The solution for former Protus executives Greg Burwell and Tyler Eyamie was to start a company largely drawing from the expertise they had used at their previous jobs.
Within the offices of new company Fusebill, the workers turned their attention from virtual faxing, for which Protus was famous, to a problem that had come up time and again in their old jobs: handling recurring billing.
One year on, the company already has 15 employees, backing from several undisclosed investors, and – although it’s not yet cash-positive – the opportunity to enter the cloud-based billing market.
According to Steve Adams, the company’s CEO and a former Protus vice-president and general manager, drawing from the expertise at his former company helped the new one emerge more quickly and efficiently.
“There’s a great level of trust and mutual respect. We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It allows us to come together as a productive company pretty quickly.”
Indeed, Protus was one of Ottawa’s top workplaces prior to the takeover. The company received three consecutive Employee’s Choice Awards in 2007-09, based on worker surveys.
Fusebill markets itself to mid-size companies looking for a way to manage recurring billings. What surprised Fusebill employees was that firms outside of the technology space were interested in its offering. Its customers, which are mostly in the United States, include firms in insurance and courseware.
“We discovered there are all sorts of businesses that are selling by subscription, and that broader market is a really untapped market,” Mr. Adams says. “It’s a high-growth opportunity and it’s a fairly early market at this point.”
Although Mr. Adams acknowledges the company is young and entering a crowded space, the breadth of functionality on Fusebill’s platform has already brought in about 100 customers and is expected to let the company grow in the years to come.
Features of the software include the ability for the clients of Fusebill customers to log in and manage billings themselves, as well as simultaneous management of invoicing and credit card billing systems.
Although the firm is young, the move to recombine parts of the Protus team is already generating attention among observers of Ottawa’s tech community.
“(Steve) has been in a lot of places where he’s learned how companies grow,” says Eliot Burdett, a partner at Peak Sales Recruiting.
He says it is currently a rarity for laid-off employees to coalesce again, far less common than what was seen during the late 1990s.
But Mr. Adams said in this case, his employees wanted to work together again. Through Fusebill they will have the chance to do that for years to come – and more will be hired in the fall.
“It’s been a good foundation for us.”
Number of employees: 15
Customers: 100 (mostly in the United States)
Funding: Friends/family and angel investments (not disclosed)
Future hires expected: Sales, marketing, technology
Key executives: Steve Adams, CEO; Greg Burwell, vice-president of technology; Tyler Eyamie, vice-president of sales and operations