Design Startup Spotlight: RallyEngine

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mC:t   2015.04.28
Young designers are often asking the question, how do I get my start in the design industry? For some, a traditional job at an existing company is not for them. For all those trendsetters out there I decided to ask a few local design startups how they got their start and the obstacles and opportunities they’ve encountered along the way. For those who feel that sometimes the best job is working for yourself, hopefully this series of interviews inspires you to get out there and do something different…
First up I spoke with Calgary based RallyEngine, who provides an app-based communications system for things like rescuing missing kids and organizing responders when a disaster strikes.
Design Startup Spotlight I: RallyEngine
RallyEngine Team
1   |   What inspired you to start your own business? 
RallyEngine ( originated from a pro bono project by Strut Creative ( for the Missing Children Society of Canada ( There was an opportunity for MCSC to play a vital role in rallying corporate and government workforces for law enforcement in the urgent early moments when a child goes missing. So we built the technology platform that powers that program, CodeSearch, which was launched in November 2012 with Calgary Police Service (and with Toronto Police and others since then) as well as with companies like WestJet, Tervita, Tarpon, and others.
Along the way (which included the 2013 Flood, the Boston and Moncton manhunts, the Parliament Hill shooting, etc.), we discovered a number of organizations with the need for a mobile and internal crisis communications channel; a way to locate, alert, inform, and rally their dispersed teams. And so Strut spun off RallyEngine as its own company to pursue those commercial opportunities.
2   |   What was the biggest obstacle you met in starting your business in Calgary? How did you overcome it? 
The biggest obstacle we’ve faced in Calgary is the same one we’ve faced elsewhere: people are very lax when it comes to adopting tools that they’ll only need in a disaster (and will hopefully never use at all). Communications systems like RallyEngine are critical for business continuity during disasters but forgettable when things are normal. Even a severe event like the 2013 Flood hasn’t really changed things. In fact, a complacency seems to have settled in – “well, that wont happen again” but of course it will.
3   |   What advice could you offer young entrepreneurs in the design industry trying to get their start? 
Three things. a) Don’t short sell the value that design, designers, and design thinking bring to a project/product. It’s incredibly important. b) Don’t try to design and plan everything at the outset. There’s much to gain from on-the-fly learning and adaptation. c) Work on real-world projects solving big issues. It’s gratifying to know that out technology helps to save kids. There are many nonprofits out there with challenges worthy of your effort.
4   |   Are there any particular resources (organizations, tools, places, etc.) that you’re interested in/excited about?
MCSC’s Search Program (, which includes traditional and social media in addition to mobile, is a very innovative model; one that redefines a nonprofit’s role. We also really like the distributed and standby approach to innovation being championed by such groups as Field Innovation Team ( and CrisisCommons (, as well as the human-centred dimension ex-FEMA policy analyst Dr. Mary Tyszkiewicz is serving via Heroic Improv ( and Spontaneous Village (
5   |   In your opinion, what in Calgary needs a design intervention?  
In disaster management and crisis communications circles there’s a lot of focus on resiliency, which is of course a good thing. But resilience is really only about returning to zero, to neutral. An even better goal, and one that designers can be key contributors in achieving, is what The Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb called antifragility. How can we design our things and systems to not only bounce back from shock but to actually benefit from randomness, disorder, and volatility. We can start by embracing improv principles (, encouraging a diversity of options, and supporting a network-of-networks approach to community mobilization.
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