A new collaboration formed between a group of entrepreneurial-support organizations and a Winnipeg software firm could help to speed up the growth trajectory of local startups.
Global Office Software, an eight-year-old software company, will make its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software available to early-stage companies associated with the Eureka Project, Ramp Up Manitoba/AssentWorks, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation and Innovate Manitoba.
Access to the software will be free of charge until company revenues surpass $25,000 per month, and then a $60-per-month licensing fee would kick in.
The software include modules for accounts receivables and payables, the potential for a retail point-of-sale functionality, workflow scheduling, inventory control and customer-relations management all seamlessly integrated with general accounting.
"Using that kind of reporting software is an important part of the process of professionalizing these companies at the earliest stages," said Gary Brownstone, the CEO of the Eureka Project, the business incubator at Smartpark at the University of Manitoba.
Most startups that are bootstrapping their way into viability are maxing out credit cards and primarily worried about whether or not there is any money in their bank account.
But they all dream of eventually landing some funding to get them over the hump.
"The more professionally kept their records are, the easier it is to make a presentation for the money," said Brownstone. "They may eventually come to us and say they need to raise $200,000. I'll say we need to look at their financial history and then they hand me a Tupperware container of receipts."
Terry Davison, the CEO of Global Office Software and a former winner of the Manitoba Venture Challenge in 2010, says he empathizes with the challenges young entrepreneurs face. His company developed a successful office-management system for medical offices and then expanded it into a broader offering for general businesses.
"The entire reason we built the global office system was that we knew that, as a startup, it was very frustrating that there was no reasonably priced solutions for managing a company with all the tools," Davison said. "That's what caused us to build the software in the first place."
Davison said a normal commercial installation could cost anywhere between $2,000 and $20,000. Training services will also be available to the startups.
The pilot project is noteworthy for a number of reasons. The cloud-based operating system means the companies won't have to worry about expensive servers and security issues such as backing up data and redundancies.
It's also a sign of the times that digital data management is necessary and ubiquitous, and going without it could mean falling behind the competition.
This pilot project could also become something that might be rolled out nationally. Joelle Foster, the regional director of the Canada Youth Business Foundation, said it is something the national organization is keeping a close watch on.
The collaboration between the organizations on this initiative is also an important signal of just how well-developed the entrepreneurial-support community in Winnipeg has become.
Chris Johnson, who is working on his own start-up that could benefit from the software support and is one of the directors of Ramp Up Manitoba/AssentWorks, believes this development is a sign the startup scene in Winnipeg is humming.
"We're moving from building the community to the point where we now have a community and we can work on things to support it, which is an exciting gear-shift," he said.
Jan Lederman, the CEO of Innovate Manitoba, said having a higher level of digital document management means these companies can have a leg up.
"It is a good step," she said. "There are three or four things we can do to remove friction points for startups and this is one of them."