The relationship between founder and investor is a critical one. In good times and bad. We share a little bit of background about how these relationships are built.
The OMERS Ventures team has a strong interest in the enterprise software space and one of the areas we saw tremendous opportunity in was in solutions which could help companies deliver truly great digital experiences. When we looked at the players in the market, it became clear that Contentful was emerging as a clear leader in the sector with its flexible, modern approach to content management. We also saw some interesting synergies between their transatlantic growth path and our own. When we first met the team, Contentful was based in Berlin, and was rapidly growing its Bay Area presence. Contentful’s customer base was already geographically diverse, and included several large enterprise customers in Toronto. This mirrored our OMERS Venture geographies, so we thought we were well positioned, on a number of levels, to help scale the business.
At the time of our first meeting with OMERS Ventures, our business had been doubling each year and we saw a huge opportunity for growth ahead. We knew we needed more capital in order to fuel our growth further. We were looking for three things in an investment partner; First, someone who would think long-term. Big opportunities can sometimes take a long time to come to fruition, and we wanted a partner with the patience to stay with us the whole way. Second, we wanted somebody who really understood the industry, market conditions and product opportunity, so they could do the third thing, which is to be helpful to us. There's lots of money out there, but it’s not all smart money, and not every VC has the depth of knowledge we need to help us scale the business. We were also looking for an investment partner who had strong credibility in Canada. The Canadian market is extremely important to us. We were lucky to have some early and influential Canadian customers and we wanted a partner who could help us expand that set of customers and build relationships with some of the most influential businesses in North America.
We invested in Contentful during a time when the company was starting to demonstrate strong product-market fit with large enterprise customers. They had made some interesting connections, particularly in the Canadian market, with big businesses and had built out an excellent proof-of-concept with some leading players in banking and telecommunications. We saw huge potential, and after speaking with many happy Contentful customers, we had high confidence in the product offering, so it was natural for us to introduce them to some of our enterprise connections not only in Canada, but also across the US and Europe.
OMERS Ventures not only introduced us to important customers, but also came on as a customer themselves, which meant a great deal as indicative of and was indicative of their faith in our product. The team has a reputation of for being savvy in one of the most active and important tech hubs in North America, and we benefit by association. Working with OMERS Ventures is a badge of distinction by association – both from an investment perspective, but also as a vendor.
We saw the potential that the Contentful platform could have within our own systems and quickly came on as an enterprise customer – not only for OMERS Ventures, but for other divisions across the OMERS portfolio, including Pension Services. This helps us not only support our investment in Contentful, but also gives us a richer opportunity to understand where we can add value, whether that is as a use case, an ambassador, or a development partner. A great example of a use case is when our colleagues in OMERS Pension Services were reimagining how to better deliver pension services to our plan members (there are 500,000+ people who hold their pensions in OMERS). We wanted to create a more modern stack, and so we worked with Contentful to deliver something much more beneficial to our marketers, developers, and ultimately our members.
Building these use cases with key partners is important for us. Each day our customers share new problems they want us to solve for them. That’s a sign of trust, and we don’t take it lightly. As we expand the platform, we continually look for ways to help as many customers as possible based on their feedback and requests. We aspire to be the digital platform for leading brands around the world for the digital-first era. And you can watch for things to come. For example, how to manage digital experiences across not just all of your customers and prospects, but also employees and partners. As those experiences expand, we know that we can help customers simplify workflows across the teammates who build and manage all those experiences. And finally, we can make it even easier for developers to build and scale those experiences over time.