Ottawa’s lands six-figure pre-seed funding round to fuel scaleup bid

Josh Garellek
Josh Garellek is the co-founder of Ottawa software firm, which has been acquired by Texas-based Relevize. File photo

An Ottawa software startup that helps customers expand their marketing and sales partnership networks has landed a six-figure funding round from a group of investors that includes a former top executive at Shopify rival BigCommerce. closed the pre-seed round several weeks ago. Partnership Leaders Investments – an angel investor syndicate that includes executives at Amazon, Google and Salesforce – led the round, which also included participation from Delaware-based FiDi Ventures and angel investors who include a former C-suite leader at BigCommerce, an e-commerce platform that competes with Ottawa-based Shopify.

Co-founder Josh Garellek said the nine-person startup, which has been entirely self-funded until now, generates more than $10,000 a month in recurring revenues despite spending next to nothing on marketing. 

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The veteran entrepreneur – who also co-founded Ottawa-based digital branding and app design firm Arctic Leaf – said the new funding will help PartnerPortal grow exponentially and broaden its market reach.

“We’ve created a very strong brand. This is kind of our coming-out party.”

“We’ve created a very strong brand,” he said. “This is kind of our coming-out party.”

Launched in 2018, PartnerPortal helps companies scale up their sales partnership networks, tracking data such as who is bringing in new business and how much they’re getting paid as well as metrics such as close rates, revenues and commission payments.

Its 30-plus customers include event management software firm and Shopify partner Tapcart, which makes a mobile app aimed at helping merchants on the e-commerce platform boost sales.

Co-founder Josh Garellek said PartnerPortal’s revenues have been doubling year-over-year during the pandemic as software companies beefed up spending on sales and marketing partnerships in a bid to make up for a lack of in-person meetups.

“Networking was shut down and everyone just started looking at alternative channels to increase revenues,” he said. “Everyone started to invest in partnerships.”

Bootstrapping ‘hindered’ development

But Garellek thinks the bootstrapped business is still just scratching the surface of ifs potential, adding it plans to double its headcount over the next year as it looks to land bigger customers.

He wants to bolster PartnerPortal’s software-building bench strength so the company can tailor its platform to the needs of bigger software players such as fintech giant Square and social media management platform HootSuite – two potential clients that were courted by PartnerPortal but ultimately passed on signing deals with the Ottawa firm.

“Being bootstrapped has kind of hindered our product development,” he explained. “That’s where the dollars and cents are really going to be going.”

Garellek said the startup is now in talks with FiDi and other investors about raising a seven-figure seed-funding round. With software companies continuing to expand their partnership networks, he says he expects monthly recurring revenues to approach the $100,000 mark by the end of next year. 

While PartnerPortal currently does most of its business in Canada and the U.S., the company also has clients in Europe, South America and the Middle East, and global opportunities abound, Garellek adds. 

“Every SaaS company since COVID has invested in partnerships,” he said. “We’ve really seen a very big shift in the ecosystem.”

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