I had the pleasure of having breakfast in the trendy 17th Ave SW Calgary shopping district with Matt Dorey (CEO) and Ian Zipursky (COO) from Curve Dental, an SaaS (software as a service) solution for dental practice management. On my way to drinking, like, 19 cups of coffee, I learned more about the already celebrated Calgary start-up.
Curve Dental was started about three years ago by Matt Dorey, the 23 year old CEO and veteran of a number of start-ups. One of his earlier companies was building networks for dental offices. He saw the pain and cost in setting up expensive servers and ongoing maintenance and tried to find a web-based software solution for his clients. And, when he saw how much dental practice management software sold for (and the opportunity it represented), he "shut that biz down and went into debt to work on developing software for the web."
Now, Curve Dental is a suite of dental practice management applications, including scheduling, insurance claim management, digital x-rays and backup systems. The customer pays a monthly fee to license the software... the applications run completely in a browser, eliminating the need for servers, upgrades and all the related IT requirements.
I remember back when we started Greenpoint Software in 1995. We developed ProFile on a 32 bit Win95 platform while our big competitors were still making Win 3.1 and DOS apps... we were fond of quoting Wayne Gretzky: "Skate to where the puck is going to be." By the time customers embraced Windows 95, we had a mature solution and the old competitors did not. They finally caught up, but it took them a long time, and the damage to their business was irrevocable as our client base grew in some years by 100%+.
It's very typical that companies who make old vertical desktop solutions aren't investing in new platform applications. It's expensive, and cuts drastically into already thinning profit margins. Most executives/shareholders have no patience to invest in a second development team to work on a new application platform while the first team continues to serve customers on the old desktop platform, the current bread and butter for the firm.
In the case of SaaS, history is repeating itself. Led by the SaaS poster-child, SalesForce.com, Saas is already a world-wide $6.3B industry and is exploding to $19.3B in 2011, according to Gartner.
And the Matt's of the world are in the best position to take advantage of this tectonic shift. With customers across Canada and an acquisition of a New Zealand firm that makes dental charting software, Curve Dental is well postioned to make smiles all over the world.