Extreme Selfies!

A story by Kyle Bournes:

Extreme selfies

Young alumni André Bellerive (BASc ʼ14) and Marc Bjerring (BASc ʼ14) hope their swivelling selfie stick will capture the world’s “Whoa, dude!” action sports moments.

by KYLE BOURNES

Marc Bjerring hangs in mid-air from the skid of a helicopter above fields and a river.
Daredevil and entrepreneur Marc Bjerring (BASc ʼ14) goes to great lengths to test out the Spivo Stick. Photo:http://www.spivo.com

This spring, the chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Natalie Baddour, received a tweet from a young alumnus. It read “@natbaddour remember the rotating camera mount we designed in your class? It’s called the Spivo now! http://spivo.com Andre.”

“Andre” is André Bellerive (BASc ʼ14), a current graduate student and co-founder/inventor of the Spivo selfie stick. As the tweet suggests, the Spivo Stick is a product that was born out of Baddour’s product design class in winter 2013.

André and Spivo co-founder Marc Bjerring (BASc ʼ14) are both thrill-seekers and action sports enthusiasts. They are not ones to stop and take their gloves off to change camera angles as they rip down a mountain. So they created the Spivo, the ultimate selfie stick for the action sports adventurer or half-pipe-loving weekend warrior. It took two years of development and fine-tuning, but the Spivo, based on the rotating camera mount, is now available on pre-order.

Bellerive says it all started in Baddour’s class.

“We got to make the first prototype, test it and see if the general public liked the idea,” he says.

Smiling faces of Pat Lalonde, André Bellerive and Marc Bjerring in wetsuits.
(From left to right) Alumni Pat Lalonde, André Bellerive and Marc Bjerring celebrate after finding a camera that had been lost in the ocean for four hours. Photo: http://www.spivo.com

The first prototype was machined out of aluminum. Those who tried it loved it. However, to successfully bring it to market it had to be cheaper to produce. It so happens that last year the Faculty of Engineering opened its uOttawa Makerspace. André and Marc used it to build and test prototypes for free using the space’s 3D printer.

Having had success 3D printing in the Makerspace, they decided purchase their own 3D printer for further prototyping. This allowed them to build and test multiple versions until they could settle on a consumer-ready Spivo that was tough and easy to use. After all, Spivo users need these features when they are ripping down a mountain on skis, grinding a rail in the skate park or jumping out of an airplane.

As they built the Spivo, André and Marc added a couple of buddies to the Spivo team, Pat Lalonde (BCom ʼ14), a Telfer School of Management alumnus and past winner of the Jeux du Commerce Entrepreneurship Case competition, and Greg Dillon, who is Spivo head of marketing, to help build the business and the Spivo brand. Together, they hope to have the Spivo in the gloves of skiers and riders in time for this year’s ski and snowboard season.

To date the Spivo has received lots of love from the action sports community as well as the tech and gadget world. It has been featured in Freeskier magazine, Whitelines Snowboarding magazine and the Newschoolers online skiing community. MSN chose the Spivo as one of July’s top Kickstarter inventions and it was also featured on techopia.ca, geeky-gagdets.com, reddit.com and a slew of other sites highlighting tech and gadgets.

The Spivo Kickstarter campaign collected over $17,000 to help bring the product to market. Although this was short of the goal of $30,000, it didn’t stop the Spivo team from making it happen.

“The second we didn’t hit our Kickstarter goal we opened up our online store to start selling pre-orders,” says Bellerive. “To date, the sales are going well, and we’re still on track to ship Spivos before the next ski season.”

André, Marc and their team have also continued to build a flashy brand, while turning to the uOttawa Entrepreneurship Hub for business advice. A strong social media presence means most of their customers are posting pics and videos of their action-packed exploits. The Spivo has been used by action sports enthusiasts in Canada, the U.S., France, the U.K., Asia and Peru — who’ve been spreading the word about its awesomeness.

A skateboarder poises on the edge of a concrete basin, taking a selfie photograph using the Spivo Stick.
Skateboarder Dan Gauthier takes a selfie with the Spivo. Photo: André Bellerive.

All of this dovetails well with the recent announcement that Professor Hanan Anis has been awarded the new Chair in Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (CEED) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. The chair will bring $1 million in funding to the Faculty of Engineering over the next five years. It aims to empower students to design, build and test solutions to engineering problems while keeping in mind proven market opportunities and business constraints. As with Spivo, entrepreneurship and engineering design will go hand in hand.

News of Spivo’s success is sure to stoke aspiring engineering-entrepreneurs, especially when they see the high-energy videos posted by Spivo users online or when a crew of helmet-clad skateboarders wielding Spivo sticks flies by. They’ll turn to their friends and say, “Dude, did you see that — that was awesome!”

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