Business students had a chance to get some advice when telecom start-up WIND Mobile chairman Anthony Lacavera came to the University of Calgary to discuss career development.
Since its launch in December 2009, WIND has attempted to market itself as an alternative to Canada's major service providers. While Canada has some of the highest costs for cellular service in the world, it also has one of the largest geographic areas. WIND compromised area coverage for low rates without contracts.
WIND is currently available in only five urban service areas called "WIND zones" throughout Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary.
WIND has been brought on by the U of C Students' Union this year as a major sponsor of clubs week, where they set up a booth.
Lacavera recalled that the most rewarding aspect of his own university experience was the relationships that he made networking as a student.
"I met so many amazing people when I was [in] university," said Lacavera, "Some of the people I started Globalive with, I met in engineering and some of them are with WIND even today."
For students who find the notion of networking daunting, Lacavera suggests that students get involved in extra-curricular activities where they're sure to meet others with common interests.
"The world is small," said Lacavera. "You'll never know how the people you meet will touch you in the future."
One of Lacavera's first business ventures was in 1995 during his second year in the electrical engineering program at the University of Toronto.
"[We were] one of the first companies in the world to build websites," citing one of his first projects at Bell.ca.
WIND, Public Mobile and Mobilicity are Canada's only remaining independent wireless carriers. Telecom giants Rogers, Bell and Telus own the remaining alternative brands, such as Fido, Chatr, and Solo. WIND is attempting to target students similar to other carriers like Virgin Mobile Canada (recently acquired by Bell) and Koodo (owned by Telus).
Lacavera explained that targeting students as a demographic makes sense for smaller carriers as they are the segment of the population that use the most data.
Students asked Lacavera about complaints that WIND's current coverage areas are small or limited to certain parts of urban areas.
"If there's a weak area of coverage and someone sends us a text message saying their call was dropped, we'll fix it immediately," said Lacavera
Lacavera also responded to student curiosity surrounding WIND's partnership with Blockbuster at a time when video rentals are at an historical low.
Lacavera credited high levels of foot-traffic in the stores and the benefits of being attached to a reputable brand, though he noted WIND had not expected the rental market to decline so quickly.
"It adds a lot of risk," Lacavera said. "We're not happy about [it], and we're going to have to figure out what to do now since they're a big part of our footprint."
WIND recently made headlines when it became the first foreign-backed cell phone brand to be introduced to the Canadian marketplace.
Last October, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rejected WIND's bid to enter the marketplace on the basis that it did not meet Canadian ownership requirement, WIND is partially owned and controlled by Egyptian telecom company Orascom. All this occurred after WIND had already received approval from Industry Canada.
In a public hearing on the matter, Telus, Rogers, Bell and Shaw all voiced opinions opposing WIND's entrance into the Canadian market. The CRTC was ultimately overruled by Industry minister Tony Clement.
Afterward WIND's primary foreign investor, Nagib Sawiris, called Canada a poor investment environment and a "telecommunications backwater."
Lacavera said that Sawiris' comments were not directed at Canada in general but rather the regulatory process WIND endured.
"The uncertainty is difficult for any investor. Any investor [would want] to know that the regulations of the game won't change," said Lacavera. "There was no firm ground for us to build upon. It was moving pieces. All we want is regulatory clarity."
After being given the green light by Industry Canada Lacavera told students WIND has ambitious plans for the future including reaching 15 per cent of the mobile market share.