Rumours swirl that BlackBerry also has secret barge

This post originally appeared on the Syrup Trap


WATERLOO (The News Desk) — Just weeks after a mysterious Google-owned barge appearedin the waters outside of San Francisco, Canadian tech juggernaut BlackBerry is rumoured to have acquired a mysterious vessel of its own.

Local reactions have been muted, with some even claiming that the ship has been there for years.

However, among the Canadian tech media, speculation abounds as to what its purpose may be. Possibilities run the gamut from a server farm for a new operating system yet to be released and subsequently re-released with patches, to a retail location for a slick new generation of desk ornaments for businessmen age 50 and up.

A local Canada Post employee was seen delivering what appeared to be USB sticks to the ship, presumably containing emails. The employee would not speculate on what was going on inside.

“They’re running a pretty tight ship,” he chuckled.

A local LCBO employee, delivering what appeared to be a flat of Molson Canadian to the ship, also declined to speculate.

“They’re running a pretty tight ship,” he chuckled, too.

Investors are beginning to demand answers. Reportedly purchased off Craigslist for upwards of $500 (trailer included), the ship cost more than double the company’s current market capitalization, leaving the chief underwriter of the company concerned that the new CEO, Thorsten Heins, is not serious about protecting her money.

“He told me, ‘Mom, I really need this.’ And I believed him,” lamented the company’s principal investor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Heins, who recently retitled his position Captain, Engineer and First Officer, refused to comment directly on the issue, addressing only one rumour: “What about Google?” he demanded.

After a pause, staring into the wide-open horizon, the trade winds of southern Ontario ruffling his cravat, the last of RIM’s privateers sighed wistfully. “We run a pretty tight ship.”

Crowd-funding Kickstarts Pebble Watch Project

This article first appeared in BCBusiness Magazine on Sept 3, 2012:

While crowd-funding may not be meant for raising millions for new products, two former Vancouverites raised upward of $10 million via

Even great ideas can’t launch themselves, and some can be quashed before they see the light of day if early investment can’t be secured. But as former Vancouver buddies Eric Migicovsky and Steve Johns have proven with their record-breaking product, the Pebble “smart” watch, the worldwide public knows what it wants and will invest accordingly.

Migicovsky is the brains behind the watch that set the online world abuzz this past spring, when it raised more than $10 million during its 36-day funding period with online crowd-funding site Born and raised in Vancouver, Migicovsky cut his tech teeth competing in UBC science fairs and physics competitions, and he brought on Johns as the industrial designer for an early invention: a smart watch called the InPulse. New to Vancouver, Johns was in the right place at the right time. The two began to work together, and Johns has since been hired full-time to work on the Pebble.

Migicovsky, meanwhile, has moved on, settling in Palo Alto, California, earlier this year after studying systems design engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

“We weren’t able to raise money,” Migicovsky recalls of the circumstances that led him to crowd-funding. “We went with Kickstarter because we had a product, we had a design, we had a prototype and we knew what it would do, so we just had to put those together.”

The duo’s experience with crowd-funding is likely the exception rather than the rule, suggests BCBusiness columnist and tech-startup consultant Brent Holliday. “Crowd-funding has a place,” Holliday explains, “but it is not to raise a million dollars or 10 million dollars.” His concern is that crowd-funding might actually dilute the talent pool and the funding available to legitimate startups. He suggests the real value of crowd-funding might lie in its ability to bring projects devoted to the “social good” online, and to bring creative ideas to market, but not necessarily to start new companies. acts as a platform for anyone with a creative idea who is in need of funding, but backers are not necessarily philanthropists. In the case of the Pebble, supporters who pledged US$115 were essentially pre-ordering a watch at two-thirds of the projected retail cost.

The watch fills an under-explored niche, but there are other such “smart” watches on the market. The devices display information from a smartphone, while also doing all of the things an ordinary watch does. What makes the Pebble unique is that it will be released with developer tools that allow users to create apps for the watch. The goal is to continuously improve functionality as apps come online. And as Apple showed with the iPhone, developers and users are more than willing to populate a marketplace with apps if invited to do so; already, more than 3,000 developers have signed up to create apps for the Pebble.

Whether or not Pebble’s success on Kickstarter is a harbinger of crowd-funding’s arrival as a major source of startup funding, it has already changed Johns’s life now that he is able to work from home on a project he is intimately involved in, without sacrificing his home life in Vancouver.

“I have a great commute, down from an hour and a half to nil,” he says. “I get to see my daughter in the morning.”