Ms. Yee recalls that “Eureka!” moment when she and Mr. Tsui – an industrial designer by trade – had been discussing it with their friend, who had wanted a photo booth at her Ottawa wedding but found it too expensive to bring from Toronto.
“Denis said, ‘I can build that!’ and I said, ‘That’s nice, honey,’ because he’s always saying he can build things,” laughs Ms. Yee, who is herself a trained engineer.
“But a few months later, we found ourselves actually building it and it was coming along really well. I thought it was something that we could turn into a viable business.”
Today, the completely bootstrapped company has three “Speakers’ Corner”-style units capable of instantly printing out photos and capturing high-definition video – along with being able to fit easily into the couple’s Mini Cooper.
Ms. Yee says the bot has several unique features: It’s open-concept, which allows more people to use it simultaneously, and the VideoBot is one of the few portable video machines available on the market.
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A key differentiator, however, is the fact that rental also includes the services of a person who will help engage potential users “because very rarely do people just come up to the bot and start talking,” says Ms. Yee.
While EventBots continues to be popular at weddings, it’s starting to attract corporate customers such as Hydro Ottawa and the National Arts Centre, some of whom have indicated they would like to become repeat customers.
The firm has even received inquiries from as far afield as California – from an American film director getting married in Mexico, no less – and the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately, EventBots has no way at the moment of easily flying or shipping out its units beyond simply driving them to their location, something which Ms. Yee says the company is working on resolving.
Still, she adds the business is currently profitable and revenues rose 400 per cent in its first year. EventBots is currently on the hunt for financing to build its next model, which it expects to debut later this year. The firm is also looking into expansion options, with franchising being a serious possibility, along with partnerships with event planners.
“One of our greatest compliments ever was from the Japanese ambassador, who saw it and said, ‘This was made from Japan!’ And it was built right here in Ottawa.” - CEO Amy Yee
With the advent of Web 2.0 and the resulting demand for audience personalization and engagement, Ms. Yee says she foresees growth potential. “At least 50 per cent of the really valuable content at an event will be with the audience … and it’s getting it in the moment that’s really important. Not everyone’s going to (submit content online afterwards), they’re going to do it in the moment when they’re connected and really tied together by why they’re there.”
Year founded: 2008
Local head count: 4
Funding received to date: None
Product: Portable ‘Speakers’ Corner’-type photo and video machines