FASTEST GROWING COMPANIES: #5 - Epiphan Systems Inc.

OBJ Staff
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When a firm has more than 4,000 customers in 70 countries and isn't dependent on the fortunes of one or two large customers, it's easy to see how it might find stability during economic turbulence. That's the case with Epiphan Systems, which credits its diversified customer base as a key reason for continued growth.

Steve Ryan - Epiphan

"When the U.S. was hit economically in the late summer and early fall, there was definitely a smaller proportion of sales coming from there, but there were a little more sales going into Asia and Europe ... it was a natural offset," says chief financial officer Steve Ryan.

Epiphan - whose technology captures images from any computer screen, including those on ship navigation systems and medical equipment - also works with a lot of military, institutional and educational customers, rather than with the volatile consumer market, meaning business usually stays steady.

Mr. Ryan adds the company has managed to take advantage of its niche business to attract many follow-on orders, with 60 per cent of Epiphan's clients made up of repeat customers.

"The customer usually encounters the product, buys one, plays around and tests it, and if it fits into their application, they buy five, and then 10, 20 or 100. It's a progression," he says. "The key is to translate those early single sales into multiple repeat sales, and it's a matter of serving those customers well."

One way the firm builds on those initial orders is by using client feedback to create custom devices as well as new products, with Mr. Ryan estimating that Epiphan now churns out a fresh product every six weeks "to keep the momentum going."

He says another key is that the company isn't afraid to let clients develop private-label versions of Epiphan's software, with a sizable portion of its growth coming from sales of the firm's development tool kits to clients who want to create their own versions of the image-grabbing technology.

The company hopes to continue its prolific output and will use that to guide its organic growth plans, Mr. Ryan says, although he notes Epiphan is staying cautious about managing its resources in the downturn.

"If we've identified we need a certain number of products, (we'll hire) ... because the sooner we can get those products to the customer, the faster they'll come back and buy the next five to 10," he says. "But we're trying not to overcommit the company's resources."

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Year founded: 2003

Head count: 9

Product: Maker and seller of VGA/DVI signal grabbing technology

Revenue growth: 192.7%

Organizations: Epiphan Systems

Geographic location: U.S., Asia, Europe

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