Hartco Investment’s in ScreenScape

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

Having heard earlier this month that Montreal-based Hartco had invested $6 million in ScreenScape Networks Inc., an online service for engaging audiences in public places through the use of Internet-enabled digital displays, we had a chat with both Kevin Dwyer, ScreenScape’s president and CEO, and Mark Hemphill, chairman and founder, about its plans.

We reached Dwyer in Toronto where he and a small staff deal with the revenue side of the business. ScreenScape’s main base of operation including development, marketing and other business operations are all in Canada’s smallest province of Prince Edward Island, and Hemphill talked to us while vacationing on one of PEI’s famed beaches. (The company also has opened a small office in Dallas.)

“Hartco is our first big outside investor,” says Dwyer. “Until now it was all small investors, mainly family members. The investment from Hartco puts us in good financial shape to scale the business.

“While we are already in 12 countries, we want to have a bigger presence in the US. We also will be hiring more sales people, sales support analysts and more engineers. We want to build a bigger product roadmap. And part of the money will go towards marketing and equipment.”

Dwyer says ScreenScape already has about 2,000 ‘members’. While the majority of these are venues – most with four or five screens each – there are about 300 who don’t have their own venues but use ScreenScape to get their message across. These include a mix ranging from non-profit organizations and to global brands.

“We hope to see that side of the business, where people use our technology to push their content messages and advertising to increase and probably be more than half of our business eventually,” says Hemphill.

Hartco Inc. is now represented on ScreenScape’s Board of Directors and receives 6 million common shares of ScreenScape as well as warrants to purchase an additional 3 million common shares in exchange for its investment.

“ScreenScape has the potential to revolutionize digital place-based media with its innovative network-centric platform.” Pat Waid, Hartco’s president and COO, said in the original announcement. “Hartco is very enthusiastic about ScreenScape’s future prospects, particularly given the company’s world-class talent and industry leading technology.”

“Hartco’s investment gives us financial security,” says Hemphill. “It will help us accelerate our business and enhance our ability to support a growing roster of blue-chip customers. ScreenScape is rapidly reinventing place-based media in the image of the Internet and we are honoured to have Hartco as an investor and partner that is ready to help strengthen our position as technology leaders in this new and expanding market.”

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