The big one got away last year from Brandon and Ryan Austin, brothers and co-owners of GoFish Cam Inc., a Toronto company that has developed underwater camera technology designed to attach to fishing lines and capture underwater action.
The Austins entered the 2015 Small Business Challenge Contest, a national competition sponsored by The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp. They didn't win the $100,000 grand prize, but they beat out more than 3,300 competitors to claim one of three Most Promising Startup awards.
It's an impressive feat for a company that, at the time, was still working to refine and manufacture its product.
"Being named one of the Most Promising Startups was really cool, and it really helps when we tell people about it as we're building our business," says Brandon Austin, whose company shared the Most Promising Startup recognition with two other young businesses: Fauxmagerie Zengarry in North Glengarry, Ont., and City MiniMix Concrete Inc., in Edmonton. "It's a great boost to our credibility, especially when we're fundraising."
The award gave GoFish media exposure and $5,000 worth of advertising and marketing services from Agency59 Response Ltd., in Toronto. Mr. Austin says he and his brother used the agency's services to design a trade show display booth and develop a storyboard for a promotional video.
A lot has happened at GoFish since it got the award last October. This year, it got accepted into Telluride Venture Accelerator, a Colorado business incubator program that gives a select group of startups – about six each year – $30,000 (U.S.) each in seed funding and provides access to business mentors and investors.
After bringing in more than $100,000 in Kickstarter pledges – an achievement that also proved there was a market for its products – GoFish Cam is now raising seed funding and preparing to launch this summer. It has presold about 1,300 units at $169.99 each and is looking to secure orders for at least 1,200 more by the launch date.
The company recently hired a chief technology officer and has started to line up distributors and affiliates, says Mr. Austin.
And yes, GoFish Cam is once again casting its line for the Challenge Contest prize money.
"Last year we said we needed that money to finalize development work on our product and hire a CTO," says Mr. Austin. "With our launch coming up this year, we intend to use the prize money to hire a marketing and development manager, and to build out and drive a really aggressive marketing strategy."