From brick and mortar to tech startup

Alumna-owned business recognized for pivot of the year

Brittany Anderson was never someone who dreamed about entrepreneurship, yet when an 85,000 square foot facility became available within months of graduating from the Alberta School of Business, Anderson and her business partner took off running.

Eight years later, Anderson (‘12 BCom) and her team are the recipients of the 2021 YEG Startup Community Awards Pivot of the Year, a recognition given to the biggest and most successful pivot that an Edmonton startup made in the past year.

“It was such a happy, shiny moment in such a dark, awful year, and to get an award like that meant a lot to myself and the team,” said Anderson.

Anderson and her team were recognized for Codo, a product of their brick and mortar company Laser City Laser Tag, which operates two laser tag facilities in Calgary and one in Edmonton.  

Codo is a platform that provides a wide selection of online camps, after-school clubs and birthday parties for kids aged six to 12. In a guided, private session, users are able to play some of the hottest online games with small groups of kids from all over the world. Codo even offers Harry Potter and pirate-themed hangouts—with more options in the works. 

Since launching, they’ve hosted over one thousand kids from across North America. 

“This is a way for kids to meet other kids from around the world and play fun and engaging games from the safety of their home,” said Anderson.

In the beginning days of the pandemic, Anderson heard stories about kids who were sad, lonely and lacking important social interaction. Parents were also struggling, having to work from home while simultaneously being available for their children. The feedback for Codo has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“We bring joy and happiness to kids online, and we’re really excited to have that product stick around for quite some time,” she said. 

Initially, Anderson had to lay off 27 part-time staff. Knowing their existing laser tag facilities would be among the first businesses to shut down and some of the last to open back up, she began looking for ways to keep their full-time staff employed while staying true to the ethos of their existing company: providing fun experiences for children.

After only two weeks of testing the programs and technology and building the online platform, Anderson and her team launched Codo, pivoting from a brick and mortar to a tech startup. Not only were they able to keep the full-time staff employed, they slowly brought back the part-time staff, even hiring additional staff with the digital skillset required to operate an online business.

“We know how to deliver products really well, and we know how to deliver fun experiences—it was just the medium that changed,” said Anderson. 

Having navigated one of the most challenging years of her professional career, Anderson’s advice for people considering entrepreneurship is to research well and be ready to fully commit.

“I can’t even tell you how stressful this past year has been,” said Anderson, who needed to adapt and stay on top of government announcements and learn about new technologies while trying to support full-time staff who’d never really worked at a tech startup—all in the middle of a pandemic.

As someone who participates with the Thresholdmpact University of Alberta Venture Mentoring Service, Anderson said it’s also vital to ask for help when you need it and have people in your corner.

“I always told myself: if you can’t run, you need to walk, and if you can’t walk, you need to crawl—you just have to keep moving forward,” she said.

Though all three Laser City locations are open again, Anderson is excited to have Codo around for the long haul; they’re currently hoping to raise funds through venture capital and angel funding.

“This year was incredibly challenging, but it’s so cool to turn on my computer throughout the day and see these kids having so much fun.” 

Brittany's curated podcast list: 

My Favorite Murder

The Prof G Pod

99% Invisible

This American Life

This Podcast will Kill You (note from Brittany: not about murder, it's about different diseases)

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