Embracing Change: A Company's Evolution From IG to AI
1 February 2018
Chris Perram, Information Governance (IG) specialist, is the founder of FileFacets, a SaaS platform that leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI). Here Chris describes the market forces that drove the evolution of this technology shift. You can also read an interview with Chris in a recent edition of the Intralinks Deal Flow Predictor.
When FileFacets graduated from the L-SPARK accelerator in 2016, we made a big splash in the tech startup scene, but many people don’t know that the company’s origins can be traced back to an information governance (IG) consulting firm that I founded in 2000. Back then, we helped companies manage digital information, which was stored on hardware that was often scattered across their organizations. With a team of extremely bright, hardworking and motivated people, we became a center of excellence for functional classification and metadata modeling.
However, after nearly 15 years of providing classification, attribution and migration services, I had seen enough signs to convince me that the IG services market was stagnating. Change was coming – that was certain. But at that point I couldn’t imagine how much would change, or how fast.
Meanwhile, market intelligence revealed that regional information managers and IG professionals didn’t have the tools they needed to organize company data. Conventional software was prohibitively expensive and unwieldy, and organizations were missing their goals with SharePoint and ECM projects because they weren’t able to get their hands around the sheer amount of information on their networks.
Having fought this battle many times as consultants, we had developed a software product that our team used to migrate and organize information more easily and efficiently. I began to wonder whether there was more potential in that software product than in the services market we’d been in for more than a decade. After more investigation and research, I settled on the opinion that there was – and I decided to place my bet on technology.
Our in-house solution became the basis for FileFacets, a powerful platform that enables clients to automatically locate, sort and categorize reams of business files. As a fee-based SaaS solution that runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service, our software is cost effective, easy to implement, and dramatically improves data management and analysis.
The big pivot
I don’t know if the word pivot is accurate because what we did felt more like a blind and terrifying leap of faith! In 2013, we walked away from the services business altogether, which had been providing us a healthy CA$4 million annual revenue stream, and we became a tech company. A short two years later, I was glad to see my bet paying off. FileFacets was thriving as part of the L-SPARK accelerator, had just been selected “Information Governance Technology Provider of the Year for 2015” by the IGI and InfoGovCon, and had received “#NextBigThingOTT honours” at the Best Ottawa Business Awards.
In November 2015, FileFacets began the L-SPARK accelerator program with CA$7,000 in monthly revenue. By May 2016, we’d hit CA$75,000, and a month later we broke CA$100,000. A year later, we landed CA$4 million in a financing round that was led by a CA$2 million investment by Celtic House Venture Partners, CA$1 million from Wesley Clover, CA$500,000 from Chinese firm Green Capital Investments and the remainder from various small investors. In the past year, we used some of that capital to expand our employee base from 17 to 26, and this year we will focus on building out our development, customer success and European teams.
The time is now
Ray Kroc is credited with saying, “The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.”
Today, I’m watching the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) come down the line, and it is a massive opportunity that affects millions of companies around the world. Starting in May 2018, approximately 23 million companies in the European Union (EU) alone are required to meet GDPR standards, as are all foreign companies that handle data related to EU residents.
The years we spent in consulting services enabled us to build a massive test repository that contains 30 million documents and data on more than 5,000 M&A transactions. In our market, artificial intelligence (AI) has become commoditized, and algorithms are no longer a competitive differentiator. What differentiates us from the competition is the way we apply our AI and our ability to leverage the database we developed as a consultancy, which is a resource that is unparalleled in our market.
So, how are we doing according to Ray Kroc’s formula for success? The years we spent providing IG services and developing our software brought us to this place at this time, while pivoting to software development and joining the J-SPARK accelerator prepared us to act on the GDPR opportunity sitting in front of us. The evolution of our company has placed us in the right place at the right time to do something about it, as Ray Kroc would say. As I look around at the team of dedicated people who are the lifeblood of our company, I am certain that it will be something great.
In 2000, Chris Perram capitalized on his 15 years of Information Governance (IG) expertise by launching his own consultancy, turning it into an internationally recognized center of excellence for functional classification and metadata modelling. For over a decade, Mr. Perram provided world-class IG solutions to the largest companies and governments in the world before pivoting the company to FileFacets in 2015. Chris has created an award-winning SaaS-based privacy compliance and enterprise discovery solution that is adopted around the world.