Iboard, Mexican and Canadian technology for teaching
Iboard, Mexican and Canadian technology for teaching
Iboard is a company founded in Tijuana in 2007 thanks to Fabián de la Fuente’s creativity, wit, and his interest on accessing the world of technology for education through online boards and interactive screens that not only make teachers' job easier but also gives students a different way to learn.
Brenda Palafox, partner in Mexico and sales and marketing associate, and Rodrigo Del Castillo, also an associate and director of operations; tell us about the history of Iboard, the key tricks to their unstoppable growth -their sales grew to triple their size in a year-, how it was to come to Canada in 2011, and what has taken them to be part of the biggest education protect in the world based in Turkey. In Iboard Mexico work 21 Mexicans and one Venezuelan. In Iboard Canada, all the employees are either Latin-American or Canadian. Its creator, Fabian De La Fuente, along with Brenda Palafox and Rodrigo Del Castillo, keep innovating and creating new strategies to explore new fields in technology.
What is Iboard?
Iboard is a Mexican company that sells boards and interactive screens. Our products have a hardware and a software, but we also offer our clients a set of systems of video chat, projectors, tablets and solutions for education designed mainly for schools or to adapt conference rooms for companies. If the system is used for a school, it is a way of support for teachers that helps them give better classes and get the students' attention easier; for example, the screens have everything from office, to the specialized software that makes the screen work as a touch device; which means that you can write with your finger and make a red line if you wish or whichever floor you want.
How did Iboard start?
This project was started in Tijuana by Fabian de La Fuente, a Mexican inventor that has more than 90 registered patents. One day he thought he could do something with technology for education even though there were already some interactive boards, but they had to use a projector, a computer and cables to complete the installation. In 2006 in Mexico these boards became popular thanks to the project "Enciclomedia", and it was the. When Fabian decided to design and patent a board that had the computer, the projector and the cable integrated to it. Besides from integrating everything, and offering installation services, capacitation for usage, any other service related to the project, he offered a complete an integrated project. Apart from the boards we also focus on creating interactive screens and helping customers integrate whatever they need technology-wise through commercial alliances with other companies. In that way we can offer a big assortment of products to schools and for the adaptation of conference rooms of companies.
What is the relationship between Canada and Mexico through Iboard?
In 2007 Fabian started Iboard in Tijuana, but in 2011 we became partners and changed the company's headquarters to Mexico City. That's how he decided to leave the country and look for new markets such as Canada, where we started to work in 2011. In the end we remained as partner companies, like a transnational company; we operate in a different way but we offer the same products and we keep in touch permanently. Fabian is the one who stays here in Canada creating new products and patents, his job is to keep developing new technologies and improving the existent ones.
In Mexico we focus on design features; how to make the screens more adequate for the market, how to make them thinner, lighter, and finding suppliers of certain products that make our products mor esthetic. Both companies share the new tendencies, for instance, when we first started the board would only work with a special pen but now our boards use the touch technology, the technology that is going around the world; in this way we manage to be avant-guard design-wise and technology-wise in both Canada and Mexico.
Whats the potential of a product of this type?
When Fabian de la Fuente decided to go to Canada, we were in a process of financing called Due Dilligence, this consisted on analyzing what potential would a product have in the market, at that time we did it with the boards because the screens weren't quite ready yet. With the study and the analysis we realized that the potential in the market was enormous, that the number of classrooms that "Enciclomedia" had reached in 2006 was of about 186 thousand classrooms, this number wasn't even 1% of the classrooms it could reach in the next 10, 15 or 20 years. Besides, people from certain school took interest in the field, and they started to want the same things the government had. In 2010 in Tijuana, an average of 100 boards were being sold a year without doing much more than sales through the phone or the website.
As for the screens, our newest product, we started to produce them in Mexico when we changed headquarters from Tijuana to Mexico City in 2012, increasing sales and making them three times bigger, taking into account that screens are much more expensive than boards. Moreover, we see a big potential on international markets because there are very similar products that are not as complete as ours. There are many big companies that have products like this one, or that have announced the launching of similar products, but their market is really the TV market. That's why they don't put as much interest into them as Iboard puts it in Mexico and Canada. Both the board and the screen are patented in Canada, which gives us 20 years to exploit this product.
There's a Canadian company we could call our competition, it's called "Smart World", but they focused on a single product, and we offer something different from their product and is the fact that you can personalize our product; this means if a company wants the product to be yellow because those are the company's colours, we can make it yellow. That's an aggregate value we offer, and even though we know there's competition, that fact makes us different.
— iBoard Canada (@iBoardCanada) abril 15, 2014
Who are your customers?
In Mexico the boards are in schools that go from elementary, to high schools, and they are mainly the government's through a process called tender. As for the screens, they are in companies, and this year were are completely changing our strategy and moving to the world of renting, specially for the publicity sector. We are starting to work with companies that are sub renting our screens. Moreover, we are authorized distributors of institutions such as the "Instituto Politécnico Nacional" or the "Universidad Autónoma de Mexico". Another type of companies that are very interested on our screens are mining, design, architecture companies and hospitals. We have sold some screens in Cuba, and we are starting to work with Peru and Ecuador.
We are looking to make strategic alliances between Canada or Mexico and the country interested on a franchise. For example nowadays Canada has a very specific project for Turkey because there was a special association with another company to supply interactive screens to classrooms as part of the biggest education project in the world. Six hundred thousand screens will be installed I classrooms; it is a project so new and so specific for turkey, that Iboard Canada will have it's eyes set on Turkey for the next three years. In Canada there are several customers such as the private school for specialized education Lakeview Christian school in Saanich BC, that has our boards in every classroom, and also the St Michael's University Elementary school in Victoria BC, an elite private school. We are seeking to ally in Colombia.
What implications does it have to be a Mexican technological company?
I think most of the people find it unbelievable, specially when it comes to the screens because they look quite shocking, so people ask if they were truly invented by a Mexican, and if they really are made in Mexico. Sadly people don't understand it at first, but we feel the perspective is changing, there is a very strong campaign that supports things made in Mexico and there are many people that support it and that are glad we are developing technology. Another advantage we have is that our main competition is China and our customers compare us to them, and even though they have some good quality products, this specific one is bad quality which makes customers migrate towards Iboard. Another point in our favour is that we realized how hard it is to solve many things in the education market and in companies, because they have many needs so what they are looking for is only a little solution, but we can cover them all.