The kind of supports that Kingston can offer a new company are extensive. Innovation Park offers great spaces and programs; Launch Lab, invaluable advice and mentorship. Queen’s, St. Lawrence College, Kingston Economic Development Corporation – they all can play a part.
But what about the buildings? The history, the very stories that the city holds? Can that help a company in tangible ways?
They certainly do in the case of AudioConexus. Chances are, if you’ve taken a trolley tour in Kingston, a ride down the Thames or a tour boat through the canals of Amsterdam, you’ve benefited from their work – AudioConexus provides multilingual, multi-topical sightseeing experiences for tour operators interested in leading their market, attracting international visitors, and growing their bookings year round. These professionally narrated tours are mixed with engaging music and sound effects that you listen to on headphones as you move along.
AudioConexus delivers this content via proprietary hardware that is keyed to GPS coordinates. As your tourist tram, bus, boat or train passes a noteworthy building or historic site, its GPS location triggers relevant commentary. What makes AudioConexus different, beyond its technology, says CEO Jonathan Stanley, is the nature of that content. “We don’t provide traditional points of interest tours – ‘On your left, on your right, on your left.’ It’s a story that makes a point instead.”
“We tell great stories. We find those stories that have meaning and emotion and then we share them in one or several languages at the same time.” Being able to provide what Stanley calls, “cinematic audio theatre that takes place in a moving vehicle” gives his customers in turn an edge in attracting today’s discerning tourist, increased ridership and predictable bookings. “Storytelling is universal. When we remove language and cultural barriers we all want the same thing, to be engaged and entertained by memorable tours and destination experiences.”
A veteran of the tech sector in Toronto with extensive startup experience, Stanley co founded AudioConexus back in 2006. A personal relationship drew him to Kingston in 2007, and he continued working on developing AudioConexus in his garage. At first, he says, Kingston didn’t figure much in their thinking. Their potential customers were mostly outside Canada and, he says, “A lot of my time and focus was on building that business.”
That changed when the City of Kingston approached him and asked him to be part of their 2012 bid to be selected one of the world’s Smart Cities by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum. “I realized it was time to turn around and look inward at the innovation that was happening in my city.”
Since then, AudioConexus has taken advantage of the supports that are available to them in Kingston. “Kingston Economic Development Corporation has been incredibly supportive,” says Stanley, “for the expertise they can provide and most importantly the contacts. They nominated us for a Business Achievement Award in 2013, which we won.” The company has also developed connections with Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College and Innovation Park.
But Kingston offers more than potential partners, too. “We’re a storytelling company, and the kind of storytelling we do is both cultural and full of history and heritage. Kingston is rich in those things, and we proudly go out into international markets, and tell people about Canada’s first capital. It’s a strategic advantage for us to live in a place that is aligned with what we’re passionate about.”
In the last year, AudioConexus’s business has grown by 33 per cent, and Stanley says the company plans to expand its hiring in 2017. The company is busy creating a new tour system for Singapore that will ultimately be installed in 60 trams in the Asian city. They just opened an office in Lisbon. Closer to home, they are working with Innovation Park. Stanley can’t reveal any details at this point but says the project is “new and exciting.” In December 2016 they will be moving into a new location in central Kingston, a completely renovated historic space. “Choosing a historic building was important to us, but we also wanted to stay connected to the downtown because it’s got this vibrancy we all love.”
“Kingston for us is a really great fit.”