Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada

From classroom to boardroom


Bluedrop Inc.When Emad Rizkalla first started a university project on
e-learning in the early nineties, he never dreamed that 19 years later his resulting company would be considered a global pioneering leader in the evolving industry of on-line training and e-learning.

But that’s just what his St. John’s-based Bluedrop Inc. has become.

Today, Bluedrop — which takes its name from a Newfoundland term referring to open water in an ice field — boasts a multinational client list including giants such as Dell Inc., Sony, Prentice Hall Inc., Pfizer Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and McGraw-Hill, just to name a few. The company’s Defence and Aerospace Division has enjoyed spectacular growth in the past year. Their total jobs have recently exceeded 100 persons and are heading steadily but surely towards 200.

Included in Profit Magazine’s top 100 companies four times and named one of Atlantic Canada’s best places to work twice by Progress Magazine, Bluedrop’s success started with its first online training program back in 1992.

“Today, our clients are using learning to increase operational readiness, sales, safety or productivity,” says Emad, president and CEO, who moved with his family to Canada from Egypt at age seven and grew to be named one of the Top 40 Under 40 and Top 50 CEO’s in Atlantic Canada. “But they’re always looking for an edge, a way to surpass their competition, and that means constant commitment to research and development.”

And that’s where training from Bluedrop can help, by custom-tailoring its learning software and providing tools for clients to measure the benefits of their training. “Our clients want to see a return on investment. Otherwise, why would they spend money on our products?” Emad says, smiling.

Emad says ACOA’s support has been critical to Bluedrop’s success.

“How else could a bunch of eager students with no money or contacts get started in a region that, in 1992, was chronically short of venture capital? ACOA’s funding has helped us become Canada’s largest advanced learning company.” 

Since its humble beginnings, Bluedrop has split its IT division into a company called ZedIT Inc., and created another spin-off called Vision33 Inc., a software business solutions provider. “Today, between the three companies we have created close to 250 well-paying jobs, 85 per cent of which are in our region and most of which are export-oriented.”

Bluedrop’s latest product line,, is also being developed with assistance from ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. 

“This library of over 5,000 courses will help clients build their own learning plans,” Emad explains. “It allows employers and individual employees to develop career plans without having to go the custom route.”

With various innovation and project excellence awards received from the National Research Council, Technology Industry Association and more, Bluedrop is proving that entrepreneurial success can be dreamed up in the classroom and demonstrated in the real world.

Published August 3, 2011