FASTEST-GROWING COMPANIES - #6 - TrueNorth Avionics

OBJ Staff
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Flying in style

Stepping onto a corporate jet outfitted with TrueNorth Avionics software, passengers are able to use every piece of technology they would in an office.

TrueNorth Avionics CEO Mark van Berkel.

Since the company's inception in 2006, the goal has been to not just provide an office in the sky, but a lifestyle.

The company's focus is to bring communication, entertainment and comfort to an airplane, such as one would experience in a luxury car, says CEO Mark van Berkel.

TrueNorth's Wi-Fi technology doesn't cause any electromagnetic interference, and most of it is software-based, which means it doesn't take up much space.

"What we do in a single piece of equipment, our competitors need four for," Mr. van Berkel says. That competition includes big names such as Honeywell UOP and Rockwell Collins, which can provide the entire airplane. Oftentimes, however, TrueNorth ends up working alongside those companies to provide complementary services, he says.

Many customers are hesitant to be named as some don't want employees or shareholders to know they own a corporate jet, but users include Mexican president Felipe Calderón and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Mr. van Berkel says.

"Most successful companies in the world have airplanes," he says. "(An) aircraft is the ultimate business tool. It allows them to fly, to be more productive and effective."

Today's unstable economy is a threat to the company's success, with rising fuel prices and environmental concerns hampering public opinion about airplanes.

(An) aircraft is the ultimate business tool. It allows them to fly, to be more productive and effective. CEO Mark van Berkel

But when larger airlines face heavily publicized issues - such as Air Canada's ongoing labour disputes - it works in TrueNorth's favour.

"The more airlines that make travelling a pain and discomfort, the better it is for me," Mr. van Berkel says.

Year founded: 2006

Local head count: 30

Product/service: Manufacturing Wi-Fi systems for corporate jets

Revenue growth: 149.8%

Organizations: Rockwell Collins, Air Canada

Geographic location: Ontario

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