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Tech entrepreneur Serge Salager hired MBA interns to grow his online venture from 30,000 to 300,000 users last year, with new clients ranging from Google and the New York Times to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice.
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thechallenge

When entrepreneur Serge Salager launched tech company Visualping, an online tool designed to track and alert users to changes on websites, he knew he needed to on-board employees with specific skill sets to help his start-up reach its potential.

Since going live in 2014, the online app had an ever increasing number of subscribers, but he wanted to fully understand what was driving the growth.

“I needed a well-rounded team with experience to prove the model I developed was viable and had the potential to expand into a profitable business.”

“I wanted to open the hood and look at the entire operation,” says Salager. So he turned to UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School to hire two MBA interns with strong backgrounds in business strategy.

Serge Salager pull quote
 
The Company

Salager, a 40-year-old Harvard MBA, was a venture capitalist prior to becoming an entrepreneur with a knack for growing tech companies from the ground up. He came to Canada from The Bahamas to lead a TSX-listed company in 2012. In 2014, after taking the company private and negotiating its sale, he founded two new tech startups, including Visualping.

Providing to-the-second analysis of changes and alerts, Visualping allows companies to track their competition, media organizations to monitor developing stories, lawyers to keep pace with regulatory changes, consumers to track pricing and availability, and job seekers to watch for openings, among other things.

There was a clear interest in the service from the start, as it effortlessly acquired 30,000 users. The app was addressing an untapped need, but to be successful Salager needed to completely grasp what the need was to expand its user base and develop a reliable model to monetize it.   

“Ultimately we wanted to know whether the venture could become a large enough business to attract investor interest,” says Salager.

To meet the task he hired Navin Schaduangrat and Louis Perrin, MBA interns with experience in global marketing, business development and corporate finance.

“Louis, who was a consultant at EY in Paris, was hired because of his experience in analytics and fundraising,” he explains. “And Navin, who came from KPMG in Bangkok, was selected for his experience consulting with technology companies with a particular focus on strategy and operations.”

“These two not only had great work experience, but their experience in the MBA program gave them a well-rounded perspective of how to build and operate a global technology business,” he adds.

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theexperience

As Salager was extremely busy running a second startup in addition to Visualping at the time, he had no choice but to delegate many tasks that come with growing a venture.

“I wanted to bring in people who possessed high confidence in what they were doing and who could really handle these assignments with minimum supervision,” says Salager, adding that Schaduangrat and Perrin surpassed his expectations for their leadership, analytical, strategic and communications skills.

Salager was also able to pay for almost half of their salaries through the BC Innovation Council’s Innovators Skills Initiative. The initiative helps connect companies in the province with qualified post-secondary students and gives grants to employers to help offset the cost of salaries.

In the first few months, after achieving a deep understanding of the different use cases, the service’s value proposition, and the competitive landscape, Salager and his team of MBA interns launched a new tiered subscription revenue model that instantly made the venture profitable.  

Their biggest move, however, came with the strategic takeover of one of Visualping’s larger competitors, San Francisco-based Page Monitor, which drastically increased their market share. Talks are now underway to acquire the company’s main competitor.

thechange

“In terms of profitability, there’s no comparison,” says Salager.

“We’ve grown from about 30,000 users to 300,000 in less than a year and we are adding 15,000 new customers every month from around the world,” he adds, “which is pretty impressive for a company that doesn’t spend a dime in sales and marketing.”

The list of Visualping clients now includes Google, Sequoia Capital, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, The New York Times, the Departments of Justice in the U.S. and Canada, the FBI, Deloitte and many other Fortune 500 companies.

Their rapid rise has been turning heads within B.C.’s entrepreneurial community, as they have been nominated this April for the Most Promising Startup award at the BC Technology Industry Association’s Technology Impact Awards.

Success has also followed for Salager’s MBA interns. Schaduangrat was recruited by Salager as the director of product management for his other venture, AdLinks, and Perrin has been hired as financial analyst, development and business strategy at Lune Rouge, a prominent venture fund in Montreal.

Hire an MBA Intern

Hiring a UBC Sauder MBA intern delivers tremendous value to your specific business needs. The Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre offers full service support and industry expertise to match you with candidates with the skills to move  your business objectives forward.

Recruitment is underway 
MBA candidates are available from May to August, for 8-16 week projects.

Learn more
Find out more about recruiting MBA interns at 
sauder.ubc.ca/bcc/mba-internship
 or contact the Business Career Centre at 604.822.6479 / careercentre@sauder.ubc.ca.

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