Ottawa digital marketing agency eyes software push as revenues soar during pandemic

Sidi.io lands $40K IRAP grant to develop SaaS-based sales-booking tool for SMEs

Sidi founder
Sidi founder

In a way, Riaz Sidi and the growing team at the digital marketing company that bears his name have been preparing for the COVID-19 lockdown for years.

The longtime resident of Orl​éans launched his firm, Sidi.io, in early 2017 after a stint in sales and marketing with the Ottawa Citizen and its parent company, Postmedia, that saw him work his way up to the role of national training manager. 

Now, after carving out a niche over the past few years helping clients boost their online and social media presence, Sidi and his co-workers suddenly find themselves busier than ever as the pandemic forces companies big and small to step up their digital games and pivot from traditional brick-and-mortar sales to a focus on e-commerce.

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Since the lockdown began, Sidi.io has been on a hiring spree, boosting its headcount from three to 10. Meanwhile, after plummeting 65 per cent in the first few weeks of the pandemic, the agency’s revenues have bounced back with a vengeance – sales have hit new highs each month from June through August and are now roughly double what they were in March.

Sidi and his colleagues, who’ve been based out of home offices for years, even got a headstart on the remote work craze. The Algonquin journalism grad-turned-entrepreneur says that while many other companies might have struggled trying to figure out how to keep up employee morale during the lockdown, it’s been business as usual for his agency.

“That sense of paralysis is probably what has hurt a lot of companies,” he says.   

Sidi says his firm sensed early on in the pandemic that traditional retail customers would need to dramatically shift their sales approach as physical stores began shutting their doors. 

He created a “COVID-19 response plan” aimed at schooling clients on the need to focus on social media marketing campaigns through platforms such as Facebook. In addition, he worked with brick-and-mortar clients such as well-known Orl​éans jeweller La Maison d’Or, helping it transition to offering virtual Zoom appointments after its physical location in Place Orl​éans was forced to close its doors.

Digital marketing software platform

Among the company’s other clients are security firm Commissionaires Ottawa and Hydro One Telecom. Sidi says a big chunk of the firm’s business comes from tech enterprises ​– noting they are often much better at dreaming up cutting-edge products than selling them.

Now, after years of helping SaaS firms sell their services, Sidi.io is getting ready to enter the software space itself. 

The self-funded enterprise recently landed a $40,000 grant from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program to develop a subscription-based tool that will allow SMEs to book their own advanced digital marketing campaigns.

Sidi says the software is designed to “demystify” digital marketing platforms and help users better target potential customers.

“The challenge is smaller businesses competing for ad space on social media are up against corporate giants with astronomical budgets,” he says. “Our tool will level the playing field.” 

The IRAP cash is the only outside funding the company has received so far, and Sidi says he’s in no hurry to seek out additional financial partners. His firm, he says, is doing just fine as it is.

“I like being bootstrapped,” Sidi explains with a smile. “Nobody can tell me what to do.”

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