Wired for Success

It may surprise you to know Victoria is a hub for e-commerce, but it’s no revelation to Bobbi Leach, CEO of RevenueWire, the company behind a Victoria-based e-com triple-threat: a powerful e-com platform combined with performance marketing channels and AffiliateWire, a global leader in affiliate marketing.

Leach joined the company as employee #18 in 2009 and became CEO within five years, taking RevenueWire into new global markets, championing development of its e-commerce platform, and expanding the company’s verticals from one (affliate marketing) to three … and counting.
RevenueWire now has clients in 120 countries and a top-line 2014 revenue of $350 million. This is the big leagues, and as a former baseball player Leach knows sports analogies well — her honours degree in commerce from Laurentian University includes a major in sport marketing. She also has an MBA from Athabasca University.
Leach loves growing businesses. In fact, she cut her teeth at an Ottawa startup, where she rose through the ranks from associate to partner and VP. Then an offer from Education International (EI) brought the Esquimalt High grad back to Victoria, the city she grew up in. Once again, her business acumen and drive were noticed. During seven years with EI, she moved from a marketing role to shareholder and VP.
Today, from RevenueWire’s new offices in Saanich, Leach leads a company of over 80 employees, virtually all of them in Victoria. With RevenueWire on a growth trajectory, she still finds opportunity to indulge her love of startups. RevenueWire recently served as the incubator for FuturePay, a new concept in online payments where shoppers put items they want on a tab and receive a monthly statement. Online businesses like RevenueWire and FuturePay run 24/7 — a pace Leach has no trouble matching, and there’s every sense that she has even more gears.
You’ve been there at the start of several companies which you helped grow. Why do you like startups?
With startups, I get to be involved with all facets of the business and I get to work with entrepreneurial people.
You’ve helped build RevenueWire into a global force. Is the challenge still there for you?
RevenueWire has been a challenge every single day! I think that’s what keeps me engaged. I have that energy and personality that need to be challenged … As a company, we’re in very competitive space. It’s online and the technology changes fast, so we’re always having to invent or create new and better ways to support our clients’ businesses.
Then there’s the complexity. In a lot of ways, I have three different verticals so we’re always having to prioritize where we invest. The latest challenge is how we go after new verticals …
You studied both business and sport marketing. What’s the connection for you?
I think it’s the whole competitive spirit and teamwork. Those are huge. I certainly notice the difference when people, females in particular, have played team sports. They are competitive but they still know how to pass the puck …
Past employees consistently praise your leadership skills. What drives you to be a great leader?
Working with high-performance teams — people who challenge and hold each other accountable to achieve outstanding results. That’s a large part of what drives me. It’s fun and rewarding working with people who aren’t happy with the status quo and who like to be challenged. There’s nothing better than seeing people grow as they learn new things and become experts in their area.
My philosophy is to be very communicative, to always be learning and to always move forward. Even if something didn’t work, it’s still better to try new things, share the learnings and figure out the next steps.
Is there a challenge finding qualified tech employees here?
It can be a huge challenge, but it’s easier than it was 10 years ago.
When I first moved back to Victoria from Ontario in 1997, opportunities for technology careers were very limited, especially in the e-commerce and online marketing space. Now, there are a lot more opportunities because there are a lot more technology companies in Victoria. So, when you are trying to recruit talent from outside Victoria, now you have a much better story to tell — whoever moves here with their family knows that if things for some reason don’t work out, there are plenty of other technology companies they can work at.
You’re a female CEO in an industry still weighted to men. Has gender impacted your career?
I don’t even think that way. It’s just not part of my psyche. I just think about running a successful company and about being the best CEO I can be. This means making the right decisions to build successful businesses — what my entire career has been about.
Are women underrepresented at Victoria tech companies?
I think the male/female ratio of employees in Victoria’s technology sector is 70/30, according to a study of employment trends [here], released in late 2014. RevenueWire for example, only employs one female developer, although our marketing and operations teams typically include more women….
What is the obstacle? I don’t know … but I think it starts young and I do believe it’s getting better. More girls and young women are choosing non-traditional careers and more technical careers. I would love to hire more female developers if we had more applicants, and if they were just as qualified.
The global economy has been sluggish in recent years. Has that affected tech in Victoria? In terms of an economic downturn, maybe in construction and other sectors there might be people out of work. That’s just not true of high tech in Victoria in general. In North America, since the start of the downturn, e-commerce and online marketing have grown as an industry anywhere from 20 to 30 per cent over the past five years.
What’s next for Victoria’s advanced technology sector?
I only see opportunity and good things on the horizon for RevenueWire and for Victoria’s tech sector — there are so many talented, creative and entrepreneurial people in Victoria’s technology sector. The critical mass compared to a decade ago means we are ripe for an explosion of many more opportunities. I think the tech community is very young, and there are lots of ideas yet to be born and ideas yet to be created.