David MacFarlane: “It’s the talent that’s available here. It’s the academic institutions. It’s the collaborative, connected ecosystem.” (Communitech photo: Sara Jalali)

From the department of ants co-existing with elephants, we give you Escrypt Canada, a 30-person technology firm based in Waterloo that is owned by ETAS GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bosch Group.

Bosch, a multinational engineering and electronics company with its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, is no doubt familiar to those in North America who favour high-end kitchen appliances. They might not, however, be as familiar with the fact that Bosch has a staggering 400,000 employees and revenues of CDN$120 billion.

And therein lies the dilemma that confronts Escrypt Canada President and General Manager David MacFarlane each day. Ant, meet elephant.

“One of the key aspects of my role is to be that interface between the scale-up sized company here and the large organization that is Bosch,” MacFarlane explained Tuesday to a lunchtime audience at Communitech who were attending an event called Pizza with the Prez. Pizza with the Prez is an ongoing series of occasional discussions with local tech leaders about the challenges and experiences they and their companies have faced.

For MacFarlane, the big issue he wrestles with each day is navigating the culture and workflow that is familiar to a small, nimble scale-up and one that must interface with a behemoth like Bosch, a company that has decades worth of ponderous, careful processes and expectations – and success – under its belt.

“I have a number of challenges,” said MacFarlane, citing communication as being prime among them.

“Every company here has its own language,” said MacFarlane. “We have our language. Bosch has its own language. Bosch has refined its language over 100 years.

“We have a really steep learning curve to understand the terminology, the acronyms, the phrases, the key words. The unspoken meanings.

“It’s painful sometimes. It can be embarrassing when you ask your senior leader five times, ‘Can you please repeat that? I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand.’”

Escrypt’s Waterloo office came under the Bosch umbrella last February, when ETAS bought a Waterloo company called TrustPoint. Trustpoint, in turn, grew out of a company called Certicom, which was founded by Scott Vanstone in 1985, along with two University of Waterloo professors.

The Waterloo company, which is working on a “smartphone-based digital key sharing solution to replace physical keys and key fobs,” is Bosch’s only Canadian research and development outpost and, as a result, MacFarlane confesses that now and then it’s necessary for him to explain things Canadian to the mothership. But, he said, Waterloo Region’s German heritage, and its history of high-quality manufacturing, has been of benefit to him and his team as they’ve worked through projects with German-based Bosch.

Still, hurdles exist. As you would expect, a company the size of Escrypt operates in a far more nimble fashion, and at a far different speed, than its parent.

“What kind of change do you think a 100-year, 400,000-person organization is good at?” MacFarlane asked his audience.

The answer, he said, is “incremental. And even that is really hard.

“For us, being a small scale-up, how do we approach problem solving? We get a group of people in the room, identify the issues, brainstorm ideas, select one and off [we] go. That can take, what, half an hour? An hour? If really complex, maybe a day.”

At Bosch, he said, “Something as simple as identifying the issue can take weeks or months. Let alone implementing the change.”

His solution? MacFarlane confesses he doesn’t have a really good one yet, other than plenty of old-fashioned communication.

One of the things he doesn’t have to explain, however, is the value the company gets from being part of the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem. Bosch, he said, gets that, in a big way.

“It’s the talent that’s available here,” said MacFarlane. “It’s the academic institutions. It’s the collaborative, connected ecosystem.”

Pizza with the Prez is sponsored by Blackberry Key Two, accounting firm MNP LLP, Polsinelli, RBC, TD Insurance and the governments of Ontario and Canada.

Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.