SASKATOON — The 11-member First Nations of the File Hills Qu’appelle Tribal Council will be reaping the gains made by FHQ Developments Ltd. following the sale of PLATO Sask to their IT services partner PQA Testing.
FHQ Developments president and CEO Thomas Benjoe said PLATO Sask is a majority-Indigenous owned software testing service provider that delivers high-quality products to Saskatchewan clients, large or small.
The software testing service provider helps develop and train Indigenous software testers to prepare them for long-term careers in information technology, a commitment that PQA will also continue by employing members from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.
Benjoe said they invested $80,000 in the tech start-up and sold an 80 per cent stake of the company to PQA, one of the country’s top software testing specialists, bringing in a 1,150 per cent return on investment for FHQTC’s First Nations.
He said the sale showed incredible economic growth and the effectiveness of the business model they created for FHQ Developments resulted in one of their biggest achievements in the last five years.
"We’re [FHQTC] one of the first development corporations in Saskatchewan to invest in the tech industry or the IT industry. We’ve done well using the business model that we’ve developed,” said Benjoe.
Our decisions are made to create the greatest economic benefits for our communities while staying true to our Indigenous value systems. We took a start-up tech business, created value in that business, and now we are ready to sell it for a significant return.”
He added that they managed to expand and reap the benefits of their business in a short period, so when the opportunity to sell their shares to PQA came up, FHQ Developments grabbed it.
Benjoe said the profit they earned on the deal will be reinvested and will be put into other businesses based on their business model, where they expect to see more potential for growth throughout its portfolio across several industries.
“It was part of our strategy to invest in the tech industry. We wanted to explore what the opportunities were. This is one of our first investments and we will have others [investments] over the next few months including partnerships in the agricultural sector,” said Benjoe.
“We managed to do this, a relatively new industry for Saskatchewan and [the provincial] economy, and be able to grow it through a pandemic as well. We did the training of our staff, they’re all certified professional software testers.”
He added that several First Nation entrepreneurs have capitalized on the growth of the IT industry while other Indigenous-owned corporations have also begun investing in the same sector.
“I’m sure we’re going to see more and it just gave us better insights into what we need to look for when we’re approaching those types of investments [IT industry]. As I said, we have a bit of a playbook now and we’re going to be able to continue investing in that sector.”