Calgary-based Userful, a leading provider of AV-over-IP solutions for enhanced video communication, has announced the close of its second funding round, raising $10 million following seed financing of $3 million.
CEO John Marshall says it is the fastest growing segment of the IT industry, and since the company launched in 2015, its growth in helping organizations work, learn and govern with secure, saleable and centrally managed solutions — plus employee and customer engagement worldwide — has attracted investment from leading capital funds.
The latest round of financing attracted the likes of BDC Capital’s Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology (ICE) Venture Fund, and Vancouver’s Yaletown Partners.
Marshall is an American who gained much of his 25 years of experience working in Silicon Valley, building innovative market-leading organizations.
He says that he shared with colleagues his thoughts about furthering new technology for a visual imagery company.
It was suggested that he contact a small company in Calgary that had launched some interesting technology in that field but needed help in converting it into a saleable product. He took the advice and flew to Calgary, stayed in a downtown hotel for a year, and in October 2018, excited by what he saw of the firm’s cutting-edge technology and the wealth of engineering in this city, joined Userful and was named CEO. Today he lives two weeks of each month in the city while spending two weeks on the road.
“In just about every industry — from transportation to telecommunications, from health care to hospitality — video is becoming the communication medium of choice to dramatically improve productivity and competitiveness,” says Marshall.
Userful’s Visual Networking Platform connects the content a company wants to share to all of the screens they want to share it on. Its software deploys on a server in the cloud or on-premises, and gives IT a single platform that allows administrators to centrally manage content, screens and infrastructure.
It can deploy content anywhere in the world in real-time, from data to dashboards to video streams, and HR content to mission-critical operation centres that ensure informed decision making.
Marshall adds that Userful’s architecture improves performance and reduces the overall costs of video walls, display signage and related video solutions. In Calgary it is used in The Edison tower’s artistic video wall, at the LED wall in the Telus Sky tower, and in the Central Library’s operational database.
The customer base comprises companies and organizations around the world. A couple of larger users are on big-screen monitors on control walls at NASA, and with SAP at its financial, monitoring and security operational centres.
There has been a huge increase in business since the company was hit with problems due to the outbreak of COVID. Marshall says Userful’s future for a time was wavering, to the point that all of the management team agreed to take no salary for a while. When this action was reported to the rest of the staff, Marshall says he was stunned that they agreed to do the same to help make it together.
The Calgary investment community rallied with an attitude of, “if you believe in the product that much, so will we,” and angel investors put in more funds that BDC agreed to match.
Today, Userful has a staff of 100 — 80 in its downtown office in First Tower and the others located around the globe, adding new international customers in fast food, hospitality and automotive manufacturers.
This week, Marshall is in Barcelona, Spain, where Userful’s software is being integrated into the LG Business Solutions booth at the huge Integrated Systems Europe trade show.
Twelve years ago, Wendy Brownie opened Inspirati on 4th Street S.W. as a retail store specializing in the sale of quality tea towels and table cloths. By the end of this month, she will have reopened in her new location in the Ramsay Design Centre on 11th Street S.E., the 100-year-old character building that offers her twice the space. Inspirati has expanded to offer all home essentials, and will include a full kitchen to help demonstrate the use of her wares and host special events.
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]