Better Software founder enters tech industry with big ambitions

Steve Cody wants you to use better software to run your business.

Ever since he was 15 years old, Mr. Cody has been starting and operating businesses. Despite decades of experience, it wasn’t until recently that he stumbled on software that made the nitty-gritty of business just a little bit easier.

He found better software, so he founded the Better Software Company.

It’s a straightforward name for a man with a very unusual career path. 

A serial entrepreneur if there ever was one, Mr. Cody got an early start in the game, buying and selling cottage properties while he was still in high school.

“Kinda grew up in the projects, single mother, we didn’t really have a lot of money. I had to find a way to make my own money,” he recalls.

By Grade 10, he was ready to branch out. He left school at 16 to begin a career that would see him start the largest window-washing company in Ottawa, followed by a scaffolding business, a Halloween specialty store and a party rentals venture among others.

This run of successful startups kept leading Mr. Cody back to a familiar problem: the lack of a universal tool to help owners with the minutia of managing a business. He noticed that essential tasks such as invoicing, scheduling and marketing were all being done rather inefficiently through different applications.

“I reached out to a guy from Nortel and said, ‘Look, can you build me one application, so that I don’t have to be doing this all the time?’”

The result? Better software.

It took a while before Mr. Cody, who by his own admission is no tech wiz, realized what he had in front of him. A friend in the technology business told him he should start selling the software he was using to run his businesses.

The time had come for Mr. Cody to reinvent himself once again.

“I sold off my businesses, kind of burnt my ships,” he says. “And last August I incorporated the Better Software Company.”

The company is built around a simple yet critical question for small-business owners: “How can we automate processes to make you money, and how can we automate processes to save you money?”

There was only one problem: Cody had no idea how to run a tech startup.

“I understood business, but I didn’t understand anything about technology. I couldn’t even do a PowerPoint presentation,” he says.

An advertisement for L-Spark, the Kanata-based incubator and accelerator program focused on cloud and software-as-a-service companies, proved to be the answer.

Initially, L-Spark turned him down after the person who did his pitch for him –Mr. Cody had no experience in presentations – faltered. The Better Software founder needed to do some convincing to get a second chance. 

The near-miss almost cost him a pivotal opportunity.

“It’s hard to think after 25 years that you’re doing to do something life-changing. And for me, L-Spark was life-changing,” he says.

A partnership between Wesley Clover International and Invest Ottawa, L-Spark is focused on taking advantage of a local industry rich with expertise in enterprise software, says managing director Leo Lax. These SaaS veterans, whom Mr. Lax calls “sherpas,” are on-hand at L-Spark to mentor companies such as Better Software.

“The intense engagement with an entrepreneur and the mentor is one of the experiences that is different, or unique, in the L-Spark environment,” Mr. Lax says.

To that end, Mr. Cody’s mentor Laurie Davis, the founder of the Capital Angel Network, took a vested interest in the company, moving from guiding to investing to working as the COO at Better Software. Together, they assembled a team capable of realizing the startup’s full potential.

When Mr. Cody first joined L-Spark in January, his company had just four employees, none of whom were developers. Nine months later, 33 employees work at Better Software – including 10 developers. 

Nearly every person who works for Mr. Cody took a pay cut to do so.

“I wanted to create something really special,” he says. “They believe in it.”

The company has already raised $750,000 in seed funding, with another $250,000 in the works. It comes out of beta in November and has offices set up in eight countries around the world via Wesley Clover International’s network. 

Mr. Cody says that connecting with people such as Terry Matthews, the magnate behind Wesley Clover and a hundred other tech companies, is another big benefit of the L-Spark experience.

“You’ve got a guy who’s knighted from the Queen who actually wants to spend time and learn more about the business, which is just amazing in itself.”

Mr. Cody has audacious goals for Better Software, including a billion dollars in revenue after five years. That might seem bold, but he says there’s something different about this business compared with his previous endeavours.

“I never really had a passion for the product,” he concedes. “In this case, I have a real passion for the product, and the outcome, because I get to do what I love to do: helping small business owners.”