By Rebecca MacFarlane
Skiing, surfing, skydiving — that’s just a day in the life of uOttawa alumni Marc Bjerring and Andre Bellerive. Extreme sports have been a lifelong passion for these mechanical engineering graduates, and documenting their experiences is half the fun.
But in the past, they always encountered the same problem when filming their exploits. With Go-Pro cameras mounted on traditional selfie sticks, the lens could only face one way, meaning they were always missing half the shot.
“We thought it would be so cool if there was a way to capture both yourself and what’s in front of you, so you can get more immersive footage and capture the adventure the way you remember it,” Bjerring said.
And thus an idea was born.
First created in a product design class, the Spivo Stick is the only selfie stick that pans the camera 180 degrees at the touch of a button. Users can record visually striking, 360-degree shots of themselves and their surroundings without having to manually readjust the camera.
The Spivo Stick was launched in June 2015, and since then, these young entrepreneurs have faced their fair share of trials and tribulations. Having graduated only in 2014, they lacked product-design experience, which made their engineering and manufacturing work especially nerve-racking.
Took a risk
“We needed to be really careful with material selection to ensure that whichever materials we chose could withstand different environments, from being underwater to being in the snow,” Bjerring said.
Next came the financial challenges. They initially introduced their product with a video on Kickstarter, hoping to raise $30,000 to get their business off the ground. However, they only received $17,000 in pledges, and since Kickstarter only releases funds once the goal is met, they didn’t receive a cent of the money that had been pledged.
And so they decided to gamble on their idea and self-fund their venture.
Ultimately, their perseverance and hard work paid off. After just one year on the market, the Spivo Stick is now sold online in more than 52 countries, including Brazil, Turkey and Malaysia. They also just released their first commercial.
Spivo products are also available in stores in Canada and the U.S, including Bushtukah and Joe Mamma Cycles in Ottawa. The product’s various social media accounts have attracted 13,000 followers, with enthusiasts using the hashtags #spivo and #spivostick to share their experiences.
“That’s our pride and joy—seeing other people using and loving the product. It is so rewarding,” Bjerring said.
Even after a trying year, Bjerring and Bellerive aren’t slowing down. They hope to expand their international reach by selling their products in more countries and stocking shelves in larger retailers across Canada.
“Every day is a challenge,” Bjerring said of entrepreneurship. “But if you work hard and you believe in your idea, you’ll make it happen.”