Q1: What’s Your Elevator Pitch?
I’m a self-confessed serial entrepreneur and have been involved with the digital media community and industry in many ways over the last 18 years. Starting as a digital media developer, I moved on to running my own development company, opening a small training space, teaching at OCAD, and also opening Canada’s first digital media art gallery. I then made the transition to producing and curating professional conferences for a living, for the digital community. I’m currently the Founding Director of FITC, a globally recognized creative technology conference company that has produced over 100 events in over 20 cities around world.
Q2: What are your Biggest Challenges as a small business owner that you’re tackling today? The current company I have is the tenth company I’ve started, and I’ve been running it for 15 years. You’d think after all that, I would have figured it all out by now. Nope, I’m still learning. Which I would say is one of the main challenges with being your own boss, especially in a world constantly changing. You’re forced by necessity to stay flexible, and to be open to new ideas, new ways of operating, new processes – whatever it takes to remain relevant and to survive. It’s an ongoing state of mind; being open to learning, and not being rigid in what and how you operate.
A second challenge would be strategy. Most small companies don’t actually start with a business plan or a nice thick branding and strategy document and a roadmap for the next 5-10 years. Most start out of passion projects. As a result, they aren’t well thought out with a long-term strategic plan. As I’ve grown the company, I’ve continued to work towards refining and fine-tuning a strategy for the company and for myself. It’s an ongoing process, one that I actually enjoy, but one that’s taken many years and many missteps to get to where I am now.
Q3: What role does technology play in the day to day operations of your business? What didn’t you expect you’d use technology for?
We produce conferences around the world – Tokyo, Amsterdam, New York – we’ve now done events in 23 cities and continue to look at new opportunities. And we do it all from our offices in Toronto with a laptop and a cell phone. It would be impossible to pull this off without technology. We also do 100% of our marketing online and have had to continually stay current with the channels available. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever new channels develop
Q4: Tell us a time when technology helped get you and your business out of a jam?
We were hosting an event in Tokyo last year, and there was a snowstorm. By snowstorm (speaking as a native Torontonian), it was actually only 2 inches of snow that melted by the same afternoon. But they don’t get a lot of snow in Tokyo, so it shut down most of the city. I was trying to get to our event along with a few of the presenters who were with me, and we couldn’t get a taxi. All the lines were jammed. We were stuck. I remembered UBER had recently come to Tokyo and I opened my phone, wondering if my Toronto UBER account would work in Tokyo. I opened the app, pressed the button, and a driver was en-route to us. We made it to the show in time. Technology saved my butt that day.
Q5: What technologies do you think could impact small business in the coming months or years?
There’s so much happening in the tech space right now it’s dizzying; from wearables to VR to AR to robotics and artificial intelligence. Things are happening quickly, and they’ll all play some type of roll in how we move into the future. But the biggest change is something deeper. You’ve probably seen that ‘business of the future’ meme that spells it out: the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles (Uber), the world’s most popular media owner creates no content (Facebook), the world’s most valuable retailer has no inventory (Alibaba), and one of the world’s largest accommodation providers owns no real estate (Airbnb). Something very interesting is happening. These emerging new business models will profoundly affect all companies large and small, and even what ‘business’ means as we know it.
Bio (provided by member)
Beginning in 1997, Shawn spent three years at MacLaren McCann Interactive where his hard work and initiative helped shape the growth and development of their multimedia department. Next, Shawn joined Blast Radius as a Senior Flash Technologist and was promptly sent to New York, where he helped develop the award-winning Lego.com site.
Co-founding Ten Plus One inc (www.10plus1.com) in 2001, Shawn helped grow a small 2-man multimedia shop in the downtown Toronto area into a successful interactive boutique of 16 employees that specialized in producing intelligent digital work for clients such as CBC, TVO, ATI, Fuji films, Mercedes-Benz, Virgin Records, Four Seasons Hotels, Phizer, and Compaq.
Active in the interactive industry, Shawn is the founder and manager of the Toronto Flash users group FlashinTO (Flashinto.com) and, is also the founding director of the FITC Design & Technology events (fitc.ca), now a global company with events around the world.
Shawn was lead author for the Macromedia Press title “Flash MX 2004 Demystified” for New Riders publishing, and has won 12 interactive advertising industry awards, including two gold Canadian Marketing Awards and an entry in the British Design & Art Direction annual. As well, Shawn sits on the Interactive Program Advisory board for Sheridan College, Humber College, and George Brown College.
Web site and Social Outposts
Shawn is a member of the Rogers Small Business Leadership Network. Members work with Rogers to produce and share content that can help Canadian small businesses be successful. He is not compensated by Rogers.