Innovation Saskatchewan is responsible for implementing the province’s innovation priorities and helping grow Saskatchewan’s tech sector. Effective April 2022, this includes operation of the Innovation Place technology parks in Saskatoon and Regina.

Tech Tips...with Greg Sutton

How to Turn Ideas into Reality

It’s time for another edition of Tech Tips! Recently we spoke with TinyEYE CEO and Co-Founder Greg Sutton about how the company was able to adapt during the pandemic and survive by reimagining their business model and product.

It got us thinking about the origins of TinyEYE, an online child-focused therapy platform and tenant at Innovation Place in Saskatoon, that was developed before video and voice messaging were common. So, we asked Greg what’s his best advice for developing a great idea before the technology is up to speed?

01 Do the research

I will quote Wayne Gretzky: "Skate towards where the puck is going, not to where the puck is." Skate towards where the puck is going, but make sure you know it's going there. Wayne Gretsky didn't skate around hoping it was going somewhere, he knew. So, do your research first.

When we started, 50% of the schools in North American were still on dial up internet, which is not conducive to the use of video, and most schools still used Windows95 and had old processors with next to no ram and no video processing. The technology was definitely not there! However, we studied the trends of adoption rates, where Internet was being invested in and how long it would take for the infrastructure we needed to build our businesses to actually exist and knew where the technology was going to go.

02 Get innovative!

When we started the company and started building software, the technology didn't exist yet. It was like building a car before there were roads.
(Fun fact: that is actually how the car was built!)

We charted it out and thought that by the time we built the software there would be enough pockets where the technology was up to speed that the train station would be open the day the train arrives. And it worked! For a few years we were still quite far ahead of the existing infrastructure, but there was enough of the infrastructure existing for us to begin to build.

For our earliest technology, we built our own operating system -- a pared down Linux system with a webcam driver, a web browser and audio driver and you could run it off a DVD. We did a lot of innovation in bandwidth utilization, for example, when someone else is talking, turn off the bandwidth for the microphone and pump it all toward the video, and we keep adapting our platform to this day!

03 Solve a big problem with an economic output

You can't build a business on hope. Positive attitude can get you up in the morning but it's not going to get you through the day -- the work will. Solve a problem that has an economic output and is a problem worth solving for a lot of people.

We did a lot of research into the problem before we wrote one line of code and refined what we were building based on that research. That's a step not often taken seriously enough. Sometimes people do the opposite and create a solution and then go out looking for a problem and that's hard.

Ensure you are solving a problem worth solving and that's valuable to others. Companies that do that don't fail within the first year. Too many companies start without addressing those fundamental issues.

Learn more Tech Tips from Katrina German and Melanie Morrison!

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- September 14, 2020