For cloud-computing startup Manifold, a new business model is offering a path to faster growth.
Manifold’s online platform gives tech companies the ability to purchase software for their computer programmers, track how much money is being spent on the software and distribute in-house programming tools.
Now, the four-year-old business is testing a new sales strategy in which its marketplace will be integrated with project-management services from other companies.
“It might look a bit like a pivot from the outside because your end-user has changed, but it’s exactly the same set of tools and services,” said Co-Founder Matt Creager in an interview. “We’re still building the same set of products and we’re still building it for (software) developers.”
Manifold’s existing customers are medium to large firms that often employ hundreds of programmers, according to Creager, who serves as Vice-President of Marketing and Developer Relations. Manifold is led by CEO Jevon MacDonald, who on Thursday was the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting of the Saint Mary's University student-led VC fund, Venture Grade.
Having a single, unified distribution platform for development software makes it easier for firms to add new tools to a team’s existing workflow. And logging the details of purchases eases communication between programmers and management.
“There’s a lot of friction in the system, and Manifold is designed to take that friction out,” said Creager.
During the summer, Manifold began testing a new business model that involves selling to companies that, themselves, create tools for programmers.
The new customers design technologies related to tracking progress on coding projects, combining multiple pieces of code and transferring code between computer systems.
Creager said that the new strategy will allow Manifold to grow its user count much faster because it will have access to all the companies that its new, corporate customers already sell to.
“From 10,000 to 15 million (users) isn’t a leap we could have made alone, and that’s 15 million more potential customers for all the providers in our marketplace,” he said, referring to the fact that Manifold’s marketplace resells software created by other companies.
Manifold has launched its new distribution method with a round of “early access” testing, meaning that customers must be invited to join. Participation was initially capped at five client firms, all of whom had signed on within two weeks of the initial announcement.
Creager expects the new product offering to be ready to accommodate additional users by the second quarter of 2020 and move into an “open beta” testing phase near the end of the same year.
By then, he sees Manifold doubling or tripling its employee count, up from its nearly forty current staff. The new hires will make for the company’s largest annual expansion to date.
Manifold raised an $18.5 million round of investment in 2017, which earned it a place in the University of Toronto Impact Centre’s 2018 Narwhal Project list. It catalogues leading Canadian startups based on their “financial velocity”, which assesses how quickly they raise large amounts of capital. Manifold’s inclusion was a first for an Atlantic Canadian company.
Creager said Manifold doesn’t yet have plans to court additional investment, but if the opportunity to secure more funding arises, they might take it.
“Should you expect to hear a fundraising announcement from Manifold in the next 12 months?” he asked. “Probably but no guarantee.”