For Victoria Brilz everything is a possibility now, but as a Medicine Hat College student in 1976 she couldn’t have imagined her future would include:
- Working for IBM to bring results of the Olympics online.
- Making a deal with Nike and having her company featured on the cover of Popular Science magazine.
- Developing high performance sports technology that would be used by a pro cycling team at the Tour de France.
Entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation have been part of Brilz’s life for years, but in 1976 her aspirations were less certain. Coming back to MHC years later and reflecting on where it all began, she realized the most important thing to do at that time was to start.
“I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the right decision, and that every decision we make is the final and most important decision. But the most important thing is to just get on the merry-go-round and get going. Life just turns and takes you so you need to be open to opportunities and not afraid to take chances,” said Brilz, whose parents raised her and her siblings to embrace challenges.
So she got on the merry-go-round.
Brilz graduated from McCoy High School and was invited to play basketball at MHC. After a semester in the family studies program, she wasn’t confident a career in human services was the right fit so she switched to basic plant operations (BPO) because she liked math and the prospect of a higher paying summer job.
“The BPO course really gave me confidence that the whole world was accessible to me as a woman finding a career. It opened my eyes to what was possible. Living at home and going to college was interesting. It was a stepping stone, like having a foot on both sides of the creek.”
Her next step was a move to Edmonton and the University of Alberta where she eventually landed in the engineering program and met her future husband, Kip Fyfe. From there, the couple attended the University of Waterloo where Brilz earned a degree in electrical engineering. As summer students, Fyfe and Brilz had their first entrepreneurial experience, building computers and supplying them to schools in Ottawa. They had so much business they had to hire co-op students and invited Brilz’s brother to help run their company while they finished school.
After returning to Alberta, Brilz worked for IBM for seven years and was part of the team that brought event results online to the media for the first time at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. She eventually moved to Novatel where her husband worked before a new opportunity came around.
Approached by Fyfe’s brother, Brilz and Fyfe were asked to help develop a speed and distance monitor to measure how far and fast a human body moves. Interested in starting their own company again, the couple launched Dynastream Innovations and developed the first speed and distance footpod on the market.
“Our first customer was Nike and our footpod became the standard technology for companies like Garmin, Polar, Adidas and Timex which led us to receive the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. We later applied the concept to prosthetics, with Ossur Hg in Iceland. It was the first innovation in smart ankle prosthetics in 20 years and even made it to the cover of Popular Science magazine,” said Brilz.
And that was just the beginning. They sold the company to Garmin in 2006 and launched “another little growing concern” in 2010.
Based in Cochrane, Alberta, their latest entrepreneurial endeavour, 4iiii Innovations Inc. (pronounced four-eyes), focuses on developing sports performance technologies that take athletes to the next level – whether that means achieving a personal best or podium finish. The company’s most recent achievement came in early 2016, when it announced that 4iiii would be the official supplier of power meters for the Etixx – Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team, – technology that will be put to the test at the Tour de France this summer.
Brilz is passionate about entrepreneurship and credits her experience at MHC years ago as influencing her decision to pursue a career in engineering. She believes it is important to have women represented in the fields of engineering and technology because it changes the conversation.
“When you have both sides at the table, everything takes a quantum leap,” said Brilz of school, business and politics. Encouraging women, making connections and supporting entrepreneurship is all part of that conversation.