The CIX Top 20 CEO Series highlights the chief executive officers of Canada’s most innovative companies.
You can register for CIX 2015 here.
Today we sat down with Shaun Jamieson, CEO of SilkStart.
What impact does being on the CIX Top 20 have on your business?
First off, it’s great recognition for the team. We’re mostly heads down, hard at work, trying to build something really great. This is an opportunity to bring something back to the team that we can all be proud of. Second, it gives customers some additional assurance that we are a great company to work with. Third, it’s already improving the calibre of people who apply to work with us.
How was your company formed?
SilkStart was born out of a desire to help non-profit associations. These businesses need tools to operate in the modern world: a website, database, the ability to send newsletters, accept online payments, event tickets, etc. Pretty basic stuff really, yet the market lacked a great, reasonably priced all-in-one product that did these things and included a custom looking website. This is where we come in.
What brought you to this industry?
After 9 years building my career at Abebooks and Amazon I realized that I missed the energy, excitement and reward you get in an early stage company. I also wanted to do something where I could make a difference in my community and the world, both in terms of the type of company I built and the customers I got to work with. SilkStart was an opportunity that ticked all the boxes.
Who are your typical clients?
We support trade, not-for-profit, and multi-chapter associations of all sizes.
Can you give me a sense of your role and what you do as CEO of your company? What are your goals?
It’s my job to set and communicate our vision and to have the right team, focused on the right objectives, with enough cash in the bank to crush our goals. My main goals right now are taking the product from good to great, accelerating customer acquisition, and building bench strength that I can rely on as we grow. Day to day I jump between product, customer acquisition, and retention. I’m the person who needs to step back and objectively look at what everyone is doing and decide where to double down, or course correct. It’s harder for the team to do that, because they are busy executing.
How do you feel your past experience has impacted you and your role as CEO? Have you had any mentors?
While at AbeBooks I had the opportunity to grow two early-stage SaaS companies they acquired. Amazon taught me to think big – big ideas, big markets, big goals, to start from the customer, to take calculated risks, and to deliver results. Being a Bar Raiser @ Amazon also improved my ability to build a great team.
I’ve had the good fortune to learn from some amazing people: from Lisa Stevens and Sue Connors who saw my potential and hired me, to AbeBooks former CEO, Hannes Blum, and former COO Boris Wertz who helped me grow to where I am today.
Are you developing anything new that you can share with the public?
Yes, lots! We just launched a new Job Board for Viatec, the island’s technology association. We built this from scratch for them and have integrated it into our platform. We’re also developing our multi-chapter capabilities. This allows us to uniquely support the needs of associations with multiple chapters or clubs. We feel this is a game changer for these types of organizations and we’re very excited about it.
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
It’s hard to know for sure as 5 years is a ways out. I do expect to establish ourselves as the leading company in our industry by listening to customers and being innovative. Right now I’m focused on the inputs, a concept I learned from Jeffrey Wilke, an Amazon SVP. By focusing on the inputs – which for us is a perfectly price product that truly helps customers operate more effectively – you’ll end up with the desired outputs: happy customers and significant market share.
What are you looking forward to most at CIX 2015?
I’m really interested to hear what other innovative Canadian companies are up to. I’m sure I’ll learn something I can bring back to our business.