Frederick Ghahramani and Vincent Yen win BDC's Young Entrepreneur Award for British Columbia
(Vancouver, B.C. – October 18, 2005) Self-described "wireless phone geeks", Frederick Ghahramani, 27, and Vincent Yen, 27, have turned their enthusiasm for gaming and mobile communities into AirG, an award-winning business. Selling communications and entertainment applications to more than 85 mobile phone carriers in 33 countries around the world, the company has grown by more than 100% each year for five consecutive years. These achievements have earned Frederick and Vincent the Business Development Bank of Canada's (BDC) Young Entrepreneur Award for British Columbia.
AirG, which employs 70 people, reaches consumers via wireless telecommunications carriers licensed to use AirG software, content and applications. The company consists of two business units: one which sells multiplayer, interactive games for mobile phones and the second, a mobile communities business which sells a full mobile community solution, with instant messaging, photo profiles, as well as public and private messaging. "We have over 5 million registered users in that community," explains Frederick, "and this has become our faster-growing unit."
As end users of the products they develop, Frederick and Vincent have an advantage that differentiates them from their competitors. "We were early adopters and we seem to have a nose for identifying attractive niches for the end consumer," explains Frederick. "It was a question of figuring out what's 'cool' and then figuring out how to make that into a successful business."
Honouring young entrepreneurs
A highlight of Small Business Week, BDC's Young Entrepreneur Awards recognize the achievements of Canadian businesspeople between the ages of 19 and 35, paying tribute to a young entrepreneur from each province and territory. Winners are chosen by a selection committee, based on a number of criteria that range from operating success and innovation to involvement in the new economy, community work and export performance. The winners will be honoured at a ceremony this evening in Calgary, Alberta, celebrating their accomplishments with the theme: "You're the power behind the Canadian economy, let's share the energy!"
Getting in the game
As a new business in a new sector, AirG initially faced the challenge of being taken seriously. "Nobody really believed that wireless games could be a market," explains Frederick. "Overcoming that was a question of confidence in our own business case. The more confident you are about your value proposition, the more infectious it is and the more momentum you can generate." Gaining Telus Mobility as its first partner gave the company credibility which they leveraged to complete more than 85 similar deals around the world.
To continue offering new and compelling products to the marketplace, AirG invests heavily in research and development. "We've put 90% of our profits back into R&D," says Frederick. "That's the way to stay ahead of the curve." Frederick points out that Canadian programs that support R&D initiatives have been key in helping AirG continue to innovate.
Having started their entrepreneurial careers as students, Frederick and Vincent believe in supporting student events, particularly in the software and engineering areas. "Key projects have been those where we actually challenge students to submit ideas and proposals," says Frederick. "We want to motivate students to think outside the box and create business ideas. After all, some of the biggest businesses that are household names today were either started or conceived by students."
"Frederick and Vincent are examples of the best of Canada's young entrepreneurs," says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde. "The energy and commitment with which they run their business have resulted in success for themselves and generated opportunities for others. They have shown that creativity, passion and dedication make for a powerful combination and drive the Canadian economy."
"Nothing is more exciting than sitting on a train in Singapore and seeing a group of teens using your product and talking about it," says Frederick. "We've invested in fantastic people; we have great products and we have a premium customer base. We have high expectations and are aiming to grow much more."
Small Business Week partners
National partners help make Small Business Week a success. Bell, WestJet and Western Economic Diversification Canada are official partners of the 2005 Small Business Week and Young Entrepreneur Awards. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been privileged partner of the event since 1981.
The Business Development Bank of Canada is a financial institution wholly owned by the Government of Canada. BDC plays a leadership role
in delivering financial, investment and consulting services to Canadian small business,
with a particular focus on the technology and export sectors of the economy.