The Interview

Jobber CEO Sam Pillar wants to build Edmonton’s first billion-dollar tech company

Sam Pillar, co-founder and CEO of Jobber Jobber

When Jobber CEO Sam Pillar launched his firm in 2011 with co-founder Forrest Zeisler, the pair had a goal to generate $10,000 a month to cover their costs and pay themselves a modest salary. Eight years later, the founders have shifted their focus to building Edmonton’s first tech unicorn.

The company—whose business management platform handles scheduling and accounting for home-service small businesses like plumbers and landscapers—has a long way to go, but a bold plan for how to get there. In an interview with The Logic, the CEO discussed IPO plans, hopes for Edmonton’s tech scene and its goal to hit $100 million, then $1 billion, in annual revenue.

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Talking Point

In an interview with The Logic, Jobber CEO Sam Pillar discusses his plans to generate $100 million, and eventually $1 billion, in revenue in the near term. To get there, Jobber, a business management platform for small home-service companies, will have to contend with giants like Salesforce and Amazon subsidiary Amazon Home Services, while also ensuring it doesn’t lose market share to the host of other rapidly growing startups in the space.

In the last year alone, the company has added 80 staff, taking its workforce to nearly 200 people. In June, Jobber tapped two former executives from FreshBooks, which offers some similar services like invoicing and accounting, to join its leadership team.

With a large portion of small businesses still tracking their accounting on pen and paper—25 per cent by some estimates—Jobber has a sizable market opportunity. But it will need to contend with giants like Salesforce and Amazon subsidiary Amazon Home Services, while also ensuring it doesn’t lose market share to the host of other rapidly growing startups in the space. 

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

You were a software developer before starting Jobber—how did you decide to start your own company in the home-service space? 

When I was working as a freelance developer for some home-service businesses, I started recognizing pretty consistent problems across these small businesses. Take a painter, for example. Our first customer was a painting business, but [the owner’s] expertise wasn’t keeping track of customer information and making sure his quotes are professional or he’s invoicing on time. I realized, if this is a problem for a painting company, it’s probably also a problem for a window-cleaning company and a lawn-care company. Pretty quickly, I realized that there’s dozens and dozens of industries that have a similar set of problems. The category for this kind of software is called field service management, or FSM. There’s good representation for large enterprise FSM software—big, super-expensive software for, say, utility companies—but there never was anything for the 10- or 15-person landscaping company or plumbing company. We saw that differentiation and really went after it. 

How many customers do you have now, and how much business do they generate using your platform? 

Our customers service over 10 million consumers who purchase in excess of US$6 billion worth of services every year. That’s our run-rate number, so that’s increasing every day. We have over 70,000 active customers in 43 countries. North America is our big market, and where we’re focused the most for the time being. I should qualify that we don’t internationalize the product. For the time being, we’re English-only.

Do you have plans to offer the service in other languages? 

I’m not commenting on that currently. I would say that we are certainly paying attention to and interested in the international opportunity long-term. But the market in North America is absolutely enormous in and of itself.

What has Jobber’s growth trajectory looked like over the years?

We raised our first seed round in 2012. At that point, I started building out some of the marketing and sales side of things while also spending time continuing to build out the software. It wasn’t until 2012, I believe, that we started hiring our first people. We took it slowly. When we raised our Series A in late 2015, the company was about 30 people. So between 2016 and and today, we’ve grown from 30 to 190 people. Eighty of those [hires] are in the past year, so we’ve gone through quite a growth spurt. 

What does the path to reaching a billion dollars in revenue look like for Jobber? 

There are five million businesses in North America that could be using Jobber. We would need to capture a very modest portion of that market in order to reach $100 million [in revenue]. It could be small double-digit percentage of the market share—or even single-digit market share—to get to that billion-dollar revenue marker. I wouldn’t try to attach a timeframe … [but] we’re talking years and not decades.

Jobber co-founders Sam Pillar and Forrest Zeisler Jobber

You have an office in Toronto now, but you’ve said you plan to keep hiring in Edmonton and stay headquartered there. Why keep focusing on growing locally rather than in bigger cities? 

There’s a lot of really good talent in Edmonton. Not everyone knows about AMII, the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute, one of the top machine learning and AI research programs in the world. There’s a computer engineering and computer science program at the U of A [University of Alberta], and then other technical programs at schools like MacEwan [University]. There’s a lot of really good talent in the ecosystem that I think people don’t know about, just because the city is a little smaller and less developed than some other ecosystems. But that works to our advantage. We’re operating in a market that is absolutely massive; the home-service space can support Jobber becoming a Shopify-size company. So we have a lot of momentum in Edmonton in terms of our ability to attract and retain. At the same time, we realize we’re going to need to tap into additional labour markets where there’s certain skill sets and experience that we don’t necessarily have in any one given market. That was the driving factor behind opening the Toronto office. 

What skills were you looking to tap in Toronto that you couldn’t get from the talent pool in Edmonton? 

Being in Toronto enables us to hire people who have worked at SaaS [software-as-a-service] companies before in very specific roles. For instance, we have a full-time sales-force developer on-staff. That’s a pretty rare skill set to find in a place like Edmonton, especially somebody who has experience working in SaaS environments. That’s just because Edmonton doesn’t have a lot of SaaS companies. Then the other side of it is executive talent. There’s lots of really great executives for certain kinds of roles in Edmonton, but for other kinds of roles—for instance, we hired our chief revenue officer, Shawn Cadeau, recently who has [a] very specific B2B [business-to-business] SaaS background—that doesn’t exist in Edmonton. Likewise, we hired our VP of people, Sara Cooper, from Toronto, as well.

You raised $10 million over four raises in a four-year period, and the last round was in 2015, led by OMERS. How did you spend that last investment? 

As is popular in some areas, we haven’t raised money just to light it on fire and see what happens. We’ve raised money to grow a business and to build sustainability into what we’re doing. And, as a result, we’ve been able to raise very little money to build the size of company that we are today. That isn’t to suggest, however, that we are not focused very aggressively on growth. A lot of the Series A round from late 2015 was put into expanding and accelerating product development and the product platform. But a large amount of it was also dedicated to sales and marketing, and really growing the business. 

It’s been four years since your last funding round. Do you plan to raise more money soon? 

As a CEO of the company, it’s my job to always be thinking about that. So far, we are stepping on the gas successfully without requiring additional capital, but we’re always looking for those opportunities. The market is super early and we’re here to win. It’s massive. Some market researchers estimate it to be a trillion-dollar industry by 2022 to 2023. So we’re talking about an enormous space and, in our journey to win in this category, we very likely will be raising more capital, but can’t say more than that right now. 

We see a lot of tech companies prioritize growth over profits—Uber, Lyft and Spotify are high-profile examples that come to mind. Is profitability a priority for you and, if so, how do you balance that with your growth ambitions? 

We’ve been profitable multiple times in our history. Right now we’re focused on building a growth engine that allows us to become profitable long-term. Some of the other businesses out there who are focused on growth above all else don’t have a path to profitability. They will file to go public and specifically state that they very likely won’t be profitable. I just don’t think that’s respectful. The right thing to do is build a long-term sustainable business and one that will be able to return benefit to its shareholders. Growth is a top focus for us, but I don’t think that growth-at-all-costs a responsible way of building a business.

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You mentioned that you plan to grow Jobber to be a Shopify-type company in Edmonton. Do you have plans to go the Shopify route and IPO? 

Yeah, I think that that would be a really great success story. An IPO is a really great milestone along the way to provide liquidity to investors and shareholders. I’d be very proud one day to do what Shopify did for Ottawa and for Canada, and for Jobber to do that via IPO in Edmonton and also for Canada. But it’s certainly not an end in and of itself. I won’t speculate on any time horizons for IPO.