Techopia Live: How Wicket is transforming the association management industry

Less than five years ago, the co-founders of Wicket set out to disrupt an industry by launching an integrated platform to help associations manage their data.

Fast forward to 2021, and the firm has bootstrapped its way to this year's list of Ottawa's fastest-growing companies and is rapidly expanding into the U.S. market.

This is an edited transcript from the Techopia Live podcast with co-founder Jeff Horne.

Could you tell us about Wicket?

Wicket is the world’s first member data platform. What that really means is that we are serving the association market – think professional associations, trade associations, across North America and providing them with what we consider a real, true hub for their very rich membership data, and then connecting that data within their ecosystem of other software tools. Wicket really is the disruptor within the association management software landscape. We help (customers) to manage the integration of this rich data across an entire ecosystem of software tools instead of trying to do everything in one platform.

How did the idea for Wicket come about?

Industrial is a website design and development agency that I’ve owned for 21 years. The idea for Wicket was born within that company. We were working in the association sector and we were hearing from our customers over and over again that they hated their AMS systems. They subscribe to different software tools, but their data would become very siloed because it was difficult to integrate. About seven years ago, we started building what is today Wicket. We separated Wicket from Industrial in 2017 and now operate the companies as separate entities.

How big of a challenge was it to integrate all those different platforms?

It’s probably one of our bigger challenges as a company. It’s hard to stay on top of changes that might be happening in software tools (customers) are using. Monitoring infrastructure is a big part of what we do. It’s also making sure we’re engaged with the other vendors that we’re integrated with in understanding any forthcoming changes to their APIs or different ways that we’re integrated with them.

How did you grow your customer base?

We were fortunate that we had some national health-care associations very early on that were pushing us to build Wicket. They said, ‘If you will commit to this, we will pay you.’ They were willing to take the risk of working with us because we had built a trusting relationship with them. Throughout that journey, we had to re-architect more than once. But over time, as we started to bring other customers on, the product just kept evolving. Today, we’re lucky that the bulk of new customer acquisition now is coming from south of the border. We’ve really been focused on landing some key strategic customers instead of just trying to bring in every single customer we possibly could.

Can you give me an example of a customer expansion that has helped propel Wicket forward?

Here in Canada, the Canadian Society of Association Executives or CSAE is the association of associations. CSAE really is the national voice for the association community here in Canada, and they licensed Wicket about two years ago. They’re a very successful, referenceable customer for us. As we’ve gone into the U.S. market, we’ve been very strategic about specific customers that we’d like to work with. We’re almost at the point where we’re going to be licensing the American Society of Association Executives, the CSA’s equivalent in the United States, which is really the most influential customer in the world in our market. It’s very exciting. It’ll really put us in a position for growth in 2022.

You’ve won a bootstrapped marketing award. How much has marketing been part of your customer and brand strategy?

Because we came from a website design and development background, we really understand the importance of having a strong brand. Wicket’s brand is very strong and unique. We get a ton of feedback within the market that they love our brand and it really stands out. We’re not picking up the phone, calling associations and trying to sell them on Wicket. Instead, we push a lot of content out to the market. For us, really it’s a content marketing play, educating the market and having a very strong brand to back that up. 

What’s your vision for the future?

I think as we look to 2022, it’s all about growth. It’s about growing our customer base and getting our message out there and pushing our marketing message even harder. Certainly, we’ll be getting back to boots on the ground in the U.S. market as well. We’ll be spending time in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, which are the two major hubs in the U.S. for associations. We’ll be adding to our team as we continue to scale, and before the end of 2022, there’s potential that we’ll look for an outside fundraising round as well