Parker: Hellard remains ahead of time with mobile app company
DAVID PARKER, CALGARY HERALD
Ted Hellard is a visionary.
He certainly was in 1995 when he founded Critical Mass at a time when the use of the Internet as a major communications tool was in its infancy, and today he is well ahead of the game again with his new company AppColony in understanding the staggering possibilities of mobile applications.
Critical Mass caused quite a stir in this city when it made the move to take over the former red-brick Pilkington Building along 10th Avenue S.E., perhaps because not too many people knew of Hellard’s global digital marketing company that began with a staff of three and had no clients in Calgary.
But it earned a huge number of clients south of the border and overseas including such household names as Procter & Gamble, Rolex, Adidas, Citi and Mercedes-Benz, and, with four offices in the U.S., and others in Toronto, London and Costa Rica, at its peak it had a staff of 1,000.
In 2000 Hellard sold half of his company to Omnicom of New York, and he looked for other challenges to turn his active mind to.
Although he says he had never been to a live CFL game, he bought into the ownership group of the Calgary Stampeders in 2004. In the six years he was associated with the club he ran it as a full-time job and the organization was turned around and won a Grey Cup. He departed in 2010 and thought about retiring in Victoria.
But by that time, his son Ryan was graduating from the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary and “had an interest in digital and knew more about it than I had reckoned.”
They sat down and talked and soon Hellard, who sold the remainder of Critical Mass recently, was back in business working with what he calls the most powerful communications tool in the history of mankind.
He is a visionary because while many companies use mobile technology, AppColony products have been designed specifically for and integrated directly with the phone as opposed to being transferred from web use.
And he has had the very best of technical people available working for two years already, developing apps in the “native language” to a phone’s hardware.
Hellard recognizes that a smartphone is used primarily as a tool for social activities; for gaming, and as widgets for small apps like weather and tasks. Yet they have the capabilities a desktop computer had 10 years ago and as with the web, business is lagging behind in using them to their advantage. Business people are social users but need convincing of the benefits they can provide.
AppColony now has a staff of 35 in its Calgary head office and the Victoria satellite and has developed and brought five sophisticated digital apps to market while customizing apps for other companies.
First off was MakeShift, a people-first scheduling tool that is helping companies to make efficient and effective scheduling, thus improving work-life balances for both managers and employees. Managers know who’s working and who’s available, enabling them to make informed staffing decisions. It’s all mobile-based, saving time and turnover costs for retailers, organizations and institutes that rely heavily on part-time employees.
DRAFT is a digital portal that connects owners with builders to select materials and check on progress, features, finishes and upgrades without visiting the site. Pint Pass uses custom coupons to drive traffic and sales, and within a couple of weeks AppColony is launching OneTap.
Distracted driving was the cause of 93 deaths last year in B.C. alone, and cost this country $10 billion. OneTap knows when you are driving and doesn’t block alerts but manages them, leaving attention on the road where it belongs.
Hellard is making a difference to the way we communicate — and having fun doing it.