Ottawa's Fastest Growing Companies: Solink adjusts the formula, not the rapid growth

From left to right: Solink’s Pej Javaheri, Erin Bailey, Cory Michalyshyn and Michael Matta. Photo by Mark Holleron

Each year, OBJ recognizes the region’s rapidly growing firms with its Fastest Growing Companies awards. The aim is to honour the city’s top performers for substantial, sustainable and profitable growth. Recipients are ranked by their three-year revenue growth. They must have had revenues of at least $100,000 in the first of those three years under consideration. Revenues must have risen to at least $500,000 in their most recent fiscal year. The companies will be profiled online in the coming days and recognized at a cocktail reception on May 23 at Kanata co-working space Head Office Ottawa. Click here for info.

Solink is no stranger to OBJ’s fastest-growing companies list.

With three-year revenue growth of 287 per cent, the local video analytics firm finds itself on the annual list of Ottawa’s hottest firms for the third consecutive year.

But as chief financial and operating officer Cory Michalyshyn explains, what landed Solink on the list two years ago isn’t necessarily what’s fuelling its growth today.

“We’re always trying to innovate on the formula … but we’re trying to be consistent in what that service does for our customers and what it means for their businesses,” he says.

The Kanata-based company applies artificial intelligence to the vast amounts of surveillance video generated by its customers in the banking, retail and restaurant sectors, including franchisees of Tim Hortons and Five Guys Burgers & Fries. The constant stream of new footage is too much for any one person to parse through to spot potential fraud, but an AI tied to an operator’s point-of-sale system can ‘watch’ the video and detect anomalies itself.

“There’s just way too much data for a normal operation to be able to look through and consume in any meaningful way,” Michalyshyn says.

Solink Corp.

Year founded: 2009

Local headcount: 75

Three-year revenue growth: 287.08%

2019 ranking: #5

Solink often sells its software-as-a-service solution on the loss prevention angle, but once a customer has adopted the solution, the company then reveals its AI’s full analytics capabilities. Michalyshyn says one of the features the company has recently been pushing is an integration with drive-thrus that can detect inefficiencies in the system tied to certain orders and give fast food franchises tips to improve the flow of customer traffic. Already in 2019 the firm has released a motion search feature, which allows users to track activity around a particular object in the video frame, such as a cash register.

But some of the biggest recent changes around the fast-growing firm have been internal. Solink nearly doubled in size from 40 to 75 employees in the past year and has added executive roles such as a director of marketing, HR manager and vice-presidents of operations and product.

As the company grows, Michalyshyn says it has been important to add managerial roles to keep the ratio of managers to employees close to one-to-eight. Otherwise, he says, employees aren’t receiving the kind of professional development attention they need to thrive. Team size should scale in line with the company’s growth, in other words.

“That’s really important for us, because we want our employees to constantly be pushing themselves to be better,” Michalyshyn says.

Solink has had a busy 2019 already. The firm kicked off its year with a $16.3-million series-A round, which Michalyshyn says has thus far largely gone to funding costs of growth, such as deploying new customers and marketing efforts, in addition to hiring more workers.

Michalyshyn says Solink hasn’t struggled finding the talent it needs to grow in Ottawa. He points to bygone analytics companies such as Cognos that built up expertise in the local talent market.

“We’ve had a lot of success in being able to hire (employees) – salespeople, marketing staff, admin staff, R&D – of any different skill set,” he says.

“At least for the near term, we’re going to continue hiring locally without anything really holding us back.”