How Launchpad Technologies’ Bruce Qi bootstrapped $500 into $10 million
The startup has been profitable every year of its existence, without taking any outside investment.
Ten years ago, Bruce Qi was working as an IT consultant, assisting companies like Pfizer and Coca Cola with digital transformation and project implementations. Over many years, Qi identified a problem consistently faced by the companies he worked with, regardless of their size and industry. Each used a number of software applications to improve their operations, but struggled to make them work together.
“This day and age, there are so many systems that are out there for different functions within an organization, but they're all working separately,” Qi said.
While there were many tools to help larger organizations manage application integration, Qi noticed most of the prices and complexity levels of existing integration solutions were specifically tailored to giant enterprises, even though medium-sized companies often encountered similar problems with app integration.
Qi said this revelation was what prompted the creation of Launchpad Technologies, where he now serves as founder and principal. Launchpad offers a platform as well as managed services to help companies deploy tailored, cloud-hosted integrations between various apps and workflows.
The startup’s platform streamlines flows from B2B software applications, such as Salesforce, Workday, and Intuit Quickbooks, and breaks down data silos within organizations, so companies can develop and manage integrations between disparate applications.
Launchpad has tracked impressive growth since its humble beginnings, now boasting more than 60 employees and 121 customers served to date. Qi sat down with Vancouver Tech Journal to talk about how he turned his initial $500 investment into $10 million in annual sales revenue, and what’s next for the company.
Bootstrapped by design
Prior to creating Launchpad, Qi worked at Vancouver-based consultancy firm Appnovation, where he focused on helping companies with digital development and transformation. Qi officially founded Launchpad in 2018, seeding the company with only $500. “That $500 is really near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Qi described the meagre amount of initial capital as Launchpad’s “proving point” that would later demonstrate the company’s ability to scale effectively and without the need for external funding.
Launchpad spent the first two years of its existence building out and testing its integration platform, which was supported by revenues generated from project-based integration services for early clients, which included platform architecture work, data modelling, logic, and data mapping handling. As its service offering matured, Launchpad grew to offer Enterprise Service Bus architecture, performance monitoring, API and data store communication, error logging, and authentication.
The startup’s early projects eventually validated what would later become its integration platform, called Paasport, which officially launched in 2020.
“From day one, we already had a vision that we were building the platform and we decided not to take any outside investment,” Qi said.
While Paasport was designed and priced for the mass market, the startup clinched several large customers early in its history, and now boasts the likes of General Motors and Silicon Valley Bank among its clients.
“We were able to approach these Fortune 500 companies, the big brands south of the border or globally, with a level of conversation that is meaningful,” Qi said. “We understood their problems very, very well.”
Qi said by having a clear grasp of the market’s needs and anchoring its thinking globally from the get-go, the startup achieved profitability and growth early in its history. In fact, Qi claimed that the startup has been profitable every single year of its existence.
Over 2019 and 2020, Launchpad posted 704 percent revenue growth, and in 2020, signed 18 new clients. Double or triple-digit year-on-year growth has been consistent for Launchpad, according to Qi, all without a dollar of external investment.
“Being a bootstrapped operation really held us true to what we needed to do operationally, where we needed to invest and deploy our resources,” Qi said.
Standing out in a competitive market
The startup told Vancouver Tech Journal its total addressable market includes organizations with revenues between $10 million and $1 billion. Its solution is also vertical-agnostic, which means Launchpad is going after a significant chunk of the integration market. But its founder doesn’t believe Launchpad has reinvented the wheel. “Integration, as a category, is nothing new,” Qi said.
In fact, merging and enhancing data flows between applications has existed since the dawn of software applications. According to one market research firm, the world’s integration market is projected to reach USD $23.71 billion by 2028.
Some of LaunchPad’s top competitors include Boomi – which Dell Technologies recently sold off to two private equity firms – and MuleSoft – which Salesforce acquired in 2018 for USD $6.5 billion – as well as SnapLogic and Informatica, which are both based in California.
But Qi believes Launchpad has an ace up its sleeve. He said most of the startup’s competitors offer licenced software, which means once a customer begins using a solution, they need to engage a services company to deploy and maintain the long-term operations of that solution. With Paasport, on the other hand, customers not only get the licence to use the platform, but the startup also provides longtail support and managed services as part of the subscription.
While Launchpad does partner with firms like Deloitte to help customers with deployment, long-term maintenance is managed by Launchpad’s team, so its customers do not have to make new IT hires. Launchpad’s partners are also made up of companies such as Salesforce and Microsoft, which can also benefit from working with Launchpad.
“By partnering with these product companies, [we can] increase their win rates, reduce their pipeline blockages, and also provide a strategic integration option and a solution for them to multiply their platforms’ reach,” said Qi.
Becoming a BC anchor firm
As Launchpad’s revenues have tracked consistent year-over-year growth, so has its internal team. The startup’s more than 60 employees are based in Launchpad’s global headquarters in downtown Vancouver, as well as in the United States, Mexico, India, and South America. Launchpad is targeting to hire an additional 40 team members by the end of the year, which would bring its headcount to over 100.
The company is also expecting to reach between CAD $12 million and $14 million in sales revenue this year, with a larger goal of reaching $50 million over the next few years. While the startup has remained bootstrapped, Qi said it’s open to investment as it reaches the next stage of its growth.
Now he feels Launchpad has proven its viability, profitability, and product-market fit, Qi is now focused on scaling the business by expanding into new categories, such as manufacturing and edtech. Qi said despite the startup’s global approach to customer acquisition, he wants to make Launchpad an anchor company in British Columbia.
“We're still rooted here in BC because we have such a great ecosystem here,” he said. “The support and partnerships and everything, that has been really incredible.”
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