When two employees at a small tech company landed in Victoria in early 2019 to compete for a government contract, they had no idea just how quickly their lives would change.
Soon after Alec Wenzowski and Hazma Javed of Button Inc. arrived, a record snowstorm hit the city that closed schools and businesses, disrupted transportation and cut power to thousands of people. Determined to showcase their software development skills and for a chance to work with the B.C. government, Wenzowski and Javed weathered the storm and made it to the Sprint With Us competition, with the rest of the team participating remotely.
The Sprint With Us program is an innovative procurement process that makes it easier and faster for B.C.’s tech companies to work with government.
“We felt the B.C. industrial greenhouse gas reporting project aligned really well with our core value of creating impact and our expertise in data science and software development,” said Wenzowski, vice-president of engineering at Button Inc. “We were excited for the opportunity to collaborate with the BC Developers Exchange Lab to deliver agile software-development practices in government.”
A short time later, Button got the good news it had won the competition and a $1.3-million contract. With only a backpack and laptop, Wenzowski decided right then and there to stay in Victoria and get to work. Within two months, Javed and the rest of the Button team made the move to Victoria from Toronto to join him.
Since winning the contract, Button has relocated its head office to Victoria and has hired nine local tech developers and a co-op student. This grew the company from four employees to 11, with plans to hire more developers and additional staff in the coming year.
Sprint With Us is an example of the Province modernizing its procurement practices to take advantage of government’s buying power to drive made-in-B.C. innovation and economic growth in communities. Created out of the BC Developers Exchange Lab, the program allows a company to be up and running, cutting code and shipping incremental releases of digital products and services within weeks – a fraction of the time required using traditional procurement processes.
“The Sprint with Us process was much more efficient than previous government procurement vehicles, allowing us to put together our bid in significantly less time,” Wenzowski said. “What would normally have taken several months, we were able to turn around in two weeks. Collaboration at the BC Developers Exchange Lab has been a great way to reuse code, tackle common problems and learn from each other.”
Under the contract, Button worked with the Climate Action Secretariat to build software that helps government track and reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions as part of CleanBC. The new system makes it easier and faster to access and analyze greenhouse gas data reported by B.C. industrial emitters.
Sprint With Us and Code With Us: https://digital.gov.bc.ca/marketplace
BC Procurement Concierge Program: https://procurementconcierge.gov.bc.ca/
BC Developers Exchange Lab: https://bcdevexchange.org/ExchangeLab
Greenhouse gas industrial reporting and control project: https://www.button.is/building-the-future-of-climate-science
BC Procurement Strategy: https://gov.bc.ca/procurementstrategy
BC Procurement Strategy Update 2020: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Procurement-Strategy-2020.pdf
A backgrounder follows.