Doug Ducey, who expanded a handful of create-your-own-flavor ice cream shops into 1,000 in 10 years, plans to plot the growth of another Scottsdale-based startup.
Ducey, who piloted Cold Stone Creamery's phenomenal growth until the brand was purchased by Scottsdale-based Kahala Corp., said he is investing his money and his marketing prowess in iMemories as its chairman.
The 2-year-old privately owned company takes old home movies in any combination of formats, converts them to digital and puts them online so family members can view, share and make DVDs of their visual histories.
Ducey said that he is not very tech-savvy, but he knows a brand with huge growth potential.
"This is a technology company that is a consumer brand," he said.
Online videos seem a world different from ice cream stores, but both businesses produce design-it-yourself products, he said.
"At Cold Stone we created unique experiences," Ducey said. "You could enjoy something personalized you couldn't get elsewhere." That's true of iMemories, too, he said.
And both brands have a huge potential audience. In the case of iMemories, that's scores of people who have home movies they don't watch because they no longer have the equipment needed to view them, or because it's just too much trouble, he said.
"Almost everyone who has a child has a camcorder and videotapes in a box," Ducey said.
Mark Rukavina, founder and president of iMemories, said the technology he and his high-tech staff designed is still at least three years ahead of anything else. That gives his company a head start on capturing the market, he said.
"This has never been done, and it's hard to do," he said. But his mastery of marketing doesn't measure up to his technical expertise, Rukavina said. Taking on Ducey as financial partner and giving him the reins of the company's growth made sense, he said.
"We've got the technology, but nobody knows about us yet. Doug will change all that," Rukavina said.
So far, iMemories has about 5,000 customers and has processed about 100,000 tapes.
Ducey said the partnership is just a couple of weeks old, so he isn't ready to make bold predictions about future numbers yet, as he did with Cold Stone.
But he said, like Cold Stone, he will rely on word-of-mouth to pitch the product instead of a lot of pricey advertising. And on the Internet, word-of-mouth can travel to a lot of potential customers in seconds. That's what sold Ducey on the product's potential.
Before he was a partner, he was a customer. He took videos of his wedding, one son's baseball game and another's birth to iMemories. When he got the link and sent it to his brother across the country, his brother was immediately sold and became a iMemories customer.
"It's a big idea, and it's here," Ducey said. "Mark has the technology to get to every computer in America."