Allan Wille has stepped down as head of Klipfolio, handing the reins of the software firm he co-founded 17 years ago to a seasoned tech executive in a bid to speed up the company’s growth.
Owen Sagness replaced Wille as CEO of Klipfolio on Monday. The University of Waterloo graduate’s previous stops included nearly 20 years at Microsoft, where he started as a product manager in Toronto in 1996 and worked his way up to become general manager of the tech giant’s advertising and online operations in the United Kingdom.
Wille said he will continue to play a key role at the venture he helped launch in 2001 and built into one of the city’s leading enterprise software companies. He told OBJ he felt he’d taken the firm as far as he could as chief executive and will now devote more time to areas such as product development.
“I’m incredibly passionate about so many things, but at some point, I think most businesses will go through a phase where, ‘Let’s bring somebody in who can really help us move to the next level,’” Wille said, adding the chance to bring someone with Sagness’s pedigree on board made the decision much easier.
“There’s absolutely no substitute for somebody that has had Owen’s level of growth experience and I think that is what I am most excited about. Somebody who has run at that level and that speed is somebody who can really help us shape the future decisions that we make.”
From vision to execution
Sagness’s career in B-to-B sales, operations, marketing and business development included early stints at Nortel and Hewlett-Packard. After leaving Microsoft in 2015, he spent a year and a half leading cloud-based sales platform AppNexus’s team in northern Europe before a brief tenure as general manager of Toronto-based employee rewards platform Achievers.
Sagness knew members of Klipfolio’s board but had never met Wille until September. He said it didn’t take him long to realize his skill set would be an ideal complement to Wille’s talents.
“Allan is a visionary in terms of the product,” Sagness said. “He’s got a very, very deep background in the (business intelligence) space. I think where I can certainly add value is on the go-to-market side.”
Sagness has built a reputation as a manager whose teams regularly surpass revenue growth targets, accumulating several industry sales awards during his time at Microsoft.
“If you look at my background, it’s always been about taking something and growing it and making it bigger,” he said, adding he believes Klipfolio is at a “really interesting inflection point in its history” where it’s poised to take a massive leap forward.
Sagness said he sees huge market potential in Klipfolio’s technology, which provides a cloud-based dashboard for SMEs to report key business metrics such as monthly recurring revenue virtually in real time.
‘An explosion of data’
The downtown-based firm has grown dramatically since reinventing itself as a subscription-based software platform in 2011, doubling its customer base every year en route to becoming one of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies.
Klipfolio currently has about 11,000 clients and employs nearly 100 people, but Sagness believes the firm is barely scratching the surface of its potential.
“There’s an explosion of data,” he said, noting up to 40 billion devices are expected to be connected to the internet within the next few years.
“How do people make sense of all that data? It’s really, really difficult. The companies that are going to be really central are the ones that can kind of harness that explosion of devices and data. Every business wants to tell a story and present their data in a rational form. There’s millions of potential customers around the world that can use Klipfolio.”
Sagness said his goal will be to accelerate Klipfolio’s growth curve without sacrificing the guiding principles that have made it successful so far.
“There’s a level of structure and process that needs to be introduced to prepare the company to grow,” he explained. “The old, ‘Hey, Fred, down the hall,’ just shouting doesn’t work anymore. What got you here isn’t necessarily what’s going to get you to the next stage.”
"I'm here for the long haul. I believe in the (company's) future."
Although Wille said “time will tell” exactly what his new role will look like, he assured OBJ he’s not going anywhere.
“I’m here for the long haul,” he said with a smile. “I completely believe in the (company’s) future.”
Sagness’s appointment continues an overhaul of Klipfolio’s C-suite that also included the recent hirings of chief product officer David Mennie and chief financial officer Gord Wyse.