Ian Warner and Federico de Giuli, respectively CEO and CIO at APRIO, gave a talk about their business to GEM and SFU students as part of the corporate visits co-organized by both schools on the 11th of February 2014.
A little recap:
The company was created in 2003 to address a need for efficiency around the governance process. APRIO is the leading Canadian provider of secure board portal solutions. APRIO Boardroom™ is a secure and user-friendly web portal solution for centralizing board documents, processes and communications. It also provides productivity tools for creating and distributing board materials efficiently. APRIO Boardroom is a constantly evolving set of specialized software tools designed to simplify repetitive tasks and increase productivity. APRIO’s solution is unique in that it approaches governance as more than just informing the Board: It manages the whole suite of information that occurs, making the whole process more effective and efficient.
APRIO is not only a software company, they also provide training and support for every step of the way: from initial set up to any issue that may occur in the future.
APRIO Boardroom™ is an excellent way to help organizations meet their environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility goals by using APRIO’s paperless web-based solution.
To start off they explained the beginnings of the company, which they explained had not been easy. They have been through some difficulties; their funder having personal issues and their initial focus being mining companies. The thing to note here is that more than often than not mining companies, face financial difficulties and so many failed at the time. As a result they could not keep up with the program, which was obviously a huge blow to APRIO. So APRIO executives decided to start looking for new customers: and they found a niche with credit unions. This change in direction paid off as bit by bit the company started to build up its reputation thanks to a networking effect. In fact, credit unions directors are part of a closed circle – some of them are even the head of several credit union companies – which strengthened the word-of-mouth effect.
They then talked about their business model revenue which is a subscription-based (subscriptions on an annual basis) revenue model. Their biggest challenge was – and still is – to keep their costs down and continue with the subscription model. Their strategy is customer-centered, therefore their customer services is an integral service for them to provide. Of course the customers’ opinion is absolutely fundamental. They have implemented a customer’s feedback system that has a double benefit: the customers feel valued and their recommendations lead to a pool of idea for software improvements. Their efforts are recompensed since APRIO observes a 93% rate of renewal of the subscriptions.
When a question was raised about security, Ian Warner and Federico de Giuli answered that, of course, security is a key issue and is the first concern of their customers. They reassure their customers that all their data stays on Canadian soil. Furthermore privacy is very important; the IT department itself does not have access to the customers’ data without their consent. However customers often allow since it makes it easier for APRIO to work.
They also guarantee satisfaction to their customers within 3 months by conducting a survey. If the survey reveals complaints from the customers, APRIO will try to solve the issues and to solve the issues raised by the customers. It is important to note that the contract can be terminated if the customer remains unsatisfied and a refund will be offered by APRIO.
With their business model based on subscriptions, centered on the customers, and benefiting from a networking effect, APRIO became profitable within 5 to 6 years.
Concerning their value proposition, it consists of a system that is 50% cheaper yet still gives the customers 90% of the capacities offered by the competitors. Moreover, they try to keep the system functions as broad as possible (contrary to their competitors). They propose a standardized platform with customizable options. In this way the system is very adaptable, and can fit to every corporate board, from the smallest to the biggest.
This value proposition allows them to distinguish themselves from their competitors, Diligent being the major one. It is interesting to know that APRIO is more of a follower than its leading competitor, which is the exact opposite of Diligent. For instance, Diligent invested one million dollars to develop an iPad app while APRIO waited for the costs of development to go down before investing, thus reducing their expenses to $7,000.
When they were asked about their future, they answered that they are currently thinking to expand to the USA, which would require them to set up an office over there, since an American address would facilitate the Google search and visibility. Finally, they also speak about creating partnerships within the various countries where they are already operating (Singapore, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, etc.), an understandable decision since there is currently only one person assuming such a heavy task.
Written by Cyrielle Marconnet, Hélène Pinneau and Sarah Viala