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Alberta startup story #1: Passportal grows from idea to exit in 5 years

Posted by Accelerate Fund | October 2, 2019

Ask Passportal founder, Colin Knox, whether it paid off to be plugged into the Alberta technology community and here’s what he fesses up:

“For the first year and a half of us gunning on Passportal, we were very heads down and didn’t know anything that was going on in AB tech. I’d meet peer CEOs, and even though we were at a million in ARR, no one had heard of us. And we hadn’t heard of anyone else. When we started building our Alberta network, we learned that it gave us connection to capital, mentorship and talent which is super worthwhile as we continued to grow the business.”

We get it. The early days of building a tech company can be all consuming. But the fact is, research confirms that being connected to the local technology community boosts the odds of a startup’s success.

To help Alberta tech entrepreneurs and investors discover one another, we’re starting a story series about the growth experiences of some of the startups Accelerate Fund has supported. If you don’t already, follow us on Twitter to hear about colleagues worth connecting with.

First up, Colin tells the story of Passportal.

Passportal: From Idea to Exit in 5 Years

Passportal began as just an idea and a simple two-page website that a few hundred IT consultants found on their own to buy a credential management tool. Less than five years later Passportal was acquired.

We asked Colin about the journey and how it began.

“Before Passportal, I was running an IT Managed Service Provider company that grew very
quickly. Unexpectedly, we had one of our technicians leave the company. We had to scramble
to gather and change all the privileged credentials to access and manage our client’s IT
systems. It was a huge pain and highlighted a technical gap that needed to be filled. We looked
for a credential management tool to purchase and couldn’t find one. So, we built our own, and
put it out there to see if others in the industry had the same need.

Two years later, with no advertising or active selling program we had about 250 customers and we were starting to get feature requests and support questions coming in. We decided we needed to take it somewhere or shut it down.

We gave ourselves six months to raise an angel round to turn it into a real business. We just made it a month short of our self-imposed deadline, and after a couple strong years of growth, Accelerate Fund II decided to join the next round.”

A couple years later, Passportal had competing acquisition offers. It’s a rapid-fire Alberta tech growth story, but not one that was free from challenges.

Read the full story.


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