Distributive CEO, Dan Desjardins, shares his experience on the DIGITAL collaboration model

Based in Kingston, Ontario, Distributive is a software infrastructure company with the vision of providing compute.for(everyone). Their distributed computing platform provides abundant, low-cost computing power to enable the AI, data analytics and research computing applications that solve tomorrow’s greatest challenges. Their mission was actualized during DIGITAL’s Looking Glass project, where Distributive led a project consortium to develop a decision-support platform that used predictive modelling requiring substantial computing power to analyze health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to determine which decisions would best protect Canadians.

“We, Distributive, had a great experience with DIGITAL. It was well-worth the heavy lift of putting together a compelling project and capable consortium. However, nobody – not DIGITAL nor us – could have predicted the full potential of project Looking Glass and the commercial solutions that would derive from it. In fact, Distributive can trace much of its present day success back to DIGITAL.

Innovation is highly non-linear, yet the effectiveness of programs like DIGITAL are often judged on short timescales and in linear terms. The bigger picture enabled by DIGITAL is much richer, much more strategic to Canada than the mere creation of new jobs and IP assets. DIGITAL and its sister superclusters are all about fostering entire ecosystems that provide Canada with the capacity to innovate.

However, there is still work to do in fostering a more receptive mindset among established and often risk-averse Canadian enterprises, encouraging their active participation in Canada’s innovation supply chain. Without the willingness of incumbents to adopt, or even simply pilot, new innovations stemming from ambitious Canadian startups, momentum generated by innovation programs, government grants, and policy frameworks is quickly neutralized. DIGITAL holds the important responsibility of helping shape culture through people, not just programming through policy.

In that line of thought, Distributive actively contributes to the change it wants to see; we stand shoulder to shoulder with and support younger startups by sharing our team’s time, limited capital, intellectual property, and hard-earned credibility. We don’t see enough of this from larger, more established companies. All we ask in return from the startups we help is to do the same for others once they have the ability to do so. This pay-it-forward culture is exactly the ingredient missing from Canada’s otherwise excellent innovation programing, government funding, and policy frameworks. A new wave of ecosystem-conscientious companies may end up showing the older, exhausted, and entrenched companies how to lead again, or face irrelevance.

Innovation and economic development is a team sport that transcends individual balance sheets. To all my fellow founders, corporate executives, and all those in a position to influence industry, let us rally and cooperate. Instead of pulling up the ladders behind us, let’s extend a hand.” Dan Desjardins, CEO, Distributive

Distributive | Solutions | Osler

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