03/07/2012 01:08 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian start-up company Guardly featured in new doc 'Ctrl+Alt+Compete'

TORONTO - Guardly, a Toronto-based start-up company, gets a major close-up in the new documentary "Ctrl+Alt+Compete," a Microsoft-financed film focusing on the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurs hoping to wow the web with their inventions.

While the doc includes commentary from a number of prominent tech-world talking heads, Guardly is one of only a handful of emerging companies that are featured and given significant screen time.

The film follows Guardly's founder Josh Sookman behind the scenes at DEMO Spring, an event where entrepreneurs and upstart companies get a chance to pitch their business ideas to a crowd of investors, media and other influential insiders.

Guardly is a mobile phone app that allows users to quickly send an alert to friends and family — and call 911, if necessary — in case of an emergency. The premium version of the app, which runs on iPhones, BlackBerrys, Android and Windows devices, can also take pictures of a user's whereabouts, pass on real-time location tracking via GPS, and emit a loud siren to scare off attackers.

Sookman said it takes eight taps or swipes to dial 911 on an iPhone, but only three to call for help with Guardly.

OCAD University in Toronto recently partnered with Guardly to provide the premium service to its students and faculty, which usually costs $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year.

For Sookman, the documentary was a great opportunity to get some free publicity for Guardly. But it wasn't without its risks.

"We were pretty open and honest and transparent and tried to give them whatever video they could capture, at every moment," Sookman said before a screening of the film in Toronto this week, its Canadian premiere.

"Which I guess leads to the (question) of, 'What are they going to capture and how are they going to twist it?' because it is a documentary and you don't know how it's going to come out."

Sookman appears nervous in the early going of the documentary as he's interviewed by TV reporters and practises for Guardly's big moment: an elaborately planned multimedia presentation that must go off without a hitch if the company is to leave a good impression with potential investors.

Sookman's own team comments that his self confidence appears to be sagging as preparations for the big presentation go awry.

The documentary also includes an interview with Vancouver native Brian Wong, who at the age of just 20 is the founder of the mobile-game advertising company Kiip.

Sookman said the response to the documentary hasn't been overwhelming — the film has had limited screenings so far — but it has been positive.

"We've gotten a few references to it but they're not beating down doors yet," he said.

No plans for a wider release of the film have been announced yet, but Microsoft has scheduled a free screening and information session in Montreal on March 13.


On the web: Registration for the Montreal screening of "Ctrl+Alt+Compete" —