WTFast is one of the five semi-finalists in The Globe and Mail's Small Business Challenge Contest. (Check out the other four here.) The 2015 contest drew more than 3,300 entries, and a panel of judges selected the semi-finalists. The winner of the $100,000 business grant – and a suite of secondary prizes – will be announced in September.
What do you get when video gamers and tech heads decide to start their own business? A better way to play League of Legends, or whatever happens to be in vogue.
About six years ago, Rob Bartlett teamed up with a gaming technology expert in Russia and a developer in Poland to create an infrastructure that would reduce online lag – a problem that occurs frequently with multiplayer video games, which are played over a network.
The result of this partnership is WTFast, an online platform where gamers using a computer can log in and play on servers designed to keep the action going, unhampered by slow Internet speeds.
"Our ultimate goal is to provide the fastest, most secure gaming environment," says Mr. Bartlett, chief executive officer and co-founder of Kelowna-based AAA Internet Publishing Inc., which owns WTFast. "We want to control the gaming connection from end to end, and make it faster."
With conventional gaming networks, online connections tend to run slower the farther a player is from the game servers. As more players join, the connection slows down further, causing lags in the game.
Using proprietary technology, WTFast optimizes online connections and protects servers from hacking and denial of service attacks, says Mr. Bartlett, whose company employs about 30 people.
"We are creating amazing technology and literally flipping the Internet on its head," he says. "We have five patents pending, with more to come."
WTFast's cyber security technology can also be applied to other sectors, such the military and governments, Mr. Bartlett says.
"Our infrastructure shows only the edge server to users, everything else is hidden," he says, referring to the servers that sit on the edge of networks. "There are other technologies out there that are similar, but they aren't as secure as our technology."
WTFast, which is currently focused on computer games – sorry, console-game folks – works on a subscription model. The basic subscription is free. For $6 to $10 a month, subscribers can upgrade to a higher level of gaming performance.
WTFast sees revenue of about $180,000 a month from its paying users in more 100 countries. Revenue has more than doubled over the past two years, Mr. Bartlett says.
The company can't afford to rest on its laurels, though. Mr. Bartlett says ongoing research and development is critical, and if his company won the Challenge contest, he would spend about $50,000 of the prize money on more research and development and use the remaining $50,000 for marketing and business development.
"One thing we found a lot of success in is doing online marketing through YouTube and Twitch, which is an online TV platform for gamers," Mr. Bartlett says. "I think there's also a lot of opportunities for us to grow the business by going to industry events where we can talk to people face-to-face and introduce them to our platform."