This month, we’re checking in with past VenturePrize winners to see how their companies have changed since winning grand prizes in the Student, Fast Growth, Health and TELUS ICT streams. This week, we spoke to Hammad Jutt of TVCom (formerly known as Covet), winner of the 2016 TELUS ICT Stream.
Imagine you’re watching your favourite TV show and a character appears on screen wearing something you have to have. How do you figure out where to find it? TVCom is now doing the internet hunting for you. Working with costume designers, fashion labels and TV shows, TVCom’s consumer technology is making it possible for the fashion-conscious consumer to buy designer clothes or fashion accessories worn by actors, right from the screen.
“It’s smart TV technology that makes watching TV more interactive and engaging,” explains TVCom co-founder Hammad Jutt. “While watching a show, a user will be able to pull out their phone and shop the fashion as they watch.”
The innovative technology landed the TVCom team the grand prize in the TELUS ICT stream of VenturePrize (TVCom was then known as Covet).
The TVCom founding team is made up of Qasim Rasi, President, Hammad Jutt, CEO, and Pavlo Malynin, Chief Technology Officer. Jutt and Malynin are both current University of Alberta students, studying Computer Engineering and Computer Science, respectively. Qasim got to know Jutt and Malynin during his time as Director of the University of Alberta entrepreneurship hub, or eHUB. Qasim had been working on TVCom since 2013, and approached the two students in 2015 to get involved in the venture.
Since their VenturePrize win, the team has been working with TELUS to test the technology on TELUS’s Optik TV System and was one of the first of three companies accepted into TEC Edmonton’s T-Squared Accelerator.
Overall, the TVCom team emphasized that the biggest benefit of the VenturePrize process was the feedback given at every step of the multi-stage process: “It helped us scrutinize the company and get answers to questions we didn’t have before,” says Jutt. “We were able to improve based on the feedback at every stage.”
Jutt pointed out that the team was able to use all the material and content provided throughout the process long after the competition ended. One piece of valuable feedback was the realization that TVCom’s product offerings don’t have to be limited to fashion, and its horizons can be broadened to home products or sports equipment. “It helped us build a stronger case for our business,” Jutt explains.
In the last year, TVCom has undergone some significant changes, one of the most notable being a name and branding change from Covet to TVCom.
In the months since they took home the top prize, the TVCom team worked closely with Shaheel Hooda, Program Director of the T-Squared Accelerator, and the Calgary-based TELUS Innovation Centre to improve both their business strategy and technology.
“It’s given us third party accountability,” says Jutt. “With Shaheel actively engaging us, we have a structure for how we run things and have a better plan moving forward. We get things done more efficiently now.”
The team meets with Shaheel weekly to discuss the work done so far, and plans to improve the company’s business moving forward.
Jutt was also quick to point out the benefits of working with a big player like TELUS: “Our whole team went to Calgary to meet with them, and it was a really cool opportunity,” says Jutt. “It’s nice to have an insider view of how everything works, and how we can fit into it. This was our first ‘in’ into the TV industry.”
In addition to the business training and presentation skills the team gained during the VenturePrize process, the TELUS ICT grand prize came with a financial boost that helped the company propel forward. “We were completely self-funded for the first couple years, so it was a huge help to have some cash to help with things we weren’t able to do before,” Jutt explains.
In-kind services and training offered during the process also contributed to TVCom’s success: “All the support offered to us was useful before the event, and continued being useful afterwards,” Jutt remembers.
Today, the TVCom team looks to the future as they work closely with TELUS to roll out their technology on TELUS’s Optik TV boxes. “Once the technology is integrated with TELUS Optik TV, we can link the data we already have into a standalone app, and it becomes more of an interactive experience,” explains Jutt.
An app that will allow users to browse products from TV shows is also preparing to be launched in late 2016.
From there, the team is looking to expand product offerings and move into makeup products by collaborating with more costume designers and makeup artists. Once this is in place, the team will look to expand once again into the world of home products and sports equipment.
It’s clear that the sky’s the limit for TVCom. We look forward to seeing what this company will do next in the ICT space! For more information on TVCom, check out their website here and VenturePrize finalist video here.