'We’re one of the best-kept secrets in Canadian software:' QuickSilk looks to ramp up growth

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A small Ottawa firm that’s battling the likes of WordPress for market share in the crowded content management system space hopes a coveted spot on a new government procurement platform for SMEs will be a springboard to growth in Canada at the same time as it looks to expand its international footprint.

Launched by tech veteran Garry Brownrigg in 2010, QuickSilk makes software designed to marry the drag-and-drop convenience of web-building platforms such as Squarespace and Wix with the robust security of products such as Microsoft SharePoint.

The 12-employee firm has more than 100 customers, most of them government and not-for-profit organizations such as the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the World Bank and the University of Ottawa. 

For most of the last decade, QuickSilk has followed a “slow, gradual, grind-it-out” growth path, according to Brownrigg. But the founder and CEO hopes that will change now that QuickSilk is part of GCloud.ca Marketplace, a new online store designed to streamline the government procurement process for small businesses like his.

"In Canada, it’s really hard for small businesses to sell into the federal government."

QuickSilk is the first software-as-a-service firm on the platform, which requires vendors to meet nearly 140 rigorous criteria set out by Shared Services Canada and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. Pre-approved companies can effectively cut through multiple layers of red tape when vying for lucrative government contracts.

“In Canada, it’s really hard for small businesses to sell into the federal government,” Brownrigg says. 

“There’s a lot of really great products in Canada that deserve to be (used) in the federal government. I love the whole ‘made in Canada’ initiative and wrapping ourselves in the Canadian flag. But I think the next big piece in this equation is for the government to actually embrace Canadian SaaS publishers through a marketplace like this.”

The system is currently open only to bidders on federal contracts, but is expected to be expanded to cover provincial and municipal government suppliers in the future.

Brownrigg ​– a former banker who shifted to a career in tech after he was diagnosed with laryngeal dystonia, a rare disorder that causes spasms in the vocal cords and affects the ability to talk ​– says he expects GCloud to smooth his firm’s path to more lucrative deals with government clients across the country.

Global expansion

But he also sees massive opportunities in other parts of the world for QuickSilk. 

Currently, the company earns more than 90 per cent of its revenues from North American-based customers. Brownrigg says QuickSilk is forging new partnerships that are opening doors to potential sales in other continents, including Africa.

“We see a huge opportunity internationally,” he explains.

Meanwhile, the firm is looking to push further into the philanthropic sector through alliances with organizations such as Keela, a B.C.-based tech company that helps charities and other non-profits better manage their workflows. 

In addition, Brownrigg sees huge market upside in QuickSilk’s ability to easily integrate videoconferencing apps such as Cisco Webex as well as other communications tools into its platform. With the pandemic accelerating the trend toward a hybrid work model, he sees QuickSilk as a means to “bring together” employees who are split between home and the office. 

The CEO says he’s confident that after a decade of adhering to a steady-as-she-goes approach, QuickSilk is poised to achieve double-digit revenue growth over the next 12 months and plans to boost its headcount accordingly.

The firm has received about half a million dollars in angel funding to date, and it’s now laying the groundwork for a series-A round to help fuel its scaleup drive. Brownrigg says QuickSilk clearly has the goods, and now it’s a matter of getting that message out to the global marketplace. 

“We have a solid, reputable product,” he says, pointing to the firm’s enviable 99 per cent customer retention rate. 

“The people who are with us, they love us. One of our clients once said to us we’re one of the best-kept secrets in Canadian software. What we need to do is raise our brand and raise our visibility.”