Brothers turn an idea into a business

Most of us spend our entire lives working for others. The titles Boss, Head Honcho or CEO never fills out our name plate. For the Gidwaney brothers of Calgary, the title Employee may never follow their names since, at the tender ages of 22 and 19 respectively, Veer the CEO and Vinay the president are running their third company.

Their most recent creation, Control-F1, is admittedly a much larger and industrious project than its predecessors, and one that has the brothers’ undivided attention. Control-F1 technology allows help desk technicians to remotely access users’ computers to solve a myriad of problems from the mundane to the critical.

The birth of CF-1 was directly related to one of Gidwaney’s earlier creations. Their first start-up was DDES Corp., anchored by the network based teaching tool, Classrooms. Vinay, who is the self-taught techie of the family, built the software, the brothers found resellers who wanted to sell Classrooms, and the company was started in 1997.

There are thousands of young developers out there but few who take it to the next step and launch a company.

“Our parents have always been very supportive of us,” Veer explained. “I think being successful in business is a combination of a few basic principals. One is to be hard working. You have [also] got to be able to motivate and bring people together. Whether you are running a company or you are running a family it is the same thing, and in that sense we were just brought up with those core values.”

The Gidwaney family came to Canada two decades ago from England, Veer’s birth place. Vinay was born in Gander, Nfld. and the family moved progressively westward: to Toronto, then Edmonton and finally Calgary, where the brothers reside today.

Their second start-up technology was Modaka, designed to let Web surfers amalgamate information from a variety of Web sites. The technology was later sold to San Jose-based Teevra Technologies Inc.

“One of the things we learned from that company is that commercializing a product is a very difficult thing to do, and it is clearly different from just developing an idea,” Veer said.

to the next level

The inspiration for Control-F1 came out of the need to support users of their Classrooms technology.

“When we were selling Classrooms we would often be supporting teachers…[so] the need for some way to support those people arrived in my head,” Vinay said.

Offering support over the phone was both costly and cumbersome, he added.

“So we started sort of mulling around ideas of how we could shape some of what Classrooms was into Control-F1, into an e-support product.”

The brothers started to analyse user needs and shaped the product to fit the specific niche of live assisted e-support, Vinay explained. “It was pretty easy to see how this application could be used in the real world.”

When user have a problem they go to a helpdesk link using a Web browser. “The helpdesk technician can pick them off a queue and actually hook up to the client’s computer and make changes to the computer remotely,” Vinay explained. Essentially the technician sends a command to the server and the server sends a command to the client. For obvious reasons security is a big concern, so the user can set warning prompts to three levels. Low security means the technician can do basically anything, while a high-level prompt would let the user know exactly what changes are being made. As an added precaution, an audit trail is created which can be e-mailed to the client.

Typical customers are independent software vendors, outsource support providers, value added resellers or corporate help desks, the brothers said.

Part of the original financing for Control-F1 came from their parents, but over time it became apparent to the brothers that external professional financing was going to be needed.

“So six months before it was a commercially viable product, we needed that money to build up the development team, and even start to build out some of the sales capability,” Veer said.

Getting the right people is paramount to success, according to the brothers.

“I think the core principle that we work with is to find out what our weaknesses are and surround ourselves with people who can do it better,” Veer said.

“You can’t do everything and, even if you could, you can’t do it better than everyone else,” he added. “You need to be humble enough to realize that.”

Their first employee was a programmer hired to help Vinay. The Conrtol-F1 prototype came out in early 2000 and the brothers got clients on board who were willing to test the technology. In July of 2000 they started to move into marketing and working on infrastructure, such as how people would purchase and administer the technology. Today the company has 35 employees. Control-F1 has been a commercial product since September of last year. Sales numbers are confidential, the brothers said.

keys to success

“You have to have dreams and have a vision but unless you ground that on to day to day action it doesn’t make a difference,” Veer said.

“The key to being successful is being extremely persistent and if you are not willing to do that then find something else to do.”

The ability to roll with the punches, be resilient and passionate, and believe in what you do don’t hurt either, he added.

Typically, youth is not a limiting factor in the world of high technology. “If you look at Control-F1 you would never know that it was started by fairly young people,” Veer said. “Having less experience will always be a limiting factor not just in terms of getting money but in terms of being successful.”

“Age is only a factor if you make it a factor,” he added.

If you act mature, have a solid business plan and are very serious about your venture the potential for success is there, he explained. The brothers are firmly committed to the success of Control-F1 and the role e-support will play in the future of computing. “Our view is that e-support, as a concept, has great opportunity and remote control as a capability is one part of a comprehensive e-support solution,” Veer said.

“Whether it is our solution or someone else’s, someone is going to win this game and we are going to do everything we can to make sure it is us.”