Game for adventure: serial entrepreneur Jason Flick loving life after You.i TV

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Jason Flick is now an investor and adviser at Ottawa gaming studio Northern Forge. Photo courtesy Jason Flick

Two years after selling his software company for US$100 million, Jason Flick is reaching for new heights – in the business world and the physical world.

The entrepreneur best-known for co-founding Kanata-based user interface platform developer You.i TV is the main investor in a completely different kind of tech venture – Northern Forge, an Ottawa gaming studio whose first offering, role-playing app Orna, has topped 2.3 million downloads worldwide.

Like Pokémon Go, Orna allows participants to navigate an augmented-reality world on their smartphones. But in Orna’s case, users play characters who don armour and other specialized equipment as they engage in battles, collect weapons and slay dragons against real backdrops.

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“It’s definitely more for geeks who are kind of technology-savvy,” Flick explains.

While it hasn’t yet developed into a global sensation like Pokémon Go, which has surpassed a billion downloads, Orna is more than holding its own in the ultra-competitive gaming industry. 

The game is free to play, but it’s become a bona fide money-maker thanks to users who pay for items like potions that enhance the overall experience of being in the world of Orna. 

“It’s a highly profitable business,” says Flick, 52. “It’s incredible.”

Flick joined Northern Forge as an adviser just over a year ago. A big Pokémon Go aficionado, he was searching for similar games online when he came across Orna and was surprised to find out its developer was also based in Ottawa.

The studio now employs seven people and recently introduced a second gaming app called Hero of Aethric. 

Flick is hoping Northern Forge’s success inspires other local developers.

“Now that I’m in this space, I keep running into new little studios and guys trying to build their own games,” he says. “There’s a lot of stuff to be done. We’ve figured out some of it, but there’s so much more.”

When Flick left You.i in early 2021 after the company was acquired by U.S. media giant WarnerMedia, his to-do list was pretty straightforward: travel, help coach the next generation of tech leaders and, eventually, get back to business himself.

So far, so good. In addition to mentoring Northern Forge, the Carleton University computer science alumnus is an adviser and investor at Sleep Efficiency, an Ottawa-based provider of take-home devices that identify sleep apnea by monitoring metrics such as heart rate and oxygen levels, and App8, a local startup that makes mobile food ordering and payment solutions software.

Flick has also rejoined the board of Invest Ottawa as the government-funded economic development agency embarks on its next five-year strategic planning exercise. 

As for his own five-year plan, Flick says he’s just taking life as it comes. So far at least, it’s been an uphill battle – but in a good way.

A self-described adventurer at heart, Flick climbed Mount Niles, a 9,700-foot peak in B.C.’s Yoho National Park, last year and recently scaled two of the highest summits in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. Next week, he’s going for his Scuba diving certification.

While mountain-climbing is plenty of fun, Flick knows he’ll likely get the itch some day to return to conquering obstacles in the business world full-time. 

When exactly that will be, however, remains anyone’s guess.

“I’m still just figuring out the groove of what it’s like to not have a six-day-week, 10-hours-a-day kind of a job,” he says with a smile. “I’m still figuring out what it all means.”

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