Aaron Davidson owns Cronometer, a Revelstoke based startup. The company grew out of his nerdy obsession with a cult diet. (Jake Sherman/Revelstoke Review)

B.C. man turns nerdy hobby into a million dollar startup

Aaron Davidson left behind a six figure corporate job to find meaning in the mountains of Revelstoke

Behind Aaron Davidson’s humble and unassuming brown eyes is a reverent humanism. In 2011 Davidson left behind a six figure corporate job in Ireland developing software for a major company in search of love, meaning, fulfillment, and the possibility of a new beginning. At the time he was poised, prepared, and determined to make a change in his life, but uncertain of just what that might be.

In a strange twist of fate, and perhaps a sign that Davidson had been right to leave behind the high paying job he says gave him grey hairs, three months after the now 39 year-old software developer left his corporate gig in the bustling metropolis of Dublin, the CEO of the company he worked for was indicted by the United States of America for money laundering and fraud. It left him and others he worked with shocked. But after some serious soul-searching, and a whole lot of working on the side, Davidson ended up turning a nerdy obsession with a cult diet into a million-dollar startup with about 10 employees and a projected growth of about 80 per cent for the next fiscal year.

For the digital nomad who’s never really settled in one place for very long, Revelstoke has become home base, and Cronometer, an open source hobby and obsession, has turned into a career.

Today, at any one time, Davidson says there are thousands of people using his app, and that 1.6 million people have created accounts. He says people are adding accounts at a rate of over 2000 a day.

Because of that, his company that helps people monitor their nutrition — telling them based on how much they exercise, how many calories they need to consume to stay healthy — is projected to make a million dollars in revenue this year, up from around $600,000 last year.

RELATED: Cronometer looks to lead the way in nutrition tracking

Davidson says Cronometer is projected to grow to 1.2 to 1.5 million in revenue next year.

The local entrepreneur was born in Penticton, moved to Edmonton at age one, and spent time in the Northwest Territories and Northern B.C. before settling in Kamloops where he went to Jr. High and high school.

At 17 Davidson left Kamloops to pursue an education in Computer Science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

He spent six years there where he graduated with a Master’s.

Davidson wrote his thesis on artificial intelligence and playing poker.

After he graduated he was interested in doing a PhD, but didn’t have a topic. At the time his former supervisors had a biotech company and offered him a job. He took it.

Davidson worked there developing bioinformatics software for about a year.

Over time the company changed direction and decided to commercialize the poker A.I. Davidson had developed under his thesis supervisors during his time in university. As a result they ended up building a Texas Hold’em tool so you could play against the A.I. and learn to be a better poker player.

A year later he was headhunted and ended up with an offer from one of the biggest online poker companies in the world. That brought him to Dublin where his life changed direction.

Davidson spent four years there. But all the while his ex-wife had never been able to work on his work visa. So he decided it was her turn to live her dream, and Davidson walked away from his “stressful high paying job in a giant company of 800 people,” to pursue meaning in the mountains. First in Canmore, and later in Revelstoke.

For about five years previous to that decision Davidson had been interested in what he calls a “nerdy diet” known as Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition. The basic idea behind it is that you can prolong your lifespan by limiting the number of calories you consume in a day. However, you still need to satisfy your body’s basic nutritional requirements. In his effort to live healthy, he couldn’t find any software available to monitor his caloric input against his output; so he decided to build his own.

His open source software (which he developed on the side of his day job) grew organically, and Davidson maintained it as a hobby until eventually he decided to launch it as a formal service.

“It had grown, and I was getting a lot of e-mails. So I relaunched it as a service. It was really ugly and basic, but I started migrating users over to it. It was making a couple grand in revenue a month by the end of that year, but it wasn’t going to pay rent,” said Davidson.

At the same time as Davidson had begun to monetize the service, his friends who he had worked for in Edmonton, (but who had also been bought by the Irish company Davidson worked at) were laid off when the company went under during its criminal investigation by the U.S. government. So they decided to put their minds together and start a Seattle based startup that lasted about two years. All the while Cronomoter ran neglected in the background, but doubled in size each year.

Davidson then ended up working in another startup, and again left Cronometer running on its own. Still, Cronometer continued to grow. In fact, it grew another 60 per cent that year.

All of it was organic, and word of mouth. It made him realize that he had a business, and that he’d have to devote some serious time to it.

“It’s been like a rocket ship,” said Davidson. “That’s how you know it’s a good business.”

So he moved to Revelstoke, bought a house in the Big Eddy, and decided to take Cronometer on full time.

Now, downtown Revelstoke has became cronometer’s home base, and it could be just one of many budding and succesful tech startups to call our little valley home over the next decade.

@Jnsherman
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