Fuse­bill’s 6 mil­lion rea­sons to smile

Soft­ware com­pany lands key in­vest­ment — and new board mem­ber with ma­jor cred

Ottawa Business Journal - - Front Page - BY DAVID SALI david@obj.ca

Firm that spe­cial­izes in re­cur­ring billing so­lu­tions says it’s ready to take on the world from its Herzberg Road head of­fice

When Greg Bur­well and Tyler Eyamie were laid off as part of a purge at Ot­tawa tech firm Pro­tus in 2010, they found them­selves with plenty of time and a “lit­tle bit of a nest egg” to start the next phase of their lives as en­trepreneurs.

But as any as­tute busi­nessper­son knows, time and money aren’t enough to build a suc­cess­ful com­pany – you need to have a mar­ketable so­lu­tion to a prob­lem that cus­tomers want solved.

As it turns out, Mr. Bur­well and Mr. Eyamie fig­ured they had that, too.

They’d seen first­hand how Pro­tus, which in­voiced more than a half-mil­lion cus­tomers ev­ery month, em­ployed eight full-time staffers to man­age its ar­chaic billing sys­tem – a “slow-mov­ing Ti­tan­ic­type beast,” in the words of Mr. Eyamie.

There had to be a way to make re­cur­ring billing more ef­fi­cient, they thought. And if they found it, they could put Ot­tawa on the map in a space that was ripe for dis­rup­tion.

Their search for an an­swer led to Fuse­bill, which now em­ploys more than 30 peo­ple and is a fix­ture on OBJ’s an­nual list of fastest-grow­ing com­pa­nies. The Kanata firm’s cloud-based plat­form has won hun­dreds of cus­tomers in Canada and the United States, even though the com­pany has de­voted most of its ef­forts so far to per­fect­ing its tech­nol­ogy rather than mar­ket­ing it. That’s about to change. Fuse­bill an­nounced ear­lier this month that it has landed $6 mil­lion in fresh ven­ture cap­i­tal, which it plans to spend on beef­ing up its sales and mar­ket­ing team in an ef­fort to take the busi­ness “to that next level,” says Mr. Eyamie, Fuse­bill’s CEO.

Toronto-based ScaleUP Ven­tures is lead­ing the lat­est round along with Wash­ing­ton, D.C.’s Langdell In­vest­ments, with ad­di­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion from past in­vestors OMERS Ven­tures and BDC Cap­i­tal. ScaleUP man­ag­ing part­ner Kent Thex­ton, a for­mer man­ag­ing direc­tor of OMERS Ven­tures, will also be­come chair­man of the Fuse­bill board.

Mr. Eyamie calls Mr. Thex­ton a “billing do­main ex­per­tise beast” and says he couldn’t have asked for a more ex­pe­ri­enced in­dus­try vet­eran to help guide the com­pany through its next stage of growth.

“It all kind of came to­gether per­fectly,” he says in a chat with OBJ at Fuse­bill’s

“It is a com­pletely un­der­served mar­ket. There are very few com­pa­nies glob­ally that un­der­stand the se­cret sauce to be suc­cess­ful in that space.” – ROB SUTHER­LAND, FUSE­BILL’S NEW CHIEF REV­ENUE OF­FI­CER

head of­fice on Herzberg Road.

The com­pany has also brought soft­ware in­dus­try vet­eran Rob Suther­land on board as its chief rev­enue of­fi­cer.

Mr. Suther­land, a for­mer vi­cepres­i­dent and direc­tor of in­ter­na­tional sales at lo­cal hu­man re­sources soft­ware firm Halo­gen, says he sees a “fun­da­men­tal shift” to­ward a sub­scrip­tion-based billing model in the soft­ware in­dus­try and be­lieves Fuse­bill is only scratch­ing the sur­face of its po­ten­tial.

“It is a com­pletely un­der­served mar­ket,” he says. “There are very few com­pa­nies glob­ally that un­der­stand the se­cret sauce to be suc­cess­ful in that space.”

Like Halo­gen, Fuse­bill is set­ting its sights on the small and medi­um­sized busi­ness seg­ment, par­tic­u­larly in North Amer­ica, the United King­dom and Aus­tralia. It is tar­get­ing cus­tomers with an­nual sales of any­where from a half-mil­lion dol­lars to $100 mil­lion that are strug­gling to ef­fi­ciently in­voice cus­tomers, chase down past-due ac­counts and man­age the over­all billing process.

“They ei­ther have hu­mans or they have some kind of home­grown (sys­tem) that they’ve put to­gether to get them to where they are,” Mr. Eyamie says. “It’s a real green­field op­por­tu­nity right now. There are no real so­lu­tions in place.”

That seg­ment, he says, could be worth up to $8 bil­lion and is there for the tak­ing. That op­por­tu­nity caught the at­ten­tion of Mr. Thex­ton, who is also chair­man of the board at Toronto-based Red­knee, which makes con­verged billing soft­ware used by such telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions giants as AT&T and T-Mo­bile.

“The mar­ket likes (Fuse­bill’s) prod­uct,” he says. “I knew Fuse­bill from my time at OMERS Ven­tures, and Tyler and the team have done a great job of go­ing through that val­ley-of-death pe­riod, the hard times of es­tab­lish­ing your prod­uct mar­ket fit, and they’re re­ally start­ing to hit some strides.

“Tyler and Greg did a great job of buck­ling down and mak­ing it work. That for­ti­tude, that just-get-it-done at­ti­tude, im­pressed me a lot.”

While the com­pany has de­voted most of its sweat and toil so far to de­vel­op­ing what it feels is a mar­ket-lead­ing prod­uct, it’s now time “to put the pedal to the metal” in its sales and mar­ket­ing ef­forts, Mr. Eyamie ac­knowl­edges.

Mr. Thex­ton agrees. He notes the firm does face a heavy­weight com­peti­tor in Zuora, a cloud-based sub­scrip­tion billing plat­form made in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia that tends to tar­get larger cus­tomers than Fuse­bill.

He says Fuse­bill needs to fo­cus on its sys­tem’s strengths – sim­plic­ity and ease of use among them – and get its grow­ing sales staff in front of more po­ten­tial clients.

“There’s lots of op­por­tu­nity right now,” Mr. Thex­ton says. “The mar­ket po­ten­tial is huge. In a lot of mar­kets, you can have a No. 1 and a No. 2, and

they’re both very suc­cess­ful. I think the op­por­tu­nity is to re­ally ... dif­fer­en­ti­ate from Zuora, beat out the other com­pe­ti­tion and fill that void.”

Mr. Eyamie sounds like he’s up for the chal­lenge, pre­dict­ing Fuse­bill will be at nearly 60 em­ploy­ees be­fore the end of 2016. He says other Ot­tawa firms such as Shopify and Halo­gen took years to be­come “overnight suc­cesses,” adding there’s no rea­son why Fuse­bill can’t join that list. The com­pany has yet to turn a profit, but Mr. Eyamie be­lieves it will be break­ing even by 2018.

“The short-term strat­egy is to build an awe­some com­pany,” he says. “Ob­vi­ously, there’s pres­sure to grow it, but we want to grow it at the right pace. The longterm play is to build an­other great Ot­tawa suc­cess story and kind of let the rest hap­pen for it­self.”

PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

The Fuse­bill team has plenty to cheer about, thanks to a ma­jor in­fu­sion of cash and a new board chair­man with im­pres­sive cre­den­tials.

PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

With a cur­rent work­force of more than 30 em­ploy­ees, Kanata’s Fuse­bill is on a growth tra­jec­tory that could see it nearly dou­ble its head­count be­fore the end of the year.

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