York University student Kevin Chau made television history when his innovative app fired up Dragons’ Den, inspiring all six Dragons to invest in his venture.
The Financial & Business Economics student is the first entrepreneur to strike a deal with all six Dragons at once. A few weeks before his 22nd birthday, he walked into the Den in hopes of gaining a $20,000 financial investment for his mobile app, Summary Scanner, which summarizes key points of text from a picture and reduces reading time by about 80 per cent. The app’s value was estimated at $200,000.
Chau left the show with an investment of $60,000 — three times what he asked for — granting the Dragons a total of 30 per cent equity, or five per cent each, in his company.
“The biggest thing that my education has helped me with in terms of bringing this product to market is the financial aspect. I can better plan my income statements, balance sheets and cash flow projections, which I learned in my accounting classes,” he said. “In terms of valuation and being able to effectively develop the financial aspect of the business, my education has been significantly helpful in doing so.”
When Chau appeared on the show, Summary Scanner was an Android app with 70,000 downloads in the Google Play Store. The app’s iOS version for Apple launched one hour before his Dragon’s Den episode aired on Oct. 19. Now, the app has been downloaded over 115,000 times between both platforms.
The initial download is free, but profits accrue from in-app purchases. Chau also secured two government grants in startup funding to support his business.
“I am delighted for Kevin. His choice of the Financial & Business Economics program was prophetic, and it seems that he has put the theoretical and practical skills he has learned to very good use. I proudly look forward to hearing about his future achievements,” said Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.
Summary Scanner’s most responsive customers are between the ages of 18 to 24, the age at which many students are carrying around large textbooks and looking for ways to manage heavy course readings.
“They will be able to summarize all their documents in a centralized location, process it and ultimately increase their productivity,” said Chau. “There is a huge transition that is happening in terms of digital and physical texts. Physical texts take a long time to read. There is a lot of redundant information and generally you have to read the information many times. So with this app, you are able to consume information much more efficiently than you would be able to with physical texts.”
Chau aims to expand his customer base beyond the education community to a business setting, for those who go through a lot of text and data regularly, such as lawyers and people who work for research companies.
The earliest version of Summary Scanner launched in the summer of 2016. Chau, who is passionate about both business and technology, spent as much of his free time as possible, outside of school and work, to develop the app and his business.
He has tips for students interested in launching their own company.
“My advice is that always take other people’s opinions or thoughts with a grain of salt,” said Chau. “I remember when I was just starting out the business and I hadn’t launched the product yet, I would tell people, including my family and friends, and they all thought there was no market need for this and it wasn’t a great idea. But it is important to rely on yourself because you know the industry better than anyone else. And therefore even though I had some negative feedback, I continued because I knew there was a problem. I am a student myself and I continued anyways. It is important to listen to your gut feeling more than what others might be saying.”
By Ruane Remy, research communications officer, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies