Business in Vancouver’s “How I Did It” feature asks business leaders to explain in their own words how they achieved a business goal in the face of significant entrepreneurial challenges. In this week’s issue, Scott McInnes, CEO of DVDNow Kiosks, Inc., talks about how he has managed to identify and capitalize on niches created by new trends in technology. McInnes started out making and leasing pay Internet stations for hotels when the Internet was still new, moved into DVD rental kiosks when video stores began their decline and recently launched TapSnap, a high-tech photo kiosk for special events like weddings and graduations.
“I spend a lot of time following technology, so I always look for a business that has some element of technology. I look for business where I can carve out and own a niche. We’re not the biggest company in DVD rental kiosks, but we’re the second biggest.
“Back in the ’90s I was working in Whistler. I started putting public Internet access stations into hotels. I was making more money from these machines than I was in my day job. That business started to slow down in 2004, 2005. All of a sudden laptops were becoming less expensive. So we expanded and started doing wireless systems in hotels.
“In 2006, we saw what was going on with Redbox in the U.S., and we saw the DVD rental kiosks as being the next big thing in self service. Video stores were closing and Redbox doesn’t sell equipment to entrepreneurs. It really only goes after the big corporate accounts. It won’t service the local independent stores, so what we’ve done is built a business where we provide entrepreneurs with an easy way to get into the business.
“We found a company in Shanghai to build the equipment for us. An entrepreneur buys the machine and partners with a local store. We give them a turnkey business.
“TapSnap’s a little bit different. It’s a franchise, but we’re also in the business of going out and doing events ourselves. The idea started percolating about May 2011, and we started working on it in October 2011. We designed it. We hired some programmers and worked with a firm in Los Angeles to design the hardware.
“Over the last few years, the traditional old-school photo booths have had a bit of a resurgence due to improvements in digital photography. TapSnap doesn’t replace the photographer – this is more in the category of event entertainment.
“The machine is like a giant 42-inch iPad. It’s got a high-end DSLR camera. After you’ve taken a photo, you can take your finger and write messages. If you’re at a wedding, you can write ‘congratulations’ or draw horns or a moustache on people. And then you can upload it to social media, you can send it through email, you can print, you can record videos and go to YouTube. It gives an event a real social media presence. Really, it’s just a high-tech kind of fun type of event entertainment.
“We had our first machine in July, and in November we started franchising. TapSnap will be all across Canada and the United States very, very quickly, and Latin America will probably be the first market that we go into.”