Rocketrez on a roll
Steinbach-based tourism technology company sees huge jump in business
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/02/2021 (837 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When businesses experience slowdowns, like during a pandemic, experts suggest using that time to invest in technology that will enable your company to emerge stronger and more nimble when things return to normal.
As a supplier of cloud-based platforms that help companies achieve those kinds of results, the pandemic has proven to be a boon for Steinbach-based Rocketrez.
Founded by John Pendergrast in 2012 (the company changed its name from Flatland Software a couple of years ago) Rocketrez builds cloud-based management software for tourism attractions in the mid-market to enterprise-sized operations.
But while the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit around the world — the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said the Canadian industry is in crisis after losing a half million employees last year — Rocketrez had its best year ever.
Last year saw the company experience a 75 per cent increase in customers and it doubled its annual subscription revenue.
Rocketrez targets larger operators, many of whom have been around a long time and were able to weather the storm better than younger, smaller companies.
“But many of them have been struggling with older technology that did not allow them to be as flexible as they needed to be and 2020 forced them to try to optimize all areas of their business,” he said. “Some went from 90 down to six staff in that time period for cost cutting reasons.”
Rocketrez was gaining a track record of success replacing those older systems — there are three large incumbent reservation systems which have been around for 30 years and Pendergrast saw a chance to push harder into the market.
While he said Rocketrez is not necessarily going after Disney theme business, he said, “We are competing against the same software that they use.”
This week the company announced a $6.3 million series A funding with San Diego-based Blueprint Equity as well as $2 million in revenue-based debt financing with TIMIA Capital out of Vancouver.
It also just hired industry veteran Monica Marics as chief operating officer in November who will re-locate here from Boulder, Col.
While all businesses say they listen to their customers, Blueprint’s managing partner, Bobby Ocampo said that they were impressed with Rocketrez’s level of customer satisfaction.
“Every customer raved about RocketRez’s product and customer service,” he said in a prepared statement. “It’s not often we see that, especially in a less than ideal environment for the tourism and attractions industry.”
Felicia Cook, the general manager of Marineland Dolphin Discovery attraction near St. Augustine, Fla. said her facility just switched over to Rocketrez after growing frustration with the two other systems it had previously been using.
“Rocketrez is revolutionary for us. It’s life-changing,” she said.
While Marineland only had to close for a couple of months last year, it can only operate at 50 per cent capacity. The company owns a number of other facilities in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean but the Florida location was the first to switch to Rocketrez. Cook hopes others will over time as well.
“It’s not that it lets us operate with fewer people it just save us so much time and in fact it has let us hire people that we probably wouldn’t have been able to working with the old system,” she said.
It’s not a new trend but the devastation the tourism industry has suffered because of the pandemic has made these kinds of technology issues vital for operators.
Colin Ferguson, the CEO of Travel Manitoba said among other things his organization is encouraging members to be more digitally savvy and has organized an industry conference on digital competitiveness.
The capital injection is going to let Rocketrez continue to go after more business. It is just about to install its first European client in Paris and will grow its current 27-person workforce — 17 of whom work out of the company’s Steinbach head office — by close to 20 more in the coming months.
“There has really been a vacuum in the mid-market and even in the enterprise space for cloud-based systems that can do things quickly,” Pendergrast said. “We are going to continue to push into that market. We believe we have every opportunity to be market dominant.”
Kay Gardiner, the CEO of Tech Manitoba said the pandemic is causing all sorts of businesses to take a hard look at what they need to survive or thrive to meet new demands.
“There are new customer demands and expectations right now,” she said. “Even if companies aren’t laying people off, many have had to redeploy or change how they do things. Good software can make systems better.”
For instance, for tour-oriented tourism operators, scheduling is an important function to maximize productivity.
Scott Hughes, the director of information technology for the non-profit Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, an hour south of Dallas, Tex., said he used the drive-thru safari park’s two month COVID shutdown last spring to find Rocketrez and launch it for the re-opening
Among other things, he needed to get customers to buy online and allow for hands-free ticket scanning so patrons don’t even have to get out of their cars.
As well, he said Rocketrez allows them to sell tickets at specified times, alleviating chronic mid-day congestion.
“On a busy Saturday we can do almost twice as much business and it feels less busy than it did before because everyone is coming in designated time slots,” he said.
Thanks to Rocketrez, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center’s home page now includes a banner feature: a stop-sign that reads “You must purchase tickets online. No exceptions.”
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Saturday, February 20, 2021 1:25 AM CST: Adds photo