Bold Innovation Group (BIG) has become the fastest-growing tech company in the province and they've done it all out of Ile-des-Chênes.
But with 80 employees now, it has out-grown its off-the-beaten-track digs. But that's only because the rural location was making it too difficult to hire people fast enough to keep pace with their growth.
"Every week, we would try to hire someone (who couldn't accept the position) because we were not on a bus route, and they are a one-car family," said CEO Jay Myers. "It was getting to the point we had to be in the city."
Bold has become the lead app developer for Shopify, the Ottawa company with the largest e-commerce platform in the world next to Amazon and eBay.
Next week, the company is moving into a 26,000-square-foot building in the south end of the city with room for about 240 people.
"Our conservative projections are that we will fill it in three years," said Myers.
'It's really exciting to have a successful company like Bold that can inspire the industry'
But with all the development BIG has in the works, it could happen a lot quicker.
Less than three years ago the four equal partners — Myers, Stefan Maynard, and brothers Eric and Yvan Boisjoli — were still working part-time out of Myers' basement.
In 2015, BIG won the Spirit of Winnipeg Startup of the Year award from the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and six months later was nominated for the Manitoba chambers' MBIZ award for outstanding medium business.
Its incredible growth started with the simple but elegant execution of their first Shopify app — Product Upsell.
It's still one of the biggest sellers among thousands of Shopify apps. BIG has developed 20 others, and they keep coming.
With that revenue base — they're projecting total sales north of $15 million this year — the partners have been able to dedicate 20 per cent of their resources to new-product development. (Among other things, the company is completely self-funded, so the partners are not beholden to unreasonable shareholder demands.)
A true sign of the growth and optimism bubbling up at Bold Innovation Group is each new initiative is structured into its own separate legal entity.
At other companies, that would be done to protect the core assets. But at BIG, it's to make it easier for those new offshoots to grow or accept outside investment or even be acquired.
"We're hiving them off in case they succeed," said Myers.
There are four of them now in the works and at least two — Kickbooster and Proximity Innovations — have received the kind of traction every start-up dreams of.
Kickbooster is a platform for companies that have concluded crowdfunding campaigns. It could mine a rich vein of potential recurring revenue. Discussion are underway regarding a potential partnership with the largest crowdfunding marketing company in North America.
Proximity Innovations uses Wi-Fi and beacon solutions to market directly to customers on the premises. There is already an enthusiastic user base.
All of those new initiatives did not even exist at the beginning of last year.
When other start-ups seem to be scrambling for the slightest toe-hold, the BIG guys stay busy, continuing to come up with new products that will sell. All the while, they maintain an enviable reputation for customer support.
They are not intimidated by their growth vision.
"Not that we feel we are bigger than Winnipeg, but we all have the mindset that there is more to the world than Winnipeg," said Maynard. "We do the majority of our business in the U.S., the U.K., Australia. We have a larger vision. Our market is very huge and still untapped."
That said, they currently have 15 positions to fill. In the past several months, they've hired an experienced accountant, Jody Rzyhak, as their new chief financial officer and recruited Kevin Hnatiuk, the longtime head of New Media Manitoba, to be the chief operating officer.
Louie Ghiz, who took over as executive director of New Media Manitoba, said BIG has a significant impact on the local tech community.
He said the company generously participates in industry support initiatives and has already said it would be happy to host events at its new space that features a 4,000-square-foot atrium.
"It is great to have an anchor company like Bold," Ghiz said.
"They are Shopify's lead developer. That is a huge accomplishment. They are becoming world renowned e-commerce experts."
What that means to the broader community, Ghiz said, is that graduates from the city's post-secondary institution who used to have to leave the city to secure positions in exciting, growing companies can now stay.
"It's really exciting to have a successful company like Bold that can inspire the industry," he said. "Companies don't always do that. Some become far removed from the community. But not those guys."
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.
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