In Dale Gantous’ own words, the story of how she became the CEO of rapidly-growing tech firm InGenius Software is a great one.
Equally great is the Kanata North company’s trajectory, from a high-growth beginning to a shrewd tech-bubble-burst survival story to another period of high growth that saw InGenius on the Growth 500 list in 2018 with a five-year revenue jump of 446 per cent.
But before all that, InGenius was essentially one person – founder Rich Loen, who met Gantous through her role at Telesat Canada. Gantous, who studied math and computer science at McGill University, worked at Telesat for 14 years in satellite communications and later business management.
InGenius – then a software developer and R&D provider – was hired to help Telesat build a system for an Aboriginal TV network, a challenging project that required giving equal weight to each of the communities involved. Loen’s solution was to build a token-passing system, which impressed Gantous.
“I thought, ‘This is the best engineer I’d ever worked with in my life,’” she says. Over the years, Loen worked with Gantous on several more projects.
In 1992, the federal government sold its shares in Telesat to Alouette Communications, a company majority-owned by Bell, which would outright buy Telesat in 1998. Bell was looking to shut down any divisions competitive to its own services. Word spread that the Telesat higher-ups would be leaving, and Gantous knew she would soon be out of a job. Unfazed, she planned a driving vacation to California. Then Loen came knocking.
“He showed up at my door with a box of business cards that said ‘Dale Gantous, President, InGenius,’” she says. “I told him at the time, ‘Buzz off, I’m going on vacation.’”
But when Gantous returned, the offer was still there. After seeing her management style, Loen wanted Gantous to help him grow InGenius.
“He had told me, ‘Come and work for yourself. You’ll never look back,’” Gantous says.
“That was 25 years ago. And I have never looked back.”
She and Loen set about growing the firm, starting with its three core competencies: software development, telecommunications systems and multi-vendor computer networking. At the time, Nortel was the biggest player around, and they quickly became preferred consultants for the firm – at one point, Gantous says InGenius had approximately 50 people working exclusively on the Nortel file.
When Nortel imploded, InGenius shrank down to around seven people. “We went back to our roots,” says Gantous. The company built up its relationship with Mitel, mostly on research and development products.
The company’s relationship with Mitel proved fruitful. When the firm asked InGenius to take over its custom application development, Gantous saw it as an opportunity to find out what customers were missing and how InGenius could fill the gap.
The common need InGenius identified was a connection between phones and customer-relationship management programs such as SalesForce, often used in call centres and customer service departments.
“We helped them develop specifications that made it easier and easier to tie phone systems into SalesForce,” explains Gantous. But after finding out just how useful that capability proved, InGenius took the solution a step further.
InGenius also had a relationship with SalesForce and was helping the company develop its new application interface program. So when SalesForce released OpenCTI in September 2012, InGenius had a release of its own: Connected Enterprise, a program that integrated phone systems with SalesForce.
“We’ve got customers that say their agents are able to handle twice the number of calls,” explains Gantous.
The company had 19 employees in 2012. Now, they’re at 65, and are moving in January from the Mitel building into Calian’s old space at 340 Legget Dr., which can hold up to 120. Its list of enterprise customers keeps growing, including Expedia, LinkedIn and The Gap.
As the company scales up, Gantous says the workplace culture she and Loen set out to uphold years ago is still top of mind. Loen greets every new hire in person, and Gantous holds town-hall-style lunch meetings regularly.
What does Gantous look for in new hires? “The light behind the eyes,” she says. Skill is important, but Gantous says the changing nature of technology means a drive to learn is equally important. She’s also looking for people who care about making customers happy.
Gantous adds that InGenius wouldn’t be where it is without the strong relationships the firm has built with its customers and partners.
“We work together with them. And together we provide better solutions than either of us do on their own.”
Fun fact: Gantous also has her own tech-bubble-burst survival story. After working together for seven years, she and Loen started to date. They’re now married, with 15-year-old twin boys.