While a pandemic-induced economic downturn might not seem like the best time to launch a new tech startup, veteran entrepreneurs Derik Belair and Gavin Garbutt say the market is right where they want it as they begin test-driving their new product.
Belair and Garbutt are the co-founders of Augmentt Technology, a brand-new venture that aims to help SMEs better manage the wide array of cloud-based software applications they use on a daily basis.
The new platform provides customers with a detailed breakdown of all the cloud-based tools they employ, showing exactly who uses them and how often. Belair and Garbutt say the system is designed to offer a sober second look at the multitude of software applications – think everything from file-sharing platforms like Dropbox to the Microsoft 365 suite of products – that enterprises often buy without considering whether they really need them.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the global economy to crater, SMEs were already casting a critical eye on their monthly software spending, Belair says. Now that more employees are using videoconferencing tools such as Zoom to work remotely and cash-strapped companies are looking to pinch every penny they can, “the demand for this type of solution has been meteoric,” he explains.
“It’s been just (an) incredible amount of interest in understanding how to manage that SaaS sprawl. That’s really what we’re all about.”
Belair also says too many companies fail to rein in the use of unauthorized software, which can open the door to hackers and other security risks. He says Augmentt’s platform can help detect such chinks in a company’s armour before they become major fault lines.
“Why is somebody using Dropbox and what are they putting in there? We help shed light on what is truly the usage of these applications, why they’re being used, how they’re being used and how that lines up with corporate policy.”
Garbutt says the average company probably spends 30 to 40 per cent more on SaaS applications than it needs to. Many applications are never used at all, too often more licences are bought than are required, competing software is often used to perform similar tasks and many companies subscribe to the “gold level when they need the silver level,” he explains.
He says the fledgling firm’s sweet spot is companies that have between 200 and 2,000 employees.
“That’s really where SaaS usage tends to be very rampant,” he says, noting larger corporations tend to have tighter controls on software usage. “Organizations are leveraging a lot more tools than they know what to do with.”
Started from the bottom
When it comes to risks, Garbutt is well aware that the current economic environment poses more than a few of them for a bootstrapped startup that has yet to record an official sale. But Garbutt says he and Belair have got a bit of history on their side as they take their latest entrepreneurial leap of faith.
Twenty years ago – right when Ottawa’s original dot-com boom went bust and scores of companies disappeared seemingly overnight – Garbutt launched IT management software firm N-Able Technologies. Belair joined the young enterprise soon afterward as its head of marketing.
Despite the seemingly grim prospects of the local economy at the time, N-Able grew to more than 150 employees and had annual revenues of nearly $30 million when it was sold to Texas-based SolarWinds in 2013 for $120 million. Garbutt says he sees no reason why Augmentt can’t have similar success.
“To be honest with you, I kind of like the idea of starting a business at the bottom of the cycle and building it up through the growth of the next cycle,” he says, adding he feels he and his longtime business partner are debuting their newest project in “exactly the right place at exactly the right time.”
The company now has about a dozen employees and expects to at least double that number within a year. Belair and Garbutt have already begun tapping into their business networks in a bid to drum up angel investment, and they say they’re committed to Augmentt for the long haul.
“We’re very excited about building this business the way we did with N-Able and making this a huge tech business in Ottawa,” Belair says.