[quote style=”boxed”]I bring ideas to life by discussing them with my co-founders and getting their input on the concept. We discuss how we would go about doing each part of the project, dividing the work up amongst the appropriate people, and then most importantly reiterating. We also make a list of short-term objectives we need to hit to make it a reality, and then long-term views and where we would like to progress.[/quote]
Douglas Lusted is the CEO and co-founder of WestonExpressions. Lusted founded the company in 2012 after winning the University of Waterloo’s Innovation Showcase and Velocity Venture Fund in his second year of business studies; leading to the development of Linkett Technology.
What are you working on right now?
WestonExpressions is a technology corporation providing hardware and software innovations for the out-of-home advertisement industry. We have launched an interactive digital signage system, Linkett that gives average televisions mobile and motion capabilities. We grab the attention span of the average consumer by making all content interactive and easily accessible for consumers while providing key analytics to promoters. Online ads provide analytics to advertisers so they can boost ad effectiveness, and we want to provide the same type of data and service in the real world.
Where did the idea for WestonExpressions/Linkett come from?
I was experimenting with a project that had mobile to screen interactivity on a co-op term during my second year at the University of Waterloo. The project involved screen to mobile communication and there seemed to be a demand for this small segment of the project. I validated it with potential customers and investors and it seemed to be a good fit.
How do you make money?
We have 3 revenue models:
i) The first is to sell directly to brands and retailers as a Saas model for $99.99 per month, per device, or $399.99 per venue with an unlimited amount of hardware. This price provides you with software and hardware, as well as the data we collect all for a small monthly fee.
ii) The second is selling our technology to resellers or other digital signage companies.
iii) Third, is partnering with marketing or advertisement agencies that create custom creative campaigns and use our technology to illustrate branding for clients at special events/tradeshows.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up 7am and start organizing and discussing the week’s goals with our team. I then progress into several meetings with various people throughout the day all over Waterloo and Toronto. I get back to the office at 6pm to start writing necessary reports, proposals and business plans. I complete my day by answering emails from 11pm on and repeat.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by discussing them with my co-founders and getting their input on the concept. We discuss how we would go about doing each part of the project, dividing the work up amongst the appropriate people, and then most importantly reiterating. We also make a list of short-term objectives we need to hit to make it a reality, and then long-term views and where we would like to progress.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
NFC technology and the massive gains android has had in the market.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was working nights at a large retailer in my second year at university stocking shelves, cleaning lawn mowers, and washing products that were left outside with bird droppings for eight hours at a time and I was going to school during the day. I learned that I never wanted to work under a large corporation or entity and would like to be my own boss. Forever.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
That is a good question. I would pilot our product as soon as possible regardless if it had all the features or not so that we could understand what features were demanded. We developed a product but stayed in R&D for quite some time trying to perfect the product, before piloting with potential customers which I think we could have achieved quicker.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly reach out to any advisors, mentors and industry experts who are willing to meet for short chats where I can ask them as many questions as possible to understand their experiences and try to side-step some of the obstacles that came into their way. Everyone knows something you don’t and if I can learn just one thing from each person I chat with, then I am satisfied.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I failed to bring the project I was working during my first co-op to market that I mentioned earlier, and overcame that obstacle by recognizing an opportunity in “pivoting” the business to just focus on technology we had developed that was demanded. It completely improved our value as a company and I owe a lot to the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab for helping me identify those opportunities.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think there is a good opportunity for someone to start a business in the social media space focusing on identifying brands in social videos. For example the entire social media industry is no longer focusing on text, but short videos with things like Instagram and Vine. I know brands are very interested in being able to track where their logos are being shown in these situations.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
World peace and hunger, but I’m still figuring that out.
I would probably start by opening a private equity fund to get initial marketing budgets then I would raise the biggest crowdfunded project ever to get enough capital to make a difference in a third world country.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
My formal university classes have been focused on environmental studies and not business or technology.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
– I like trycelery.com for online pre-ordering.
– The obvious three, Google Analytics, QuickBooks, AdWords.
– The up and coming NeedleHr.com as well as 99 designs.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I don’t have one book that I would recommend to everyone. I think each person should read as many blogs, marketing studies, and annual reports that are relevant to their niche industries as possible. The Frost & Sullivan reports from Mars in Toronto are my most recommended read for someone trying to start a business, straight to the facts and data.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Again I think it is all relevant to your niche interests and industry.
My top three favorites: @dailydooh, @TheLBMA and @techcrunch
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Right now. This question.
Who is your hero, and why?
I would probably have to choose my grandfather as my hero. Hearing of how he came from nothing and he lost his mother at an early age. He left school when he was 12 and went to pumping gas, which eventually led him to run his own car dealerships. His story is really inspiring because he had no education, just pure determination and work ethic.
If you could suggest three incubators or educational programs for young entrepreneurs who would you select?
Next36 in Toronto, Creative Destruction Lab (University of Toronto)and Velocity (University of Waterloo).
Are you currently employing?
Yes, we are actively seeking developers and software engineers who love working in the start-up space and working on new projects. We also are actively looking for resellers and regional distributors of our product Linkett.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.