With a new year underway, OBJ is taking a closer look at several tech firms that have what it takes to scale up to a new level over the next 12 months as the economy continues to grapple with the coronavirus and begins to take tentative steps toward the post-pandemic reality.
An Ottawa software startup that rode the e-commerce tsunami to 580 per cent revenue growth in 2020 is projecting a similar surge in sales over the next 12 months as its platform aimed at detecting bugs in merchants’ online platforms gains momentum.
Founded in 2017, Noibu initially offered 3D virtual tours of high-end retailers’ brick-and-mortar outlets, allowing consumers to shop online while they were browsing a pseudo storefront.
But despite achieving some early success, including a $10,000 investment from the Capital Angel Network, the venture never really made the kind of splash the founders were hoping for.
“While it was a really neat idea, there was always a challenge … getting a good, strong pull from customers,” says CEO Dan Cardamore, a 20-year veteran of the Ottawa tech scene who joined the company in mid-2019. “It wasn’t necessarily a need.”
Thankfully for the young firm, co-founders Robert Boukine, Kailin Noivo and Filip Slatinac hit on a nifty way to change the company’s trajectory right around the same time Cardamore – a seasoned software developer who’d cut his teeth at Nortel, JDS Uniphase and BlackBerry QNX – came on board.
Recovering 'lost sales'
After more and more customers started complaining that vexing problems such as software glitches and server issues were wreaking havoc with their sales pipelines, Noibu pivoted to become a bug detection service for e-commerce sites.
“That really helps our customers know which issues they need to work on first if they want to recover lost sales,” Cardamore explains.
The company’s new offering caught on almost immediately.
Noibu’s clients now include cosmetics giant Avon, international clothing retailer Jack & Jones and trendy fashion brand Guess. A year ago, the company consisted of its original co-founders and Cardamore, who all worked out of a rented house. Today, Noibu’s headcount sits at 19 and is on track to hit 40 by the end of this year.
“We’ve been able to prove out a sales model and figure out who our customers (are) and how to go and find them,” Cardamore says.
Still, the folks at Noibu weren’t immune from hardships in a tumultuous 2020.
The company fatefully chose March to move into a new office in Hintonburg just as COVID-19 was first detected in the capital.
“We went from home to an office and right back to home again,” Cardamore says with a sigh. “It’s been interesting growing a company and doing it primarily remotely.”
Then, as the pandemic gripped the continent, many merchants “hit the brakes” on discretionary spending while they waited to see how the virus would affect their bottom lines, quickly flattening Noibu’s growth curve.
Luckily for Cardamore and Co., customers didn’t keep their pursestrings closed for long. Online shopping surged as consumers hunkered down at home, making Noibu’s technology more relevant than ever.
“Basically, no one knew what was happening (early in the pandemic) and everyone was deferring decisions,” Cardamore says. “But ever since then, e-commerce has really done well. We’ve been able to grow with (customers), which has been fantastic as well.”
As a new year dawns, the bootstrapped business – which generally prefers to sign customers to yearly deals rather than monthly subscriptions like many software-as-a-service companies – is focused on beefing up its network of sales channel partners.
Now cash-flow positive, Noibu is also bolstering its tech stack with new artificial intelligence capabilities in a bid to continue growing its income from existing clients. The company now reinvests about 40 per cent of its revenues into R&D, a hefty ratio even by SaaS standards.
The key, Cardamore says, is to keep finding new ways to deliver as much value as possible to the firm’s rapidly expanding client roster.
“It’s our goal and we're driving towards that,” he says.