UW students make a deal with the dragons
Two University of Waterloo students, Desmond Choi and Hongwei Liu, made a promising deal with big shot investors on Wednesday, Oct. 31 on the show Dragon’s Den. Representing the company they founded, MappedIn, they sold 25 per cent of the company for $375,000 to Kevin O’ Leary, Jim Treliving, and Bruce Croxon.
MappedIn is an interactive indoor navigation system and directory that lets users easily navigate through shopping malls, universities, and convention centres. The two UW students had all five investors interested in their pitch since they are a new innovative tech company with great potential for expansion. “It was just a great experience,” said Hongwei Liu.
MappedIn was founded by three UW students in March 2011. Hongwei Lu, an engineering major; Leander Lee, a CS major, and responsible for the early MappedIn code base while still in school; and Mitchell Butler who designed and built most of the front-end of MappedIn. The company is located in the Communitech Hub in Kitchener. MappedIn has a partnership with Esri Canada, an enterprise geographical information systems company.
The company currently operates out of the VeloCity space in the Communitech Hub in downtown Kitchener, and already has paying customers such as malls and business centres that want an application to help people find products, services, and stores.
One of its first clients was Conestoga Mall in Waterloo. MappedIn is also focusing on expanding its services to airports. The app is currently available for iPhone and Android smart phones. MappedIn plans to come out with an app for the BlackBerry next year after the BlackBerry 10 platform is launched.
Before appearing at Dragon’s Den, MappedIn was already destined for success. “We already have investors lined up but we really wanted to engage these five people (the dragons) so that they can also help us increase our network and our reach in Canada and worldwide through their expertise and their contacts,” Liu said.
MappedIn’s technology is already being used at Conestoga Mall and the University of Waterloo, with more locations to be launched in the near future. MappedIn present themselves as a company “our mission is to be your guide to the indoor world.” Lui also stated that they would like to approach every mall in Canada.
The initial funding for the start up came from $20,000 of their own money, although Communitech, a digital media innovation centre that brings entrepreneurs, multi-national companies, and academic institutions together has helped with mentoring, accounting, and legal support.
Dragon’s Den wasn’t the first television appearance for MappedIn. Another source of financing came after they won a spot on BNN, a television show that allows start ups to ask for funding from an expert panel of investors. The panel members rejected Lui’s intial request of $200,000, but after the show Lui received an email from an angel investor who had watched his pitch on the show.
In the fall of 2011 MappedIn won $25,000 at the VeloCity Venture Fund, housed at VeloCity.
With that money they purchased hardware, took care of general operations, and took a trip to California to go to Y Combinator.