Ottawa tech community bullish on PageCloud

A who’s-who of Ottawa tech heavyweights broke out the bubbly at PageCloud’s ByWard Market headquarters Monday night to celebrate the city’s most-anticipated software launch in years.

The fledgling firm clearly had good reason to party on the day its product designed to “fix the Internet” went live.

Formed less than 18 months ago, PageCloud had booked more than $1.5 million in advance orders before officially hitting the market. According to CEO Craig Fitzpatrick, that constituted the largest pre-sale tally in the history of Canadian software development.

“I’ve never seen a product strike a chord like this with the general public,” the company’s 42-year-old founder told an audience that included a bevy of past OBJForty Under 40 recipients and other movers and shakers in Ottawa’s tight-knit software community.

Last weekend alone, 1,700 new customers signed up to buy PageCloud’s drag-and-drop web design and editing software, accounting for $212,000 in sales in just two days. The company that has pledged to beat heavy hitters such as WordPress, Squarespace and Wix.com at their own game was adding a new client every 10 minutes in the hours leading up to Monday’s launch.

“What I’ve come to realize is that we as entrepreneurs, especially in Canada, give the big guys too much fear,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick, a 20-year veteran of the technology industry who initially started working on PageCloud on evenings and weekends out of frustration with traditional web design software he considered to be clunky and inefficient. 

Now a 15-person operation, PageCloud has rented a swath of space next to its small third-floor office on Rideau Street in anticipation of boosting its headcount to 50 within a year. The company has already landed more than $6 million in seed funding, attracting local investors such as Shopify’s Tobias Lütke and fellow software entrepreneurs Sam Zaid and Fred Belanger as well as U.S. early-stage investment firms Accomplice and Singularity.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose firm is gearing up for its first Series-A venture financing round next spring, said he had a feeling he was onto something with PageCloud from the get-go. 

But even he never expected interest to build this quickly. Mr. Fitzpatrick is now projecting revenues north of $6 million for 2016, well beyond what he initially anticipated.

“I knew there was some magic there, but I figured (in) three or four years we’d do what we’ve done now,” he told OBJ. “Our forecast for next year was 6,000 customers. We hit that two months ago.”

Still, Mr. Fitzpatrick clearly isn’t content to rest on his laurels. 

The company “has a ton of evolution coming in the next year,” he said, adding he expects PageCloud to introduce three or four new products over that span that are “equally profound in the way that they fix a problem on the Internet.” 

In the midst of the post-launch euphoria, Mr. Fitzpatrick took a moment to pay tribute to Mr. Lütke and his colleagues at Shopify with a fittingly Canadian reference, praising them for “blazing a trail in the snow” for other local tech startups.

“What they did for Ottawa was amazing,” he said. “They put us back on the map. Now that they’ve done it, it sort of makes it easier for another generation to come along behind and maybe run a little bit quicker.”