Fitchett on Phidgets: Calgary’s Most Unusual and Exciting Lean/Agile Start-Up Success Story

Abstract: One of the hottest technology trends is the Internet of Things (IoT), where the web will extend its reach into all of the devices that surround us. Sensors are an integral part of IoT, and Chester Fitchett positioned himself perfectly when he founded Phidgets to commercialize a broad range of USB-compliant environmental sensors and related products. If he had started it recently, that would be interesting. What’s amazing, though, is Chester founded Phidgets over a decade ago with nothing more than a freshly minted degree from the University of Calgary and a bold idea. Since then, he has methodically built the company from nothing (actually less than nothing) to where it is today -- in 2013, they directly shipped 6700 orders to customers in 90 countries, as much again through resellers and currently employ 18 full-time staff. And all of that on his own, with no outside investors, no government assistance and a determination to keep the business in Calgary.

Join us as Chester Fitchett tells his story of starting Phidgets -- and its struggle for survival. The talk will focus on the thought process behind key decisions –- both the good and bad. Chester will give us his personal take on starting a hi-tech business in the Calgary environment. Don't expect the magic bullet -- every market and business is unique, but hopefully you will take away at least one new perspective or nugget of wisdom. You will definitely enjoy an entertaining hour full of great stories. Chester is a living, breathing example of how to start a Lean/Agile startup and speaks with remarkable candour and a great sense of humour.

It’s going to be a great event, which will include a product table and a few other surprises to liven the evening up!

Chester Fitchett has always had a fierce entrepreneurial spirit, having seen an opportunity and creating an oilfield service company at the tender age of 13. At 20, he moved to Calgary from rural Alberta to get a Class 1 drivers license with a plan on becoming a truck driver, navigating the icy roads of winter to make a living. After finding this occupation incredibly boring, he quickly decided to return to his first love, computer programming. He tried to enroll in computer courses at DeVry, SAIT, the University of Calgary and Mount Royal College. Only the U of C was able to accommodate his desire for a quick January start date!

During his studies, Chester took an interest in hardware design and low level programming. Soon he was hired to work on a pet project, lead by Saul Greenburg to build hardware devices which would eventually become Phidgets. After finishing his B.Sc. in 2002, Chester was unable to get a job in the fall out of the dotcom bubble. He entered graduate studies, but found the life of a graduate student did not agree with him. At the same time, Chester started to think about the commercial benefits of manufacturing and marketing Phidgets and thus the company, Phidgets, was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

If that’s not enough, ask Chester what he does in his spare time. It will blow your mind.

(Thanks to Lilly Wong for the original text for this announcement.)

Sponsors: Special thanks to Innovate Calgary for the venue. Thanks also to the University of Calgary for sponsoring the food and Intellog Inc. for providing refreshments at the Meetup group.

Additional Details:
Come 6pm, Thursday, April 3rd and enjoy complementary food and refreshments. The session itself runs from 6:30pm to 7:30pm with a question period and networking afterwards. Find our location on Google Maps here and we're in the Atrium as soon as you walk in the front doors. Parking is free in front of the building after 5pm!