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App startup goes global

Joist entrepreneurs off to U.K. after provincial splash

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Fresh off their victory in the Manitoba VentureChallenge startup-business competition last month, the Winnipeg partners in Joist, developers of a mobile app for contractors, will be off to the United Kingdom in the fall as part of an industry-outreach program.

The three founders -- Brendon Sedo, Justin Kathan and Michael Gauthier -- will be one of four Canadian technology startups, out of 72 who applied, taking part in the Global Adventure Competition.

Sedo said they are looking forward to making contacts with potential partners and software companies and maybe even potential customers in a new international market.

But Sedo made it clear the company is not yet prepared to start worrying about global markets. They want to make sure they're doing what their current users across North America want.

After spending about a year developing the app that enables contractors to create estimates, email invoices, manage projects and order materials using a smartphone, tablet or computer, the app was listed in the Apple App Store at the beginning of the year.

'It helps us develop a road map for the future. It's time-consuming but I think that's what makes a great product'

-- Joist's Brendon Sedo

Since then, it has consistently been in the top 100 business apps in Canada and has crossed that threshold a few times in the U.S., hovering around the 120 mark.

There have been more than 12,000 downloads and the number of registered users is mounting and is approaching a significant milestone.

"We might look at expanding overseas in the next few months but it's not in the immediate plans," Sedo said. "What we wanted to do was really hone in on the product in North America and collect feedback and make sure it works perfectly. Then we could replicate that anywhere we want."

The Joist guys have personally called every one of the thousands of registered users to solicit their feedback.

"We're very hands-on in that regard," Sedo said from the company's offices at the Eureka Project, the small-business incubator at the U of M's Smartpark. "It helps us develop a road map for the future. It's time-consuming but I think that's what makes a great product."

Joist won the $15,000 first-place prize in the Manitoba VentureChallenge after going through Innovate Manitoba's Pitch Day and Launch Pad entrepreneurs boot camp.

Jan Lederman, president of Innovate Manitoba, said, "They're following an entrepreneurship model, where you validate your markets, you talk to 100 or 400 customers and find out what they need. They are putting in all that legwork."

Already with one round of angel investment in the bag and another larger round in the works, Joist is progressing well.

What's probably most encouraging to Joist's stakeholders is the four-person company may be just weeks away from instituting a revenue-generating model for its free download.

Sedo said beta testing is underway with a couple of dozen users. The test includes a direct-order function connected to some large national building-materials suppliers. Sedo said the company is investigating a few different options that would allow for a few different types of partnerships with the likes of Home Depot, Rona and Lowes.

Gary Brownstone, president and CEO of the Eureka Project, said the Joist partners are fully committed to moving the company forward, including putting in the long days and weekends.

He said there are few different ways mobile apps can monetize their products. One is the "free-mium" model where the base download is free and then users pay for additional modules.

"Another possible play is for one of the big hardware chains to put their label on the product and the back end ties into their inventory system where orders go directly into the system," he said.

Sedo said another option could be a commission-based payment that could be spread across a few of the large retailers.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 B4

History

Updated on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 7:19 AM CDT: replaces photo

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