It began as a typical sales call. UserEvents Co-Founder and CEO Jeff Thompson had reached out to Austin, Texas-based Serenova to pitch his company’s service.
“I had a list of companies to call that day for sales, and they were one,” notes Thompson. “Right from that first call, however, we saw a lot of commonalities between our two companies in terms of where the service industry needed to go.”
The result was not a sale, but an acquisition; Thompson’s second exit in five years. “It wasn’t in our business plan to exit to anyone, but the opportunity presented itself. It’s worked out well for the company, and for Fredericton.”
Serenova (formerly LiveOps Cloud) offers a contact centre platform allowing agents to manage inbound and outbound calls, emails, chat, and more. The company has seen steady growth over the past 18 months at its New Brunswick office, where the UserEvents team is now integrated.
Opportunities NB (ONB) spoke with Jeff Thompson, now CTO and SVP – Engineering at Serenova, to learn more about the company’s continuing growth.
ONB: What made UserEvents so attractive to Serenova?
Thompson: UserEvents’ CxEngage product looked for patterns in customer interactions that would be indicative of sales opportunities or situations where customer retention was jeopardized. Our strategy involved partnering with companies like Serenova who have troves of information at their disposal. We worked with those businesses to spot these patterns and make responses more efficient. Ultimately, they had a similar vision for where the industry was going, and saw real value in our platform. The rest is history.
ONB: Why are companies moving on-premises contact centres to the Cloud via your platform?
Thompson: The Cloud is impacting every sector. In the contact centre industry, the cloud side of the business is growing at a much faster rate than the on-premises side. Everybody has realized their core business needs to be their focus. For example, we’re working on an opportunity a multinational company that could see thousands of users brought on to the CxEngage cloud offering. They’ve noted that they wish to focus on what makes them unique — their core competencies.
Yes they need a contact centre, but they don’t want the hassles of managing the infrastructure of an on-premises centre. A Cloud-based approach allows them to focus on those core competencies. It gives them the ability to have agents anywhere in the world, many of them work-at-home agents. You’re no longer limited to hiring in one region and draining that particular talent pool.
ONB: Speaking of talent pools, today’s announcement involves the creation of up to 50 new positions over the next two years. How big is the New Brunswick team now?
Thompson: At the moment we are at 32. This announcement is a sign of the company’s commitment to Fredericton, and the confidence we have in the talent in New Brunswick.
In my travels I’m often asked “where is New Brunswick?” People in the U.S. and abroad haven’t heard of us; we’re a best kept secret. It’s unfortunate really, because we’ve found great talent here. The majority of our Fredericton staff comes straight from the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) Computer Science faculty. That’s likely to continue as these new positions are software engineering roles.
ONB: What other advantages do you see in New Brunswick?
Thompson: Beyond that strong talent pool I think it’s really about quality of life. The work-life balance you can achieve here is a big selling point. People here can actually afford to buy a home, a nice home even. You couple that with gorgeous scenery and the quality of life in New Brunswick is second to none.
ONB: You’ve mentored many startups in New Brunswick, including Simptek. What are your thoughts on the state of entrepreneurship here?
Thompson: I launched my first company in 2006; it was a lonely time in the entrepreneurial world. Now, just a decade later, the scene has changed dramatically. The hard work so many people have put in—like Propel ICT with Launch36, and UNB with their TME—have really sparked enormous growth in both entrepreneurship and the tech sector.
Companies like mine, and Radian6 and Q1 Labs [acquired by Salesforce and IBM respectively] have seen great exits, and that’s emboldened people to set out on their own ventures. It’s a good time to be involved in entrepreneurship, and a good time to be doing so in New Brunswick.
ONB: What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Thompson: I got great advice from someone while I was running my first company. He said “I’ve given you 20 minutes of my time. I only ask that you give someone else 20 minutes of yours. Doesn’t have to be today, but eventually — pay it forward.” I’ve tried to live by that advice, that’s how we keep building the entrepreneurial community here.
Talk to as many prospective customers and partners as you can, and keep talking. At Serenova we’re always talking to people. We’re a mature company with over 400 customers including Dropbox, Salesforce, Symantec, and Electronic Arts (EA). I was in Austin recently and we met with EA. We came away with ideas for cool new features they’d be interested in using if added. Never stop talking to people, that’s my best advice.
ONB: Finally, can you comment on ONB’s role with Serenova?
Thompson: It’s been great working with ONB. Your team is helping us identify talent, and working on ways to introduce programs to create even more talent. We’re now seeing a lot of inbound leads coming in from ONB’s talent recruitment team. They find people looking to make the move to New Brunswick, get us their skill sets, and help us add to our recruiting pool. It’s good to have a partner like ONB helping us continue our growth path in this province.
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[Post updated November 2016 to reflect the company’s new name]