Anand Agarawala, 28, once considered business a four-letter word. That is until a video he produced in 2006 as part of his master’s thesis at U of T went viral on YouTube. The short video is a demonstration of technology developed by the Nigerian-born Canadian that changes how people interact with computers.
The software, dubbed Bump Top, converts a computer screen into a virtual, three-dimensional office desk by letting users tack Post-it notes onto a “wall” and stack documents and photos into piles just like on a real desk. And in the age of the ubiquitous smartphone, it also allows users to build and manoeuvre their virtual world using a finger or pen, instead of a mouse or keyboard.
Bump Top’s popularity online attracted the attention of software giants who offered to buy Agarawala’s software outright. Agarawala turned them down because he had his own vision for how he wanted to build the business.
After cobbling together a business plan, Agarawala rolled the dice and officially established his company in February 2007 to further develop and distribute the software. Since April 2008, Bump Top has been downloaded 600,000 times. A free version of the software is the lure to get users to buy the more sophisticated “Pro” edition. Today, Bump Technologies has 16 employees, several of whom are U of T graduates, and this year the company’s software will be “bundled” into millions of computer products in a distribution deal with HP and another large computer company. (Agarawala declined to identify the firm.)
Agarawala urges enterprising but inexperienced student entrepreneurs to take risks as he did. “That’s the true entrepreneurial spirit,” he says.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre