EDMONTON, Oct. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Seven years ago, when Ashif Mawji
couldn't find the type of contract management software he needed, he created
his own company to provide it. Since then, Upside Software has become a
leading global provider of enterprise contract management software, serving
some 200 clients around the world. For that achievement, Ashif, 35, has won
BDC's Young Entrepreneur Award for Alberta and will be honoured tonight at a
ceremony in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Upside Software provides integrated business solutions for conducting
contract management, sourcing and procurement, and billing management. The
company, which started out with two employees, now numbers some 130 and serves
a broad range of customers in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany and South
Africa. Its customers represent everything from Fortune 500 companies to
public sector organizations and SMEs. "We were profitable from the second year
on," says Ashif. In fact, between 2001 and 2006, Upside realized an increase
of over 3,300% in revenues and more than 400% in profits.
An entrepreneur from the age of 12 when he sold watches on commission in
his native Kenya, Ashif came to Canada when he was 15 and always knew he
wanted to work for himself. He took his passion for computers and started a
consulting firm in 1995, soon landing a major public sector contract with IBM.
Five years later, when he needed a software solution for contract
management, he met with professionals from different disciplines to see if
they had the same need. When he discovered they did, he founded Upside
Software to provide the solution. "I recognized a business opportunity and
took a risk; that's how it started," explains Ashif.
Keeping to the program
Ashif believes in keeping his operation lean, being extremely responsive
to customers and investing heavily in Research and Development. "We spend
three times the industry average on R&D," says Ashif. "We really push the
limit and that's how we stay ahead of the curve. We've been able to do that
because we scrimped on marketing and sales costs by using Web-based marketing.
Our first customer was BSNF Railway in the U.S., which found us through the
Web. We're at the point now where our customers sell our product for us."
Giving back to the community is a way of life for Upside Software. "It's
a belief that my parents passed on to me," explains Ashif, who sits on the
boards of a number of charitable organizations. "Upside has been giving to
charity from day one," he explains. The company matches employees'
contributions to the United Way to help bring the philosophy of giving back
into the company. Upside also shares profits with its employees, dedicating
about 20% of pre-tax earnings to the profit-sharing pool.
"Upside Software is a real success story. By taking a risk and making
smart business decisions, Ashif has put his company at the forefront of its
sector and attracted clients from around the world. He is a role model for
other young Canadian entrepreneurs," says BDC President and CEO Jean-René
"If you're going to do something, do it because you believe in it. Do it
because you like it. Never do it for the money. The money should be an end
result, not a driver," sums up Ashif.
Young entrepreneurs in the spotlight
BDC's Young Entrepreneur Awards are a highlight of Small Business Week,
providing the opportunity to honour the entrepreneurial spirit and business
success of Canadians between the ages of 19 and 35. Winners from each province
and territory are selected by a panel based on the originality of their
business concept, its success, growth potential and their community
involvement. The panel also considers the entrepreneur's age when the business
was started and any special challenges that had to be faced.
Small Business Week partners
Contributing to the success of this year's Small Business Week and Young
Entrepreneur Awards are the following national sponsors: Western Economic
Diversification Canada, Export Development Canada and Rogers. Privileged
partners are the Pan Canadian Community Futures Group and the Canadian Chamber
of Commerce, which has been a privileged partner of the event since 1981.
BDC is a financial institution wholly owned by the Government of Canada.
BDC actively supports the development and growth of Canadian small and
medium-sized businesses through its complementary financial, investment and
consulting solutions. BDC is one of Canada's Top 100 Employers for 2008. Visit
www.bdc.ca for more information.
Small Business Week is a registered trademark of BDC.
For further information:
For further information: or to arrange for an interview on October 16:
Media Room: 1-866-515-6033, (204) 985-6251; After October 16: Johanne
Bissonnette, Media Relations Manager, (514) 283-7929