2003 Winner: Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology (Sales less than 25 million)
Risks Lead to Reward for Software Company
If taking calculated risks is a hallmark of successful enterprises, Edmonton-based Upside Software Inc. takes the prize twice over. The company was launched as a privately funded technology start-up in 2000 when the market for technology stocks was plummeting. It took another business risk by investing in R&D during its first year to develop advanced software for a global market that had gone sluggish. Three years later, Upside Software is the world’s leading supplier of contract management technology solutions. After a significant loss the first year, the company’s sales grew by over 800 per cent and profitability by over 300 per cent in the second year. The third year saw revenues and profits increase significantly again. More than 80 per cent of revenue in the second and third years came from exports.
Upside Software offers fully automated web-based software solutions for effective business control. They include products for sourcing and procurement, contract management, project management, and processing of supplier invoices and customer bills. One customer using the contract management software converted a 16-step manual process into a seven-step automated process and was able to reduce the staff required to manage its contracts from 14 to 4. Upside Software’s customers include Boeing, Hewlett Packard, JC Penney, Cornell University, George Washington University, and Ontario’s Hydro One. The company expanded into Europe in 2002 by landing a contract with Interpolis, of Netherlands. It has since moved into Asia/Pacific and Latin American markets.
Upside Software was started by CEO Ashif Mawji as a spinoff of his ISC Group Corp., an IT services company. Entering the market as the “underdog,” it quickly achieved dominance through a strategy of targeting the top organization in an industry and providing valuable incentives to the first customer in each industry. Once it has a successful case study, the company uses it to sell to other companies in the same industry. The company takes a pro-active approach to customer service by accommodating customers’ needs in its base products to ensure easier customer support and simplify upgrades. A profit-sharing plan instills a sense of ownership and responsibility in staff. Upside Software was listed as one of the Branham Group’s “25 Top Up and Comers” in the 2003 Branham300 list, which recognizes the best new organizations in the Canadian software industry. In 2001, it received the award for Industry Solution of the Year at the Microsoft Canada Innovation Awards for an e-billing solution it provided to the Alberta government.