Rock Star: Steve de Jong, CEO of VRify
Runner-up as BC Business Entrepreneur of the Year, Mining and Metals category, takes on a new position
When Steve de Jong was only a couple years into his career in mining, he took on the role of interim president at Rogue Resources.
“I thought it would become very obvious very quickly that I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “It took a couple weeks to build up the courage to answer the phone.”
What was supposed to be temporary turned into two years full of learning experiences and valuable lessons. Years later, he is runner-up in the Mining and Metals category for the BC Business Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
One lesson de Jong learned was to know when to admit that he didn’t know the answer.
“I think coming in at a young age, no one expected me to know everything,” he said. “Something I continue to try to stay true to is knowing what I don’t know.” He carried this philosophy through to his presidency at Integra Gold.
This modest approach to leadership fosters feelings of camaraderie throughout his team. While de Jong’s team relies on him, he also looks to them for support. This leads to the second lesson he’s learned: “You need to surround yourself with good people,” he said. “I choose to work with strong, reliable people. It’s important to recognize when a team needs leadership or needs group discussion.”
Tying into these lessons is de Jong’s value for mutual respect in all his relationships.
“I think both your personal and business relationships should be approached with mutual respect,” he said. “For example, we see some companies treat their contractors and investors differently because they are in a position of power over one and looking to the other for investment.”
de Jong’s goal is to interact with everyone equally. When he joined Integra Gold, he joined a strong team with similar values to his own. Together, they pushed their company to grow exponentially.
“When I started with Integra Gold in 2012, I was 27 years old and Integra was a $10-million company. Five years later the company was sold for $590 million,” he said. “It was by no means an easy process, from building the company to navigating the sale. To be able to close that chapter with a successful sale that was done at an all-time high price—that was a very proud moment for me.”
360-degree virtual venture
Part of helping Integra grow included looking for new areas to utilize technology to increase efficiency.
“At Integra Gold, we embraced innovation wherever we could,” de Jong said.
In 2016, they created a virtual mine site tour as one of their various innovative- and technology-embracing initiatives. Since Integra’s sale last summer, a new team has been actively pursuing the technology: de Jong has taken on the role of chief executive officer at VRify.
VRify is an interactive virtual mine site tour. “We call it the virtual canvas,” de Jong said. The VRify team creates the virtual tour from photos of the mine site. The organic flow of the 360-degree virtual experience features hot spots with slides, photos, text and video to better explain the site. This extra information is easily updated throughout a project’s lifetime.
The goal of VRify is to provide information for stakeholders, investors, human resources and nearby communities about all aspects of the project. However, the virtual tour eliminates the extreme costs associated with bringing people to the mine sites, especially those located in remote areas. The technology has been well-received and is already used by companies like Alio Gold, Pure Gold Mining and Integra Resources. Larger mining companies have taken interest, and their tours will go live in the first quarter of 2018.
The interactive nature of the platform is a step above the typical PowerPoint presentation most companies use now to convey information and much less expensive than a traditional mine site visit. VRify virtual tours are available for viewing on desktops but also through a smartphone application for even easier access.
The potential uses for VRify virtual tours are seemingly endless. Each company they approach sees a different benefit in the technology. “Our objective is to turn the VRify platform into the go-to place for information on any company being considered as an investment,” de Jong said. “We’ll start with the resource industry and the sky’s the limit.”