Context.IO was featured Monday in North America’s biggest French-language daily newspaper, La Presse. We’ve taken the liberty of providing an English translation below, the original French version can be accessed on Cyberpresse.ca (direct link)
Extracting the Treasures in Email
(Montreal) Attachments. Addresses. Business information. Conversations. Contacts. Every day, inboxes are filled with a wealth of information that often end up lost in a maelstrom of data.
But a small startup out of Montreal, Context.IO, has a mission to make the most of this wealth of underutilized information .
“As it often happens, the idea came from the problems I have experienced myself,” says Bruno Morency, founder and president of the company.
In 2008, the young thirty-year-old made a decision that would steer his professional life in a new direction. Delving into his mailbox to retrieve all versions of an attachment that had made multiple trips between multiple recipients, Bruno Morency was struck with the complexity of the task.
Instead of complaining, he got down to work.
Three years later, Mr. Morency is the head of Context.IO, one of the tech startups in the city that has been getting the most attention of late.
The company has developed a tool to extract data from a variety of mailboxes and transfer it to other applications, such as those that companies use to manage relationships with their customers.
Context.IO has not set out to sell its product directly to individuals. Its target audience is major software developers, which the Montreal startup is aiming to have its solution integrated with their products.
In an effort to build buzz as well as understand developer needs, Context.IO began offering a free version to potential customers. More than 700 developers took part in this offer.
“From the moment we put the product into the hands of people, the feedback rolled in,” said Morency. “It gave us a lot of homework to do. Let’s say we went through several iterations before getting to our current stage!”
Building on feedback received, the young enterprise assembled a first commercial version of its tool, which will be marketed in a few weeks. Several small businesses have already pledged to use it. The next step: convince the larger fish, such as Oracle or SalesForce.com, to jump in.
“With these major players, we talk about relationships that often take 12 months or more to build,” added Morency.
Back From the Sun
Like many young entrepreneurs, Bruno Morency had to juggle several different demands at once before going into business.
Morency, who formerly worked as a contract product manager, used earnings from these contracts to finance the fledgling company.
In May 2009, an IRAP grant (the Industrial Research Assistance Program from the Federal Government) gave him some breathing room. Then the venture capital fund Real Ventures invested in him, allowing Bruno Morency to hire his first two employees.
Last March, Context.IO also made many jealous at Accelerate Montreal, an event for start-ups in the city. The young company won one of three “all inclusive” trips to the mecca of the technology world, Silicon Valley, offered by the Canadian Innovation Exchange organization.
“This is completely unexpected… and I’m having another baby in September! These coming months will be busy,” exclaimed a surprised but delighted Bruno Morency when receiving his prize. Five months later, the new baby expanded his family and Bruno Morency came back from sunny Silicon Valley.
“Technically, we won an office in Sunnyvale, but I have hardly set foot there,” he said. “My goal was to meet with developers to get a better idea of their needs, so I made sure to hold several meetings.”
Although this was already the fourth visit taken by the young entrepreneur to Silicon Valley this year, Mr. Morency is said to have maximized every minute.
“Among the hundreds of people who tried our product, there are developers from around the world. But Silicon Valley is the only place where there are so many within a 100 kilometer radius. In terms of return on investment on a plane ticket, it’s pretty hard to beat.”
Does this mean that Context.IO could say goodbye to Montreal to set up shop in sunny California?
“Honestly, I will do everything to build my business in Montreal,” maintained Bruno Morency. “This is where I want to create something. Montreal is increasingly a city where you can build a start-up, with serious people who know their business and can provide the support and assistance we need. This ecosystem has seriously gotten stronger over the past two years, and we want to take advantage of that.”
Founder and President
The Montreal-based venture capital fund Real Ventures
The Concept in 140 Characters
“Conversations and exchanges of important documents happen via email, and we facilitate their integration within business applications.” -Bruno Morency
Objectives Within a Year
“Achieving profitability and integrating the solution with at least two very large vendors.” – Bruno Morency