Jamie on his way to hang out in his personal tree fort.
Gastown has some interesting characters inhabiting the neighbourhood.
The folks here are just like those anywhere else, except they’re a little different. Unique in subtle ways and sometimes not so subtle, Gastown’s entrepreneurs are their own breed; a hybrid caste of business men and women who roam our historic streets and buildings, fearlessly manifesting wild ideas, and transforming them into real world things.
Can a person grow a digital solutions company from one office into three, covering three cities, countless major markets worldwide, travel the globe, skateboard, wakeboard, play guitar and make a Top 40 hit, have 3 square meals a day and still have time to chill in their custom made tree fort atop an office built in a 100 year old elevator shaft?
Of course. It’s Gastown and it’s time to hang out with Idea Rebel CEO, Jamie Garrett.
His influence in the development of high profile companies and brands including Electronic Arts, Quiksilver, and BMW has landed him the title of Top 40 Under 40 and Entrepreneur of the Year finalist (Ernst & Young).
Idea Rebel has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, earning reputable nods such as Biggest Digital Agencies in Canada, Top Innovators, and multiple awards.
How did you get here?
Idea Rebel is a digital agency and I have been working in this industry for the past 20 years. We used to be in Yaletown during the mid 90’s and then around 2008, I felt it was time for a change. It just didn’t feel like a creative place to be in anymore.
When we started Idea Rebel 9 years ago, part of the move to Gastown was because the neighbourhood had a growing creative scene, attracting lots of talent and innovation, and the vibe felt fresher than anywhere else in the city. It was the right fit for us then and it still is today.
Who or what is an Idea Rebel?
The name Idea Rebel came from the notion of how we come up with and share ideas, and how we challenge those ideas. Not everything we do is wildly inventive but we always strive to make it so. Certain work that has really stood out for us has been on projects like The Ford VR Experience – we were the first company to create a 360 degree video that appeared within an app as virtual reality. It all has to do with how we ideate and if we can figure out a way to do it then we’ll make it happen.
What was the experience like for you working on the Ford VR Le Mans Project?
Before we started the Ford project we had already completed a ton of virtual reality work for Converse and BMW. Our pitch to Ford was unique, as the idea centred around an app that had a tv channel type interface for the user. We built a platform where Ford could create any content they wished using VR equipment, then seamlessly and independently, add that content to our app and technology. After we built the framework, we handed it over to Ford saying “Here you go. This is how it works”.
They were then free to create whatever VR video they wanted for their app. The app launched with the 24 hour race at Le Mans in France and now contains around 15 different episodes that Ford have created themselves. The goal was to create an autonomous, self-sustaining VR platform for Ford with an app that’s still going strong today.
Why does Gastown seem to attract artists and creative people, perhaps more than anywhere else in the city?
I’m from Toronto and have been in Vancouver for the last 24 years. When we first moved to Gastown, there were only a handful of tech companies here. Anytime I’m in our boardroom, in a meeting or on a call, I look out onto Water Street and always see fellow entrepreneurs moving about, like the guys from Hootsuite, Quietly or Global Relay.
The amount of creatives and startups down here is countless and I’m running into these types of people all the time, every day. The CEO of Native Shoes lives across the street and Fluevog’s Flagship store is a minute away from our office. Gastown is more than just great shops and restaurants; it’s also a place with a strong entrepreneurial spirit where we all interact together.
What are some of your favourite spots to hangout at in Gastown?
I love The Black Frog and I love the Greedy Pig. Guilt & Co. is one my favourite nitetime spots to hang out in and listen to live music. I hit The Diamond sometimes and also The Blarney Stone. The Irish Heather is great and I like strolling down Blood Alley and into Tacofino. Anytime friends come to Vancouver, I automatically take them to Gastown for food and entertainment, and then we go somewhere else.
On top of your achievements in the digital world, I’ve heard that you are also heavily involved offline in music?
I’ve been in the music industry for over 20 years, recording, touring and playing in bands as a guitarist and singer. We had a top 40 hit in Canada by our band “Exit This Side” – with the song “One Night Stand”. We even hit the billboard charts with that one which was pretty cool and unexpected. Today, I’m involved with running a recording studio with one of the guys from Exit This Side, writing music, producing and working with other musicians.
What’s next for Idea Rebel?
We’re looking to expand more into North America and Europe – currently our three locations are in Gastown, Toronto and Santa Monica. We just launched Roots.com and their full e-commerce platform. That was a big accomplishment for us. We also just signed a 3 year deal with BC Ferries to do a large part of their digital content and we have some cool ideas in the works. We also have a sports division that we’re working on with some big sports leagues and teams.