Bluedrop president and CEO Emad Rizkalla speaks Monday after the announcement that the e-learning, blended learning, advanced simulation and gaming company has received a $474,000 investment from the National Research Council of Canada. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
St. John’s firm Bluedrop has signed a $1.2-million contract with a provincial government for its online education software, but the company’s keeping quiet on the details — for now.
The company announced this week that it had signed the contract with the unnamed province, just a few months after Bluedrop received a $1.7-million loan from the Nova Scotia government as part of an agreement to develop a virtual training facility in Halifax as well as to expand its Halifax offices.
Bluedrop president and CEO Emad Rizkalla, speaking on the phone from New Brunswick (he was quick to say he’s there for a fishing trip and that the new contract isn’t with New Brunswick), said the arrangement is similar to a contract the company had with the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
“Our goal there was to help bring, over 2 1/2 years, 10,000 workers online, get 200 companies using online learning, and have 10,000 courses used by the workforce,” he said. “The concept is to help address imminent and known training gaps, but more importantly to help show people and small companies that online learning works and can work for them to address their needs, whether they’re in a rural area or an urban area.”
The Newfoundland and Lab-rador project was successful, said Rizkalla, proving the demand for small companies to have access to online learning to help educate its staff, and Bluedrop now has similar projects in place in Chile and Peru and is in talks with five Canadian provinces and a couple of U.S. states for more, in addition to the new contract, which Rizkalla said would be announced in September.
Rizkalla said Bluedrop’s early announcement comes because the company hasn’t been “telling its stories” enough for investors since the company began trading publicly earlier this year.
As of Wednesday, Bluedrop stock sat at 15 cents a share, higher than a recent 11-cent low but down from a 58-cent peak. Rizkalla said he’s not concerned because there are a limited amount of shares available right now.
“A lot of the shares right now are held by employees and former employees of the company, so we haven’t really wanted to pump it up until we can line up some of these successes to tell our story,” he said. “We’re not really a hype company, so we’ve got a very, very ambitious vision for the company, but we didn’t want to tell it without being able to point to things to show that this is very valid, very real, and we’re achieving our goals.”
Rizkalla said the company plans in the fall to begin an investor-relations strategy, to highlight what the company is doing and to promote it as an investment. In the meantime, he said, the company’s excited about the new plan.
“It’s a modest-sized contract, but I think what it says is we really are on to something for changing the way that millions of workers and hundreds of thousands of small companies will access ongoing workplace learning, and it’s a very different approach,” he said. “Most businesses go directly to the customer. We’ve identified a massive customer base that’s completely underserviced. There’s no way to service them, and we’ve found a real interest from governments who are very, very keen on helping their businesses to be competitive.”