Boyish and a little shy at the start, they might not seem poised to revolutionize the European e-market. But already "the two Andrews" of Design Base Inc. have built an impressive clientele throughout Germany and the Netherlands.
Not bad for a student project-cum-business that's only two years old.
(Just how green are these entrepreneurs? In reality, only Andrew Noonan can claim official alumni status; Andrew Ryall has another semester yet to go). [Note: Since this article was first written for Luminus in fall 2000, Andrew Ryall has also graduated with a B.Comm., and can now claim official alumni status!)
Originally a trio of Business Administration students (third partner Robert White has since moved on) with a cyber geek's command of Web technology, the pre-incorporated Design Base began as a work term project - developing online courses for Memorial's School of Continuing Education. That was in 1998.
The enterprise really caught fire when Noonan left for seven months' study in the Netherlands, where, solely by word of mouth and a little creative networking, he snared a number of Dutch and German clients.
The firm has grown consistently from there. Today, Design Base can lay claim to Web creations for local companies such as integrated systems supplier Instrumar, and international companies such as Dutch Photo Studio, Tevreden BV and Stork GLT.
They are also currently working on a number of in house projects, including eMotion, an online magazine targeted at Newfoundlanders aged 18 to 35.
Both partners agree the secret to their success lies in a solid business background.
Says Ryall, "A lot of times people don't really understand what the role of the Web is in their business, and how they can promote their brand on the Web. Since we're both business students, we have an understanding of that."
Accordingly to the Design Base corporate profile, the company "considers itself more of an online marketing and advertising agency than an Internet service provider." That is to say, they're not all tech and no action.
They build Web sites to get results.
|Jason and Krista Trask
The president and the creative director of GlobalStudent.com are not ones to rest on their e-laurels.
Days after going live with their student-targeted Web site, Jason and Krista Trask decided dot com was a thing of the past and immediately began hatching a plan to conquer the world of wireless.
In an industry where technology becomes obsolete right out of the box, they're hoping their ambitions are right on the money.
"One of the fastest growing [group of] users of wireless devices is students," Jason says. "We have a student Web site, why don't we make all of our software wireless as well? We started thinking the wireless component is really where we should be."
They began their Web-based work in 1997 while they were students at Memorial's Faculty of Business Administration. That year, they introduced MUNWorld, a resource site for their fellow students. Within three months of going online, over half of Memorial's 11,000 students were logging on.
About a year into MUNWorld, they were accepted into the Genesis Centre, and "began to think bigger thoughts." That led to the creation of Globalstudent.com, essentially MUNworld for the entire world, a service for all students, everywhere.
GlobalStudent.com was officially launched in September 2000. "Since then," says Jason with a laugh, "we've decided to change the focus of the company completely.
"We looked at the marketplace in terms of receptiveness of the investment community to dot coms, and more recently, that's died off." So while their Web site continues to be a flagship project, the pair is spinning off a new company: Two Lofts.
"What we're most excited about, quite honestly, is this software company, not GlobalStudent. That's exciting; we'll make millions off it. But we won't make billions like we will with this one."
"The dot-com wave came and went from 1995 to 1999. We believe the wireless wave is just beginning, and we believe we're right on the edge of it."
Perhaps the best known of the province's IT success stories, ZeddComm Inc. certainly has accumulated its share of sound bytes, press clippings and ad exposure over the years. President and co-founder Emad Rizkalla is a veritable poster boy for homegrown achievement, an industry magazine perennial, and an in-demand public speaker.
But perhaps ZeddComm's greatest achievement is this: The company has lived up to its hype. And that is no small feat in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
From his headquarters overlooking the Narrows of St. John's Harbour, Rizkalla reigns over an expanding network of offices in Ottawa, Los Angeles and New York. They specialize in e-business and e-learning consulting with clients ranging from Cisco to Canon Copiers and from Great Plains software to the NBA's Golden State Warriors (Oakland).
His company has grown by 1300 per cent in the past five years, and one of its software projects was used aboard the space shuttle Discovery during its May 1998 mission.
It's a long way from the Engineering Faculty to outer space, but Rizkalla has made the journey with equal parts business savvy ("If it isn't improving your bottom line, why are you wasting your money on it?") and Zen-like philosophy ("The success or failure of any IT project is determined not by how well the project ends, but by how well it begins.")
ZeddComm's corporate stance is that the Internet is "the infrastructure of business".
And its counterparts in IT, Design Base and the GlobalStudent.com, it is crucial for ZeddComm to keep one foot firmly planted in the world of business.
"For us, technology is merely a vehicle, not the destination. Sure, content is king. But we also believe that content leads to community, and community leads to commerce."
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