Nicole Smith had a problem getting great vacation photos, so she launched Flytographer and scaled it see more
Source: Douglas Magazine
Author: Susan Hollis
The Soaring Success of Flytographer
Nicole Smith had a problem getting great vacation photos, so she launched Flytographer and scaled it into the world’s largest and most innovative vacation photography platform.
Good ideas are uncomfortable beasts. They don’t sit politely — they spring ahead, loud and ready to be seen. Even when you ignore them, they fuss in the background with the perseverance of toddlers wanting dessert. This is what Flytographer founder Nicole Smith experienced when she came up with the idea for a business built around vacation photography. Frustrated by the quality of photos she and her friend were taking on their 2011 trip to Paris, Smith realized if a photographer were to meet them for a short time, they could easily capture the best of their trip and secure powerful mementos of the weekend. So they called a third friend to take casual street photos of the two of them — and the resulting snapshots became treasured souvenirs.
Upon returning home, the idea for a vacation photography business percolated. Despite trying to ignore it, Smith found herself walking towards it backwards, securing the URL “just in case” and telling herself it wouldn’t hurt to gently test the concept on friends. Those initial beta sessions got rave reviews, so she used her savings to build the company, putting everything on the line for an idea that just wouldn’t go away.
VIATEC CEO Dan Gunn has been watching Smith grow Flytographer from its inception, when he first encouraged her to apply for VIATEC’s accelerator program. He says her grit and receptiveness to direction made her an excellent candidate.
“There are lots of people with interesting ideas,” says Gunn, “but the ones that actually seek help, who admit what they don’t know and are willing to work hard on what doesn’t come easily to them, are the ones with the greatest chance of doing something special.
“Her business concept at the time wasn’t the typical startup applicant we expected but we could see in her that she was brilliant, ambitious, focused and yet still coachable.”
A new podcast series about entrepreneurs produced by The Globe and Mail. see more
Source: The Globe and Mail
Author/Interviewer: CHAD HIPOLITO/GM
I'll Go First: With startup in her viewfinder, Nicole Smith didn’t give up
Nicole Smith knew she had a great idea for a business. What if she could link vacationers with professional photographers to document their trips?
She left a steady job at Microsoft and worked hard, even running through her life savings and selling her car. Today she is the founder and chief executive officer of Flytographer Enterprises Ltd., which she describes as an Airbnb for vacation photography. “We connect travellers with local photographers in hundreds of cities around the world for short, fun vacation photo shoots.”
Ms. Smith, who has lived in Spain and South Korea and travelled in Europe, runs her company out of Victoria, where she is also raising two sons. She mentors other female entrepreneurs and believes in work-life integration.
Here she talks about how she made Flytographer into an international business and shares what she has learned about often being the only woman in the room. Ms. Smith was interviewed for I’ll Go First, a new podcast series about entrepreneurs produced by The Globe and Mail.
How did you come up with the name Flytographer?
I wanted to create a name that would become a noun or a verb describing the space. Kind of like Rollerblade or Kleenex. I went through a litany of terrible names. I think one of them was Friend Follower.
But Flytographer offered the word “fly,” and you’re usually flying on your vacation, and also “fly on the wall,” because you’re having a photographer capturing those moments. I had this dream five years ago that someday someone would use it in a sentence, “I’m going to book my hotel and my flight and my Flytographer.” We started seeing our customers using it in sentences, and the first time I saw that I literally had goose bumps.
What is the biggest misconception people have about your company?
People think it’s just for millennials, or it’s just for people who are vain. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Our customers range from millennials to grandparents. In fact we recently posted a photo on our Instagram feed of this couple in their 80s. It lit our Instagram page on fire because the way they were standing there, head to head in this loving embrace, was just priceless. Flytographer is for people who prioritize experiences over things, and people for whom memories are the most important thing when they travel.
The camera on a cellphone today can rival that of a DSLR. How do you sell travellers on using your company?
I would say you could have a Wolf stove and the fanciest pots, but you’re never going to cook the same meal that a professional chef would. It’s kind of the same thing with photography. Secondly, it’s hard to get a good photo of everybody unless you have an incredibly long arm.
Or a selfie stick.
By the way, a fun fact: More people died as a result of selfie sticks in 2015 than shark attacks.
The third thing is that one of the reasons we travel is to see how others live. Our photographers are excited to host you around their city. So as you’re walking the streets with, say, Roberta in Rome, she’s going to tell you about her favourite coffee shop, her favourite restaurant, or that there’s this great street fair for the kids happening on Saturday nearby.
How did you pull together photographers from all over the world?
I found my first photographer on Craigslist Paris, of all places. Initially I sourced people from online forums or contacted them directly. Because we had no credibility, and because no one had done this before, it was incredibly hard. When I launched the site I think we had 18 photographers, but then it got easier because we started getting exposure in the press, and some partnerships. Now we’ve had more than 12,000 photographers apply to our website, and we’ve hired about 500.
Was entrepreneurship something you considered when you were young?
I did not see myself becoming an entrepreneur at all. I didn’t dream big enough, and when I look back it kind of makes me sad. The more that Flytographer grows, I get opportunities to chat with young women, and I really think it’s important that people be able to see it before they begin. I think I just didn’t see it enough as a young woman. That’s probably why I ended up at Microsoft for 12 years.
So you need to see it before you can be it. How do you get involved today?
In Victoria there is a community organization called VIATEC, which represents the tech sector locally. I’m on the board, and I have opportunities to meet with and connect with women. We usually go to all these events where there’s a lot of beer and the gender imbalance is like 80-20 for men-women, and I thought why don’t we create an event that looks a little bit different. So I started Rosé and Real Talk. We had 100 startup women in Victoria come to our inaugural event in the spring. We had copious amounts of rosé and we had five local women in their 20s, 30s and 40s talk about advice they’d give their younger selves.
What was the reaction from your family when you told them you were going to leave a stable job and create something from scratch?
Well, my dad said it was the worst idea ever. If you have a great job at Microsoft, why would you risk that? It all comes from a good place, though – they love you, they’re worried about you. But then later, a year and a half in, when I hadn’t paid myself at all, and it was draining my life savings, and I had to sell my car, he was like, “What are you doing?” But I said, “You know what, Dad, I know this seems crazy, but you gotta trust me. I would literally sell my house next, that’s how passionate I am about this. At the end of the day the worst thing that could happen is it all explodes, but I’ll get another job – I’ve got skills, so I’m going to go for it." And he said, “Okay.”
Many entrepreneurs have a co-founder who can help shoulder the stress. What do you do?
I’ve realized it’s important to build a network of fellow founders, and I’ve got some people now who I can talk to. But my go-to person is my best friend. She lives in Copenhagen, and we talk over what’s up all the time. It could be 11 at night and I send her a message, and we’ll hop on Skype and talk it out. She’s an amazing sounding board.
How do you balance your professional life with your personal life?
Being a mom and being a startup founder are both full-time jobs, and there are days where I feel like I totally crushed it on the mom front and was “eh” on the founder front. And then vice versa the next day. You’re going to have to make trade-offs.
The biggest tip I have is work-life integration. This summer when I had a business trip to Europe I took my kids along and they were able to meet a lot of the photographers that we work with and understand my business on a deeper level, and therefore feel more connected and less competitive with it. The second thing was my 13-year-old actually interned at Flytographer for a week this summer. I can’t even tell you how fun that was. We got dressed for work together, and we went in, and then we’d have lunch together and he sat with our dev team. Over all, try to balance it as best you can and not judge yourself too harshly.
What is your greatest fear?
Not being an awesome mother.
How many hours do you sleep at night?
I’m a big sleeper – like, I’m a niner. It’s one thing I don’t negotiate.
What’s your favourite rosé?
Anything from Provence.
You speak three languages. Did you pick those up during your travels?
When I was in business school I focused on international business and marketing, and I loved learning about different cultures and how different people communicated. When I graduated, the last thing I wanted to do was get a boring 9-to-5 office job where I’d have to wear pantyhose. So I decided to travel. I spent the first six months living in Mexico City and I studied Spanish. Then when I ran out of money I came back home and I realized I wasn’t quite ready to settle in yet. I moved to South Korea and spent a year there teaching English and learning some Korean.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Oh, that’s easy. I would absolutely tell myself to dream bigger. A lot of women especially have this sort of invisible ceiling that they put on themselves. For me that was definitely the case. And so I just want to beat that drum to every young woman that I can. You don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to be an expert, but you have to have that passion and that resilience and that steeliness to keep going, because you can really build amazing things.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
ABOUT FLYTOGRAPHER ENTERPRISES LTD.
In business since: 2013
Revenue: About $5-million
Sometimes selfies just aren’t good enough – like when you’re on a bucket-list trip, or in Florence to celebrate a wedding anniversary.
Flytographer gives travellers another capture-the-moment option: the services of a local professional photographer.
Through the company’s online platform, travellers click on their destination and choose from a lineup of photographers. They set a place and time for the photo shoot, pay online and meet their photographer on the scheduled date. A link to an online gallery of pictures is e-mailed to customers within five days of the shoot.
Nicole Smith, Flytographer’s founder and CEO, says she came up with the idea for her startup during a business trip to Paris. Her best friend, whom she hadn’t seen in years, flew in from Copenhagen for the weekend, and Ms. Smith knew she needed to capture the occasion in photos. They had only their smartphones, so they asked another friend to pinch-hit as photographer.
Today the company’s 450 photographers, who span 250 cities around the world, have done more than 20,000 Flytographer photo shoots since the company launched, she says.
Most Flytographer photographers specialize in weddings, says Ms. Smith, who worked previously as a marketing manager for Microsoft Corp. To be part of the Flytographer platform, photographers go through online interviews and critical reviews of their portfolios.
Ms. Smith says Flytographer customers get more than great travel pictures; they also get a chance to connect with professionals who are proud of their city and often act as local ambassadors during the shoot. At the same time, photographers who normally rely only on local gigs get access to global customers.
Startup 50: The Complete Ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies includes a few from Victoria...Meet Canada’s Top New Growth Companies: Including Victoria's own Flytographer and FreshWorks Studio! see more
Startup 50: The Complete Ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies
Meet Canada’s Top New Growth Companies for 2018:
Including Victoria's own Flytographer and FreshWorks Studio!
The brash, bold, bright upstarts on our 2018 Startup 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies represent the most promising enterprises the country has to offer. They’ve successfully brought innovative new ideas, products and services to market at a breakneck pace, and they’ve done it in style. Pay attention: These businesses are the next big thing.
Congratulations to VIATEC Members Flytographer and FreshWorks Studio for making this impressive list!
What is the Startup 50?
The Startup 50 serves as a companion to the Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies. It is meant to celebrate businesses that have achieved remarkable growth—look no further than the numbers on these pages for proof!—in a very, very short period of time.
The Startup 50 ranks businesses on two-year revenue growth. In order to be eligible, a company must have been founded and generating revenue between July 1, 2012 and early 2015. All companies voluntarily applied to participate in the program. We shortlisted companies based on revenue figures supplied on a brief self-nominating ballot, then verified eligibility and revenue claims through detailed questionnaires and reviews of applicant-supplied financial statements. Companies must have generated minimum revenue of at least $1 million in the most recent fiscal year to qualify. Growth rates were calculated using a base-year minimum of $200,000. Visit Growth500.ca for more.
Among the list are three VIATEC Members: Priologic Software, Plurilock, and Flytographer! see more
BCTECH Summit's Top 50 Tech Startups announced
These 50 B.C. tech companies (Click here for list), have been chosen as the most investable startups in their sector by BCTECH Summit's Selection Committee, a group of top-tier VCs and angel investors. Among the list are three VIATEC Members: Priologic Software (HardHat Connect), Plurilock, and Flytographer!
They'll be pitching in front of local and international investors at this year's Investment Showcase, happening May 15th.
"Ready to Rocket" list features nine VIATEC Members see more
"Ready to Rocket" list features nine VIATEC Members
Rocket Builder's "Ready To Rocket List" was released last week, and features a number of VIATEC Members: Echosec, Flytographer, Pretio Interactive, SaaSquatch, Tutela Technologies and Youneeq.
The "Emerging List" features: Certn, Creality Studio and Metrics.
Congratulations to everyone!
The 2018 selections for the ICT Ready to Rocket list are as follows:
7Geese (Paltech Inc)
Aarcomm Systems Incorporated
Allocadia Software Inc.
Bananatag Systems Inc.
Beanworks Solutions Inc.
Echosec Systems Ltd
Envisio Solutions Inc.
Eventbase Technology Inc.
Flytographer Enterprises Ltd
Foodee Media Inc.
Marine Learning Systems Inc.
MetroQuest (Envision Sustainability Tools Inc.)
Optigo Networks Inc.
PHEMI Systems Inc
Pretio Interactive, INC.
SemiosBIO Technologies Inc.
Tasktop Technologies Inc.
Thinkific Labs Inc.
ThoughtExchange (Fulcrum Management Solutions Ltd)
TradableBits Media Inc.
Trulioo Information Services Inc.
Two Hat Security Ltd (Community Sift)
WTFast (AAA Internet Publishing Inc.)
Zolo Realty (BC) Inc.
AND the fastest growing consumer services startup in Canada! see more
Source: Canadian Business Magazine
Flytographer ranked 16th fastest growing startup in the country by Canadian Business Magazine
AND the fastest growing consumer services startup in Canada!
STARTUP 50: The Complete Ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies
The bright young businesses on the 2017 STARTUP 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies have not only brought great concepts to market, they have also found people—lots of people—to buy what they’re selling. Come for their innovative offerings, stay for their hyper-fast sales growth: These are the hottest startups in the country today.
The 50 fastest-growing new companies in Canada, measured by their revenue growth over the last two years:
Winners include 4 VIATEC Members see more
2017 Greater Victoria Business Award Winners Announced
Winners include 4 VIATEC Members!
Congratulations to all of the incredible businesses who were nominated, the finalists and ultimately the winners of this year's 2017 Greater Victoria Business Awards.
If you weren't able to join us for the gala event at The Fairmont Empress, you will be able to enjoy the evening vicariously. Watch these great videos of the finalists here. To obtain a copy of the program guide check out our May Business Matters in print or online in early May.
And the winners are...
Innovation; sponsored by University of Victoria, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business
Flytographer — video [VIATEC Member]
Finalist: Coastal Community Credit Union & Insurance — video
Outstanding Customer Service; sponsored by Innvo8 Digital Solutions Inc.
STS Pain Pharmacy — video
Finalist: Outlooks for Men — video
Sustainable Business Practices; sponsored by Sierra Club of BC and Horne Coupar
Bernhardt Contracting Ltd. — video
Finalist: City Green Solutions Society — video
Young Entrepreneur of the Year; sponsored by Royal Roads University
Rachel Paish, Passion & Performance — video
Finalist: Glen Smethurst, Van Isle Paint and Island Digital Marketing — video
Non-Profit of the Year; sponsored by Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island
Lifetime Networks — video
Finalist: Our Place Society — video
Chamber Member of the Year; sponsored by Air Canada
Dan Dagg, Hot House Marketing — video
Governors' Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
TELUS Victoria Community Board - video
This report is a collection of snapshots of 22 tech startups located or founded in Victoria BC... see more
Source: Haro Ventures Startup Report - Intro
Haro Ventures releases 2017 Victoria, BC "Startup Report"
What does Victoria’s tech ecosystem look like? And how can sharing this information help all the players involved in building our community?
This report is a collection of snapshots of 22 tech startups located or founded in Victoria BC, gathered over the last quarter of 2016. We share glimpses into the company market opportunities, directions, go-to-market strategies and unique differentiators. We learn about the entrepreneurs’ vision for the future of their companies, about the times they’ve wanted to give up, and what kept them going.
The information in this report was gathered using semi-structured interviews with company CEO’s, founders, and team members. Relevant qualitative answers are displayed on the company snapshot pages, and quantitative data has been gathered for an aggregate display at the end of the report.
We call these insights snapshots because we acknowledge that the information provided could very well change over the next several years, and represents where the companies are at at specifically at this point in time.
We hope to provide an informative and well-rounded picture of what the tech startup scene in Victoria looks like in early in 2017. This report was created for individuals curious about our awesome city and tech community, potential investors looking for the next big thing, and even entrepreneurs wishing to learn more about their peers.
To download the full report, click here: https://silkstart.s3.amazonaws.com/58d2a1ac68621338f7f3fba5.pdf
"Being a start-up has become a mainstream aspiration of so many, and why wouldn’t it?" see more
Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy
Flytographer takes off, linking travellers with photographers
Just over three years ago, Nicole Smith worked out of her garage on weekends, evenings and whenever she had a spare moment, trying to launch her new business.
This week, the founder of Flytographer, which has exploded in popularity, reached a milestone when she crossed the threshold into 2,000 square feet of office space at Market Square.
“It feels incredible, it’s so exciting,” said Smith, whose team is now in stand-alone digs on Market Square’s third floor. They had been located in shared office space previously.
“This is a big milestone, a psychological one as well as a notable one,” Smith said. “It feels like a new chapter is starting.”
The company, an online marketplace connecting travellers to photographers around the world to capture special moments and memories, seems to be well on the way to writing itself a bestseller as it steps into the next stage of its growth and development.
From a solo effort three years ago that offered services with photographers in 18 cities, Flytographer’s 10 full-time staff now connect vacationers with more than 400 photographers in more than 200 cities around the world.
The company offers a robust technical booking system and sophisticated distribution network, through partnerships with high-end hotels and such companies as Expedia, that will see it pull in more than $2 million in revenue this year.
Smith said this translates to more than 6,500 per cent growth since it launched.
“Honestly, I always thought it would take off, even in the early days when I didn’t think it was going as fast as I thought it should be,” she said. “But I always thought it would be something people would love.
“My early customers confirmed that.”
The success happened as a result of marketing and getting the word out, which resulted in plenty of media coverage — including mentions by Oprah, Condé Nast Traveler and Forbes.
Now it’s about building on that early success and scaling up.
“I think we are just getting started,” Smith said. “The biggest thing for us at this stage is we have proven the mode — we know it works and people love it. Now it’s a land grab.”
It’s an enviable position that not every start-up reaches.
Start-up culture has very much taken hold in Victoria and other high-tech hubs in North America, but many would-be entrepreneurs don’t see the dark side of the game.
“Being a start-up has become a mainstream aspiration of so many, and why wouldn’t it? You’re independent, control your own fate. You’re clever and well-rewarded. It’s romanticized to some degree,” said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, which runs an accelerator program for start-up firms that need mentorship, coaching and direction.
Gunn said the problem is that most start-ups will stumble and it’s a tough slog to establish a business.
“It can be very hard, and you have to ask yourself: How long do you want to eat Kraft Dinner and own a bus pass?” he said.
And many never make it.
Since the accelerator program was launched in the spring of 2012, VIATEC has had 300 companies apply. Of those, 180 were interviewed to determine their suitability, less than 100 were accepted and only 60 are still going concerns.
Flytographer is one of the 60.
“Nicole was a star,” Gunn said. “Her ability to stay focused and to build on a vision was exceptional, and her coachability was one of the keys to her success.
“The ones that succeed are the ones that listen, work hard and adapt — and put the time in.”
Smith knows there’s still plenty to do.
“There’s a lot coming up for us,” she said, noting they are rolling out a new booking platform and constantly looking to expand their distribution network.
She said the firm will be spurred along by the new space, which has added a bolt of energy to her team.
“I’m seeing the impact that space has on a team. I’ve never seen the team more motivated,” she said.
Tectorian of the Week: Flytographer, RingPartner & SilkStart! see more
These three local Victoria companies were in Kelowna June 9-10 connecting with Silicon Valley investors at Metabridge 2016. Out of 109 applicants, they made it to the top 15!
Click here to read more: http://tectoria.ca/flytographer-ringpartner-silkstart/
An exceptional group of companies, including two from Victoria: Flytographer and Referral SaaSquatch see more
May 9, 2016, SAN FRANCISCO - 2016 looks to be the year of the Canadian startup ecosystem. According to Bloomberg, Q1 has set the record for Venture Capital raised nationwide, with over C$900 Million invested so far. With the new administration now firmly in place (not to mention two C100 Charter Members on Trudeau’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth), innovation and startup acceleration have become popular topics from the dinner table to the board room nationwide.
48Hrs in the Valley is C100’s signature program for mentoring, connecting and inspiring Canada’s most promising startup entrepreneurs. This year’s theme, “Capital Matters: Human. Financial. Social.” will focus on the three main principles founders are encouraged to understand in relation to raising, growing and leveraging different forms of capital in order to succeed on the global stage. Many of C100’s Charter Members actively participate in the program, providing thought leadership, mentorship and for a select few, direct investment.
“Our goal with the 48Hrs program is to help startups from across Canada understand just how high the bar is, in order to succeed in a competitive market like Silicon Valley,” said Terry Doyle, Co Chair of the C100. “We hope that we provide each 48Hrs cohort with the skills and connections to return to Canada and build world class companies.”
This year, C100 created its Ambassador Program in an effort to leverage Canadian connections with close ties to startup communities across the country. These individuals have referred the most promising companies from each major metropolitan region in addition to nominations from sponsors and partners. The 48Hrs selection committee, made up of a mix of investors and executives in operating roles at technology companies, met over the course of 6 weeks, to review each of the applicants for the program. Applicants came from industries ranging from gaming and VR to farming and “food tech”, addressing a wide variety of markets.
This increased reach, along with clear criteria to be considered to participate in the program, has resulted in an exceptional group of companies, including two from Victoria! The C100 is pleased to announce the following companies as the 48Hrs in the Valley 2016 Summer cohort:
Cloud Diagnostics (Kitchener)
Karoleena (Okanagan Falls)
Matter and Form (Toronto)
*Referral SaaSquatch (Victoria)*
Collectively, these companies have raised over C$75 million in private funding to date and employ an average of 20 employees per company.
C100 is generously supported by our partners, including our premier partners: BDC Capital, CIBC, D+H, KPMG, Manulife, and RBC. Thank you to the sponsors who participated in the nomination process, our incredible selection committee and our hosts in San Francisco: Bloomberg Tech and 500 Startups.
About C100: C100 is a non-profit, member driven organization built by successful Canadian investors, entrepreneurs and executives who live in or are connected to Silicon Valley. These individuals offer Canadian founders access to the venture capital, mentorship and knowledge necessary for growth at a global scale. Headquartered within Canada House in downtown San Francisco, C100 is a home away from home for hundreds of Charter Members and alumni from various programs including 48Hrs in the Valley, CEO Summit and more.
Marketing Manager, C100
Tech enthusiasts gathered at Fort Tectoria to hear from a panel of entrepreneurs in YYJ's tech hub see more
Source: CBC All Points West
Tech is a $3B industry in Victoria, with 900 companies responsible for 2,200 jobs
Tech enthusiasts gathered at Fort Tectoria Friday morning to hear from a panel of entrepreneurs in Victoria's burgeoning tech industry, hosted by CBC British Columbia as part of its Inspiration Series.
"With 900 tech companies, 22,000 employees and over $3 billion in total revenue, it's hard to deny: the old stereotypes are dead," said Craigie.
The panel discussion, called Victoria 2.0, covered topics ranging from gender imbalance in tech companies to the impact of a low Canadian dollar on local businesses.
The three panelists had a range of experiences and came from a variety of backgrounds, but when it came to talking about why they chose Victoria as a place to live and work, they all agreed: Victoria is a close-knit community and that's good for startups.
"One of the great things about Victoria is it is a smaller community, you're able to really make those deep connections," said Nicole Smith, founder of Flytographer.
Best of all, the city is affordable, she said.
"And you're actually able to afford a house."
Smith worked in Vancouver and Seattle before moving back to her hometown on the island seven years ago.
Charles Lavigne moved to Victoria three years ago from the Lower Mainland.
"It really came down to the community. It was just so inviting and so supportive," said the co-founder and CEO of LlamaZOO.
"I think Vancouver is a lot bigger, so it's more dispersed."
Entrepreneur Brad Van Vugt said choosing between the Silicon Valley and Victoria was easy. The small B.C. city offers something other places don't, he said.
"You have this incredibly tight community, incredibly dedicated, smallish group of founders, but they're trying to do big things," said Van Vugt, co-founder and CEO of Sendwithus.
"If you go to a larger city you're going to get a lot more noise."