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Story time for the modern age W

hile many of us might like to see the young children in our lives on a regular basis, the truth is

that that is just not a reality for all people. Circumstances vary across the board, with divorce, military deployment and geographical distance putting barriers between adults and the young faces they wish to see. Kindoma changes the game

Kindoma is a brand of apps that allow

face-to-face interaction between adults and young children. While it has the video elements of programs like Skype, the added interaction of apps like StoryTime and DrawTime hold the attention of children much longer, making for a longer and more meaningful call. From Sesame Street to Kindoma

Kindoma co-founders Tico Ballagas and

Carly Shuler met over five years ago, while Tico was working for Nokia and Carly was working at the Sesame Workshop, the or- ganization behind Sesame Street. Te two companies had partnered on mocking up protoptypes using Skype and an artefact to improve video calls with children. Te idea was good, but it wasn’t feasible at the time. Carly had previously worked at the toy

company Spin Master, and decided to pur- sue a masters degree in technology and edu- cation. Tat ultimately led her to Sesame. “I realized there was a big gap between

the people making toys, and all of the TV shows and all the stuff the kids play with and people who have a background in how children learn and child development,” said Carly. A couple of years after Tico and Carly

first worked together, the iPad came out and changed the game. Tico saw the pos- sibility to start up what eventually became Kindoma, left Nokia and recruited Carly to join him, even though Tico lives in Califor- nia and Carly lives in Winnipeg. Despite the distance barrier, Kindoma grew.

Kindoma allows people to connect online and share storytime. Te first app

Te first Kindoma app to hit the digital

shelves was StoryTime, which combined elements of a video chat and an e-reader. “The reason we started with books is

because that’s what the Sesame Street pro- totypes had been based on,” said Carly. “We have such a deep belief in reading and the importance of reading as well as the founda- tions with the project at Sesame Street. So we started with reading. We had the concept from the Sesame Project, but we began de- velopment right away and within about six months of forming the company we had a product live on the app store.” As more and more publ ishers were

brought on board for downloadable content, the popularity of the app began to rise. With that popularity came investors, and the abil- ity to improve and expand. A new app is in

the works, this one combining video chat with drawing. “We closed our first round of pre-seed

funding about 8 months ago at this point, and are able to use that to create our new products,” said Carly. “DrawTime, which is coming up next, is now in Beta. You can sign up for our Beta online and we’ll be releasing it in the fall.” Personal connection

Like most adults, Carly and Tico each have

personal connections to young children, as they have a pair of children each. “In addition to my professional interest

and just realizing there was a strong need, and around the same time as the iPad came out, I had my first child,” Carly said. “Be- cause I travelled for work and still do travel for work, and also because I have family members who live elsewhere, I really per-

sonally understood the challenges of video chat with young children and everything we found at Sesame became much more personal to me.” As a mom, Carly can see first-hand the

struggles of keeping the attention of a child. “When you’re with a young child in person

you probably are doing something together, you’re not just sitting there having a chat over a coffee. When you add a child to a video chat, you can see why they’re very short and very frustrating calls, so when you add some sort of activity it makes them a lot more fun.” Carly says that one of the most rewarding

things about the job is the feedback she gets from people that might not have been able to see the child in their lives otherwise. “When you get someone who says ‘this

has allowed me to have a relationship with my grandchild or child’ that’s the best part.”

Pricerazzi's new app is a huge win for consumers.

A new service launched in Winnipeg searches for price-match guarantees, finds the best price, and gets you everything you need to get your money back.

By Brenlee Coates D

eclan McDonald is about to become every consumer’s new best friend. After a rare experience where he

followed up on the lifetime price protection on his purchase of $7,000 worth of appli- ances, he found himself rewarded with over $1,500 for his efforts. Knowing that five per cent of people go

through with checking for price discrepan- cies, he asked his IT friends if all of the re- search he did to find lower prices could be automated. “Absolutely,” they replied – and then they went to work bringing Pricerazzi to life. Te biggest challenge was making the app as easy as possible for consumers to use. It took a lot of time and effort to achieve that goal. “I wanted to build something that’s

customer-oriented,” saidMacDonald. “Te average we get back per customer is $200, and not one person has been denied (the refund).” Te reason Pricerazzi is different, is it

scours for deals based explicitly on each store’s price-matching policy, so even if the price guarantee runs out after three months without finding a refund, Pricer- azzi gives the person certainty they got the best deal possible. Te thorough screening

also arms customers with all of the infor- mation they need to claim any refunds, ensuring their smooth delivery. Te Pricerazzi app is launching end of

August Across Canada and the USA . Te app is completely free. Once regis-

tered, users upload a photo of their receipt, and then Pricerazzi searches over 1000 stores to find a better price and notifies users when a better price is available. Pric- erazzi takes a 15% gratuity on of any Money back as payment for its service. Additionally, Pricerazzi isn’t limited

to major purchases. “It’s not just TVs and fridges; it’s clothes, toys, and tools, any- thing that is bought at a retailer that has a Price Protection / Price Match Policy,” said McDonald. It’s all customer-focused, and buyer be-

ware, but McDonald anticipates teaming up with friendly retailers very soon. With a background in sales, McDonald

knows from experience that customers are often too gun-shy to make a purchase deci- sion until they’ve compared prices at sev- eral retailers. Te Pricerazzi service makes it easy to purchase in the moment, and then sit back and wait for a potential money back. “If (salespeople) can sell right away, then they’re happy, and the customers are happy,” said MacDonald. Te refunds are, generally, provided by the manufacturers, he adds. He anticipates turning major re- tailers on to the service, allowing them to authenticate their promise to deliver the best price available. Pricerazzi provides the service across Canada and the U.S., “Tere’s so much opportunity,” said Mc-

Donald. “Within a couple months, we got a lease for a new office, an in-house market- ing person, and in-house programmers.” McDonald already has a proven track

record in business, running the first Planet Mobility store and then growing the company into the second largest cor- porate dealer of MTS wireless services in the province. Pricerazzi began operations in Te Eu-

reka Project headquarters at the University of Manitoba’s Smartpark. Te Eureka Pro- ject is a not-for-profit incubator that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow innovative technology companies, offering access to personalized programs, mentors and investors along the way. While he’s outgrowing the first home for

Pricerazzi, and he’s moved on from tending to customers at Planet Mobility, McDonald is staying true to his roots. “My focus was always the customers.” “I always want to make people happy,

and then in the business world, you can. It’s just the little thoughtful things.” Visit the Apple or Google App stores to get

the app or for more information on the service, and visit www. for more on the technol- ogy incubator.

September 2015

Smart Biz 11

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