Starshot aims high

After a wrist injury forced him to retire from the NHL in his late twenties, Brad Dalgarno faced a tough but common challenge in professional sport.

“”Many alumni players are entrepreneurial out of necessity,”” said the former New York Islanders right winger, who didn’t have a resume and was turned

down by a headhunter.

“”You have to go out and make it happen.””

That attitude got him to where he is today — managing partner of a Toronto marketing, communications and design company, Starshot.

Dalgarno and his business partner, Brad Friesen, founded Starshot six years ago. He met Friesen while working in marketing at a Markham, Ont.-based software company where Friesen was a consultant at its outside public relations firm.

From day one they agreed their business had to incorporate marketing, communications and design. That’s why Starshot has eight full-time staff. It also employs five additional event support staff who work from their homes.

The firm’s initial focus was as a technology-marketing communications shop working primarily with startup companies needing help with their business and marketing plans.

“”I thought if we get behind a company and have somebody going in there, vetting the business plans and marketing plans, that they might have a better chance helping companies get off the ground,”” Dalgarno said. When their resources started drying up, Starshot had to expand its client base.

New customers

In recent years it has added customers in the retail/consumer space.

New projects include brand launches with Sony Canada and Esso as well as a cross-country launch tour with recording artists De La Soul and Ivana Santilli.

Starshot recently did Santilli’s Web site for her new album. The Toronto Maple Leafs are also a client.

But technology customers continue to be Starshot’s main source of revenue, comprising 75 per cent of it’s business. The number of clients varies as the firm works with companies on a project-by-project basis, but it is currently working with six to eight firms.

Tech work

Technology clients past and present include Telus group (business solutions), Richmond Hill, Ont.-based JMO Systems, Infinity Technologies Inc., Alberta SuperNet — a high-capacity network that connects schools, hospitals, libraries and government offices province-wide — and Microsoft Canada.

In May and June it organized promotions and event support for a series of Microsoft partner executive summits across the country, as well as around 150 customer-facing events with Microsoft partners.

Dalgarno said one of the biggest challenges with his technology clients is getting them to explain technology to end users in plain English.

Tech companies often assume industry jargon is understood by business decision makers.

But that’s not always true, he found out.

After arranging an event with a partner of a tier one technology vendor, it was discovered that many of the attendees thought business intelligence meant corporate espionage.

Company advice

“”Take a step back,”” he advised, “”like you’ve never met your company before and that you’re a business decision maker and not a technical decision maker.””

Dalgarno would like to expand his company into sports marketing but doesn’t want to use his NHL career as a lever.

“”It often makes getting to know people more challenging from a business perspective. They may think it’s interesting to meet a former hockey player, but say, ‘I wouldn’t trust him with my dollar.'””

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