|Early Focus on Entrepreneurship Leads to Successful Venture
In 2007, Kunal Gupta and Carlo Barrettara launched a mobile applications company before virtually any organization had brought an app to market. In fact, at the time, few people even knew what apps were. Within five years, their company Polar Mobile has become a leader in the sector. Still in their twenties, Kunal and Carlo have secured their places as industry pioneers.
Polar’s company stats show an amazing progression. Today, over 40 people work at their offices in Toronto. The company and staff have won more than a dozen industry awards. Production exceeds 1,200 apps that span leading smartphone devices, including BlackBerry, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. Their customer base has grown beyond 350 clients worldwide, and their apps have been downloaded in excess of 10 million times.
This extraordinary success story started when Kunal and Carlo met as enterprising high-school students at science and technology summer program Shad Valley. The program introduces students to how science, innovation and entrepreneurship integrate together. Part of the curriculum involves a group project where teams invent a product, write a related business plan, build a prototype and present their ideas to an expert panel.
“Kunal’s and my experience at Shad Valley was significant because it showed us early on that science and technology alone cannot make a product successful. We learned that effective commercialization is a fundamental part of the process,” says Carlo, co-founder of Polar Mobile. “Before Shad Valley, I didn’t consider myself entrepreneurial. That’s where my appreciation for entrepreneurship began.”
When Kunal and Carlo both went to the University of Waterloo for undergrad, they were determined to start a company. Each week, they met to discuss business ideas, kept a list and investigated areas that looked promising, building prototypes along the way. By their fourth year, the prototypes got serious – one was for a mobile app.
They believed that mobile device usage would evolve beyond phone conversations and that customers would be reading on mobiles, using them to consume information and view media. After building an advanced prototype for looking at magazines and newspapers on a BlackBerry, they won a meeting at Rogers Communications, which became their first client. They still had four months of university remaining.
After Rogers’ publications Canadian Business and Maclean’s came on board, Polar could leverage them to obtain new customers. Within six months of completing undergrad, Sports Illustrated and CNNMoney were signed. Since then, their customer base has expanded to include many leading media companies around the world, and Polar has just raised $6,000,000 in funding to launch a new product line.
“Programs like Shad Valley that expose youth to entrepreneurship and innovation are an important starting point. They also teach valuable skills, such as effective team-building and communication, that are important to professional development,” says Kunal, CEO and founder of Polar Mobile. “Plus, if Carlo and I hadn’t met at Shad Valley, Polar Mobile wouldn’t be where it is today.”