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Losing his job in 2002 may have been the best thing that ever happened to Sidney Sommer. It prompted him to come up with an ingenious idea that uses sophisticated surveillance technology to secure construction sites from theft. He has grown UCIT Online (pronounced You-See-It Online) into a multimillion-dollar business. In recognition of that success, Sidney, 33, has won BDC’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Ontario and will be honoured tonight at a ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia.

UCIT Online installs camera equipment on construction sites and feeds the video to a monitoring centre, where an alarm alerts the centre to any trespassing so the police can be contacted. “We work directly with the police, so we have quick response times,” says Sidney. UCIT Online currently monitors hundreds of sites around southern Ontario and averages two arrests a week. That’s a record in the security industry and a factor that has made the company popular with clients.

The firm has successfully branched into the manufacturing and transportation sectors with their “Remote Guard” and “Remote Gate Control” services; they have even gone one step further with the recent launch of “Remote Concierge”. This innovative new service replaces building concierges with round-the-clock service that can control resident and visitor access to buildings, accept deliveries and make emergency calls – all from a state-of-the-art monitoring centre. UCIT Online has also recently expanded into Alberta and has no intentions of slowing down.

Seeing the opportunity

Sidney started his career in the aviation sector. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the company he worked for closed down its North American operations in 2002, leaving him without a job. When he saw an ad for a sophisticated camera that could be viewed and controlled live over the Internet, it sparked an idea for a business. “I thought of so many applications for the camera,” says Sidney. “I borrowed the money to buy one and installed it in downtown Toronto. I designed a Web page and flyer that directed people to my demo camera, and I started to get some sales.”

As demand for the product grew, Sidney identified a niche market: the construction industry, where theft and vandalism on building sites are major problems. “I was able to talk a big builder into using us. The next hurdle was getting approval from most of the major insurance companies to replace security guards with our system,” he explains.

Focusing on service

To-day, UCIT Online is a 14-person company that works with a monitoring centre-Meglan Technologies, of which Sidney is part owner-and has not lost a single customer since starting in 2003. “We provide exceptional customer service and that is key,” Sidney points out. “Early on, I would even sleep out on some of our sites.” Another key to his company’s success, he says, was timing. “Currently there is a huge shift in the security industry from analog to IP products. We’ve focused on IP since the first day five years ago. A lot of security companies are still using analog equipment. That has put us way ahead of the game.”

UCIT Online has given back to the community by installing and monitoring systems free of charge to help the police with special cases. Sidney is the security consultant for his local business association, and his business donates regularly to local charities and associations.

“Sidney is a true entrepreneur. He came up with an innovative idea, found a niche market for his product and developed it into a flourishing business that is a leader in its field,” says BDC President and CEO Jean-Rene Halde.

“This business literally started in my mom’s basement,” says Sidney. “It took a lot of hard work to get where we are now, but I have always believed 100% in what I’m doing.”