The Partnership Potential

A young IT company stumbles upon a golden market opportunity

Photo: TechShare Group co-founder, Matthew Richens

LAST SPRING, THE YMCA of Western Ontario introduced a new registration and payment system, giving ­members tools to manage classes and activities entirely online. Known as Avocado, the system was the creation of TechShare Group, a relatively new collection of 12 people who moved into the London Roundhouse last fall.

For those who assiduously plan the launch and growth of their business, the TechShare story might be ­surprising. For others who have grown their business by pivoting to take advantage of unexpected opportunities, the TechShare story will be familiar.

Founded by three former Compass Group employees, it began life when those partners started picking up essentially one-off jobs to handle IT needs of various organizations.

“Our first vision was to provide ­managed service and development,” says Matthew Richens, who started the firm with partners Rob Campbell and Matt Loh. “We did that starting in 2014 and signed a few first contracts.”

The focus changed, however, because Richens was volunteering at the YMCA, helping the organization develop its IT strategy. “That turned into a long-standing contract to do all their IT and revamp their registration system.”

And that turned into Avocado, which was a significant change for the Y, but perhaps of greater significance to TechShare. That’s because the ­company built Avocado on the Salesforce platform, a rich and powerful customer relationship management (CRM) system to build apps for specific needs. (Last month, Salesforce announced plans to invest $2 billion over the next five years in its Canadian operation, which already has 1,300 employees.)

“There are no Salesforce development companies in Southwestern Ontario. It’s an untapped market” —Matthew Richens

“We haven’t dropped any of our services,” Richens says. “We still do strategy and some managed services, but we’re emphasizing the Salesforce platform. That’s the focus of our sales efforts, and we’re working a lot with not-for-profits.”

Using Salesforce, the company ­created a camper engagement program for the Tim Hortons Children’s Camp. The next phase is an application to engage with campers before and after they attend camp.

Having focused on the Salesforce platform, TechShare is growing. It added a fourth partner, Dave Hetesi, last fall, about the time it moved to the Roundhouse.

Later this month, the firm is hosting its first Salesforce users group meeting for current and potential users of the platform.

“There are no Salesforce development companies in Southwestern Ontario,” Richens says. “It’s an untapped market. In the next couple of years, we believe we will be the premiere Salesforce ­partner in the region, working with ­not-for-profits and other organizations.”  Christopher Clark