Health-tech trailblazer TryCycle Data Systems names Brett Merriman new CEO

John MacBeth and Brett Merriman
TryCycle Data Systems founder John MacBeth (left) has handed the CEO's reins to Brett Merriman (right), the company announced this week. Photo courtesy TryCycle Data Systems

One of Ottawa’s fastest-growing tech startups has installed a new chief executive as it looks to accelerate its expansion into new markets.

TryCycle Data Systems founder and original CEO John MacBeth has stepped aside to focus on acquiring new customers, the company announced this week. He has been replaced by Brett Merriman, who joined the firm as chief financial officer in 2022.

A first-time CEO, Merriman brings 15 years’ experience as a senior finance executive to his new role. He told Techopia he’s looking forward to overseeing TryCycle’s scaleup efforts as it aims to broaden its customer base and penetrate deeper into the United States.

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“The buck stops with me, so there is that pressure,” Merriman said in an interview this week. “I take that extremely seriously, and I’m going to work my tail off to do what I can to make sure that … this is a success.”

The 38-year-old earned a bachelor of commerce degree from Carleton University in 2008. He started his career as an accountant at Ginsberg Gluzman Fage & Levitz before spending six and a half years as a controller and later director of finance at waterslide manufacturer ProSlide Technologies.

After a stint as VP of finance for video management solutions provider Senstar, Merriman took on the CFO role at RBR, a Kanata firm that makes cutting-edge sensors used in deep-sea research. Before joining TryCycle, he spent a year as chief operating officer at Ottawa-based real estate management firm Inside Edge Properties. 

Merriman said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of business leaders who have inspired him such as ProSlide CEO Rick Hunter, RBR president Greg Johnson and Nanometrics CFO David Alexander, a former top finance executive at ProSlide who was one of Merriman’s key mentors.   

“What I think has been common among a lot of those (entrepreneurs) has been passion – passion for the product, passion for the customer, passion for what they’re trying to do,” he said. “John is no different. I was immediately drawn to his passion for the mission. I know I’m going to be a different kind of leader, but tapping into why people care about us is massive.”  

Founded seven years ago, TryCycle specializes in apps that provide clinical and peer-to-peer mental health support to Indigenous groups, military veterans and other users.

Its original product is a smartphone app that regularly prompts users to answer questions related to their mental health

TryCycle’s artificial intelligence platform then analyzes the data to determine if patients are experiencing more severe symptoms or are at risk of relapsing. The system is used by mental-health clinicians in Canada and the U.S. 

Seeing the need for better mental health resources tailored to Indigenous communities during the pandemic, TryCycle introduced an anonymous chat app called Talking Stick. 

The free platform connects users with Indigenous peers, who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to discuss a range of mental-health issues. Developed in partnership with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan, it has since been downloaded more than 40,000 times.

Buoyed by the success of Talking Stick, TryCycle is poised to introduce another app aimed at military veterans in need of mental health support.

Now at about 35 full-time staff, the Ottawa company also employs 190 part-time Indigenous peer advocates in Saskatchewan. Members of First Nations communities make up 88 per cent of its workforce, and Merriman says one of his top priorities will be extending that representation to more senior roles in the company.

“That’s one of our secret sauces is that we listen to that community, we listen to our customers and say, ‘OK, what is really the need and how do we (come up with) creative solutions using technology and people to help push that forward?’”

TryCycle ranked third in OBJ’s list of Ottawa’s 20 fastest-growing companies for 2024, with three-year revenue growth of nearly 760 per cent. While Merriman knows it will be hard for the company to maintain that trajectory, he says he is motivated by more than numbers on a balance sheet.

“I’m not the most emotional guy, but I do think that I’ve grown emotionally and as a person in this role and with this company,” he said. “There are a lot of companies you can be connected with that are great for the bottom line, but there are less than you can connect with that are great for the bottom line and great for the heart.”

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