On the cusp of turning 30 Patrick Kelly has already founded three businesses. His latest startup, Frontly, has had a very good couple of weeks, securing $350,000 in pre-seed funding to build upon. The company, a custom internal administration tooling platform, has the backing of local heavyweights like Tiny Capital’s Andrew Wilkinson.
Kelly is a business geek to the core, over the years binge-watching shows like Dragon’s Den, absorbing the advice. He got his entrepreneurial feet wet when he was just 22, with his first company, SnackEasy, an on-demand late-night snack delivery service in Vancouver. “I was a hobbyist coder and built the online ordering system for that platform myself, and then I delivered the goods from 6 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.”
At that time, companies like Skip the Dishes were just getting started. “I bought a car for $900 and a lot of junk food, and with a well-timed article, the business went viral.” He did it all himself, delivering 1,500 orders over a year and a half. “I bought pop, chips, chocolate bars in bulk and charged convenient store prices. I had super high margins.” This was years before COVID.
However, he didn’t think his business was scalable, and, grateful for the experience, he decided his future was digital. Thinkific, which, at the time, was also just getting started, scooped him up. Thinkific is big business now, with over 400 employees but back then, Kelly was employee number 20. “I sat beside the COO and I was inhaling information. You hear these stories about Silicon Valley but I got to see what that world is like in Canada.” A total techie, he had a virtual reality game and a few other fun app experiments, including a meditation app, under his belt.
He decided to move to Victoria, knowing the city is a tech hub. “I thought it was the right place to be.” He landed at Certn, as employee number nine. (That company too has grown into a big, multi-million dollar, local success story, and was a 2018 Douglas 10 to Watch winner.) Certn quickly saw his potential and Kelly moved into a full-time software developer position.
Kelly decided to flex his business acumen and high-tech expertise and started his second company while at Certn, and DropCommerce on Shopify was born. “We wanted to be a positive force in the dropshipping industry, encouraging people to sell quality products from Canadian and US companies.”
They say timing is everything and that was definitely the case for DropCommerce. “We got started just before COVID and then the pandemic hit and we just took off. At first, we were getting 18 app installs per day and today we are up to 300 per day.” Their product is subscription software for people to sell their products. “We are/were powering all kinds of stores to run their online services. Our revenue doubled three months in a row at the start of the pandemic.” While a very good thing, it also created a lot of pressure.
DropCommerce was booming but with that came the need to keep everyone happy and clients’ businesses running smoothly. “But we were small, running on the money we were making. I ended up building all kinds of internal customized apps and admin panels to automate functions that were taking a lot of time for the team, like keeping track of complicated shipping issues. Processes that took minutes were optimized to take just seconds. My work saved time for the team and kept customers happy. After personally developing several powerful tools, I realized there was a market for these internal apps.”
Once he established a stable team, he knew he could look at new opportunities and started Frontly. There, for the first three months, he did all the coding himself. As his confidence grew and he knew he was on to something, he convinced his mother to loan him some money to hire a software developer.
Kelly also started looking for investment partners. After spending some time proving himself to potential investors, early investments started coming in and now he has a team of six and a bright future.
What is Frontly?
Frontly’s ideal customers will likely already have a business with lots of data and analytics hiding somewhere. The developer may know how to access it but most people on the team wouldn’t have a clue. But that information is valuable to marketers, PR types, and of course, the CEO.
Now, with Frontly, in about five minutes, thanks to Kelly’s innovation, a user can create a custom app without even knowing how to code, to accomplish a task for their business or to access that mystery information lurking in a database. Mid-size companies who want to optimize their processes will find a friend with Frontly.
As Kelly says, “it is like having an extra employee who optimizes your business.” It is user-friendly to boot (for all those tech newbies out there. For anyone familiar with DIY website building, it is similar to that process: drag and drop.)
Notes Kelly, “if you come to Frontly, you have a problem in mind. Maybe data is inaccessible to the team but the company can’t justify putting developers on projects because they are already too busy. With just a few clicks, you can create a solution.”
And in business, the bottom line is everyone wants to grow. “We are the bridge to saying you don’t need to hire more developers. Our software allows you to scale your business without hiring more people. That is what we do.”
And so far, their future looks very promising.