By Stacy Cardigan Smith
“#InnovateOrDie” reads the motto on the walls at Bold Innovation Group – and it’s a message the IT company takes to heart.
“We took an old motto and we renewed it for our generation,” explains Yvan Boisjoli, one of Bold’s four founding partners. Since Bold launched in March 2012, this mentality has helped the Ile-des-Chenes-based company quickly become one of the leading third-party suppliers of apps for e-commerce behemoth Shopify.
Founded by brothers Yvan and Eric Boisjoli, Stefan Maynard, and Jason Myers, Bold has already put 15 Shopify apps on the market and plans to launch another two per month. In a short time, Bold has served almost 15,000 clients, including Microsoft, Time Life and Cirque du Soleil.
The Boisjoli brothers, both graduates of the Computer Analyst/Programmer (now the Business Information Technology) program at Red River College (RRC), are self-described “code pirates” – meaning they build the apps – while Maynard is a “design ninja” and Myers heads up marketing. Their fun official job titles go hand-in-hand with the company’s “Work hard, play hard” mentality; their office includes a foosball table and arcade games, and once every six months they have Hack Days, “where you drop everything that you’re doing and you just build something… that’s not just your everyday work,” Yvan explains.
The “work hard” part is demonstrated by the company’s quick growth and success. Starting with just the four co-founders in 2012, Bold now has a staff of over 40. And they’re receiving accolades, winning the Young Enterprise category honoured by the St. Boniface Chamber of Commerce, along with a national award from the nation’s Francophone economic and employability network.
The bold idea
The idea to develop third-party apps for Shopify was conceived by Myers who at the time was running a few e-commerce websites and saw opportunities in the Shopify marketplace.
The foursome decided to start with the Product Upsell app, which allows e-commerce retailers to quickly and easily upsell or clear out inventory at the checkout based on items the customer has in their cart. For example, if you were buying a camera online, at checkout you’d be asked if you want to purchase batteries. To date, it’s the company’s most downloaded app.
One of the apps they plan to launch in the coming weeks is the Marketplace App, which turns your online store into a third-party retailer, kind of like Amazon.
The brothers believe part of Bold’s success lies in having four founders working together, which helped set them apart in the Shopify marketplace.
“There were (other) developers that were building apps that didn’t have anybody wanting to support the apps. So customers weren’t giving them positive feedback because they weren’t getting the support they deserved, whereas we had a guy dedicated to supporting our customers,” Eric says.
Developing innovative apps for Shopify is just one of the ways Bold’s team members ensure they’re on the cutting edge of technology. A full 20 per cent of the company’s resources are dedicated to developing products that aren’t related to their core business.
“That’s part of our whole innovation mentality,” Eric says. “We’re happy doing stuff for Shopify and we’re going to continue putting most of our efforts on that, but we also want to grow in other ways. We have Picticipate and a whole Bold Labs department dedicated to new projects and new ideas,” he says.
Picticipate photo-sharing software had a “very soft launch” a few months ago. The team is currently rejigging it and expects to re-launch in mid-December.
As successful as Bold is, all four founders have plenty of experience with startups that haven’t done so well. They’ve learned to make each failure a learning experience.
“We know that 90 per cent of startups don’t make it, so if you keep trying and launch enough of them, one is bound to be part of that 10 per cent,” Eric says. “You just shrug it off, you keep trying, and luckily we hit it off with Bold – and now we keep on trying new ideas so hopefully one of those takes off as well.”
Yvan and Eric both credit their education at RRC for preparing them for their career in the technology startup world. “I was able to actually practice coding (so) I was able to concentrate a lot more in class because I was actually doing it, instead of listening to somebody talk about it,” says Yvan.
“I liked how the course was actually driven by industry in Winnipeg,” Eric says. “So people in Winnipeg actually say ‘This is important for a programmer in Winnipeg to know,’ and we were given courses based on that.”
For more information about the Business Information Technology program at Red River College, visit rrc.mb.ca.