Startup Spotlight – SeeMail – August 2012

Startup of the Week:  SeeMail

If you’ve gone through old photo albums and scratched your head wondering who’s that weird looking guy your sister was dating or the story behind the family picnic by the lake, you should check out SeeMail.

Founded by Ward Chandler in 2011, SeeMail is an app that adds voice to your photos and allows you to share it with your friends in the app and on social media.

With the tagline “the story behind the photo”, Ward say’s SeeMail is different from other apps in that it captures the intimacy of the moment when the photo was taken. We recently caught up Ward to learn more.

How did you come up with the idea for your startup? Was there an “ah-ha” moment?

I was going through old family photographs and I found one with dad from when I was 12 years old that said on the back “Jasper, Alberta, 1973”. My dad passed away last year… I wished his voice were embedded in the photographs, so it would be like listening to a story when flipping through the album. That’s when SeeMail was born.

When someone reaches out to you and says, “I saw this today, I was thinking of you, remember that time you were here”.  You just can’t beat that.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

The biggest challenge always is finding great people, especially in the mobile market, whether it’s developers, designers or marketers. But I would say we’ve been very lucky.

Are there any key individuals outside of your organization that have been of great help to your startup?

I’ve had a long career from previous startups and a nice network of people for help and inspiration. Additionally the impact of our brand evangelists spreading the word on the street has been great.

From our development in Calgary, San Francisco and Philippines to designers in Serbia to marketing in Calgary and LA and investors in Dubai… it’s fun building a business these days, you get to work with people all over the world.

 Startup of the Week: SeeMail

What’s new with your startup that we can share? 

We just released a new version in the App Store with improved in-app commenting, photo editing and social media sharing. You can also select photos from any of your Facebook albums and add a voice caption to it.

Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent?

I think they go hand in hand. Building a great team and product always comes first… money will follow if you do those well.

What has contributed to your success to this point?

Working on something you love, something that excites you and you’re passionate is paramount. It makes life indistinguishable between work and play. Work on designing a life you try not to escape from rather than finding your next vacation.

The Internet has created a whole new avenue enabling you to do things with small amounts of capital. You need to just start doing something in addition to your current job. It always leads to something – new opportunities, new contacts etc. – but if you never start, you’ll never get anywhere. You might find yourself in a completely different direction from where you started, but it all works out.

What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship?

I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I always wanted to start my own business. When I joined engineering in ’78, there were five jobs for every engineer, but when I graduated in ‘83, there were none. So the writing was on the wall – self-employed or unemployed. I went on to start two businesses, learned a lot, and did SeeMail because I wanted to get into a startup again.

What are your thoughts on Calgary’s startup community? 

Things are really ramping up with all the help and support from the incubators, accelerators, trade associations, government and the media. It’s been tough because everything is tied to oil and gas, so it’s great that people are working to shift attention to the tech sector. There’s money and talent in abundance here, we just need to create an environment where people don’t leave.

What’s your ask right now?

Download SeeMail in the Apple App Store, try it out and tell us how we can make it better. Feedback is very important, as it will enable us to quickly adapt to the market need. It’s fun to work in a dynamic environment, that’s why I love tech!


If you are working on something that could potentially change the world, we’d like to hear about it. Send us a tweet at @startupcalgary or email us at

Startup Spotlight is covered by Boast Capital, a Calgary-based Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) consulting firm that helps companies secure and maximize government funding to advance innovation. For more information visit or @BoastCapital.

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