Alex Clark is living proof that not all roads for high-tech entrepreneurs necessarily lead to Silicon Valley.
Born and raised in Southern California, Clark launched his first start-up there but now lives in Vancouver, where the company he co-founded, Bit Stew Systems, has become a leader in data integration in the Internet of Things space and has raised more than $20 million of venture capital.
Clark wrote his first video game code when he was 12. He considered going into aerospace engineering, but after entering San Jose State University, he switched his major to computer science.
That didn’t last long, though, because he kept getting so many freelance code-writing gigs that he never finished his degree. At the age of 27, he became chief technology officer at Navio Systems Inc., which was in the digital commerce space. While at Navio, he wrote a program to address the company’s own systems integration problems, and then set about developing a program for wider applications.
In 2007, he partnered with Kevin Collins (now Bit Stew’s CEO), a fellow Californian who was living in Vancouver, to form their own software company.
“We bootstrapped it ourselves, by doing consulting work on the side,” Clark said.
Bit Stew helps companies in the industrial Internet manage and analyze massive amounts of data from multiple connected devices. Since smart meters are essentially like small Linux computers, one of the company’s first large customers was BC Hydro. That brought Clark to Vancouver for what he thought would be a temporary move.
Some of the company’s other large customers in the power and utilities space include Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Gas Co. and General Electric.
Two and a half years ago, Bit Stew landed $5 million in financing led by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq:CSCO) and Yaletown Partners. In May 2015, the company drew another $17 million in a Series B round, led by GE.
The company now has 120 employees and continues to win accolades, including making Forbes magazine’s top 100 analytics companies list.
Although Silicon Valley is still the mecca of high tech, Clark said there is no need for Bit Stew to be there. Last year, he became a Canadian citizen.
“And I plan on staying for a while,” he said.
Join us to celebrate the 2015 Forty under under 40 Awards January 27, 2016 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.