Sauder grad finds success by putting online spin on photo booth

Ray Kanani

SMART Pics, a social media powered photo booth that feeds images directly to the Internet, is the brainchild of 2011 BCom grad Ray Kanani. The 24-year-old entrepreneur stumbled onto the idea for the device that has become an online marketing sensation while still studying at Sauder.

Knowing that he was specializing in marketing at the school, Kanani’s parents asked him to put his new found knowledge to work helping them get word out about their hair salon.

He first created a blog and Facebook page for the business, but staff didn’t have enough time to update content. So, Kanani created a digital photo booth in the salon that could take before and after pictures of clients, and automatically upload them to the web. The first SMART Picskiosk was born.

The salon-based kiosk was successful, but the full potential wasn’t realized until Nathan Ganapathi, a University of British Columbia classmate, saw the possibilities for using the device at entertainment events.

Kanani and Ganapathi realized that the SMART Pics kiosk could be used by entertainment companies to market their events by allowing them to post pictures to the web in real-time. They recognized the exciting potential for organizations to use candid shots event-goers posted to generate hype and market subsequent events.

With the Winter Olympics coming to Vancouver, the duo saw a great opportunity to get their technology in play and generate brand awareness. They successfully pitched the SMART Pics kiosk to a local nightclub chain and brought on a third partner with the technical expertise necessary to ensure the kiosk software would be reliable and that cutting edge features would be available.

Success during the Olympics gave the company the credibility it needed.  Soon after, they established contracts with the Vancouver Canucks and additional nightclubs in Vancouver and Las Vegas.

Most recently, Kanani and his team worked with Microsoft search engine Bing to place kiosks at high-profile events, including FashionWeek in New York City, the Oscars and the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.

Some of the celebrities that have had their faces immortalized online by the SMART Pics kiosk, include Ciara, James Franco, Gene Simmons, Mark Cuban, Aziz Ansari, Helen Mirren, Russell Brand and Zoe Deschanel.

Kanani credits his success to focusing on the concept and the customer. “You will never be successful if your focus is to make money. You have to be passionate about an idea that can provide value to others.”