Selling watches at a trade show is not how most 12-year-olds make pocket money, but for young entrepreneur Ashif Mawji, it was the only way to keep up with his expensive hobbies.Years later, the Kenyan-born CEO of Edmonton-based Upside Software still credits his early entrepren-eurial savvy for his current success.
After graduating from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1992 with a diploma in computer systems technology, Mawji went directly into consulting. In 1995 he started a company called Information Systems Consulting and quickly landed a large outsourcing contract with IBM.
Staffing quickly grew, as did the number of contracts said Mawji. “Managing all the contracts became an issue, so we did some market research and found this is a common problem for many companies,” he said.
That find led Mawji to start Upside Software in 2000, an independent software vendor focused on contract lifecycle management.
Though he runs both companies, Mawji said he only spends two hours a month at ISC.
Upside’s product suite includes UpsideContract, the company’s flagship product and best-selling solution, according to Mawji.
“Every customer starts off with UpsideContract. Then our strategy has been to offer supporting modules like Up-side-Billing or UpsideRFX,” he said.
UpsideContract facilitates the entire contract management process for organizations, from request for quotation to renewals. The tool offers users such functions as managing compliance, templates, performance, deliverables, risk and amendments.
The software is applicable in every industry said Mawji “Every organization has contracts and every organization has a problem managing i
ts contracts,” he says. Upside’s client list includes Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Nike, Boeing, JC Penney, 3M and NCR.
More than 90 per cent of Upside’s business comes direct from the U.S., said Mawji. “It’s our biggest market, followed by Canada, Europe, Australia and South Africa,” he said.
“Canada is not an early adopter when it comes to risk -taking in business. The U.S. is far more predominant,” said Mawji. But with a new channel partner program, Upside is looking to expand its presence in Canada and abroad.
“We have five reseller partners now and by fiscal year-end, May 31, 2006, we want at least 25,” he said. In Canada, Upside is working with Bearing Point and has recently been in talks with CGI and EDS. Mawji also cites Navantis as a local Toronto reseller and systems integrator for Upside.
“The structure of the program is volume-based,” he said. “Since we’re doing direct right now, the pricing for the customer will remain the same, whether you buy direct or from a reseller.”
But Upside will encourage customers to buy through a partner by offering incentives, added Mawji. “Our sales force is not something we want to grow indefinitely, so it will be a partner incentive model,” he said.
With the addition of resellers and systems integrators, Mawji is confident that the business will grow dramatically.
“We have a proven deployment approach, proven training approach, and now it’s a matter of rolling that out. We’ve created the prototypes, now the factory’s in full production mode,” he said.
Mistake or not
Mawji, who was named one of Canada’s top 40 under 40 last year, is unsure if he is making a mistake by not taking any venture capital. “We’ve (Upside management team) self-funded everything. It’s all been through the cash flow generated by the company,” he said.
“I remain firm that the path we’ve chosen is the right one, by doing things more judiciously and being profitable.”