29 Nov 2022 |
Research article |
Entrepreneurship & Management
Vosker: Sales of $200 million in 2022
Lauched by an ÉTS graduated and incubated at Centech (2004-2008), the compagny now benefits from a distribution network of 7,000 retailers
Centech, ÉTS. @ÉTS
Starting out with nothing but a simple idea – to create a remote surveillance camera that can see what is happening in areas where there is no electricity or communication network – Yan Gagnon, a graduate of École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), built a business that now has a presence in 50 countries, with sales of $200 million this year.
Yan Gagnon always knew he would grow up to be an inventor one day. From the age of 6 or 7, he liked to tinker with electronic devices in his home, including televisions and radios. When he was a little older, he drew humanoid robots and set to work building them.
His destiny came into clearer focus after reading a couple of pamphlets and hearing about the theft of some equipment used for maple syrup production.
According to the Victoriaville native: “When I was in sixth grade, we were given a pamphlet from École de technologie supérieure, and I knew right away that I was going to go there to become an electronic engineer.”
His determination wasn’t diminished when the computer used to process the orientation form he filled out in high school strongly recommended that he become a meteorologist. “In one of the answers, I said that I loved to be outdoors, but the computer overestimated that element. Software processing wasn’t very advanced at that time!” Yan Gagnon quips.
A business born out of a theft at a sugar shack
During his university studies in Electrical Engineering at ÉTS, which began in 2001, the story of a theft was the catalyst that solidified the business project he was planning to launch.
He recalls: “My uncle owned a sugar shack on some land in Victoriaville, and it was vandalized every year. He asked his inventor nephew to find a way to take photographs of the vandals in the area surrounding the building, which housed $300,000 worth of equipment.”
Having learned about the services offered by Centech from a pamphlet that was handed out at the ÉTS cafeteria, the idea of how to help his uncle took shape. He proposed to Centech a project that involved creating a digital photo device activated by a motion sensor.
He proudly relates the story: “My project was accepted, and I dove head first into the development of my prototype, which I then tested at the sugar shack. This led to the apprehension of the thief – a man that my uncle knew!”
Spypoint’s first steps
Building on this success, Yan Gagnon decided to advertise his device among the owners of sugar shacks and chalets located in areas where there was no electricity or means of communication.
His product consists of a stand-alone camera powered by a lithium battery recharged by solar energy that transmits images to the user via cellular communication.
Between 2004 and 2008, he fine-tuned his product and his business plan at Centech, where his commercial mentor, Jean-Guy Furois, strongly recommended that he present and validate his product at trade shows.
He goes on: “The business plan that I developed at Centech enabled me to improve my product and make it more effective and autonomous than other devices offered by small competitors. I built 20 of them and tested the market at the Outdoor, Hunting & Fishing Show at Olympic Stadium in Montréal. I sold them all at $500 apiece!”
Yan Gagnon then applied another piece of advice from his mentor, namely not waiting until his product was perfect before putting it on the market. “That was a winning strategy, because it allowed me to carry out financial projections, which was something I had never done before,” he adds.
As it turned out, the market made up of hunting and fishing enthusiasts, along with wildlife lovers, was much larger than the young entrepreneur had imagined.
Yan Gagnon recalls: “Working with my brother Sébastien, who had a talent for retail sales, we started out by presenting our product to the owner of Pro Nature Chasse et pêche in Plessisville, and within three days, he had sold out and ordered more. Thanks to him, we were able to get into other stores around the province.”
The story continues: “While at Centech, I learned to diversify my offer with a variety of accessories, and to take advantage of advice from mentors, which enabled us to present our product at a major trade show in Las Vegas. This gave us an opportunity to network with industrial designers and foreign manufacturing firms, which has been a major factor in our growth.”
After incorporating his Spypoint business four years later, he left Centech in 2008 to open his own business in Victoriaville, with 8 employees.
Conquering the world!
Considering the rapid growth of his sales, Yan Gagnon joined with two partners, which enabled the company to explore new markets and develop new products. Together, they launched Vosker, which encompasses the Spypoint brand and currently employs 370 people.
“The security sector has exploded, and our expansion is primarily focused on surveillance products, especially for construction and forestry sites, wind farms, pipelines and municipalities,” the 42-year old entrepreneur states.
Business has been so good that Vosker products are now available at more than 7,000 retailers in 50 countries around the world, with sales reaching $200 million this year.
Yan Gagnon attributes much of his success to Centech. “In addition to the sound advice and support I received, the affordable space available at Centech gave me the sense of creating a real business, which was not necessarily the case in my semi-basement apartment. Without Centech, the business that we built would probably never have existed,” he points out.
In recognition of the support he received from ÉTS and Centech throughout his academic and entrepreneurial career, Yan Gagnon is also involved with students who are looking to start their own businesses. The Chief Executive Officer of Vosker concludes: “It’s important to me to give back to my alma mater, and I hope I can contribute to the growth of start-up businesses in the future.”