Ottawa serial entrepreneur Cody back in startup mode

Better Software Company founder steps aside as CEO to focus on new online rental marketplace venture
Steve Cody

One of Ottawa’s most prolific serial entrepreneurs is stepping away from the top leadership role at the software firm he launched three years ago.

Steve Cody has resigned as chief executive of the Better Software Company, the Kanata-based enterprise announced earlier this month. Mr. Cody will remain a member of the board and will continue to help promote the company but will no longer be involved in its day-to-day operations. His wife Natalie, who co-founded the software firm, will stay on as vice-president of culture and experience.

A tireless entrepreneur who has founded no fewer than 15 businesses, Mr. Cody told OBJ he’d achieved all of his “key objectives” at the Better Software Company, which now employs about 30 people and has millions of dollars in annual revenues.

“I had a heck of a good run there,” said the businessman known for his down-to-earth demeanour. “I think we’ve found some really good market fit, and we’re well on our way to being quite successful. I kind of felt it was time for me to move on.”

Before launching Better Software, the lifelong Ottawa resident who quit high school in Grade 10 to start a window-washing company had spent most of his career building businesses in the rental industry with outfits such as Cody Party. He’s returning to his roots with Ruckify, an online marketplace for rental goods he is planning to unveil in October.

Mr. Cody said he originally conceived the plan for Ruckify years ago, before his foray into software put that idea on hold. Now that the Better Software Company is on solid footing, he said he felt it was time to indulge his true passion once again.

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart,” he said. “Once something is figured out and now all you need to do is just execute, that’s not necessarily where my heart lies. I love learning new things, figuring things out. Now I’m kind of trying to revolutionize another industry that I’m passionate about. For me, that’s really exciting.”

Mr. Cody said his new venture will allow him to marry the technology expertise he gained at Better Software with his extensive background in rental businesses.

Using the Ruckify platform, customers looking to rent items from canoes to wheelchairs will be able to browse an online catalogue of items, similar to the way Kijiji brings buyers and sellers together. Mr. Cody’s company will take a five per cent cut of all transactions, with a minimum fee of $5 and a maximum of $50. It will cost nothing to post items for rent, and Ruckify will take care of all insurance requirements.

Eyeing angel investors

“The younger demographic, they don’t want to own anything,” Mr. Cody said. “They want to enjoy great experiences. I think they’re very open to just renting things as they need them.”

He’s currently financing the startup out of his pocket but said he’s in talks with several angel investors and a couple of major insurance companies that are interested in becoming equity partners.

“If you think about it, it’s a big insurance play,” he said. “They’re very, very keen on it.”

Never one to think small, Mr. Cody added he envisions a day when Ruckify extends its services beyond the virtual realm of the internet to rent out equipment at playgrounds and tennis courts.

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart. Once something is figured out and now all you need to do is just execute, that’s not necessarily where my heart lies. I love learning new things, figuring things out. Now I’m kind of trying to revolutionize another industry that I’m passionate about.”

“We see a future where, if you show up to a basketball court in the community, we’re going to have a Ruckify machine where you can rent a basketball,” he explained. “You don’t need to go out and buy a basketball and have it sitting (unused) 99 per cent of the time.”

The new firm employs a total of seven full- and part-time employees, a number Mr. Cody expects to jump to 20 by launch date in October. Initially, Ruckify will serve only the Ottawa market, but he’s already planning to expand the concept to Vancouver early next year.

Mr. Cody said he’s never more in his element than when he’s in startup mode.

“I’m back to not being able to sleep at night because I’m excited about getting up in the morning,” he said. “Life’s so short, that’s what’s important.”