By: Guillermo Salazar • 10 May 2021

How a broken garage door opener launched ICwhatUC

Life is interesting. If you listen and share with others, connections happen, and sometimes you connect with people that share the desire to reimagine how things work.ICwhatUC was born when a series of seemingly random events and touchpoints happened.

Random Collision #1

In August 2018, a couple things happened at the same time.I was doing work for a company in downtown Calgary, and when I needed to work off-site, Luke Krueger would let me sit in his office if he wasn’t using it.One day, my garage door opener failed. I called in a technician to inspect it; the tech charged me $150 for the trip, told me I needed a new garage door opener, and quoted me roughly $1000 for a new unit and install.
Annoyed by the reality that I just paid this technician $150 to come to my house and quote me $1,000+ for some work, I started to do some investigation.I learned that the opener still had warranty left on it, so I reached out to the Lift Master call center. A technician and I worked together over the phone for over an hour and figured out that the control board had failed, and determined that they would send me a new one.

Sharing the problem

The following day when Luke arrived to reclaim his office, I thanked him and replayed the events from the night before. He had similar experiences with an internet modem. Both of us marveled at how these diagnostics would be so much simpler if the technician could see what we were looking at, rather than have us try to explain it. Danny was in the next office, and he had a similar experience two Christmases in a row with his furnace, so we grabbed him and started working on Luke’s whiteboard.

Amazing whiteboards

This is the picture of our first design mock-up, from here we started the technology design and roadmap.
Key points for our design and target customer experience was that it would be all cloud based, the core features would not need an app, and it needed to include augmented reality so that the agent could draw and pull objects into the customer’s field of view.At this point we had three founders, an idea and a whiteboard spec. Many and most ambitions die at this stage.

Random Collision #2

We were fortunate to also be down the hall from a senior developer, who had a development shop. From our initial research we understood that no one had built browser-to-browser video with augmented reality. We learned what we wanted to build is called ‘Web AR’, everyone told us it was 2-3 years out before it was practical to build. We inspired our developer with the challenge, assuring them we had confidence that they could do it.

Random Collision #3

The difference between a hobby and a company is this magical person called “a customer”.We were (and still are) very lean, so we needed to find someone to work with to ensure that we were spending our money in the right places, and we needed proof that this wasn’t just a great idea to the three of us and our development team.From some work two of us had done in the past, we knew somebody at our local gas utility. Our research had shown that regulated businesses are very motivated to:
  1. Serve their customers fairly and quickly,
  2. Create a safe work environment for their teams, and
  3. Are very interested to learn how to save costs, if it can also keep 1 and 2 the same or better.
We didn’t know how lucky we were about to become.

First Customer, First Release

We had a preliminary meeting with our contact, and at the same time getting close to finishing our first release. Our contact was leaving the company, so we had a short window to try and get a meeting with their leadership.We wanted to target a live demo with the leaders, which meant we had to run our first release bug-free, get a meeting with the leaders, and do it in the time our contact had left at the company.In one of those lucky-unlucky situations; our release was pushed out, we got a meeting, the leaders had to postpone, our contact left the company, our release was ready, the leaders moved the meeting, and we were able to demo. The most senior leader said to everyone in the room, ‘make it happen’.We had our first customer, on our first release.

Who do you serve?

Since our first customer meeting, we have learned to better understand the problem we are solving and a lot about ‘who we serve’. We started with an end customer problem but realized we need to solve our customer’s problem first. As ICwhatUC shapes, this is our guiding mission; we want to enable smarter service, anywhere, anytime.

Support your customers remotely at their time of need

Up next

Self-service options have become the norm, and for good reason. Consumers are comfortable using text and video instructions to guide themselves through installations, repairs, and more. But what about those issues that still require expert supervision?

Calgary-based tech startup, ICwhatUC, has recently secured an additional $1.3M CAD ($1.1M USD) of funding in their spring raise. The round was led by Tom Williams’ venture fund, Heron Rock.

In the old way of delivering service, truck rolls were a revenue generator. But with changing customer needs and increased technological capability, it’s time to question both the real costs and the future necessity of truck rolls.