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This article was published 18/6/2016 (1183 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It doesn’t matter if they are standing at a desk, sprawled on a couch or just walking around the new 26,500-square-foot headquarters, it seems as though every one of the 20-something employees at Bold Commerce are all pecking at an electronic device of some sort.
The Winnipeg digital media development company has made a name for itself as the top app developer for Shopify, the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant that created a platform used by just about every successful independent retailer in the world.
With tens of thousands of retailers using their apps, and paying a monthly fee to do so, the four partner/founders might have been able to just sit back and watch their bank accounts grow.
But co-founder and CEO Jay Myers said they made a conscious decision early on to be a gazelle and not a lifestyle company.
In the tech world, a gazelle is a fast-growing company that doesn’t stop growing... fast.
Myers is not trying to increase the hype when he says the company is targeting $100 million in revenue. There’s no need to pump up the valuation of the company as it is entirely self-funded and doesn’t rely on attracting venture capital as do so many of its peers.
Co-founders Myers, Stefan Maynard and brothers Yvan and Eric Boisjoli have the makings of a Google of the North or Facebook of the flatland.
In the same week that it hired its 100th employee — only three years after the very first employee was hired — the company rolled out a stock-option plan.
They expect to reach their 200th employee likely in the next 12 to 18 months.
"Maybe we don’t have the highest-paid people," Myers said. "But I’d love nothing more than if we go with an IPO (initial public offering) one day, to have a couple hundred millionaires in Winnipeg."
Like its Silicon Valley archetypes, it already has a gym, a games room and catered lunch served daily to its entire staff who all converge at 11:45 in the generous atrium area of their new headquarters, a building originally constructed for its first tenant — Nortel.
It has its own Bold Builders workplace code and is on such a roll and is so committed to a particular team-oriented and growth-oriented corporate culture it’s making a limited-time offer of $3,000 severance to employees who are not happy in that milieu.
"I think we might have one or two taking it," Myers said. "We want builders."
In addition to its Shopify app-development and support operations — there are now 22 and counting — the company uses 20 per cent of its revenues to support blue-sky development projects.
This week it launched a new video-commerce platform called Inviid, after a year-and-a-half in development. It’s a potentially revolutionary video platform where viewers can point and click at a video and seamlessly buy the product they are clicking at.
The initial example of the new platform was a promotional video for Gronk Fitness, the fitness establishment owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who flew the Bold crew to Toronto to help trick out the video. You can point and click at Gronk’s T-shirt, the strength training equipment and whatever else has been tagged, and buy it.
"I’ve not seen anything like it," said Doug Darling, owner of Tripwire Media Group, a seven-year-old Winnipeg commercial film and animation company. "I think they are on the verge of something incredibly groundbreaking."
It’s being launched as Shopify app at first, but Bold co-founder Yvan Boisjoli said any video can be overlaid onto the platform.
Inviid is not a lark. Bold has worked out the bugs and overcome hurdles that have prevented many others’ attempts to get you to the checkout window with one click. And Bold has the marketplace wherewithal to actually launch such a platform.
"We have lots of webinars, a good procedure to allow store owners to learn how to use it and we have a brand people trust," Boisjoli said. "When we present new products they (Shopify customers) don’t disregard it. They look to see how to use it and how it will help them. There is an incentive for them to use it.... and we have great staff."
Earlier this year it launched Kickbooster, an affiliate platform that links to the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, that effectively manages the post-campaign operations for Kickstarter clients. Myers believes that will be Bold’s first self-sustaining non-Shopify product.
Not only can Bold build the technology, it knows how to market and support it, too.
Jeff Ryzner, the CEO of North Forge, the organization that is effectively the steward of the startup ecosystem at Innovation Alley, said it’s invaluable to have a company such as Bold Commerce experiencing the kind of success that it is.
"Any time a technology-based business grows as fast as Bold is there is normally a larger audience — in this case all of North America — paying attention to what it happening," Ryzner said. "Especially with the work they are doing with Shopify, it throws Manitoba on the map as a major player in technology start-ups."
Bold grew up on its own — the first two and a half years it operated out of Île-des-Chênes — and may not have been connected to that ecosystem as other companies such as Invenia or Skip The Dishes.
But Ryzner said they have been more than open to lending their support and resources.
"Growing at the rate they have, they have experienced trials and tribulations that a lot of other young tech companies will hopefully face along the way," he said. "Stefan (Maynard) and his team are becoming the future mentors for the innovation community here in Manitoba."
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.