Out of school and already a CEO: New UBC Sauder grad wastes no time in charting his own course
Christopher Powroznik, UBC Sauder 2020 graduate and founder and CEO of Frame One Software
UBC Sauder graduate Christopher Powroznik leveraged his entrepreneurial upbringing and computer programming talents to launch an app that makes commuting to and from Delta faster and easier.
One could say entrepreneurship is in Christopher Powroznik’s blood. From the age of seven, he was immersed in the family business.
“I come from a fishing family in Delta,” says the UBC Sauder graduate. “And being a fisherman is very entrepreneurial. You sell your fish, you set up your deals. We’re a completely independent, family-run business.”
But fishing in the rivers of the Lower Mainland and around Vancouver Island isn’t the only pursuit Powroznik got an early start with: he also began working on software development projects in his early teenage years, and continued to work in this field through high school and university.
Powroznik says this work experience made the Combined Major in Business and Computer Science program, to which he switched in his third year, a natural fit for him. The program combines computer science courses with UBC Sauder’s Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) program to prepare students with both technical skills and business knowledge to apply technology to business opportunities.
“Honestly, it’s like the program was built for me. I can’t think of a better school experience than when I switched into it,” he says.
But Powroznik didn’t wait until graduation to put his education to work. While still attending classes, he founded a website and app development company and consulting business called Frame One Software.
“It was something I’ve always known I was going to do. It was just a question of when I was going to do it,” Powroznik says.
Frame One Software’s business model: great software, great value, great people is particularly attractive for smaller businesses and the company’s growing client roster includes many local real estate, finance and farming companies. But one of the products that’s earned the company major attention is an app for Metro Vancouver commuters called Is the Massey Tunnel Okay?
Is the Massey Tunnel Okay? This question was always on Christopher Powroznik’s mind as he commuted between home and school.
The app analyzes real-time data from map services such as GoogleMaps along with footage from DriveBC webcams to provide more accurate estimates of driving times along the aging tunnel connecting Delta to the rest of Metro Vancouver.
Powroznik says he developed the app last year for his own use after experiencing one too many frustrating delays because of traffic congestion. “I personally just wanted a tool that was for myself, just so I could save some time.”
But after his parents and family friends inquired about using the app too, Powroznik decided to develop it further and launch a public version. Within the first week, the app was downloaded thousands of times, making it one of the most popular products in the Canadian iOS and Google Play app stores. Powroznik describes the media blitz that followed as “surreal.”
“I’d worked on large applications before, but I’d always been behind the scenes. So, it was kind of nice to have that kind of coverage on my own for an application,” he says.
Taking the plunge
While most university graduates are angling for their first full-time job with an employer, Powroznik wanted to strike out on his own.
“I think as more time passes, it just becomes harder and harder to start and take that risk,” he says. “It just seemed like the timing was right to take the plunge, rather than five or six years from now.”
Powroznik credits his early work experiences with giving him the confidence to launch Frame One Software and quit his steady-paying job so that he could fully focus on the company’s growth.
With a solid local client base, Powroznik says Frame One Software is now setting its sights on the international market with Whyzapp, a website and private listing hosting service designed to provide affordable solutions for businesses in the developing world.
“Right now, to build a website is actually really cheap for us, but it’s a very expensive endeavor in impoverished areas of the world,” says Powroznik. “It’s hard for small businesses to create a web presence.”
“We wanted to create a website hosting service that was affordable, so we made it at one penny a day,” Powroznik explains.
The service is also mobile oriented, making it more accessible to users in developing countries. After launching only three months ago, Whyzapp is already expanding to Peru, Thailand and India.
Learning that entrepreneurship is a balancing act
Juggling school and a personal life is already a challenge—one made even more arduous by the demands of being the founder and CEO of a thriving start-up. But this young entrepreneur says the experience has taught him the importance of balance.
“I’ve learned to not go all in on school or all in on work, but to hold both so that later in life I’m able to actually balance different aspects of my life. Whether it be family, work, my personal life or my mental health,” he says. “It’s important to be busy, but it’s important to be balanced.”