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Success Stories

BW Technologies Ltd.

BW Technologies Ltd.
Company headquarters: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Incubator: Calgary Advanced Technology Centre (Now Calgary Technologies Inc.)
Entered incubator: 1986
Graduated: 1987
Employees: 400+
Revenue: C$79 million (FY 2004)
London Stock Exchange: FRS

BW Technologies, a 1991 NBIA Graduate of the Year award winner, hit the big time in June 2004, when the gas-detection equipment manufacturer was acquired by the United Kingdom-based First Technology PLC for C$260 million (US$197 million). Not a bad sum for a firm that started in a 300-square-foot office at the Calgary Advanced Technology Centre (now Calgary Technologies Inc.) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

In the mid 1980s, BW Technologies founder Cody Slater (who continues to serve as the company’s president) was a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Alberta. When he invented the Rig Rat — the world’s first wireless, solar-powered gas detector — he left academia for the business world and never looked back. The Rig Rat became BW Technologies’ first product.

As an inventor with little business experience, Slater turned to the incubator for help with commercializing his new technology. Slater relied heavily on the technical expertise and troubleshooting experience of the Alberta Research Council and the (Canadian) National Research Council, both of which had offices at the incubator, as he developed his first product prototype. "Cody was and still is a quick study," says Jim Hughes, president of Jim Hughes Advisory Services and former manager of the Calgary Advanced Technology Centre. "He was smart enough to recognize that he could not do all things himself, so he hired or partnered with people whose skills complemented his own."

Slater’s willingness to accept help and his keen business sense have been a winning combination for BW Technologies, Hughes says. During the business’s earliest days, Slater sold calibration gases to safety monitoring instrumentation repair shops. This experience allowed him to discover problems in existing product lines and generated cash flow to support the development of his new and vastly improved line of safety monitoring instrumentation.

Today, BW Technologies’ product line includes more than 30 offerings that help industrial and commercial customers detect and measure the concentration of hazardous gases. Its industrial gas detectors protect personnel and facilities from workplace hazards posed by toxic and combustible gases, and its commercial gas sensors are used in ventilation and air conditioning applications, in car parks and office buildings, and to detect leaks in refrigeration and food processing equipment.

BW Technologies’ corporate offices are located in a 36,000-square-foot facility in Calgary, but the firm has sales and customer service offices around the world, including offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Customers include British Petroleum; Shell; the Paris Fire Brigade; the U.S. Coast Guard; and the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto and Sydney, Australia.

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