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Vancouver software heavyweights score venture deal for Visier Inc.

Visier Inc. is a cloud-based provider of software to help human resources managers more effectively recruit and retain employees.

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A Vancouver business intelligence software firm led by one of Canada's most accomplished technology executive teams has raised $45-million (U.S.) in a private financing led by U.S. venture capital firm Sorenson Capital.

Visier Inc., a cloud-based provider of software to help human resources managers more effectively recruit and retain employees, in just seven years has surpassed $20-million in annual revenues under the leadership of three former senior SAP AG executives. The company forecasts revenue growth in excess of 60 per cent this year as it aims to expand on its core of 100 large, primarily U.S.-based corporations into the European market.

"We think we have a straight shot at becoming a public company and running a large independent business," said chief executive officer and co-founder John Schwarz, former CEO of French software giant Business Objects SA, which was taken over in 2007 by SAP. (He remained head of Business Objects for three years after the sale.)

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Mr. Schwarz and co-founder Ryan Wong – a long-time fixture in Vancouver's tech scene dating to his time as chief architect of Seagate Software in the late 1990s who later served as vice-president of engineering for SAP – set out in 2010 to build a "next generation" business intelligence tool. Their goal with Visier was to help large corporations sift through vast storehouses of data and make fast, strategic decisions.

The co-founders decided to focus initially on HR departments, and say their subscription cloud software is effective in helping companies with an array of employee issues, such as determining the best prospects to hire, tracking dozens of efficiency measures such as employee engagement and figuring out how to best retain employees, reducing the costs to hire and train new staff.

"There are massive savings by having the kind of insight that we provide," Mr. Schwarz said. He added most companies use simple in-house tools such as Microsoft Excel for work force management that are costly and don't effectively provide strategic analytical capabilities. "Our biggest competition, by far, is inaction," he said.

"Like very few others, Visier has mastered the combination of profound domain expertise with cutting-edge analytics capabilities in the hands of business users," said Rob Rueckert, managing director of Sorensen Capital.

Although Visier is technically a U.S.-domiciled corporation and backed by U.S. venture capital firms – it has raised $94.5-million to date from Foundation Capital, Summit Partners and Adams Street Partners and others – about 75 per cent of its 200 employees and its three senior leaders work out of Vancouver.

Mr. Schwarz said "we actually built Visier around Ryan [in Vancouver] more than anything because he's a rock-star developer of talent and had a Rolodex of potential engineers that we could use to do what we wanted to." Mr. Wong's star rose as Seagate was subsumed into Silicon Valley software firm Crystal Decisions in 1999, which kept him on as chief architect in Vancouver before its sale four years later to Business Objects, where he became vice-president of engineering. Visier's chief strategy officer Dave Weisbeck, another Crystal Decisions alumnus, was also a senior vice-president at SAP.

Mr. Schwarz said there were several advantages to keeping the operating base in Canada.

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"Most of our customers are U.S. corporations, but the vast majority of expenses are in Canada, so there's a great arbitrage advantage," said Mr. Schwarz, 66, a Czech native who emigrated to Canada in 1968.

He added that Canada's less expensive, less competitive market for engineers and more favourable environment for immigrants made Vancouver a more preferable base than Silicon Valley, while Canada's more stringent privacy laws compared with its southern neighbour means "we are able to serve customers from Canada that we could not serve from the U.S."

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About the Author

Sean Silcoff joined The Globe and Mail in January, 2012, following an 18-year-career in journalism and communications. He previously worked as a columnist and Montreal correspondent for the National Post and as a staff writer at Canadian Business Magazine, where he was project co-ordinator of the magazine's inaugural Rich 100 list. More

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