Looking to keep their foot on the gas pedal in their quest to conquer new global markets, a pair of fast-rising Ottawa tech firms have tapped the man who helped spearhead Halogen Software’s successful IPO to map their financial strategy.
Decisive Technologies, which makes custom IT solutions for data centres and other customers, and cloud and cybersecurity services provider BriteSky Technologies said Monday they’ve appointed Eric Graham chief financial officer of both companies.
Calling Graham “an exceptional leader with proven financial and strategic acumen,” the firms’ CEO, Mitchell Carkner, said the veteran finance guru will give an extra dimension to the companies’ global expansion efforts.
“Adding Eric to our senior leadership team is a big step forward in our journey to support our customers’ digital transformations,” Carkner said in a statement.
Graham has plenty of experience with crunching numbers at high-growth tech enterprises.
Before taking on his new role, the 49-year-old Waterloo native served as vice-president of finance at two of Ottawa’s biggest tech darlings of the early 2000s.
First up was March Networks, which Graham joined after a brief stint in the same role at semiconductor firm Xmark Corp. (now Instantel). Over the next three-plus years, he helped CEO Peter Strom build the firm into an IP video solutions powerhouse.
$63.5M public offering
Graham then moved on to Halogen in early 2012. He was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Kanata-based talent management software maker’s $63.5-million public offering on the TSX the following year.
Graham continued to serve as vice-president of finance after Halogen was sold to California-based Saba Software in 2017. When Saba itself was acquired last spring, he was suddenly a highly sought-after free agent.
After taking the summer to unwind and spend time with his two teenaged kids, he resumed his job search in earnest last fall. When a headhunter dangled the BriteSky and Decisive opportunity, Graham was intrigued despite being only vaguely familiar with the companies.
The University of Waterloo grad, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from his hometown school, said he had “two primary criteria” for his next employer: “a lot of potential and a great team.”
He soon realized BriteSky and Decisive hit the bull’s-eye on both counts.
"I think (they’re) a bit of a hidden gem in Ottawa."
The two sister companies share common owners and many of the same clients. The firms work hand-in-hand to tailor solutions to customers’ needs, whether it’s providing on-premise hardware or backing up data in the cloud.
“I think (they’re) a bit of a hidden gem in Ottawa,” Graham said Monday. “They’ve had significant growth over the last five years or so, but at the same time I think there’s a lot of untapped potential. They’ve done so well, but there’s so much more that they can do.”
Indeed, both BriteSky and Decisive have distinguished pedigrees.
Founded in 2001, Decisive Technologies has twice made OBJ’s list of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies. BriteSky, meanwhile, just missed making the 2019 edition of the city’s top-performing firms, finishing mere percentage points behind its sister company in 11th place.
In addition to the firms’ alluring upside, Graham said he was sold on Carkner’s vision for the companies. A former executive at IBM and Amazon who took the top job at BriteSky and Decisive last November, Carkner immediately impressed Graham with his business savvy and strategic acumen.
'This is a great team'
“Right from my first meetings with Mitch and the rest of the leaders, I thought, ‘This is a great team,’” he said. “He and I right off the bat established a really good relationship, and that’s so critical. I’ve seen a lot of companies that, even though they have a market-leading product or service, they fail because they don’t have that leadership that can work well together.
“Even though (Carkner) has only been there for a short period of time, he’s doing a really good job of setting a vision and setting the strategy going forward. We’ve got great plans for this company.”
Graham said cybersecurity is a field poised for exponential global growth, and his new employers have all the pieces in place to be a dominant force in the industry.
“It’s a large market, it’s growing fast, and we’ve got expertise to take advantage of that,” he said. “That’s really what I see as the opportunity here.”
Having already steered one Ottawa firm through an IPO, Graham knows all about the risks and rewards of going public. Asked if BriteSky and Decisive would ever consider such a move, he didn’t rule it out.
“It’s hard to say what the future will hold, but we would certainly look at all avenues as we try to determine the best path forward,” Graham said.