WHO ARE OUR CANADIAN SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS?
BY DEBORAH STERRITT
In this issue, TEACH Magazine is exploring the topic of entrepreneurship. In keeping with this theme we are featuring four entrepreneurial, Canadian software developers: ICE Inc., Digital Frog International Inc., VR Didatech Inc., and Fitzgerald Studios. Each of these companies came to multimedia development from different backgrounds and for different reasons but each company sees their positive contribution to education as one of their greatest accomplishments.
One general theme identified in each interview was the importance of getting the message out about their software. Having a great product is not enough to become successful in software development. The whole development process is expensive and requires significant capital to see the project (and often the owners) through to completion. Having a great idea is not enough, you have to determine whether the product is needed, how many you can expect to sell and how you will drive sales. When you look at and use educational software you are seeing a product that typically has taken a year or more to develop and hundreds of thousands of dollars to create. Canada is an important market for software, but it is the U.S. market that is the focus of their efforts. Essentially, developers need to sell lots of software to recoup the costs of development.
I thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about people who have decided that developing multimedia software is what they want to do for a living. Each responded to a series of questions that may provide some insight for future software developers.
ICE Inc. is the largest and oldest of the companies we included in our survey. They employ over 100 people in the U.S. and Canada, with about 40 who focus on software development. The founders of ICE, Doug Keeley and Jon Nicholls, started the company over 18 years ago as an audio visual house. They pioneered multimedia working with their client, Apple Canada, before most people knew what multimedia was. The company now produces digital new media, live events, and graphic design. They have developed six CD - ROM titless: Ideas that Changed the World, Events that Changed the World, Between Earth & the End of Time, and the Junior Nature Series: Insects, Amphibians and Birds. All of these CD - ROMs are successful in both the retail and education markets.
Asked about their greatest challenges, Keeley and Nicholls responded with the following: "finding good people, deciding which opportunity to pursue and how to make development profitable". I also asked them what their advice would be for students and they replied that, "technology is not the be all and end all...it is a tool...". Signifying that it is a means to an end and that without the right people, it's difficult to achieve a measurable level of success.
Digital Frog International Inc. (DFI) started in 1994 as a collaboration between three University of Guelph students who wanted to pursue their interests in technology and sciences through multimedia development. DFI has now expanded to six people and have developed two successful science CD - ROM titles: Digital Frog and the Wetlands. For more information concerning the titles, please see the January/February'97 issue of TEACH.
DFI is a young company that has concentrated on the science area in educational software. They have found a curriculum focus and age group (science for grades 6 & up) where there is little software available, and they have done a great job with their current products. They get a lot of satisfaction from the positive feedback they receive from teachers and students but have found marketing their products and raising the money to develop software to be the greatest challenges. It is admirable what they have accomplished given limited financial resources available to small technology companies in the development stage. …