Software Executive Magazine

August/September 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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that drove highly personalized, outbound communi- cations was her fastest horse, the one that created the greatest value to her customers and, in turn, the one that yielded the best growth for her company. It was on the heels of this conversation-turned-real- ization that Kelly had that fateful call with her bank. "I didn't know exactly how we would do it, and I knew nothing about selling into large enterprises," admits Kelly, "but I decided to pivot." RESTRUCTURING FOR SUCCESS The pivot Kelly speaks of marked the birth of SPLICE. She took Simply Health Systems' core IP, pushed her ex- isting customers' support and service contracts to Geek Squad (which would later become a service of Best Buy), and liquidated the assets of shareholders who decided to leave the company. "It's friction points like these that make being a software executive get really real," says Kelly. "It can feel like garbage when you're in the thick of it, but you have to remind yourself that it's a blessing because there's typically a silver lining coming." Today's SPLICE has been debt-free and completely customer-funded since 2008. Year-over-year revenue growth has never dipped into the single digits. "Those are some numbers that I am really proud of. There's not a lot of fluff, and there's not a lot of hype in the business that is SPLICE," says Kelly. With the exception of some natural attrition, the company's original shareholder base remains intact. They have an even-based valuation expectation that is a return with no hype. I think that's a neat place to be," she says. At the same time, she admits there's pressure on her to push forward and maximize their return. That pressure has inspired Kelly to exploit some new opportunities in the near future. Case in point, last year SPLICE secured a North American patent for its real-time, data-driven, personalized dialogue appli- cation. "The patent is relevant to chat bots, voice bots, IoT, you name it," says Kelly. "It's a really, really big deal, and I would be a very bad and very irresponsible person not to maximize what that reach can do. The world is Today, Kelly is president and CEO of SPLICE Software, the company she founded in August 2006, shortly after that infuriating telephone conversation with her bank. In just 11 years, her company has onboarded some high-profile international clients — Intuit, La-Z-Boy, and Mercedes-Benz among them. We caught up with Kelly for a conversation about the product development and sales strategy that are driving her company's success. PICK THE FASTEST HORSE IN THE SHED IVR (interactive voice response) technology has roots dating back to the '70s, but Kelly admits that 2006 was early days for truly contextual, personalized phone and SMS response software. The big data that SPLICE software draws from to create personalization wasn't quite so big back then. Neither were the AI and cloud infrastructures that facilitate the company's applica- tions today. "I think we definitely let some blood out in the streets," admits Kelly. "Thank God, we didn't bleed out in the streets, but I always say the road to success is paved with blood and skeletons of the companies that paved the way. We felt some pride in laying the ground- work that has become the highway that everyone else drives on today." While there was plenty of bloodletting at the time SPLICE launched, an early glimmer of hope for the company was proliferating: broadband. Rewind for a minute to Kelly's first foray into software sales and development. Within a few years of its 2001 launch, Simply Health Systems grew to serve some 76 small businesses across Canada, primarily service-ori- ented shops in strip malls and small towns. The world was still using dial-up to connect to the internet. But broadband was on the way, and that meant disruption for companies like Simply Health Systems. "We offered a desktop application with web services," explains Kelly. "We had a data center where we hosted everything, but customers had to upload all the touches that were go- ing to go out before they could use the application." Up- dating was painful, requiring on-site manpower and an executable file. "We needed to go online, but that would have required a very expensive and time-consuming re- write of our existing software," says Kelly. She was at a crossroads, one that found her contemplating whether to rebuild her existing application in the cloud or spend the money it would cost to do so on a reset moment. A visit with a business-savvy friend, the CFO for a major international oil field services company, turned into a brainstorming session. "We started exploring what he referred to as 'the fastest horse in the shed,' and that's become one of my favorite expressions," says Kelly. "The fastest horse in your shed is the one that creates the fastest return on the development resources you spend." Kelly quickly realized that the element of her solution The fastest horse in your shed is the one that creates the fastest return on the development resources you spend. SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 18 By M. Pillar HIGH-TECH SOFTWARE, HIGH-TOUCH SERVICE EXCLUSIVE FEATURE Executive

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