Duane Homick, a serial entrepreneur ahead of his time. Building websites before internet access was a household given with his first company; he now sets the bar for workout timers with GymNext.
Friendships made during co-op placements while obtaining his Computer Science degree at the University of Waterloo continued. A 6 month placement at Amazon.com in Seattle linked him with “people I still keep in touch with, one of the contacts led directly to the acquisition of my first company.”
Post-graduation Homick worked at Sandvine, next up consulting work, which led to his own business. “Building apps for; Cineplex, Toronto Sun, digital thermostats controlled from your phone, this was when iPhone first came out, we built for Blackberry, Android wasn’t on the scene yet. One of my contacts from Amazon introduced me to someone in Toronto who was doing a lot of for hire work, we had a partnership going, and they were feeding us work, we worked very closely with them. Zynga came along looking for a mobile developer who they were going to purchase, they were talking to the company we were working closely with, so we got rolled into that acquisition. That was the first successful company I had where we had a successful exit. As part of that I had to work there for 4 years. I got itchy and wanted to do my own thing again and that’s where GymNext came from. I wanted to do something in a space I was passionate about, that was going to be the sports realm.”
Frustration inspired the creation of GymNext. The CrossFit clock at a buddy’s garage stumped Homick. With remote in hand; “I couldn’t figure out how to make it work for the life of me and I’m a tech person!” Apps to track workout interval times were plentiful but the problems were consistent, using a phone to control LED display was innovative.
Knowing software but not hardware sent Homick online to become an inventor of product. Enter the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre, (HBEC).
“My mentor Cory Shelson was a digital marketing guru guy; I needed help with business plan marketing sales. I’ve always built stuff, I’ve never sold stuff. I reached out to Venture Lab, did a number of courses. They taught me, Cory helped me apply it to my business, that’s where a mentor really helped. HBEC helped with getting our patent, we met with a patent attorney and got advice on trademark support. We have patents on the app, clock and how they integrate. There were some nice little grants getting started when money was tighter. Invest Barrie helped, it was valuable money to offset some of the risk. Grants paid for prototyping tools and software, if you screw up software it just doesn’t work, if you screw up hardware it catches fire, it’s not quite the same!”
GymNext timers are built in Penetanguishene; testing, boxing and shipping is all done on location, with products from overseas, electronics from China and Canadian made cases .
Orders are automated, processed through Amazon, Facebook and Google drive the analytics, all sales occur online. Homick proudly shares his client roster; “from the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks, in Las Vegas the UFC built a new building, in their new state of the art gym are 10 GymNext timers, CrossFit gyms, and the US Secret Service are customers. GymNext clocks have travelled for Canadian and American military use to Afghanistan, Kuwait.” While 90% of sales are to the USA, as sales match population, sales to the USA have traveled worldwide—finding homes in Belgium, Thailand, Ireland, England, Bolivia, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico.
Duane Homick is committed to the Penetanguishene Midland Hockey Association; with time, donations, and sponsorship of the GymNext Giants. Coaching players in “captain behaviour— sportsmanlike but competitive, to want to win, but not at all costs, teaching the same skills you need to be an entrepreneur, getting along with people, working hard, being self-sufficient; using hockey as the avenue to teach it.”
Family, business and community are interwoven for Homick; “my definition of success is having an impact on my community, having flexibility, being there for my kids, showing them what’s important as a parent, not missing dance recitals or hockey tournaments. Being there for all of it, if you work hard you can be successful, running your own company, anything’s possible.”