As Erik Gingles watched a world junior hockey tournament live on TV last January, the camera froze at a crucial moment in the game. He could hear the commentary but see no action.
Frustrated, he thought it would be great if someone was streaming the game live from the arena using a smart phone. It would be even better if there were multiple streams from people sitting in different sections of the arena, which he could link to.
Mr. Gingles envisioned an app that could be downloaded on a smart phone to allow people to stream video from anywhere in the world and for followers to share this experience, either live or via archived video of the event.
Thus, the idea for Gingle was born.
But Mr. Gingles had no experience or money for the venture. He knew market data showed an increasing demand for online content in the mobile world. If he waited too long, he would miss the boat and lose the first-mover advantage in this dynamic and growing market.
Mr. Gingles graduated from the University of New Brunswick in 1988, starting in the science faculty, then moving to business and ending up with an arts degree.
His university career taught him that he was interested in a lot of diverse things. When an opportunity to teach English in Japan presented itself in 1990, he decided to move there with his wife for a one-year assignment; that morphed into nine years, and led to the start of his writing career. His book, Living North of Lucky, is a humorous chronicle of his life in Japan and set the stage for his various writing assignments with CBC, Discovery Channel and others when he returned to Canada in 1999.
His work attracted the attention of a friend, who asked him to make a promotional video for her sister-in-law’s business. One assignment led to another, culminating in Mr. Gingles setting up i communications, a Moncton-based advertising and marketing company, in 2003. The company is also the producer of NBTVTodaycom, an online television network, begun in 2009.
Mr. Gingles is the president of icommunications, which owns Gingle.
Though Mr. Gingles has always been a hands-on entrepreneur, in the case of Gingle, he had no expertise and had to find some professional help to get the app off the ground.
His other challenge was money. Although he had been running a successful company, the recession had affected cash flow. While in better times, he knew he could have financed the app through his business, the option was not possible: He had a family and employees to support and could not afford to take on additional risk.
Mr. Gingle addressed the money issue by pitching the idea at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru business plan competition last March. He and his team managed to make it to the finals on their idea alone, but that was as far as it went.
After this unsuccessful bid, he applied for and received support from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Engage funding program last March.
The $25,000 funding allowed him to hire a dedicated programmer for six months to develop the app. Various technical hitches pushed the target launch date by a couple of months, during which Mr. Gingles felt frustrated at his own lack of expertise, inability to hire more developers, and juggling too many balls, which took him away from his core marketing business.
Nevertheless, the app was completed, submitted to the iTunes App Store, approved and placed in mid-December.
The app has been receiving good reviews, Mr. Gingles says, and he is now readying to take it to the next level.
He is in the midst of talks to bring in a partner to help manage and find investors, after which he hopes to further build a development team and better publicize the app through social media and other means.
An avid cyclist, he likens the experience to an Ironman Distance triathlon. “First you swim almost four kilometres, then you bike 180 kilometres, and then you run a full marathon. With the app in the App Store, we’re just out of the water and getting ready to hop on the bike," he says.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Nauman Farooqi is a professor and head of the department of commerce in the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies of Mount Allison University.
This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Report on Small Business website.
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