The co-founders of PodTech in Canal Flats will still be heavily involved in their data centre company (with Brian Fry as a strategic partner and Brian Fehr as a strategic shareholder), after they sold the works to Australia-based Iris Energy earlier this month for an undisclosed sum with hopes of taking the business global.
PodTech, Iris Energy and Columbia Lake Technology Centre (CLTC) – where PodTech is located – have another commonality besides technology: business-person Brian Fehr is a driving force behind all three ventures.
“We first came to PodTech as a customer, and were impressed by both the advanced data centre infrastructure and quality of the individuals,” Iris Energy’s executive director Will Roberts told the Pioneer by email. “PodTech had skills and capabilities which were exactly what we needed; our strengths in energy and finance balanced neatly with their strengths in construction, infrastructure and data centres.”
Canal Flats will be the company’s home base in Canada, Roberts said, adding that they will continue with research and development in partnership with CLTC.
Why did the Australian company opt to keep PodTech going in Canal Flats with its population of 668 people?
“There were several appealing factors,” Roberts wrote. “The local community has been nothing but fantastic in providing a welcoming space for an international company.”
He noted the support of the local council, CLTC’s aspirations and the “availability of clean, sustainable power and high-speed fibre connectivity.”
Roberts said his next steps are to develop an additional 24MW of data-centre infrastructure and then to consider “other sites in both B.C. and North America generally, aided by the experience of Brian Fehr and his commitment to sustainable development in local communities.”
Fry, who cofounded PodTech and launched the business in the spring of 2018, said that in order to grow “we came to the conclusion that the best thing we could do was to find a partner … In this world you need the capability of big finance, like Iris has.”
At the time of the sale, he said PodTech had five or six employees but that he expects to see new hires and a double shift now that Iris Energy is driving the business.
“I’m just beyond excited about how good this is as an example of what you can do in a small rural industrial town that had no future when its sawmill shut down and here we are today talking about a very significant team of players put together,” he said. “People will notice that Pod Tech will start growing much faster now.”
PodTech weathered some difficulties in the year and a half since it started up with a fire shutting business down for three days and requiring some rearranging and crowding on site.
Fry said the company had also signed “a very substantial contract” with a Chinese customer that was never fulfilled. He suspects the problem came down to political tensions between Canada and China.
“It slowed PodTech down,” he said, adding that with any venture it’s important to “always just find a way to keep moving forward.”
Fry said the company continues to look for investors.
Lorri Fehr, chief executive officer for CLTC, said having Iris Energy on board “puts us on a global stage.”