As wireless network traffic has soared during the pandemic, an Ottawa firm that helps ensure that data has a smooth path to its final destination is revving up its hiring engine to meet surging demand for its hardware and software.
Solace says it plans to boost its global headcount from its current 400 to more than 500 over the next 12 months as it diversifies beyond its traditional core customer base in the financial services sector.
The firm began branching out into other verticals such as transportation, retail, manufacturing and gaming a few years ago and is now fielding calls from large organizations around the world, says Shawn McAllister, Solace’s chief technology and chief product officer.
“The (verticals) that we focused on were big, but now we’ve just seen it explode everywhere,” he says. “Everybody’s got a real-time streaming, a real-time analytics, a real-time connectivity strategy.”
In a world where streams of data are constantly flowing from one point to another at lightning speed through a series of “events” – say, the swipe of a credit card or a scan of a boarding pass – Solace’s products smooth out bumps along the way, ensuring that traffic moves between data centres, mobile devices, software applications and all points in between as quickly and securely as possible.
As an example, McAllister cites travellers whose airline reward miles balances are updated when their boarding passes are scanned.
Any delays in that transaction could mean missing out on additional benefits during the flight, and Solace’s technology helps make sure frequent flyers get all the upgraded seats, discounts and other perks they’re entitled to in short order.
Who's-who of multinationals
“You expect all this stuff to just work together,” he says, referring to the myriad of devices and software platforms that are constantly speaking to each other in cyberspace.
The company’s 200-plus customers include marquee names such as Barclays, RBC, Renault and enterprise management software giant SAP.
McAllister says that over the past 18 months, the firm has added a who’s-who of new multinationals to its roster as the COVID-19 crisis upended every industry – prompting companies to ditch paper-based transactions and go all in on digital and pushing brick-and-mortar retailers to shift their operations online practically overnight.
On top of that, he says, emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles employ a growing array of sensors and other tech that is putting additional strain on wireless networks.
All in all, it’s added up to a mountain of new opportunities, and Solace is beginning to reap the rewards. Its big customer gains over the past 18 months include German supermarket chain EDEKA, one of Europe’s largest food retailers, and a major automaker.
In addition, SAP, which has more than 400,000 customers worldwide, signed a partnership with Solace that will see it act as a reseller for the Ottawa firm’s products.
“The opportunity for us in that space is massive,” McAllister says.
Now, he says, it’s up to Solace to make good on that promise.
The firm is looking to hire at least 50 engineers and developers at its Ottawa-based R&D operations in the next six months as it ramps up efforts to tailor its software to the specific needs of its clients. Meanwhile, it’s building out its sales and marketing teams to field all those requests from wannabe customers.
Successful hiring campaign
Even in today’s ultra-competitive tech talent market, McAllister says Solace has so far managed to find the skilled employees it needs, thanks to a successful employee referral drive and the firm’s mix of hardware and software development streams.
“We’re finding people are very interested in that,” he says.
Solace’s hiring binge marks another big step for a firm that’s on its greatest run of success after two decades in business.
Launched in 2001 with backing from Kanata tech godfather Terry Matthews, Solace eventually raised more than $60 million in venture capital from a variety of investors before New York-based equity firm Bridge Growth Partners acquired a $100-million majority stake in the firm in 2016.
A key turning point came the following year when tech veteran Les Rechan took over for founding CEO Craig Betts.
"People who buy our technology, it’s for the long term. Now we have to deliver on that road map."
Rechan spearheaded the transformation of what was predominantly a hardware company catering to the financial services sector into an enterprise that now generates nearly half its revenues from cloud-based software and serves customers in a much broader range of industries.
When Rechan left Solace early last year, his replacement, longtime company executive Denis King, vowed to keep the good times rolling. So far, he’s lived up to that pledge.
Solace’s cloud and software revenues rose 63 per cent in 2020 as new customers rushed to the platform and existing clients embraced the SaaS model, and the company expects the cloud and software segment to overtake traditional hardware sales for the first time in 2021.
McAllister sees no slowdown in sight for Solace in its bid to fast-track the global flow of data.
“People who buy our technology, it’s for the long term,” he says. “It’s both for what we have today and the road map going forward. Now we have to deliver on that road map.”