"The fundamental value of the Wi-Fi network is BelAir software, but it all fails if water gets into it," says Kevin Bailey, founder and president of Design 1st.
The local company is a team of industrial designers and mechanical engineers who help develop physical products for various applications, including outdoor, medical or communications purposes.
With more than 500 projects that have gone from a sketch to a product, most of which have made it to market, Mr. Bailey says this experience is what sets the company apart.
"People are looking for aesthetics, something that is emotionally engaging when they look at it," he says. "But it still has to function. It has to live in an outdoor world."
It must be easy to install and maintain, wind- and rain-resistant, and the list goes on. Combining all those factors is no small feat, Mr. Bailey says.
Design 1st works primarily with corporations and startups. The former involves working alongside an internal team and ensuring its ability to integrate the product after Design 1st is gone; the latter involves mentorship. The company helps to educate startups, assist with branding, make introductions to suppliers and manufacturers and provide a strategic relationship for that new firm.
The result is an end-to-end relationship in which Design 1st employees act as advisers, which is beneficial for both parties, says Ian Kayser, director of operations.
If we can help more of our clients be more successful, then we build a better business environment in Ottawa. - Director of operations Ian Kayser
"If we can help more of our clients be more successful, then we build a better business environment in Ottawa," he says. "That's better for us as a society, but it's also good for us as a business."
The company was founded in Ottawa but now has offices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. This year, its focus will be to integrate its new cloud-based client correspondence system so that growth is organized, not chaotic, Mr. Bailey says. It will also continue to look for interesting projects such as the one it undertook alongside QNX and a team of Ottawa companies that refurbished a Porsche 911 Carrera for the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show. Design 1st's Miles Hammond was in charge of the industrial design and technology installation for the project, which equipped the car with high-tech gadgets, including one-touch Bluetooth pairing technology and HD-quality sound.
While the company is wary of offshore competitors and manufacturers providing design services, Design 1st doesn't allow itself to become too distracted by the competition, Mr. Kayser says.
"We really don't spend a lot of time looking out at what other people are doing," he says. "We try to focus on how we can meet our clients' needs better."