Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"A lesson for all business owners"/ "Pogo car share bouncing along"

Oct. 25   "A lesson for all business owners": I cut out this article by Tony Wanless on Aug. 27, 2015 in the Edmonton Journal. It was very inspirational as they profiled a 24 yr old entrepreneur.  Here's the whole article:  

At 24, Lisa Fraser was an art and design school grad with an idea. Now, at 27, she’s chief executive of an international medical supply company, a celebrated entrepreneur, and is known for having turned down a $500,000 investment offer on the CBC reality show Dragons’ Den.

Fraser operates Vancouver-based Wearable Therapeutics Inc., formerly Squeezease Therapy, which makes the Snugvest, an inflatable vest that has a calming effect on autistic children, and children and adults with anxiety disorders.

As a teen, Fraser did a stint training special-needs children, particularly those affected by autism, to swim. The children often experienced extreme anxiety, and were calmed when someone hugged them. Later, while attending Vancouver’s Emily Carr School of Art and Design in the bachelor’s program, she discovered a solution to the problem — a vest filled with heavy metal bars that pressed on the shoulders.

So she came up with an idea for an inflatable vest that would act as a hug, designed a prototype and after graduating in 2013 set up a company to manufacture the vests. Then came the hard part: beating the bushes for development money.

What came next could be a lesson for all entrepreneurs with ideas and a strong sense of determination. Fraser produced and sold about 400 of the vests through the next year by scraping together an operation funded by government grants. She found office space by successfully applying to a venture lab, and manufactured the vests with the help of more junior design students who worked as interns.

Behind the busy front, however, she was personally broke, living on a small loan from her father, working in bars, and pulling all nighters working on her business. She found a cheap apartment and subleased its bedrooms, never went out, bartered, and resorted to credit cards. Meanwhile, the novice entrepreneur learned business operations by taking courses for CEOs and entrepreneurs.

“I realized one day that I had to go full on with this,” she says. “I saw the business reward but recognized it was very risky. I had to pay the rent. There were times when I thought ‘this is too hard’ and wanted to quit. I had nothing to pay the bills, and I was sleep deprived. It was a steep mountain to climb.”

However, along the way, Fraser was making connections and finding mentors wherever possible. In 2013, she auditioned for Dragons’ Den and was accepted. Making a calm, rational, presentation that belied her age and impressed the dragons, she convinced three, including the longest-serving dragon Jim Treliving, to offer $500,000 for 40 per cent of the company. The episode aired this past spring.

Fraser accepted the deal on the spot, but turned down the offer during due diligence — a frequent occurrence when entrepreneurs and dragons dig into the details of a deal — because it was too restrictive. Having done her homework and consulted with several mentors, she realized she was giving away too much of the company and that the dragons weren’t suited to help her business advance.

“We decided that they weren’t the right fit,” she says. “But that was okay because other investors were interested who had better strategies. We were working with a man in Colorado who was very familiar with the autism space and wanted to be a lead investor. I found him on LinkedIn.”

Snugvest now has a total of 12 investors — a mix of early-stage investment funds and angels from both Canada and the United States, who have supplied that $500,000 in capital at a much better percentage for Fraser than the dragons’ offer. That lead investor mentioned by Fraser is Kevin Custer, founding principal of the Colorado-based Arc Capital Development and board member of the Autism Society of America, who is a recognized leader in the online, enterprise and autism markets and has helped launch six startups.

Also now invested are VANTEC Entrepreneurs Fund VCC, which invests in B.C.-based promising new seed-stage ventures, Pique Venture Investments VCC, which invests in purpose-driven startups, Sunshine Coast Venture Partners VCC and several strategic independent angel investors who bring specific knowledge to the venture.


"Pogo car share bouncing along": I cut out this article by Bill Mah in the Edmonton Journal on Oct. 5, 2015:

One year ago, a technology-based, sharing-economy business launched, allowing people to get from here to there in a way never before seen in Edmonton.

It’s not Uber, but Pogo CarShare, so far the city’s only car-sharing service. Co-founder Kieran Ryan answered our questions in this edited interview.

Q Pogo just announced it’s extending its area of operation to Riverdale and the Quarters. Any other expansions in the works?

A The intent is that we increase the number of vehicles as we continue to grow, and with that, increase the zones. Hopefully, over the next year we’ll see more zone expansion.

Q Pogo launched with 20 cars. How many now?
A Just over 45.

Q Where do you get your cars from?
A We purchase the vehicles. A typical vehicle is one or two years old. It’s a balance between depreciation costs, but we also want vehicles that are new and have the latest features.

Q Is the business model still unfamiliar to most Edmontonians?
A We’ve been really happy with the numbers of people signing up. It’s a pretty new concept so there’s been a lot of getting out and telling people about how it works.

Q Explain Pogo for those who don’t know.
A Pogo is actually quite similar to the way Uber works in that you’re finding a transportation method from your phone and you can take a one-way trip, so it’s very similar to Uber except you drive yourself and it’s cheaper.

Q You’ve said most of your users also own cars, so why do they need to car-share?
A With Pogo, you take a one-way trip so you can pick it up in your neighbourhood, drive downtown and just drop it off. It’s part of this move to a more multi-modal way of getting around where people might take the LRT downtown, but then drive back or walk somewhere and have the option to take a car to their next location.

Q How many members, and who are they?
A We’ve a little over 2,000 people signed up with Pogo. We didn’t know what to expect, but I think we’re really happy with where those numbers are at.

Our biggest customer group is millennials, but it goes right up into baby boomers and people even older. Millennials are typically putting off buying a car. In older age groups, people are not giving up their cars but giving up their second or third cars.

Q In Calgary, car-sharing giant Car2Go has 84,000 members since launching there in 2012. How do you compare the two markets?
A There’s more people who work downtown in Calgary. It’s over double the number of people in Edmonton and parking costs are also higher in Calgary, so that’s a motivator for people to use car-sharing where parking is included in the fee. Car-sharing has just been around longer (there), so they’ve just had time to build that up.

Q What’s the story behind Pogo’s start?
A It was local Edmontonians who all know each other from different angles. Many of us went to school together or worked together and we saw car-sharing happening in other cities like Calgary and thought Edmonton should have a car share. When Car2go announced that they were not interested in expanding to Edmonton, that’s when we started doing the research and went down the path and soon enough we were starting a car share.

Q Is Pogo making money?
A Yeah, we are. We’re cash-flow positive and obviously our focus is on financing our growth. More cars. Vehicles cost money and our focus is on more cars and expanding the zone and improving the availability of the service.

Q You mentioned Uber. How have you avoided the controversy that company has aroused?
An interesting question. We’re not pushing any regulatory grey area and we have a slightly different customer base. Taxis serve a market that does not want to drive itself, the business market and people going out for the evening, while we’re serving a market happy to drive itself.


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