Fastest Growing Companies: Assent’s ascent

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By David Sali

Each year, OBJ recognizes the region’s rapidly growing firms with its Fastest Growing Companies awards. The aim is to honour the city’s top performers for substantial, sustainable and profitable growth. Recipients are ranked by their three-year revenue growth. They must have had revenues of at least $100,000 in the first of those three years under consideration. Revenues must have risen to at least $500,000 in their most recent fiscal year. The companies will be profiled online in the coming days and recognized at a cocktail reception on May 24 at You.i TV headquarters in Kanata. Click here for more information on the event.

An ever-expanding web of government red tape isn’t usually thought of as a strong catalyst for business growth.

But then again, Assent Compliance is no ordinary business.

The east-end Ottawa firm that makes software to help ensure companies and their suppliers around the world are complying with an ever-growing list of government regulations is in expansion mode itself as it makes its first appearance on OBJ’s list of fastest-growing companies.

A small outfit with just 25 employees four years ago, Assent Compliance now boasts a headcount that stands at a robust 320 and rising – about 240 of them at its head office on Coventry Road.

But as far as CEO Andrew Waitman is concerned, the 13-year-old company is just beginning to hit its stride.

“We’re at the end of the first inning,” he says, using a baseball analogy to emphasize his point. “Things only just now start to get really interesting. We’re in a business that has a global opportunity and literally has thousands to tens of thousands of companies that need what we do. I think that we have to continue to execute extremely well to go get that real opportunity that will be ours in the (2019-21) time frame.”

Fastest Growing Companies: Assent Compliance

Year founded: 2005
Local headcount: About 240, with about 80 more outside Canada
Product/service: Enterprise software that helps companies comply with government regulations
Three-year revenue growth: 280%
2018 ranking: #9

Although Waitman won’t divulge how many clients the firm has or who they are, he does say Assent already counts a number of Fortune 1000 companies among its customers. Collecting data on regulatory compliance is a daunting task, he notes, and once potential clients see what Assent can offer, they’re usually eager to jump on board – Waitman says the firm wins about 80 per cent of the contracts it bids on.

“A lot of what we do has been done manually in companies for years,” he explains. “We are in the business of automating the arduous.”

The key for Assent is finding its way in the door of more multinational firms for a chance to make its pitch. Investors are clearly betting it will – the company has landed $60 million in venture capital in the past few years, funding it is plowing into R&D and sales and marketing to improve its products and expand its reach.

Assent now has sales teams in the United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia and Kenya as well as a couple of eastern European countries.

“We are still in what I call the pursuit business,” Waitman says. “You can’t just overcome how people are doing things overnight. We’re growing decently, but we’re still below a large number of companies’ radar.”

Most of the firm’s growth has been organic as Assent adds more features to its products and customers subscribe to more of its services. Waitman won’t rule out pursuing acquisitions in the future, but for now, he says, the company already has enough on its plate to keep it in growth mode for some time to come.

“There’s a lot of growth just from expansion of existing customers as they consume more and more of the platform,” he says.

Bolstered by a $40-million funding round just last year, the firm isn’t worried about seeking more capital at the moment, its CEO adds. Another round could make sense, Waitman says, but for now it’s full speed ahead with building its products and acquiring more customers.

“That could happen in six months or it could happen in 12 months,” he says of launching a bid for more VC cash. “It just depends on a lot of factors. Right now, it’s not something that has the leadership team’s attention. We’re totally focused on execution.”

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