Iversoft acquires Ottawa gaming studio; plans ‘triple-digit growth’ in 2017

Iversoft Solutions has made its first-ever acquisition in the form of local gaming studio Jelly Smeared Games, but that’s just the start of what could be a monumental year for the Ottawa app developer.

Iversoft Solutions is an app development agency co-founded in 2009 by Vicki Iverson and Matt Strentse. The company designs apps for large companies including Torstar and Manulife, as well as local firms such as TouchPlow, and also has an extensive gaming portfolio that includes Solitaire and other popular mobile card games.

Jelly Smeared Games earned attention for its game Bytown Skate and Brawl, a mobile game set on the Rideau Canal, which Mr. Strentse says the company is in the midst of redeveloping. Jelly Smeared Games had eight developers at the time of acquisition, four of which were hired on by Iversoft.

OBJ sat down with Mr. Strentse and marketing director Graeme Barlow to hear about their audacious goals for the company this year. Among them, a move to a new space, an immediate round of hiring, another acquisition if possible, a company trip to Jamaica, and, biggest of all, triple-digit revenue growth.

Finding the right hire

Hiring has been nearly constant as of late for Iversoft. A year ago, Iversoft was at nine full-time employees. Today, the company stands at 26, and is looking to bring the total to 40 as soon as possible in order to fill a large, multi-year contract the studio recently secured.

The Jelly Smeared acquisition has meant immediate growth at Iversoft, and it’s a move Mr. Barlow says Iversoft is likely to make again.

“We’re anticipating this being a core part of the strategy for growth going forward,” he says.

In the long term, Mr. Strentse and Mr. Barlow say there are U.S. cities where they’d like to see Iversoft establish a market presence. But in the short-term, acquisitions will help Iversoft bolster its gaming portfolio and bring new blood into the Ottawa development scene.

While adding bodies is critical to Iversoft’s immediate success, Mr. Barlow says the company isn’t just picking up developers off the street. Jelly Smeared’s team, for example, was a good “philosophical” fit.

“I find a lot of people scale in a panic and hire the first (person) they can find, which leads to a lot of crashes and challenges,” he says. “Universally, we look for culture and ambition first.”

The culture of Iversoft is evident upon stepping into the company’s offices in an industrial park off Innes Road. Multiple dogs rove the office floors, with Star Wars paraphernalia scattered about in the form of pillows or lego sets.

Mr. Strentse says that he’ll often leave the office around 7 p.m. and find a group of his developers sitting around playing Counter-Strike, an online shooting game.

“Nobody we’ve hired thinks this place is a nine-to-fiver,” he says.

As a way to focus the company around a common cause, Mr. Strentse says they have a stretch goal for meeting their revenue targets on the year: A company trip to Jamaica.

Cramped quarters

Scaling up comes with its own challenges, such as parking. Mr. Strentse says Iversoft is in desperate need of relocation, having nearly outgrown its current space that already expands into an administrative outpost in a building opposite its main office.

Location isn’t the problem, however. Mr. Strentse says operating out of the east end has been ideal for the company, as it's accessible to the downtown by bus without outrageous rent and parking costs, and close to food outlets and other amenities. He adds that many employees have relocated themselves to the area, reaffirming their commitment to Iversoft as more than a place to work.

Coming out of the shadows

Mr. Barlow says Iversoft has worked for some of the biggest brands in Canada as well as a few contracts for the federal government, but, for the most part, is unable to talk about the work until it’s been officially launched. Many of these projects come with non-disclosure agreements that put the client in control of publicity.

While Mr. Strentse says this isn’t a concern for the company, it does make marketing a bit trickier. Until now, Iversoft had mainly found its clients by word-of-mouth, but Mr. Barlow says he’s focussing heavily on external marketing to find new clients and show themselves on the Ottawa scene.

“Until maybe a year or so ago, Iversoft had been incredibly successful flying under the radar,” he says. “Now, we’re coming out of the shadows and saying, ‘Here we are!’”