Bnotions’ president, Alkarim Nasser; photograph by Derek Shapton; location courtesy of CeC, Mississauga, Ont. Bnotions’ president, Alkarim Nasser; photograph by Derek Shapton; location courtesy of CeC, Mississauga, Ont.

When the iPhone and Facebook became phenomenally successful, Alkarim Nasser knew he faced a big challenge. His software-development company, Bnotions, was thriving as a specialist in the Flash based software ubiquitous on the web. Yet, less than a year after the firm’s 2008 launch, Nasser could see that the rise of mobile and social media would soon drive Flash-based apps to the margins.

He needed to shift to developing mobile and social apps on an array of platforms. But Nasser knew it would be tough to find developers with the passion and aptitude to master multiple platforms.

Bnotions’ unconventional solution to its HR challenge has helped the Toronto based firm achieve the No. 11 ranking on the HOT 50, with two-year sales growth of 832%.

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Bnotions, whose staff count grew from six to 35 during this period, has found key talent in large part by creating and hosting educational events that bring potential recruits into the firm’s orbit. This strategy has proven to be a powerful way to connect with today’s younger workers, who thirst for opportunities to learn and network.

Nasser devised this approach by accident. He began with an altruistic motive: to make it fast and affordable for people to get training for a digital-media career. Nasser created Yorkville Media Centre to offer a free, nine week course on topics such as design, development and information architecture. When Nasser saw how smart and passionate some of the students in the first course were, he hired them. It dawned on him that educational offerings are a way to give back to his sector and spot promising talent.

Today, Bnotions stages or hosts several events that give the firm access to a stream of keen and technically gifted people. This includes giving half a dozen local tech-user groups complimentary access to an entire fl oor of Bnotions’ offices for workshops and meetings. The firm also stages AndroidTO, a conference about the latest trends in that platform. AndroidTO debuted in 2010 as a free event with 250 attendees; by 2011, more than 800 people each paid $100 to attend. Next February, Bnotions will launch a second conference, jQueryTO, about a new code that simplifies HTML scripting. And every Tuesday and Thursday, the firm hosts Lean Coffee, an informal event at which the first 40 people to sign up meet at Bnotions’ offices to quaff java and yak about lean software design.

So far, says Nasser, his “event recruiting” strategy has led directly to 10 hires of attendees from various sessions—most of whom submitted a resumé afterward. This strategy also has led indirectly to many other hires, although Nasser doesn’t have an exact figure. He says the events position Bnotions as a cool and innovative place—one in which you’re always learning and building new skills. “People who come to our events talk about us,” says Nasser, “and that encourages other people to apply.”

He has learned not to be too subtle about his firm’s role in the events. Bnotions announces job openings at the sessions and has employees talk up these openings during networking breaks. The company displays its signage prominently, and often supplies beer and pizza to user-group meetings in exchange for a chance to talk about Bnotions and its current projects.

“We make it clear that we’re growing and that as spots open up, we’re looking for bright people to fill them,” says Nasser. Thanks to this innovative form of recruiting, Bnotions always has a big pool of talent to draw from.

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