Google Apps training firm battles for talent
Synergyse Training Inc.
Google Apps online training system
Projected over $1 million for 2013
Educational institutions, businesses
Toronto startup Synergyse has proven itself a valuable ally for Google, and it’s not even a year old yet.
The company, which launched in April 2013, created an online training system for Google Apps that’s helping lure businesses and schools away from Microsoft Office for their computing needs.
Synergyse has already sold its web-based software (which costs $10 per employee per year) to over 1,000 businesses and schools worldwide, including major Canadian and U.S. commercial real estate firm Cadillac Fairview, Dublin City University and the Oakland school district.
“We’re seeing demand and referrals increase every month,” says Varun Malhotra, a Synergyse co-founder.
The firm projects first-year revenues of over $1 million.
Despite early success, Malhotra notes his company is struggling to find top-notch software engineers to take it to the next level. “It’s been hard finding the people who meet the qualifications and are the right fit with our culture,” he says.
Malhotra founded Synergyse with Majid Manzarpour, a former Google IT engineer. They subsequently hired a second Google engineer.
The firm currently has 13 employees, some part-time, some full-time, all working remotely. But Synegyse needs additional talent to advance the development of its innovative training solution.
Synergyse is an interactive tool that works inside the Google Apps interface on the Chrome browser. Users click on the Synergyse training menu and select a lesson. The lesson — using visual, audio and tech cues — guides users step by step through the various features of apps like Gmail, Calendar, Sheets, Docs and Drive.
“Before if you wanted to learn how to do something you would have to go to a separate portal and look at a video or forum-style FAQ, and then come back to the application,” Malhotra explains.
With Synergyse training takes place inside the application. “We tried to mimic having an IT person next to you showing you how to use Google Apps.”
Google, recognizing Synergyse’s value in helping customers switch to its suite of productivity apps (Google Apps for Business costs $50 per person per year), has been instrumental in helping the firm establish credibility.
“They love the product and have been advocating for it,” says Malhotra. “They helped us get in touch with Google Apps resellers and get them on board with selling Synergyse.”
Still, attracting tech talent hasn’t been as easy.
Synergyse currently has four software engineers and hopes to hire three more by year’s end. It’s a tall order in the ultra-competitive tech sector, where experienced software engineers are in high demand.
“With the growth within technology and cloud services, you have a lot of people with a lot of ideas trying to get software engineers,” Malhotra notes.
“It’s a bigger challenge for Canadian businesses versus U.S. businesses,” he adds. “There are a lot more people in places like San Francisco who have the software engineering skill set than here.”
Even with Google’s backing, it’s been tough for the Canadian startup to convince candidates the firm’s worth taking a chance on. “A lot of great talent tends to go work at Fortune 500 companies, not newer companies,” says Malhotra. “Or if they’re entrepreneurial they’re working on their own projects.”
To attract talent, Synergyse must identify the organization’s brand and value proposition for prospective employees, notes Neale Harrison, CEO of Talent Matters Inc., an HR consulting firm. “What is their organizational culture? What do they stand for? And what are they trying to achieve?”
More employees these days are working as free agents, particularly in the tech sector, Harrison notes. They want to get something meaningful out of the employment relationship in return for their skills. As an unproven startup, Synergyse needs to clearly emphasize the benefits of joining its team, “like bonus and incentives for meeting performance targets,” Harrison says.
“This is the basic stuff that needs to be in place to build confidence around talent,” he adds. “They have to have faith that the business is viable and believe there’s something there of value to them.”
Finding the right staff is taking more time than Malhotra had anticipated. “We’re finding it can take three or four months to get the right person on board,” he says.
He fears that if Synergyse can’t secure talented software engineers soon, the firm could risk thwarting its early momentum. “We’re seeing a lot of growth right now, so we need to hire quickly and hire a lot of people.”
“If we can’t get the right people and can’t get them in time, we won’t be able to grow the business and achieve our aggressive growth and development plans the way we’d like,” he says.
“It’s a big challenge that’s top of mind for us.”