Ottawa's Iversoft spins off marketing arm, mulls 'virtual-by-default' approach in bid to get leaner

Iversoft crew
From left: Iversoft co-founder and CTO Vicki Iverson, CEO Graeme Barlow and co-founder and chief relationship officer Matt Strentse. File photo

Back in the fall of 2019, it seemed the sky was the limit for Ottawa-based Iversoft.

The company had just moved into a new office on Lola Street in Overbrook. After making its name helping the likes of Audi and Tamarack Homes craft their digital presence, the agency had reached 40 employees and was a regular on lists of the country’s fastest-growing tech ventures, boasting triple-digit annual revenue increases and customers in major markets such as Toronto and New York.

Now, armed with a pared-down business model and a digital-by-default workplace strategy, Iversoft is rebuilding to compete in a post-pandemic world.

Initially a mobile app and web development firm, Iversoft began expanding its service lines a few years ago in a bid to become a “one-stop shop” that could not only build a customer’s website, but handle its social media marketing campaigns as well. That company continued on that path throughout 2019 and the first couple months of 2020.

“Eight months ago, it was kind of like, ‘We’re going to do everything and bring it all in-house and take over the world,’” explains Graeme Barlow, who was named the company’s first official CEO last November after being promoted from chief marketing officer. “Then the world kind of changed.”

That’s putting it mildly. Like business leaders around the world, Barlow and his team got blindsided by an event no one could have ever seen coming. As the COVID-19 pandemic threw the global economy into chaos, executives like Barlow were forced to tear up their carefully thought-out growth plans and start anew. 

As a result, Iversoft is making some dramatic moves to restructure its business model and cut costs. 

The company recently spun off its digital marketing arm led by Shawna Tregunna, who left Iversoft last month to start her own agency. Barlow says Iversoft will continue to partner with Tregunna on various marketing initiatives.

Iversoft also parted ways with former director of product Nick Tremmaglia, who was brought on board a year ago when the firm was in the midst of its aggressive push to diversify its service offerings.

Now a much leaner operation at about 30 employees, Iversoft will focus on what Barlow calls its core strengths in app and web development. 

He says it wasn’t an easy decision, but he believes becoming a more streamlined company will pay off for Iversoft in the long run. While overall revenues are down compared with last year, he says the firm is actually on pace to turn a higher profit in 2020 than ever before.

“It’s obviously a stressful time for a lot of people, but we’re trying to take it as a huge opportunity to rethink every element of how we structure and scale the company,” Barlow explains.

Iversoft’s other big move could be exactly that. Already operating remotely since March, the firm is looking at vacating the 12,500-square-foot office it rents in Overbrook. 

The virtual arrangement will continue at least until the end of this year, when Barlow and his executive team will reassess the need for physical office space after consulting with their employees – many of whom have been pushing for more flexible work options in the face of COVID-19.

Barlow says he could see Iversoft permanently adopting the digital-first approach, a strategy other tech companies such as Facebook and Shopify have already embraced. 

He says most of the firm’s staff have readily adapted to working from home, adding he believes the company has become more efficient since the lockdown began. Barlow thinks winning the escalating “talent war” in tech could come down to how well companies are set up ​– from a technological and human resources standpoint ​– to attracting employees who are comfortable with the growing trend toward working remotely.

“I think a lot of that competition now is going to be won on how you create virtual culture and how you prioritize taking care of your people. I think that’s going to be the biggest theme of the rest of 2020 and 2021.”

Inversoft already seems to have a leg up in that department. The company has employees on the West Coast and is in the process of interviewing potential new hires in the Maritimes as well.

“We’re truly becoming Canada-wide, which is exciting,” Barlow says.