Last year, Sam Dugan, 22, a UW Mechatronics Engineering student and a young entrepreneur, appeared in an episode of Dragon’s Den on Nov. 19, 2020. 

On that fateful night, Dugan gave a three-minute pitch about his tech start-up in hopes of securing an investor. This pitch allowed Dugan to convince, not one, but two of the show’s Dragons to make a $250,000 investment for 15 per cent of his company each.

“I created the SmartPatrol, a versatile, mobile computer vision powered platform for monitoring jump landing zones in ski resort terrain parks,” Dugan said.

Dugan’s pitch started off with an offer of 20 per cent of SmartPatrol, for $250,000. However, two dragons, Lane Merrifield and Michelle Romanow, both offered $250,000 for 25 per cent of the company. Merrifield is one of the leading Canadian tech entrepreneurs. Romanow is also a Canadian tech entrepreneur as well as a board director, television personality, and a private equity investor.

“I started Vision Spatial Technologies one year ago with a simple goal: using computer vision to make the world a safer place to play,” Dugan said.

Dugan showcased his invention live on the show by building a miniature ski hill with the help of his brother, Jeff, who appeared on screen wearing full ski gear.

“It takes more than passion to convince these boardroom barons that an idea is worth their investment,”  Dugan said.

The computer vision software increases visibility and safety at steep slopes by sending signals – red, indicating that it is not safe to proceed, and green, that the landing is clear and safe. Resorts can access slope activities through a web access portal, as live data is uploaded to the cloud. 

 “The SmartPatrol performs real-time monitoring to reduce preventable accidents while providing better incident reporting and usage statistics for resort operators,” Dugan said.

Some of the Dragons, however, were not convinced that SmartPatrol was worth their investment. They believed it was too expensive to be realistic. However, with SmartPatrol, fewer safety personnel are required. The SmartPatrol reduces the need for labour in high risk-zones at ski resorts, waterparks, mountain bike runs, as well as other recreational regions. In the long run, buying SmartPatrol may be financially beneficial to the target companies.

“It is important to note that there is a direct labour replacement,” Dugan mentioned during his pitch.

Prior to the pitch, SmartPatrol received positive feedback from an Ontario ski resort that implemented four SmartPatrol units. Its hardware has been designed and upgraded to withstand the harsh weather conditions of Canadian winters.

SmartPatrol also received a runner-up position from the James Dyson Award (JDA) on Sept. 17, 2020. With two experienced investors on board, Dugan’s SmartPatrol device is well on its way to making ski-slopes and other recreational areas much safer. 

SmartPatrol demonstration video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH4YbD5NMJM