This article was originally written by Martin Cash - Startup joins forces with Friesens Corp. to expand operations - Winnipeg Free Press
Less than two years ago, Permission Click was named startup of the year by the National Angel Capital Organization summit.
This week, the Winnipeg company closed a $1.75-million financing led by Friesens Corp. of Altona and Real Ventures of Montreal that will allow the company to aggressively distribute its service — a platform for digital permission slips and payment collection for schools — more broadly throughout Canada and the U.S.
Chris Johnson, CEO and one of the co-founders, said it is an exciting time for the company.
“There is a whole bunch of things happening,” Johnson said.
“We are closing the financing round, which is a big deal. Bringing Friesens and Real Ventures on board is a big deal. We are expanding the team and adding a bunch of positions, and we are moving into new space to grow.”
‘We’re going to throw some gas on the fire. We would never have been able to do that on our own’
Employment will grow from about 10 people to 15 to 20 in the next while. The company has recently added Michael Legary, an investor in Permission Click and the founder and former CEO of Seccuris, as its director of privacy, security and compliance.
The Friesens Corp. connection will be an important strategic investment for Permission Click. Friesens’ extensive North American sales force, which sells Friesens’ yearbook and agenda products to schools, will now add Permission Click to its portfolio.
“We’re going to throw some gas on the fire,” is how Johnson put the impact of having about 30 sales people in the field.
“We would never have been able to do that on our own.”
Curwin Friesen, CEO of Friesens, said it’s the first time the famous book printers have made an investment of this type. Friesens has 100 years of experience and deep connections with the schools.
“This is an exception for us,” Friesen said of this kind of third-party venture capital investment.
“When I got to know Chris and what they were doing at Permission Click, we really liked that they have built a really good technological platform for a problem we see in the school house and in terms of one of our core products, the yearbooks — payment and collection of payment is always a pain and a problem for the schools.”
Permission Click is up to more than 3,000 accounts now, but Johnson believes it has the kind of scale that can allow it to keep growing.
“We think we can be the de facto platform on the planet for management of permissions, liability waivers, event management, etc. for minors,” said Johnson.
And Johnson believes it bests the competition in terms of being able to digitize forms and adhere to privacy requirements, as well as allow for payments, storage of the documents and reporting.
Fundamentally, he believes Permission Click is way ahead when it comes to dealing with minors.
“There is so much stuff we didn’t know that we are now experts in,” he said. “It’s a whole different space once you’re in the minors market.”
It has been a rapid maturation process for the company.
When it was formed, it was intended to be an efficiency play.
But Johnson and his team started to realize school administrators were really more interested in meeting compliance requirements, document storage requirements and making sure the process is secure.
“Privacy is a very big deal for us,” said Lawrence Hamm, superintendent and CEO of Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary and Middle Schools Inc. where Permission Click is used by hundreds of students and their families. “For me, as the person putting the thumbs-up, it was a big concern.”
Hamm needed to know the system was secure and the server farm was regulated properly according to Canadian standards. He said he is satisfied that’s the case.
Permission Click has schools, clubs and sports leagues using the system in just about every province and state in Canada and the U.S.
The company has been invited as one of a couple of dozen education technology companies to participate in next month’s Tech for Schools summit in Los Angeles put on by EdSurge, the leader in ed-tech consulting.