A Coquitlam native now transplanted in London is celebrating winning the Tech Entrepreneur of the Year award in the inaugural UK Business Awards held on Nov. 11.
Parry Malm's company, Phrasee, was also honoured with the Best New Business award. Launched in February 2015, Phrasee uses artificial intelligence to write marketing language better than humans, it claims, and already has a roster of large global brands that are using the tool.
"If you get promotional emails from big stores, there's a pretty good chance our software's artificial intelligence writes those subject lines…and writes them better than human copywriters," Malm wrote in an email to The Tri-City News. "Our kit makes brands millions of dollars every month."
Malm said growing up in a tech-minded family in Coquitlam gave him the inspiration to follow a high-tech career, starting with a gig at his father's Spring Street engineering company, CARMA Systems. He later studied business at SFU before pulling up stakes to try living abroad.
"By 2006 I wound up in London, with $500 in my bank and not a single connection," Malm said. He found work quickly, however, and in 2010 was named the commercial director of a tech company.
But a rebellious streak prompted Malm to leave the corporate job for the uncertain world of entrepreneurship.
"I had the idea for Phrasee, the connections to galvanize its growth and the confidence in the opportunity," Malm said. "But I lacked the hard skills."
He joined forces with Neil Yager, an old university friend from North Vancouver, and Victoria Peppiatt, a London pal who had been running a branding agency, in early 2015. This summer the company closed a £1 million seed funding round, the first venture capital investment in the UK's technology sector after the Brexit referendum.
The company now has 15 employees based in Putney.
The wins have left Malm, a Dr. Charles Best secondary student and Port Moody senior secondary grad, both humbled and elated.
"Given the isolationist atmosphere in both Britain and the U.S. these days, I think there is a delicious irony in a 'job-stealing immigrant' winning this award," Malm said. "The world is better off open, not closed, and I hope I'm helping to prove that point.
"I hope what it shows to Tri-City kids like me is you're never bounded by where the 160 Vancouver bus goes."