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Computer programmers go it alone with new venture

After more than a decade working for information technology companies in the mining sector, Robert Patterson and Dave Peres decided it was time to start their own company.
Robert Patterson, vice-president of Sudbury-based mining software company Minalytix, says early support and office space from NORCAT helped the company get off the ground.

After more than a decade working for information technology companies in the mining sector, Robert Patterson and Dave Peres decided it was time to start their own company.

The two friends first started working together right after university, for a company called Century Systems.

Century Systems developed geological data management systems for the mining sector.

Technology company CAE later bought Century Systems, and created its CAE Mining arm.

Patterson and Peres later joined Sudbury-based BESTECH, a company that covers a wide array of mining technology from air quality monitoring to automation.

After a few years at BESTECH it was time for the long-time co-workers to become business partners.

“We just decided it was our time,” said Patterson.

They were inspired, in part, by the owners of the two companies they worked for since graduation.

“They came up with a good idea, thought they could make a good go at it, and they were both very successful,” Patterson said.

In August 2013 they both resigned from BESTECH and started a company called Minalytix with the goal to simplify how mining companies manage complex data sets.

The company's name combines the words “mining” and “analytics.”

Patterson, who is now the company's vice-president, said Minalytix is currently developing a platform that will revolutionize who mining companies manage certain parts of their data sets.

“In mining there are a lot of legacy systems, there's a lot of software that seems to be dated,” he said. “There's a big gap between where mining technology is at, and where it could be.”

Patterson said the consumer electronics and software space has been much more open to new technologies – such as smart phones and tablets – and innovative software.

“Why can't we have that in mining?” he asked.

Part of the problem with mining software systems, he said, is that different programs and solutions have historically operated within silos.

Companies created software to solve specific problems, but their solutions did not integrate with other programs.

“We want to focus a lot more on integration, as opposed to just developing custom solutions from the ground up,” Patterson said.

Patterson said one of the biggest challenges they face is providing a “one-size-fits-all” data management solution for mining companies of all sizes.

He said some junior miners rely on Excel spreadsheets to manage their data, while larger companies have complex legacy systems.

To launch their plan, Patterson and Peres connected with the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) where they were able to access entrepreneurial expertise and affordable office space.

They had both trained at NORCAT when they worked at BESTECH, and Peres went to Queen's University at the same time as NORCAT CEO Don Duval.

In January 2014, the business partners hired their first employee, and have since hired two more Sudbury-educated computer programers.

While their software product is in the early design stages, Minalytix also provides information technology consulting services to mining companies.

They help their customers find the right software for any particular job. If the right software doesn't exist, they work with their clients on custom solutions.

If things go according to plan, Patterson said, they should be able to hire two more employees by the end of the year.

All the revenues from the consulting side of the business, he said, go right back to software development, so that sooner or later, they'll be able to connect data management systems for mining companies of any size.