When investors look for a new investment they are typically looking for “green flags” instead of red ones. Is the company hemorrhaging money? Is there cash in the bank? Is the sector waning?
Sometimes, you can tick a lot of boxes in the green category all at once. Vancouver-based Wishpond (Wishpond Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:WISH) is unknown to many investors, owing to its relatively recent listing in December of last year. But the company is already profitable, has a strong balance sheet with $11-million and no debt, and the company broadly occupies the same red hot digital marketing space that drove fellow Canadian company Shopify to astronomical heights.
With a strong performance out of the gate as a public company already under its belt (up 150 per cent since the RTO at $0.75 ) Cantech Letter talked to Wishpond CEO Ali Tajskandar about what’s next.
Ali, can you tell us how Wishpond got its start?
Wishpond was founded in 2009. Initially, our focus was helping local retailers reach online shoppers by publishing their inventories online, allowing consumers to find products from nearby businesses. Over time, we expanded our vision and we developed a suite of tools to help all businesses, especially small businesses, achieve success with getting customers and sales online. After that we expanded the platform to offer an “all-in-one” digital marketing suite that provides companies with marketing, promotion, lead generation and sales conversion capabilities under a single platform.
What problem is Wishpond trying to solve?
Our vision is to become the leading provider of all-in-one digital marketing solutions that empower entrepreneurs to achieve success online, regardless of their industry or size. With an increasing wave of consumers spending significant time online, businesses realize that transitioning into the online space is no longer an option but a necessity to survive and prosper long-term. This transition comes with many challenges, especially for small businesses who often lack the financial resources and expertise required to launch successful marketing campaigns.
These businesses would either need to use multiple technology platforms that often don’t integrate well together and would be difficult to achieve success with by non-expert users, or they would need to use a marketing agency, that for the most part would be price prohibitive for most entrepreneurs and small businesses. Wishpond’s platform, however, brings all the sales and digital marketing tools a business needs in a single place, and provides the expert services to achieve best results with the platform. All for a fraction of the cost of what digital marketing agencies would charge for comparable solutions without sacrificing the quality of results.
“I see a lot of parallels between Wishpond and Shopify. Similar to how Shopify is democratizing ecommerce for small businesses, Wishpond is empowering entrepreneurs to achieve success online, regardless of their industry or size…”
Is there a company -perhaps in another space- that you feel akin to?
I see a lot of parallels between Wishpond and Shopify. Similar to how Shopify is democratizing ecommerce for small businesses, Wishpond is empowering entrepreneurs to achieve success online, regardless of their industry or size. In other words, while Shopify is making it easy for any business to launch an online store, Wishpond makes it easy for any business to market themselves online.
Browsing the web has increasingly become akin to driving down a road that has a thousand billboards. How do you cut through the clutter?
This is true. In order to cut through the clutter, businesses need to have a cohesive framework and leverage a variety of interconnected marketing tactics. Ultimately, if businesses want to succeed, they need access to a variety of fully integrated technologies, access to world-class digital marketing expertise, and they need it all to be cost-effective to be able to get a return on investment. That is exactly what we provide at Wishpond.
Who is your target market as far as clients go, is it SMBs?
Wishpond serves over 2,000 customers who are primarily small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) in a wide variety of industries. Most customers are based in North America, with a growing presence in Europe and other continents.
“Wishpond offers businesses all the technological tools they need to market and grow their business, coupled with the expertise and service to achieve success with such tools, at prices that work for small businesses.”
Isn’t lead generation a crowded space? How does Wishpond differentiate itself?
While there are a variety of companies offering specific lead generation tools, Wishpond offers several advanced tools integrated and managed from the same platform. In addition, while companies may be able to access competitors’ tools, very few of them offer the service of managing customers’ accounts to help them achieve success with these tools. And companies who do, are generally unable to offer rates that would work for traditional SMBs.
Alternatively, Wishpond offers businesses all the technological tools they need to market and grow their business, coupled with the expertise and service to achieve success with such tools, at prices that work for small businesses.
How do you make money and what is your margin mix like?
Wishpond employs a subscription-based SaaS (Software as a Service) model where customers subscribe to the software and services through recurring plans. Almost all of our revenue is subscription based recurring revenue. The pricing plans themselves are based on a sliding scale based on functionality, number of leads generated, and additional services.
Our lower tier pricing plans are primarily for companies who have internal marketing resources and proper expertise to execute successful campaigns. These users get access to all tools offered by Wishpond and are responsible for designing and managing their own campaigns. Meanwhile, our Fully-Managed plan includes access to all the tools, but also Wishpond staff who take care of all aspects of the campaign, from design to execution, on the customer’s behalf. The Fully-Managed plans are generally annual plans with monthly automated charges and are tailored to the individual customer based on their specific needs. Wishpond’s overall gross margins are in the 65-70% range and as we continue to grow, we expect our gross margins to stay stable in the same range.
“We have been following a similar acquisition strategy to the consolidators in the Canadian technology industry including Constellation Software, Enghouse, OpenText, Descartes and WELL Health.”
Does Wishpond have a plan to try and attract higher margin business as you forward?
We have been in the process of transitioning from a marketing platform to a fully-fledged online business platform, giving businesses all the software tools and services necessary to run their online business from a single place. This platform’s product roadmap includes a complete website builder, payment and booking abilities, a customer management portal, workflow automation, visitor tracking, and robust analytics. As we continue to roll this out to more clients, we expect higher ongoing value to clients, higher customer long-term value to Wishpond, and even higher margins.
Since going public you have already completed two acquisitions. How are those acquisitions coming along?
We are very excited about both of our acquisitions. Invigo and PersistIQ have proven to be a really good fit with Wishpond. Invigo is a profitable and growing marketing technology and services company primarily focused on serving medical clinics.
This acquisition is immediately accretive to Wishpond, expands our business into the medical and digital health sectors and helps to accelerate our product roadmap. Our second acquisition was of a Silicon Valley-based company called PersistIQ, who is a SaaS (Software as a Service) company providing sales engagement technologies to empower salespeople and entrepreneurs. PersistIQ expands Wishpond’s capabilities into the sales automation and communication space thereby creating significant cross-selling opportunities and opening new customer segments for Wishpond.
What is your acquisition strategy? What kind of acquisitions are you looking for?
We are looking at both technology companies that can complement our own intellectual property and product portfolio, as well as marketing agencies that have customers who we can migrate over to our platform. We have been following a similar acquisition strategy to the consolidators in the Canadian technology industry including Constellation Software, Enghouse, OpenText, Descartes and WELL Health.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
Sales growth: We have a predictable and scalable sales engine and we plan to continue to grow our team to achieve greater organic growth.
Acquisitions: We plan to make a number of acquisitions in the marketing technology and services industry, integrate them into Wishpond, and bring more value to our end clients through the use of technology and innovation. This will rapidly accelerate our growth towards being a global leader in all-in-one digital marketing solutions.
Technology: Continue expanding our marketing technology platform, providing our clients with increased functionality and ongoing value and success online.