Having just raised a million in funding and a nomination as one of the Most Promising Startups in the eyes of the BC Technology Industry Association, you would expect their offices to be merry. On my visit to their Richmond headquarters last week, spirits were suitably high. Upon my arrival, the open office hosted clusters of energetic employees. By the time I left that night, just as many employees remained at their desks—though admittedly, some had turned their attention to fun and games.
But that's only to be expected for a company that has come so far in the past year and a half. Their startup scene debut at the lightning pitch competition at Startup Canada's 'Aha! Defining Moments of 20 Tech Entrepreneurs' was promising, with CEO Aman Mann's pitch winning second place.
“Before that, we had been working out of the co-founder and CTO's bedroom. We didn't know much about the startup world. Come summertime, I was listening to Tony Robbins' tapes and it took me 30 days to coherently listen to a single tip! Come September, Startup Canada comes by! It was crazy, taking that chance to pitch in front of 450 people."
With their business cards beneath every chair, the ball was set in motion—admittedly with some stops and starts. Despite the energy of their Gangnam Style dance, their lunch with Boris Wertz of Version One Ventures only carried them to the next learning experience. Luckily for Procurify, it was a learning experience that would prove the mettle of the business and the team.
“He was like, 'I'll see you in six months, you guys aren't ready yet'. I said 'Okay, thank you for the opportunity'. And it was amazing to see the startup world, with investors? Call us naive, whatever you want, but it was a great eyeopener. And he sends us an email saying to meet the GrowLab guys. So we get into GrowLab, and I find myself in a personal situation where before I had to drive from Abbotsford to Burnaby everyday, our old office, and now I would have to drive to Vancouver. So, for the next three months, I lived out of the Burnaby office. Club 16 was a great place to shower! It taught me that I'm going to do whatever it takes, and the team as well. A company is about persistence and drive for what you're doing. Getting into GrowLab was great because never do I find that two startups are in the same place at the same time. Our role was accelerating focus not necessarily on the product, but on the team. That was our secret sauce. We went from five people at the end of 2012 to nine people at the beginning of January. It wasn't built on revenue—it was built on the ambition to build a billion dollar business.”
Their Richmond office is lived in because it really is—behind Aman, in the break room where we're speaking, is a well-loved blue hammock, with a developer's guitar poised beside it. The far wall is covered in (very good) drawings of Pokémon. As the office has been defined by the team, so has the business itself.
“After Demo Day, immediately after DemoDay (in summer of 2013), we moved to Richmond. Strategically, because the developers said if the office was in Richmond, where most of them lived, they'd work day and night! The following month, we brought Mark Cuban on, and momentum kept going. It was Startup Weekend, and I was mentoring, and that's when I found Matt (Lim), our marketing guru. I don't think he realized his potential until he got into this scary opportunity, and once he came aboard, a lot of things changed for us.”
A trip to the Valley had been discussed as early as January of that year, but by September, a trip became a reality. Aman bought a one way ticket, intending to be there for two weeks. Momentum kept him in Silicon Valley for two months, sleeping on the floor in a hacker conclave's living room. Aman speaks highly of his experience in San Francisco.
“The environment that San Francisco creates is phenomenal. What I learned there in my first two weeks, I hadn't learned in seven months being here. That's a huge testament to what the culture is, what they cultivate. The truth is, they're so focused on innovating and supporting innovation, that they know nothing else.”
After a pitch to a VC's wife in a GreatClips while their son got a haircut, he won an Investment Advisor.
“Literally, if you go forward and take risks, things can happen. He introduced us to other investors, who wound up believing us because they believed in him, and then Nexus Partners became one of our investors. I never felt comfortable before telling people what our billion dollar plan was, before them, but when I pitched to them, they nodded, and said, 'That can work, but we want you to fail more before you try to succeed'.”
Aman's left wishing he failed more earlier—but there doesn't seem to be any sign that they'll make up for lost opportunities in that regard. Procurify's now in more than 40 countries, with powerful advisors in their corner, and the notice of the world at large.
“If you strive towards something, and truly see it as the goal, it will manifest and it will come. Everyone in this office thinks only of Procurify. We come in here, we don't have a single clock. It's about building something because we care about a product, our company, and what we want to achieve in the future."
Over the course of the hour I spent with him, under the watchful eye of their Director of Communication, Brittany Whitmore, the word 'momentum' came up numerous times. Even now, with their nomination just made public, momentum remains his focus.
"We are very excited to be nominated alongside other great startups. It is amazing to be part of a group that is growing in size and scope – it shows that opportunities in British Columbia are continuing to grow with great organizations such as the BCTIA showcasing them. The momentum they support is the lifeblood of a startup."
Startup life is not for the faint of heart. But so long as Procurify focuses on that momentum, without looking back, and without looking down, they will inevitably continue to climb. His enthusiasm is contagious, and it's the same energy he demonstrated a year and a half ago. The money they just won? It's not going to new digs, not yet.
“Next year, we'll be changing our opportunities. We want to continue to provide value for our clients, with new features, we've got so many exciting ideas for them, because we know what they need. And we want to grow the team. Our inbound is growing phenomenally, so we need to increase our sales team, and we need to make sure our clients are taken care of 24 hours a day. We have a response time of five minutes to respond, and that's difficult, when our customers are across all time zones.”
Brittany and Aman laugh. “That's why we have the hammock!”