Startup Spotlight – Tagle.it – June 2012
Startup of the Week: Tagle.it
Have you ever been frustrated by all the documents you have to manage in a day? Armed with a rockstar team, Mark Rosenberger is on a mission to make document management and compliance super simple – as simple as drag and drop!
We recently caught up with Mark to learn more about how he’s helping companies become more efficient and save millions.
How did you come up with the idea for your startup?
I really just wanted a better way to manage the mountain of email and documents I dealt with in my day job as an engineer. I came up with an idea for using a single, universal set of categories or “tags” to link information together. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to build it so I quit my day job, raised some money, assembled a development team, and just went for it!
What a humbling experience building a startup can be. Virtually no one understood the concept and the first version was a complete dud. Through a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears, we discovered that what users really wanted was “drag and drop”. So we rejigged Tagle to simplify the search and movement of documents, and being in Calgary, focused on the energy sector.
Tagle is now connected to many oil and gas software applications and it makes content management so much faster and simpler. One customer recently told us, “Tagle saves our maintenance team, literally, one man-day per week”. That was a pretty nice thing to hear!
We had another “aha moment” not long ago, and now we are tackling an acute problem for the energy industry – document compliance. The idea was inspired by a customer who described a problem she had with submitting drilling documentation to the government. Here’s how she described it:
“Tagle has solved our problem for finding the documents we have, but what’s difficult with regulatory submissions is that we don’t know what documents we’re missing.”
She had to manually track which documents were submitted to the government, which meant combing through her network drive and matching documents to a spreadsheet or paper checklist. Finding missing documents was not only tedious, it was error prone – and errors can mean expensive fines and even more expensive well shut-ins.
We knew Tagle’s technology could be used to tackle the situation, so for several months we made it our mission to solve this problem. The “aha moment” for what we now call “Tagle Smart Folders” was inspired by a kid’s jigsaw puzzle; nothing shows a missing piece better than a jigsaw puzzle, so why not apply this concept to documentation?
Here’s how Tagle Smart Folders work:
1. Tagle shows missing documents in folders like missing pieces in a jigsaw puzzle
2. Folders with missing documents are marked in red; folders that are complete are green
3. To fill in the blanks (missing documents), just drag and drop onto placeholders and Tagle will name the documents automatically according to government standards
We’ve forged ahead with patents and are now selling Tagle Smart Folders in the oil and gas market. Thus far, the validation has been amazing as energy companies are buying this technology faster than anything we’ve ever built in the past. This next year could get very interesting for us!
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Getting to a usable, salable product – something that customers easily understood and were willing to pay money for. Sometimes you get lucky and get it right out of the gate, but that is extremely rare.
Are there any key individuals outside of your organization that have been of great help to your startup?
For the company:
Without a doubt it’s been customers. Our best ideas for products have come from customers describing their problems.
Our partners have had a huge impact to our success. IHS has given us great support and credibility, NeoStream has been an exceptional promoter of Tagle for SharePoint and its integration with their Platform 4 Energy, and Zedi has marched us right into the doors of every one of their Roughneck customers to help us capture over 50% of that market in under a year.
Our investors have also been enormously supportive and patient. Some of our investors are lawyers as well and they’ve been amazing. Legal work is big expense and the majority of it has been free from them.
For me personally:
There have been quite a few people that have helped me along the way. In particular, Derek Ball of Tynt really helped me get through the devastating low of our first product iteration. I was ready to quit until he told me a few scenarios that he went through, that were almost identical to mine. It seems that every startup goes through “pivot” periods – lows where they either die or make it to the next company milestone. He helped me carry on to find our first pivot and I think I would have thrown in the towel had he not been there to help me. I’m very fortunate to have him as an advisor.
What’s new with your startup that we can share?
Tons of stuff! As I mentioned above, Tagle Smart Folders is a big one. Another is that we recently signed a partnership agreement with IHS.
IHS makes AccuMap, which is one of the most successful software applications in oil and gas for mapping public data. We’ve connected Tagle to AccuMap so users can click on a well in AccuMap and Tagle will show them all the related documents for that well. This saves them the time of having to manually search through their shared drive and many other data sources. IHS will be distributing Tagle with AccuMap this year.
Another big news item is the addition of a new co-founder who brings rock-solid leadership and management expertise to our team. Ganesh Murdeshwar joined Tagle as President and COO and was previously the VP of Global Product Portfolio at IHS (and also one of the original developers of AccuMap).
To date, Ganesh has been instrumental in commercializing the Tagle suite of products. Not only has he kept the company laser focused on building products that meet the needs of customers, he’s also cultivated partnerships with industry leaders like IHS, Zedi, and NeoStream to give us leverage. We really lucked out in having a guy like that join Tagle and the results have been amazing.
Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent?
In order of difficulty from hardest to easiest, here’s my ranking:
1. Building a product that customers want, will pay for, and solves real world problems
2. Finding talent
3. Raising capital
You often hear about startups that raise a lot of capital, as if raising capital is the end game. Capital is only a means to an end and that is; to provide the resources to build an amazing product and a profitable, sustainable business. The former is trivial in comparison to the latter.
What has contributed to your success to this point?
I’m just going to parrot what Ganesh keeps drilling into me:
“Focus on meeting the needs of customers. Don’t focus on:
· A specific technology
· Raising money
· Media attention
· Government grants
Unsurprisingly, if you listen to the needs of customers and build a product that solves their problems, the underlying technology won’t matter, investors and the media will seek you out, and you won’t need any grants to survive because your customers will be paying your bills.”
What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship?
When I was younger I thought it was about getting rich, but that is actually not the primary motivator. It really comes down to the sense of accomplishment you feel when you build something from nothing. I feel like I am contributing to the world and that gives my life meaning.
What are your thoughts on Calgary’s startup community?
There is a lot of enthusiasm here and I love that. I’ve met so many great entrepreneurs through Startup Calgary and they are all extremely passionate about what they’re doing.
What I would like to see change is how we are often trying to duplicate what is happening in Silicon Valley. We need to form our own identity in the tech space and focus on the opportunities that exist here because there are many. I hear a lot about how companies need to move to Silicon Valley to get any kind of traction in a tech startup, which may be true if you’re trying to be the next Facebook. However, I think that if we shift our focus to business opportunities in our own markets and then leverage technology to capitalize on those opportunities, we could grow a very strong and unique technology industry right here in Alberta.
What do you and your startup need?
We’d like to give a shout out to large companies in the energy sector who are not averse to trying new things, and working with tech startups. Granted; it is risky to work with a small company if you’re a big company, but man, you will be getting 100X the value for your dollar over working with a multi-national. Not only will you get work done at a fraction of the cost, you’ll get innovation that is quite literally, unimaginable. There are some extremely talented entrepreneurs here in the tech industry in Calgary that could potentially change the way you do business. Start looking for them, and try something new. Who knows, some startup could be building the next corporate branding engine or emissions management system that saves your company millions – check out Gridly and Insight Emissions for example.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A big thanks to our core software development team who aren’t just coding our products, they’re owning them. As software developers they’re world class, but now they’re stepping up their game with some serious product management skills and it’s really something to see. Qun, Zhou, Jacky – you’re exceptional – keep it up!
Startup Spotlight is covered by Boast Capital, a Calgary-based Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) consulting firm that helps companies secure and maximize government funding to advance innovation. For more information visit BoastCapital.com or @BoastCapital.