Adding to our incredible roster of stories of entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped decisively, Rob’s is an incredible journey of a precise execution.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and what kind of background?
Rob Purdy: I was born in Ontario, Canada. Our family is very blue collar. I grew up in an environment centered around a steady 7 in the morning and home at 3:30 kind of routine. We were in an area of the city where General Motors dominated the local landscape. Everyone in our neighborhood worked for that company. It was an interesting background and a great lifestyle to grow up in. It also taught me that I wanted to get outside of that and move into a different environment – more entrepreneurial and less structured.
Sramana Mitra: What about education? What did you do for studies?
Rob Purdy: I completed a lot of university courses and completed a marketing diploma, and did some management studies as well. I did some financial investing along the way.
Sramana Mitra: What year does this bring us up to when you finished your education and entered the workforce?
Rob Purdy: I graduated in 1975 and entered the workforce. I joined BiC. I, initially, started as a sales representative handling a northern sales territory which changed pretty quickly into a southern larger territory. I handled wholesalers and then moved into marketing. Prior to leaving BiC after six years, I was Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the company. I had a lot of jobs in a short six-year span.
Sramana Mitra: Where does that lead to? When did you start your own business?
Rob Purdy: I worked for Bristol-Myers for three and a half years. After leaving Bristol, I joined a smaller firm in Toronto where it was more entrepreneurial. I entered into the consultancy side of the business. We were providing marketing services through that company for Shell Canada.
I was there for about three years but felt that it was probably my time to start a company. That was the height of the recession. I came home and explained to my wife that this would be an absolutely wonderful time to start a business. It was not necessarily well-received as I would have liked, but, nonetheless, we started the business. I was fortunate enough to pick up a couple of clients very quickly.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking?
Rob Purdy: That would have been around 1985. The company got started in July 1989.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of a company did you start?
Rob Purdy: Initially, it was a consultancy doing marketing services for a number of Canadian companies. We expanded the business from myself to about a 24-person marketing services company doing promotional marketing, graphic design, and a number of related marketing services. It did quite well.
It carried on for a number of years providing those core services. It got into a rut where you would only be able to grow as quickly as you can land your next client. What we were challenged with is building sustainable revenue. We were enamored with the tech space and wanted to move away from the day-to-day consultancy and expand the business more quickly.
A really good friend of mine approached me and said, “Could you build a piece of technology that would enable us to provide incentives and services electronically through a portal site to customers?” That was the genesis of completely transforming our business. From there, we built the first online incentive platform for Canada and launched that product in 1998. We quickly expanded. We were able to attract a large number of clients fairly quickly.
The product, unfortunately, wasn’t as scalable as we would have hoped. That was the turning point where we decided that we needed to really grow the business in a different way, which is to move to a SaaS model. That’s what prompted us to launch Power2Motivate in 2006.