U of S Grads Take on Technology

by Carey Robertson

Dan Weber, BSc'96, and Garnette Weber, BSPT'96, have a handle on the latest in Internet technology, specializing in development and provision of unique software that conducts market research on the Internet. They are among the new genre of entrepreneur. i-Tracks is proof that a university education can give you much more than a certain skill or train you for a specific job.

Neither Dan nor Garnette have formal training in computer science or Internet technology. Dan graduated from the U of S in 1996 with a degree in environmental studies. Garnette graduated a year later with a degree in Physical Therapy.

It was Dan's work with a management consulting firm that also did environmental work that allowed him to try market research. Eventually, market research became his main focus and it was only a matter of time before the Webers formed i-Tracks, a business that could couple market research with Internet technology.

The firm's product lines centre around three specific applications. First is web based surveys, which are popular because of their versatility, enabling users to include images, audio and video in determining consumer opinions. They can also track results in real-time.

i-Tracks has also developed on-line focus group software. Through the Internet, focus group participants can be anywhere in the world. Also, users increased control over the group and can change variables easily. For example, they can have an unlimited number of moderators, or accept and remove participants from the group.

On-line CATI (computer assisted interviewing) systems are i-Tracks third line and can be specifically tailored to the needs of clients. Any type of survey can be set up featuring any type of question.

The Weber's approach to business seems to be working. Their Saskatoon office employs six people and has sold services to the likes of Microsoft, AT&T, Sprint, NFO Research, IBM, and Mercer Management Consulting. They credit their willingness to take risks and their commitment to exceptional customer service for their success.

The couple was looking at moving their business to New York City but after some research they changed their minds. Both grew up in Saskatchewan and are happy to be working in an industry that allows them to stay in Saskatoon but also meet the needs of clients all over the world. There were also practical business reasons to stay in Saskatchewan.

"Saskatchewan is a great place to continue on with your career... there is excellent support here from other university grads, networks of people who were your mentors. There are government programs that assisted us along the way with some of our research and development costs. And we've researched having this business in other places, but Saskatchewan is the best place for our business," says Garnette Weber.

Dan and Garnette Weber also say that their time spent at the University of Saskatchewan helped them learn about how to work with people and how to persevere to become successful. Both played Huskie soccer, and they say that even outside the classroom the university community left a big impression on their lives.

To those that are still in school, Dan says, "My advice to people is to stick with it and don't get frustrated if you're not the top person in the class... when you are outside of school just take what you've learned and use it. Because what you've done in school may or may not be what you are doing in the future."