DMZ helps students turn their digital business dreams into reality
Entrepreneurs ‘zone in’
A year ago, Josh Davey was a third-year student at Toronto’s Ryerson University with a great digital media business idea and lots of ambition. Today, Davey is on the cusp of launching an innovative new technology: the world’s first real-time photo-sharing web platform.
Sharon Aschaiek, Special to QMI Agency
Burstn is the name of Josh Davey (pictured) and Dave Senior’s cutting-edge service, which allows users to take digital photos and instantly display them online to their followers.
What enabled Davey, a student in the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management, and his business partner, Dave Senior, a recent graduate of Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Business Management, to go from passionate and enterprising students to full-fledged entrepreneurs is Ryerson’s new Digital Media Zone (DMZ), which helps students turn their digital business dreams into reality.
“We’ve been able to access amazing resources, get inspiration and ideas from great business leaders, and collaborate with lots of bright people,” Davey says.
Burstn is the name of Davey and Senior’s cutting-edge service, one that will allow users to take digital photos and instantly display them online to their followers.
“It’s a lot like Twitter, but instead of sharing messages, you’re sharing your photos in real time. Your photos get displayed immediately for anyone following you, and you don’t have to take the extra steps typically involved in storing and sharing photos,” Davey says.
Davey and Senior, who met two years ago through a mutual professor, started hatching the idea for the web application about a year ago.
The DMZ, which officially launched in April but actually opened its doors to students in January, provides a supportive and enriching environment in which the pair has been able to fully develop Burstn and determine how to bring it to market. Presentations on business topics such as protecting intellectual property and effectively demonstrating new products helped boost their business savvy, while personalized advice from a leading researcher from Microsoft on photo manipulation helped them fine-tune their product.
Also valuable was the collaborative environment of the DMZ, which has enabled Davey and Senior to share ideas with and get instant feedback from other aspiring and highly motivated entrepreneurs.
“What Ryerson provides is a great space with lots of really smart people in it. You’re in a space in which everyone is trying to use technology in new and interesting ways, and you’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other,” Davey says.
Strategically located at 10 Dundas St. E., where it overlooks Canada’s largest digital showroom of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square, the 6,400-sq.-ft., fully wired, multidisciplinary environment (see www.ryerson.ca/dmz) offers 24-hour access to participating students wanting to take their digital media business ideas to market.
“This is about supporting student entrepreneurial innovation and starting them on the way to creating successful businesses,” says Valerie Fox, DMZ director. “It’s less of a business incubator and more of an accelerator, because they’re among other equally driven entrepreneurs, they get access to top expertise, and they get to network like crazy.”
To qualify to work on their projects in the zone, students must meet certain criteria, including being able to demonstrate the feasibility of their business idea, and being willing to work with others in the DMZ.
Currently, about 27 projects led by about 60 students are taking place in the zone, including a website that facilitates discounted volume or “social” buying; mobile technology that helps passengers with disabilities navigate public transit; and interactive projected ads that respond to the sweep of your shoe or hand, without actual contact required.
Davey and Senior’s experience in the DMZ helped them speed up their Burstn launch date to this June (stay tuned by visiting www.burstn.com). Free to the general public, the site will allow users to manage and edit their photos from their desktops or their smartphones, and easily send them to their Facebook and Twitter profiles. Currently, the pair is trying to promote the fee-based version of Burstn to event planners, venue owners and marketing agencies seeking creative ways to spice up their events.
Says Davey: “Every day I’m excited to go to the Zone and work with smart people and do something I’m passionate about — creating a great product that will offer great experiences.”