What They Do: Cloud Based Dashboards & Business Intelligence
Innovative technology is always celebrated; however creating a successful business model behind those ideas, is often the real obstacle to success. For nearly a decade, Klipfolio faced this same challenge. The company’s first product was a tool to help individuals organize information like the weather or stock market movements. When people started flocking to smartphones for this data, the firm switched its focus to business intelligence.
Adoption of Klipfolio’s business dashboard service was gradual. Allan Willie, CEO and founder, says perseverance and confidence in their ideas kept them moving forward. “That was the thing that didn’t change, even today” says Willie. The tides began to turn around 2012, when cloud computing and big data became more prevalent. That surge allowed Klipfolio to incorporate into its product a nearly endless parade of software services and data streams. And in February of this year, the company received a $6.2 Million cash injection from OMERS Ventures. Willie spoke to Invest Ottawa about Klipfolio’s recent growth and other companies in Ottawa that he finds exciting:
When you speak to someone not in technology, how do you describe what Klipfolio does?
Every business has multiple data sources or things that they monitor. How many things they’ve sold, how many people walk through their store fronts, etc. The traditional way of doing that is you go from one website, to another website, to another and so on. The Holy Grail is being able to bring all that stuff together on one screen, in a consistent format, updated in real-time; that’s what we are doing .
You touched on this, but what is the key problem you are solving for clients?
Business is all about answering questions. How do I make sense of all of the data, so I can take action on stuff that’s happening right now? Traditionally, it’s been IT or a developer that put together these systems. (Our) users hook it together themselves, because they know what information really matters. They don’t have to translate it to developers or IT. They make Klipfolio meaningful, for what they are doing.
Why do you think the stars aligned for you, after nearly a decade of being founded?
I joke that we should have not made it, many, many, many times (laughs)! When we started as a consumer dashboard, we had thousands and thousands of downloads but couldn’t monetize. Yet, we knew the idea was sound. After struggling to find a buyer, eventually we stumbled onto Lufthansa, who wanted to deploy it to 35,000 users. It was when we launched our cloud business dashboard that everything really started taking off. And since then, we’ve grown two and a half times, year over year.
That’s almost a standard strategy for tech start-ups today; create traction, get scale and then find a way to monetize…
There are so many different paths in business. Sometimes companies will get the product right but the pricing model wrong. Sometimes they have a brilliant pricing model, that just begs to be bought, but the product isn’t ready. Sometimes their distribution is not right. So I don’t think there is one silver bullet; you just keep trying. We did and we are continuing to ask lots and lots of questions of our customers. How can we be more successful? Can we do things better?
Have you seen any benefits from staying in Ottawa?
What do you see happening in the ecosystem today?
With the demise of Nortel, there’s a whole new set of entrepreneurs who have set up shop. And they are doing software, they are doing SaaS, they are doing cloud and they are all talking and helping one another.
Ottawa’s tech sector is way more diversified, there’s no doubt. Definitely more diversified and definitely more modern. I think amazing companies can be built anywhere in the world. Anyone who says Ottawa or Canada is at a disadvantage…they aren’t thinking big enough.
What local companies excite you?
Shopify has been a huge boon to the city. Halogen and Kinaxis have been really good to keep momentum up. Then there is a whole sprinkling of smaller companies. I’ve been meeting with a company called Spoonity; they are doing cool stuff in the loyalty space. I also met with another company the other day; FOKO. There are tons of entrepreneurs trying new things: social, cloud, really innovative business models. And I see a lot of optimism. Entrepreneurs I meet with, they’ve all got the spark. I think recent events have done a lot to fuel that spark, but there’s a real sense we can do something amazing in Ottawa.
One thing never to underestimate?
You need to understand and invest in ease of use. Lots of companies are building sophisticated tools but at the end of the day, that’s not what people are buying. People are buying ease-of-use. And ease-of -use will trump power, flexibility and sophistication, nine times out of ten.
Allan Willie, CEO of Klipfolio
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