It’s been eight years since University of Alberta graduates Sam Pillar and Forrest Zeisler started technology startup Jobber after meeting in an Edmonton coffee shop.
As a freelance software developer, Pillar had worked with a number of not-for-profit organizations and small businesses.
Seeing some of the challenges they were experiencing running their organizations inspired him to develop a software application to help small businesses and home services cut paperwork and simplify their daily operations.
“This was ancient history in technology time … 2008, ’09, ’10, and so the solutions that were available at the time were pretty archaic, if not nonexistent,” Pillar, Jobber’s co-founder and CEO, told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Monday (audio of CBC interview).
“So I felt there were lots of opportunities for me to help these kinds of businesses and organizations do a better job.”
This month, the Edmonton software company was recognized by Canadian Business magazine as the second-fastest growing software company in Canada.
Back in 2010, Pillar and Zeisler — also a freelance software developer — kept running into each other at the coffee shop, so Pillar told him his idea.
“He said, ‘Wow, that’s crazy,'” Pillar recalled. Zeisler had just been talking to a friend of his who worked at a painting company, asking about whether he knew of any software to help a business that’s disorganized.
That painting company became Jobber’s first customer.
Since then, Jobber has blazed the trail for other tech startups in Edmonton.
Today, Jobber has customers in 42 countries, and has identified some five million businesses in North America alone that could be using its software.
The company employs a total of 185 employees in Edmonton and Toronto, including 145 at its Edmonton headquarters.
This summer, Jobber announced it’s moving out of its 12,000-square-foot Jasper Avenue headquarters into a larger space to accommodate the growth of its workforce.
The firm is now renovating its new 30,000-square-foot space on three floors of the 103 Street Centre building in downtown Edmonton. The updated headquarters will include a 3,000-square-foot patio, which will make it one of the largest private outdoor workspaces in Edmonton.
Jobber is clearing a path for other technology success stories in the region, said Darrell Petras, executive vice-president of business development at business accelerator TEC Edmonton.
“It’s a good example of the potential to start a tech-based company in the Edmonton region and to see it flourish, not just locally, not just provincially, but on a global scale,” Petras said. “I think it’s certainly an inspiration to all other tech companies in the region.”
Tech companies in the Edmonton region face challenges such as finding the right mentors, the right team and the investment dollars, Petras said.
“Now if we have successes like Jobber, that is going to attract the highly qualified people to the region, it’s going to attract investment dollars, so it will essentially breed more success.”
The biggest advantage of being a tech company in Edmonton competing with companies in large tech hubs such as San Francisco, Boston, New York and even Toronto is cost, Pillar said. The San Fransciso Bay area “is an incredibly expensive place to build a company,” he said.
Jobber will move into its new Edmonton headquarters in early 2020.
Photo credit, Globe and Mail Jobber’s Forrest Zeisler and Sam Pillar