Startup finding success on international stage

Bridgit | Jul 25, 2017

This article on Bridgit originally appeared in The Record and was written by Terry Pender.

Every Tuesday morning Sean Erjavec kissed his wife and two sons goodbye and then commuted to his job in New York City. He returned on Thursday night.

An experienced and high-powered sales rep with two decades in the software business, Erjavec spent three days a week in Manhattan, and worked remotely from his home in this region for two days.

“It was rough. You are doing it every week. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure,” said Erjavec.

For the past five years he’s spent more than 70 per cent of his time in New York City, but always kept his family here.

“I had no interest in moving there. It was a great opportunity, a good market, they had great hustle and everything,” said Erjavec. “But I’ve got a wife and two kids. I am a local guy. I like what’s happening locally, I wanted to keep my family local,” said Erjavec.

Bridgit executive vice-president of sales Sean Erjavec in the company’s Kitchener office.

Born, raised and educated in this region — he graduated with a degree in economics from Wilfrid Laurier University — Erjavec always wanted the right position with the right company in Kitchener or Waterloo.

As he worked his way through positions of increasing responsibility with software companies in Toronto, Ottawa and New York, Erjavec watched as the tech sector here transformed from one dominated by BlackBerry, into a diversified and vigorous startup ecosystem.

Part of that startup scene is Bridgit, which developed software to help project managers stay on top of construction jobs. Like many other promising startups in the region, Bridgit needed someone with experience to grow sales in the all-important U.S. market.

Erjavec said 80 per cent of his time is focused on the big market south of the border.

For almost all software startups the Canadian market is not big enough to generate the kinds of revenues that make them a billion-dollar company. Politicians and tech industry leaders constantly tout this region’s startup ecosystem as second only to Silicon Valley for the density of startups. That’s true — there are a lot of startups for a region of fewer than 600,000 people.

What they don’t say is that this startup scene slipped from 16th in the world to 25th, largely because none of the startups, with the exception of Kik Interactive, have been valued at or sold for a billion dollars. While founders, computer scientists and software developers are often the public faces of the startups, it is the experienced sales reps who build success through international sales.

Without robust international sales, startups can quickly fade away. Experienced sales reps that can scale a startup are in high demand and short supply. Communitech recognized this a while back and started a program called Rev, which helps startups become scale-ups by selling into foreign markets.

During the past six months, Erjavec has brought on some of the biggest names in construction and development in the United States, including the GE Johnson Construction Company, Lend Lease Construction Inc., Whiting Turner Contracting and Plaza Construction.

“I think we have literally just scratched the surface,” said Erjavec. “I think the market opportunity is tremendous.”

Bridgit’s mobile app helps commercial and residential builders keep projects on schedule, and holds subcontractors accountable for completing work correctly and on time. If work is not done properly the contactor can take a photo of it with a smartphone, make some notes, and send them to the subcontractor responsible. The app can be used to assign and track all work orders issued by the contactor.

It was founded in 2012, and raised $2.2 million in seed financing four years later. It employs 31 people and is now based out of 100 Ahrens St. W. in Kitchener.

“We have hit all of our revenue targets for the first half of the year,” said Erjavec. “The market opportunity is pretty large, so for me it is just a matter of building out a team. That’s the biggest thing.”

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