thought up while drinking coffee, or wine…
Last Questions, re your company:
Q – I saw that you guys (Echosec) were part of the Esri Startup partner program and were in the pavilion at ESRIUC. How has that been for you guys and would you suggest that program to others (and why/why not)
We have a lot to offer many of ESRI’s users and look forward to deeper integration with their products. ESRI’s entire team has been exceptional at promoting startups. When you saw us at ESRIUC we were in the front, with thousands of people walking past and, being run off our feet. It couldn’t have been better.
We’ve actually done up a blog post on our trip to ESRIUC: https://www.echosec.net/the-esri-user-conference/
Would I suggest it for everyone? No. But it was definitely the right move for us.
Like all partnerships, you get back what you put in and if you don’t have the personal time or corporate commitment, it’s not for you.
Q – Finally, you guys seem to be heavily focused on social media and big data. How would you say social media and in particular, data sharing, has affected the tradition GeoTech industry?
When you ‘virtually’ explore around the world you see pictures, movies and ideas from the most unexpected places. North Korea, Iran and Burning Man all all have a different type of social footprint. With Echosec you are able to see visualize these footprints through the types of data posted. Like any new type of search engine this opens doors for explorers.
Traditional GeoTech has always included explorers like our users. Explorers that search and discover new information. Echosec facilitates discovery for the masses. It would not exist without people choosing to bear witness to their local environment and share through social media.
Our audience largely doesn’t belong to our traditional GeoTech industry, but they recognize it’s value especially in parsing big data.
How would I summarize this? It’s the tip of the iceberg in one of the most exciting GeoTech fields. Hold on. Our sources are growing by the billions and so are our end users.
Karl Swannie, CEO, Echosec
Business Vancouver – Firm’s social-media geo-mapping yields inside scoop