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Sam Pillar, CEO and co-founder of Jobber in Edmonton, Alberta on Jan. 7, 2021.

Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

Jobber, an Edmonton company building a Shopify-like online platform for home-services businesses, has raised US$60-million in the largest technology growth-equity financing in the city’s history, according to Refinitiv, and makes Jobber the latest in a slew of innovative Alberta startups to raise significant funding in the bleak, energy-dependent provincial economy.

“We’ve always believed the opportunity in home services is massive and the need to adequately chase that Shopify-sized opportunity would truly require capital,” Jobber chief executive officer and co-founder Sam Pillar said in an interview. “We thought it was the right time to raise a big round and hit the gas.” The company, with 250 employees, expects to hire 200 more in 2021. Revenues now top US$50-million on an annualized basis.

Mr. Pillar said there are about five million small home-services businesses in the United States, which is the company’s largest source of revenue, that contribute a combined US$500-billion in gross domestic product.

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The growth-equity funding - which provides expansion capital for startups that have scaled into larger, revenue-generating businesses - was led by Boston’s Summit Partners and backed by Silicon Valley-based Tech Pioneers Fund and existing investors OMERS Ventures and Version One Ventures. It is believed to value Jobber, whose official name is Octopusapp, Inc., one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, at between US$300-million and US$400-million.

Like other Canadian companies that sell online software to small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) – such as Shopify, Clio and FreshBooks – Jobber has brought sophisticated digital tools to a sector that was previously underserved by technology – home-services providers such as painters, house cleaners and landscapers. “The biggest competitor for us is pen and paper and single-point solutions like spreadsheets,” said Jobber chief revenue officer Shawn Cadeau.

Mr. Pillar co-founded Jobber in 2010 with chief technology officer Forrest Zeisler after the two 20-something freelance programmers struck up a conversation at one of the Edmonton coffee shops they frequented. Mr. Pillar was keen to develop software to help small businesses that lacked good software tools and were drowning in Post-It notes trying to run their businesses. Those small companies add up to a massive market.

Mr. Zeisler knew someone at an Edmonton painting company who was looking for a software tool to track clients, quotes and invoices. The co-founders built a tool for the company based on its input, then sold the product to others. The painting company still uses Jobber, which owner Graham Audenart said “has taken a whole salary out of my expenses.”

Jobber’s rate ranges from US$29 a month to US$199 monthly for up to 30 users. Basic plans include job tracking, quoting and invoicing, while pricier options include such features as two-way texting and lead management. It also offers payment processing in partnership with Stripe.

Summit principal Colin Mistele credited the founders for understanding SMB owners “needed a consumer-type user experience in their pocket” and focused on making the platform “simple, easy to use and clean.”

Brian Boase, co-owner of MIL-SPEC Landscaping in Clarksville, Tenn., said without Jobber his firm would use “probably a half-dozen” other tools to do tasks like quote jobs, invoice, handle payments and determine the most efficient travel routes – all of which are managed through the platform. “It’s like having an office manager ride around in the truck with you all day sitting there working while you get other things done.”

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Version One founding partner Boris Wertz, the company’s first institutional investor, said “when COVID-19 hit, we were really worried all these small and medium-sized businesses would go out of business.”

Mr. Pillar said at first he “hit the brakes” on hiring and new initiatives last March. “We went into observation mode and watched very carefully what we were doing.” But by closely monitoring customer data the company determined which customers by segment and geography were doing better than others, and spent their marketing dollars accordingly.

The company also benefited from accelerated trends toward digitization similar to other areas such as e-commerce as their customers reached for affordable online tools to help more effectively manage their businesses – and to add touchless payment options. “Where others might have generally pulled back more, [Jobber] could be surgical and smart” in pursuing business, said OMERS Ventures partner Brian Kobus.

As a result, after a couple of shaky months early in the pandemic, recurring revenue eventually increased by 90 per cent in 2020 over 2019 levels – better than expected – as Jobber’s customer count topped 100,000 home-service professionals, mostly in the United States and Canada.

Jobber isn’t the only business focused on digitizing the home services sector. For example, Toronto’s Jiffy on Demand allows professionals to book jobs through its app and takes care of payment, invoicing, and customer service while San Francisco-based TaskRabbit offers similar services and has a partnership with Ikea.

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