Okanagan tech company Mazu jeopardized by stalled funding, says owner

Okanagan tech company Mazu jeopardized by stalled funding, says owner

Mazu staff face missing second paycheque in January

A Kelowna entrepreneur says the future of a website she created to provide a safe online place for youth has been put in jeopardy.

Mazu CEO Janice Taylor said her 20 staff have already missed one paycheque this month and will likely to receive another come their next payday on Friday due to the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust creating a roadblock to funding.

The absence of a signature on an agreed loan extension agreement with SIDIT threatens to collapse Mazu’s support from other investors and force the company to close its doors.

Taylor feels she had no other option but to go public to the local media Wednesday with her frustration over her dealings with SIDIT, despite the fact she already has been threatened with legal action in a letter from SIDIT acting board chair Grace McGregor for any comments “malicious and defamatory of SIDIT or its staff.”

RELATED: Recognition for Mazu founder and CEO

Taylor says there have been changes with the SIDIT administrative staff, including three different CEOs since August 2017, that has led to her company’s financial structure and intent being misrepresented to the board, and she claims to have had no opportunity for the board or staff to better understand either Mazu’s current financial status, private investment support or long-term revenue objectives since the loan renewal talks began last September.

“We have an agreement to extend the loan for three years so all we need is a signature on the document for that agreement and we can carry on,” Taylor said.

“Instead, I am hearing around town how we have defaulted on our loan and that is absolutely not true and an irresponsible statement.”

Taylor’s involvement with SIDIT dates back to 2013 when she received a $200,000 seed money investment from the development initiative trust to grow her company as a five year loan.

She made interest payments totalling $87,000 with the option after five years for SIDIT to demand repayment of the loan principal amount or invest it as shares in the company.

At the time, Mazu was valued at $2 million, and has since grown in equity value to $18 million with more than 70 private investors, including some of the staff.

Taylor says the loan extension agreement was for a further 3.5 years under the same conditions.

But Taylor says the hangup in the deal centres around a subordinate clause, in which SIDIT would not be classified as a tier 1 lender under the agreement, allowing other tier one investors, such as a bank or other private financial lending institution, to get first priority in getting paid out if Mazu was to fold.

RELATED: Safeguarding youth from Internet addiction

Taylor argues that as a public trust, SIDIT should not be looking for a quick turnaround profit, but provide a long-term investment that will help companies to grow and generate jobs for their local economies.

“We are the poster child for everything that SIDIT claims to be in their own strategy policy. It was set up for companies like us, particularly those in high-tech that have an idea and need time to go through the ups and downs in figuring out how to turn it into a revenue generating business,” she said.

“We have job growth, are attracting investment, in the last five years gone from 15 to 20 employees, been involved in university co-op programs with students and ended up hiring two as full-time staff. This should be a win-win situation for everyone going forward and instead we have our own version of the wall here where my staff are not getting paid.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon Council voted in favour of implementing a 500-metre buffer between all new cannabis stores in the city at its meeting Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Black Press files)
Two cannabis shops vie for last downtown Vernon spots

Applications for stores within 240m of each other and a third retailer up for consideration

Vernon’s Ellison Provincial Park has everything the outdoor enthusiast could wish for. (Ribbons of Green photo)
Upgrades trail in for Okanagan campgrounds

Bear Creek and Ellison improvements underway

‘Arthur’ describes the in-person drop-off of a ‘notice of trespass and personal liability’ to Vernon’s City Hall in a video on the group’s website.
Mysterious group serves notice to Okanagan mayors, demanding end to ‘unlawful’ COVID rules

26-page letter sent by ‘Sovereign Republic of British Columbia’

(File photo)
Fraud alert issued by Vernon police

Busy start to year with more than 30 frauds reported already

(Black Press file photo)
Lumby curling club needs $17K to continue season amid COVID-19

The village agreed to provide half of the requested funds, RDNO may provide the other half

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

The Oliver Fire Department’s “new” truck was built with the help of various local companies. It was completed Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Oliver Fire Dept. / Facebook)
It takes a town to build a truck: The Oliver Fire Department gets creative

Ingenuity and local connections played an important role in the upgrading fire truck

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Clint George collaborated with Les Louis to create the Pelmewash Parkway Indigenous sculptures in Lake Country. (Video still)
First Indigenous territory recognition made in Lake Country

Council makes historic move after Syilx artists create parkway sculptures

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

Most Read