Opalis Software is the story of a typical startup: An experienced CEO takes over from the founder, brings in venture financing and shakes things up
Three years ago the board of a Mississauga, Ont. start-up decided to shake up the company.
Opalis Software – allegedly named when the founder was thinking of buying an opal for his wife – was suffering typical problems of an early-stage technology firm: Its product, a Windows automation utility sold online or through a few resellers, was raw and marketed at network administrators.
Today, CEO Scott Broder says that thanks to Canadian and Silicon Valley venture funding and customers like British Telecom “the future’s so bright we gotta wear shades.”
He could be forgiven for a bit of hubris because Broder is the reason why Opalis is looking more polished these days.
In 2003 the former Citrix Systems executive was brought in to raise $8.5 million in financing from venture funds here, followed by another $8.5 million in 2005.
That money helped overhaul the product into a line of 24 applications aimed at automating data centre functions, which connect to Hewlett-Packard OpenView, Symantec, EMC Smarts In Charge, BMC Patrol, Microsoft Operations Manager, IBM Tivoli, Cognos and others.
“It’s not about reducing the staff,” Broder explains. “It’s more about freeing staff so they’re not doing the drudgery, they’re working on more significant projects.”
A sales staff was hired and marketing switched to target corporate vice-presidents.
The company says sales grew more than 200 per cent in 2005 and 300 per cent last year. Average deal size is more more than $50,000.
Staff, which now total 60 people, could hit 100 by the end of the year, which Broder predicts will be banner.
Hopes to be profitable
Revenues this year are expected to be $8 million to $10 million, good enough, he hopes, to bring the company to the break-even point.
“It’s going to be a great year. This is the year when deal sizes seem to be increasing. It’s a year where we are entering our growth stage, so for us the challenge is to manage growth and to ensure we’re able to hire the talent we need.”
It has a multi-pronged channel strategy, using OEMs and independent software vendors to include its applications in their products, while the company’s sales staff targets Fortune 100 companies. But VARs and integrators are a part of the sales plan.
There are a half a dozen resellers in Canada now: Three in Quebec, one in Ottawa and two in Toronto. They’re part of a small contingent around the world that includes Cap Gemini. But Robert Tavares, Opalis’ vice-president of sales wants to add more, including another six this year in Canada.
One of the latest partners is Portage Software of Ottawa.
“The ability to automate and integrate with a lot of the tools our customers may have made (Opalis) easy to talk about,” said Colin Smith, responsible for Portage’s business partnerships. He’s pleased with the way Opalis treats his firm.
“The account manager we’re working with is well-organized and always trying to talk to us.”
Other partners include ESI Technologies of Montreal and Inside The Box of Oakville, Ont.
Broder emphasizes that his sales staff doesn’t compete with resellers, but tries to help them with deals.
“We would like to see at least 50 per cent of our revenues go through the channel,” he says, “and in building that channel I’m making sure there is no conflict.”