Winnipeg Entrepreneurs help Dragons Avoid Speed Traps
Winnipeg-based startup whose device takes away speed trap worries for drivers fast tracks its way to success on Dragons' Den.
Necessity is the mother of all invention, so the saying goes. It's no secret than many cities - including Winnipeg - gain significant tax revenue through a variety of speed and traffic enforcement programs. And where there is money to be saved a business or consumer, an entrepreneur is usually not far behind to solve a problem and reap the reward.
But when you are a serial entrepreneur like Bryce North, who has launched and currently is involved in numerous businesses, knowing which one of the many 'bets' to focus on can be a real challenge.
"One of the things that has changed in entrepreneurship over the last several years is the amount of time it takes to see if an idea fails. Crowdfunding has made market validation of a new business or product take place in as little as three months, so you know when you've got an idea with legs, or if it's time to move on." North explains. "With TrapTap, we were found a huge demand for our product."
What is TrapTap? It started out with the question Bryce posed rhetorically - "Why can't my FitBit buzz every time I am going through a speed trap?" Together with the help of some fellow entrepreneurs, Dustin Refvik, Adam Tsoursas and Gord Parke and the support of organizations such as North Forge, the concept transformed into a device that sits on your dashboard and connects to your smart phone to alert you of speed traps, school zones and other threats to a drivers' pocket book.
Sound like a gimmick? With over $600,000 in pre-sales of the product, which was reached within just nine months of the concept of the product, the free market would overwhelmingly disagree.
"Going on Dragons' Den hadn't been a dream of mine but was always something I wanted to experience. But when we saw how much traction we were getting on our (crowdfunding pre-sales), we wanted to throw as much gas on the fire as we could. The exposure on Dragons' Den is worth in the neighbourhood of $250,000 in exposure to our product and the prospect of teaming up with (a dragon) didn't hurt either!"
The Dragons' Den Experience
Bryce and his co-founders braved a six-hour wait to audition to the show in Winnipeg in early 2017. An experienced pitch-man, North was confident they had a strong chance of making it through the qualification stage and into the limelight. "I've been presenting products and ideas for a long time, so I did what I always did - made the presentation clean and simple. To the point. We made it through (the qualification stage), but we were told that we had to make our presentation more 'TV worthy'."
The TrapTap Team had some time to perfect and add some TV drama to their pitch by the time the May 15, 2017 filming took place in Toronto.
"Was I nervous?" Bryce recalls of what many would consider an enviable opportunity most of the country's entrepreneurs, "I didn't start out that way. We arrived at the CBC studio in Downtown Toronto and were told it may take up to 12 hours before we get to go and pitch. We were originally to be up third for the day, but ended up getting to go first. Still, we waited outside the 'Den' for 45 minutes, and your nerves can get to you a little."
"We knew we had a great product and when go in with over $500,000 in sales in less than a year, the Dragons listen to what you are saying."
"What we found most interesting was how we pitched for an hour or so, and they can somehow cut that down to less than 10 minutes when it airs. There is a lot of dialog that probably won't make it to the final cut, but the directors don't get in the way of the presentation - though the Dragons do!"
Bryce and the team have not seen the way the segment in which they appear, nor are they allowed to reveal the outcome. "If we tell people in advance (what happened), CBC can pull our episode. So all we can say is that we asked $500,000 for 20% of the business, and it was a great experience to be on the Den," Bryce responded after several attempts for a sneak peak by this interviewer for into the outcome. "We went in hoping to strike a deal with Michele (Romanow), because she understands the technology and would be a good fit for our business. But each one of them has something to add to a business, and we just wanted to go in and leverage the opportunity."
Deal or no deal, these entrepreneurs have done the Winnipeg business community proud on a national stage, showcasing the fine tech and business talent our city has to offer.