Challenge: Access to capital for growth and R&D
Solution: Transform and take calculated risks


Newfoundland and Labrador entrepreneur Emad Rizkalla believes that, today, innovation is the only way for businesses to hedge their bets. And, as it turns out, the biggest challenge for Rizkalla was finding the capital investment necessary for growth and continued investment in innovation and R&D.

Rizkalla, who launched his first venture out of a class project at Memorial University back in the nineties, is the founder and CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning, an e-learning company based in St John’s. Before Bluedrop, Rizkalla had launched a few companies he is no longer part of but that still contribute to the region’s economy today. In fact, if you add up all the companies that Rizkalla helped create and then spinoff (all of which still exist), it adds up to almost 600 jobs across Atlantic Canada.

Today, Bluedrop Performance is a publicly traded company with two lines of business: Bluedrop Learning Networks which provides unique SaaS-based technology that optimizes workforce training; and, Bluedrop Training & Simulation Inc. which designs and develops advanced training systems and state-of-the-art simulation products to safely train operators and maintainers of complex aerospace and military equipment.

The biggest challenge for an e-learning company like Bluedrop is the rate at which change happens. “The pace of change is unprecedented, says Rizkalla. It means that people need new skills constantly to remain relevant.”

That’s why Bluedrop continues to invest significantly in developing new ways to deliver that learning.

“We’re a $25-million-dollar company which spends large amounts - $3.5 million a year - on R&D, explains Rizkalla. Our goal is to remain globally relevant, and that won’t happen without continued investment in R&D. An early partnership with government was essential to obtain the capital investment we needed to grow. It is the basis for the significant success we enjoy today.”

The continued investment in R&D allows Bluedrop to work with some of the largest aerospace and defence companies in the world along with learning network clients that include large not-for-profits and governments all over the world.

“Change happens so fast today that the greatest risk is not taking risks, concludes Rizkalla. If you don’t reinvent what you’re doing and make it relevant for tomorrow, then you’re taking an even bigger risk.”

Rizkalla received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 in recognition of his contribution to Canada’s information and technology sector, and TIME Magazine once named Rizkalla one of eight “young dynamic entrepreneurs who will create the 21st century”. 

Partnerships, such as the one with the Government of Canada, are key to Bluedrop’s continued growth. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Bluedrop pursue and take on new markets, new larger scale projects, and continue with its investment in world-class technology developments. With an investment of $3 million, Bluedrop is capitalizing on existing market opportunities and developing new markets for the company’s computer-based simulation, training and eLearning solutions.

Bluedrop Performance Learning is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.

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Change happens so fast today that the greatest risk is not taking risks.
Emad Rizkalla, founder and CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning
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