Great technology has a funny way of making a decade seem like a century.
Do you remember collaborating with fellow employees by responding to a BCC email? Yeah, not very efficient. Especially when there were a dozen or more of you.
Kitchener’s Igloo Software wasn’t supposed to be one of Canada’s next great tech companies, but that was one result of a virtual think tank launched by the Centre for International Governance Innovation in 2004. The collaborative platform that was created to connect the disparate experts worked so well that it was spun out as it owns cloud based enterprise solution. Today, Igloo’s clients include Deloitte, RBC, IDC, Harry Winston and the ATP World Tour.
Recently, Cantech Letter talked to Igloo CEO Dan Latendre about the enterprise’s acceptance of cloud-based solutions, how to keep a company growing at 85% a year, and how ex-Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie became Chairman of Igloo’s board.
Dan, Can you tell us a bit about the origins of Igloo Software?
Sure. In 2004, a think tank called the Centre for International Governance Innovation launched an initiative to bring together the world’s greatest minds in one virtual location to share research and exchange ideas around global governance issues. Since email was ineffective as a collaborative tool, a platform – known as Igloo – was architected to connect these researchers. The platform was so successful that in 2008, Igloo was spun out of CIGI as a cloud-based solution for social collaboration. Like its name suggests, Igloo provides a meeting place to socialize and discuss vital community issues. Today, Igloo powers over 4,000 global collaboration sites in more than 80 countries worldwide.
Are enterprise clients now fully on board with SaaS technologies, or is there still an aversion to cloud solutions?
There are still pockets that are reluctant to embrace cloud solutions, but increasingly they’re few and far between. The shift from legacy applications to the cloud has occurred in email management and CRM, and now it’s filtering into other application areas, namely collaboration. Gartner predicts the SaaS market is on target to more than double by 2015 to $21.3 billion. And we work with a wide-range of customers, from technology start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, who have embraced Igloo’s cloud collaboration offering at an amazing rate.
The initial concerns about security and service availability have diminished as SaaS technologies, like Igloo, have matured. Take security: our large, enterprise customers want the encryption of data in transfer and in storage; the ability to physically and logically separate customer data and systems through single tenant and semi-single tenant solutions; intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion protection systems (IPS) and external third-party monitoring; and the ability to apply sophisticated authentication protocols, including single sign-on (SSO) with SAML, directory sync (e.g. LDAP, LDAP(s)) and IPSec controls. And that’s why we have partnered with Savvis. They’re a global provider with data centres all around the world and a Gartner Magic Quadrant ‘Leader’ for cloud infrastructure and web hosting. Our systems meet all of these requirements and then some, often exceeding what our customers can replicate in their own data centres.
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Can you give our readers an example of how you helped a client by detailing their business practices before and after Igloo?
Sure. The best place to start is to think about the number one workplace collaboration tool. Whether we like it or not, inside or outside the organization, it’s email.
We use it, for better or worse, as a document store, a file sharing tool, a broadcast platform, a task list, a messaging tool and just about every other collaboration use case you can think of. And that, in of itself, is the problem. Content is isolated, silos develop and communications are limited to the recipients of a message.
Take Harry Winston’s watch advisors, a global organization within the renowned diamond jeweler and watch retailer. Their team had difficulty getting access to the most recent support material from head office and very rarely had opportunities to network outside of the annual Baselworld conference in Basel, Switzerland. Increasingly, they relied on email and conference calls to share information from the various departments at head office (e.g. marketing, training, visual merchandising, customer service and research & development) to the retail stores all around the world.
With Igloo, they have launched a social intranet to facilitate communication and collaboration amongst their global network of watch advisors and the corporate head office. It provides one place to stay informed on global watch developments and events, communicate internally approved visual displays, train and inform teams on new watch products and marketing strategies and to foster the exchange of ideas between advisors on how to meet and exceed sales targets. Communication no longer flows top-down, but also bottom-up from the field back to corporate and horizontally across the watch advisor team. It’s a fundamental shift in how they ask questions, share information and manage store-level execution.
How did Jim Balsillie come to be Chairman of Igloo?
My history working with Jim stretches back to early in our careers. While at MKS, I secured a grant with the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) and worked closely with Jim to forge a partnership with Research In Motion (RIM) in order to launch the first wireless internet access package called Internet Anywhere. So when I left OpenText in 2004 to pursue new opportunities, he reached out to discuss his latest project – the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).
As the Founder and Chair of CIGI, Jim was the brainchild behind the concept for a global network of governance researchers. Since email was not sufficient to enable secure, open collaboration among this geographically dispersed group, Jim asked that I build the technology platform that has now become Igloo. And when we made the decision to spin Igloo out as a for-profit company in 2008, it was only natural that we tap into Jim’s expertise at growing and incubating technology start-ups. His insights and guidance have been instrumental in helping to drive 80%+ growth each year we’ve been in business.
What’s next for your company, what would you like to accomplish in the next 12-18 months?
The growth we are currently experiencing is significant and I see continuous growth for Igloo’s future. Our operations now span well beyond North America, with a European headquarters in Switzerland and a satellite sales office in London. We also recently completed a tour of China meeting with government officials and competing in the DEMO China 2012 events in Harbin and Hangzhou. In fact, we were selected as the top cloud computing vendor and are in discussions regarding future expansion.
We’ve been growing at over 85% per year since 2009, a rate that exceeds the extraordinary growth of the industry as a whole. And, even still, significant opportunity still lies ahead. McKinsey states that only 3 percent of companies can be identified as fully networked, meaning they have been receiving substantial benefit from the use of social technologies inside and outside the organization. We stand to capitalize on this trend by providing a pure cloud solution that supports both internal and external collaboration, with the unique ability to network multiple communities together in order to improve how you find, access and share information at work. Igloo will be the hub of business collaboration. It will enable us to disconnect from the physical office without interruption, so no matter where we are, we can connect to the people and information that we need to get our jobs done.
But for me personally, my goal is to create the next great Canadian technology story – a company that is a leader in its field globally. Competition is fierce with industry giants like IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Cisco and Oracle vying for a share of the pie. In any market where there are established competitors, it can be intimidating, but you must find ways to level the playing field. Speed, agility and execution are my competitive weapons. Our success revolves around our capacity to innovate, self correct and execute quickly.