Cloud has silver lining for Klipfolio

Klipfolio has learned that a decade-long wait can pay off with some sweet perks.

As co-founder and CEO Allan Wille says, “It’s not just me and a couple of buddies any more.” The online business dashboard software company launched its highly successful cloud-based service in early 2012, marking the beginning of three consecutive years of unprecedented growth for the 14-year-old firm. 

In January 2014, the company landed $1.7 million in seed funding. It responded by tripling its monthly recurring revenue and more than doubling its staff and customer base last year.

Now at 32 employees, Klipfolio is getting ready to take over the entire second floor of its office at 176 Gloucester St., an expansion that will double its office space to 5,000 square feet. 

“We’re definitely on a tear,” says Mr. Wille, adding it’s one that’s long overdue after only modest growth during the company’s first 10 years. “We were successful, we had a good product that was satisfying some good needs … but we never hit it out of the park.” 

Things began to really take off when Klipfolio – which was known as Serence until 2008 – decided it was time to abandon the traditional sales cycle. 

In the “old days,” firms would send dozens of “shiny shoe” salespeople out on the road to take clients out for lunch and rounds of golf, hoping to make big-ticket sales that would take a long time to implement and evaluate, all the while burning through company cash. Customers would then have to download the software, install it and deal with procurement and legal requirements before finally getting the program running.

Klipfolio’s model – part of a growing trend among software-as-a-service providers following in the footsteps of California-based cloud computing giant Salesforce – lets customers skip all that. Organizations and their departments can find software that looks promising, sign up for a trial run with their credit card and quickly test the product out to see if it’s indeed a good fit.

“It is a growing phenomenon in the enterprise software space,” says Mike Weider, a local serial entrepreneur who currently runs Clearwater Clinical and sits on the boards of several Ottawa companies, among them Klipfolio. 

“What’s happening is more of a bottom-up adoption of technology, whereas in the past it was really sold from the top down,” he says. 

The cloud makes all that possible, both Mr. Wille and Mr. Weider say. 

“The cloud allowed us to make it easy,” says Mr. Wille. “You don’t have to download anything, you don’t have to install anything. It made it powerful … and it made it affordable.”

The launch of Klipfolio’s cloud-based service in 2012 marked a “rebirth moment” for the company, which at the time had just nine employees. The firm captured 350 new customers that year, doubling the number it had managed to accrue in the entire previous decade. In 2013, its client base shot up to 1,100. By the end of 2014, it had surpassed 2,500. 

Given that trajectory, Mr. Wille says he aims to hit 15,000 or even 20,000 customers within the next two years. Without the need to station salespeople all over the world, Klipfolio can keep growing strictly in Ottawa – just the way the staff likes it. The firm expanded its head count by 19 last year and plans to hire another 20 people this year in sales, support and research and development.

“I was really blown away by how well they’re doing,” says Mr. Weider. “And I think they’re becoming less of a closely held secret and really starting to get a presence in Ottawa and in the whole industry at large.”

An added perk to Klipfolio having a comparatively long history is that the company’s name very often winds up in the prime spots in search engine results, says Mr. Wille. The team has been talking about dashboards, real-time metrics, analytics, data visualization and other business intelligence for more than a decade, helping to build its online brand recognition not only among prospective customers, but on Google too. 

“If you’ve been talking about these themes consistently for the past 10 years, Google says, ‘Hey, you’re an expert.’ And if somebody’s doing a search … we’ll show up as No. 1, 2 or 3,” he explains. 

“We have something like 300 search terms where Google puts us in the top three. And of those, I think there are 36 of them where we’re No. 1.”

Now that Klipfolio continues to grow at a steady clip, Mr. Wille says the pressure’s on to run a smart shop. 

With a deepening pool of investors and a quickly expanding office full of dedicated workers, the stakes are higher than they were 10 years ago.

“If you’re flying pretty low, you can probably crash-land and be OK,” he says. “We’re flying at a different altitude now. And we’re flying higher and higher.” 

 

KLIPFOLIO: THE FACTS

President and CEO: Allan Wille

Founded: 2001 as Serence

Rebranded: 2008 as Klipfolio

Number of employees: 32

Customers: 2,500

Growth: Doubled customers and tripled revenues in 2014