Buoyed by a timely pivot that’s seen usage of its products soar during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa’s Solink now has plenty of extra runway for future growth thanks to a major new funding round.
The local security and data analytics software firm said Friday it’s landed a $23-million series-B round led by the venture capital arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. Previous investors Valor Equity Partners, ScaleUp Ventures and BDC IT Ventures also participated in the round.
OMERS Ventures partner Laura Lenz, who was at Generation Ventures when that firm invested in Solink’s previous rounds, will join the company’s board.
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“It was just a really good fit,” Solink CEO Mike Matta said of his company’s partnership with OMERS. “We were executing according to plan, and things just worked out really well.”
Solink’s products integrate video surveillance footage with technology such as point-of-sale platforms and inventory tracking tools. Its artificial intelligence software then analyzes that data to help clients flag suspicious activities and spot inefficiencies in workflows.
Many of Solink’s 900 customers are quick-service restaurants and retailers that were forced to close their doors when the coronavirus swept the globe. Matta said the company soon realized store owners needed a way to monitor their properties remotely, so it quickly added an upgrade to its platform that would alert customers on their desktops or mobile devices every time someone entered their premises, with instant links to video footage.
Solink offered the new security alert function to all of its customers for free, a move that clearly paid off. A few weeks into the pandemic, use of its products had jumped 70 per cent.
“You have the ability to really get a full 360 (degree) view of your business without actually being in the business,” Matta said. “For us, we saw it as an opportunity to say, ‘Look, we’ve got the best sensor possible on location.’ (Video) doesn’t lie.”
Founded in 2009, Solink now has about 80 employees. The firm is currently riding a streak of three consecutive appearances on OBJ’s list of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies, and Matta hopes the new influx of venture capital – which brings the company’s total funding haul to more than $40 million – will help it stay in that groove.
While it’s currently focused on the banking, retail and restaurant sectors – among its customers are franchises of Tim Hortons and Five Guys Burgers & Fries – Matta says Solink has plenty of room to branch out into other verticals.
Eyeing warehouse sector
He sees a golden opportunity in warehouses and distribution centres, for example. Marrying video footage with data from scanners that record every time a product is removed from a shelf and packaged could supply e-commerce firms with an “audit trail of everything that was done,” he said, helping those customers pinpoint areas where orders could be fulfilled faster and more effectively.
“It’s not like, ‘Here’s a camera and here’s the recording,’” Matta explained. “It’s, ‘How do I operate my business more efficiently and how do we go deeper within the business to find those efficiencies?’ That’s what our system allows you to do. That context around video is so much richer than traditional business intelligence.”
Matta said Solink also needs to do a better job of penetrating the verticals it’s already in. While subscription-based revenues from existing customers are growing at more than 140 per cent a year – one of the highest rates in the industry – its products are still found in only a quarter of its customers’ franchise or retail locations.
Matta said raising that ratio requires refining Solink’s software to the point where retail managers and restaurant franchisees feel it’s indispensable.
“How do we continue to build that level of personalization and customization in the product such that every customer can turn around and say, ‘This feels like it was purpose-built for us?’” he said.
The CEO said the firm will “continue to grow in a disciplined way,” seeking out the best talent wherever it finds it, whether in Ottawa or beyond. About 20 per cent of Solink’s workforce now lives outside the National Capital Region.
At the end of the day, Matta said, success comes from hiring the right people and letting them do their jobs.
“Growth is the byproduct of doing everything else well.”