“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.”Larry Bird, NBA, Boston Celtics
This quote from NBA superstar Larry Bird was his roadmap to nonstop success during his basketball career. It also worked for Ross Paquette, the founder of what could be the next global tech giant – and you’ve probably never heard of it.
Like Bird and his three-point shot, Ross has a supernatural talent for sales. He was so successful in his first sales job that he claims to have out-earned his CEO on a $25,000 salary. After honing his craft, he built a cloud-based all-in-one B2C marketing, ecommerce, and customer service platform called Maropost from his apartment.
Within six years, Maropost was the eighth-fastest growing company in Canada. At that time, it generated $30 million in revenue and had earned a list of high-profile clients including Mercedes-Benz, Rolling Stone, New York Post, and the Golden State Warriors. He wants to go public in the next few years and create a multi-generational company.
Here is how one driven individual created the snowball effect likely to result in one of Canada’s first tech giants – completely bootstrapped.
You Just Can’t Learn That in School
Today, Ross fits naturally into the role of CEO at a multimillion-dollar business. However, he says he had little knowledge of this career path growing up.
“I had nothing in my background related to entrepreneurship. My dad’s a dentist,” says Ross. “I just have no problem with working hard, and I like servicing customers.”
Despite dropping out of college, Ross loved learning. “When I went to college, I followed what I thought was interesting. I took a ton of different courses about everything: criminology, economics, psychology, and political science. Eventually, I realized I wanted to learn everything, and school wasn’t the quickest way to do it,” he says.
Ross’s thirst for knowledge outside of the classroom stretched him thin. He claims he was working as many as three jobs at once for about 18 hours a day. As work took over an increasingly larger part of his life, he took fewer courses until he finally stopped attending them altogether.
After leaving university without a degree, Ross accepted the job that would nurture his interest in sales and prove he had a real knack for it.
“In 2008, my parents’ godson had a sales job selling onsite personal relations for ecommerce before it was common,” says Ross. “I worked there and got my feet wet. Then I worked at a marketing company called Campaigner in 2008 and 2009. We were commission-based and I ended up being the highest-paid person at the company on a $25,000 salary. I even earned more than the CEO for a few months.”
Ross says his time at Campaigner ended when the company was acquired towards the end of the decade. At this time, he realized he wanted to create an email marketing tool to automate the tedious process of cold outreach. He quietly founded Maropost while working full-time selling construction enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from Oracle.
Finding a Ruby On Rails Developer in 2011
Ross didn’t intend to grow Maropost into a global corporation when he started. His original intent was to build a lifestyle business out of his passion for serving customers. “The plan was to have ten customers and maybe sit by the pool a little more often than not,” he said in an interview with BetaKit.
Maropost was initially a simple email marketing system, the area of marketing Ross knew best, but it was only partially finished.
Ross began the business with a developer he’d worked with for a few years before. Unfortunately, they parted ways after a disagreement about how to run their service. With limited development knowledge, Ross was stuck. He had a half-finished platform constructed on Ruby on Rails – a programming language unpopular in North America at the time. Due to a lack of local coders who knew the language, Ross thought he might need to close the business.
He mentioned his struggles to his parents (who had little technical background) and they suggested that he give the then-new online freelance job boards a try. Taking their advice, he posted a job ad on oDesk (now Upwork). The very first person he spoke with, an Indian developer named Jagdeep Singh, became Maropost’s CTO and Ross’s partner.
When constructing Maropost, Ross and Jagdeep knew they would face hordes of competition. They beat rival tech platforms by making their weaknesses in areas like customer support Maropost’s strength.
“Most of our customers were used to self-service, so I was curious what would happen if we provided things like a five-minute response time on email tickets or 24-hour live chat,” says Ross. “We also needed great technology, features, and functionality to compete in the market. Combining all those things resonated with our customers. Pretty soon, we had customers paying us $10,000 a month.”
By the time Ross met Jagdeep in person for the first time in 2014 (after working together remotely for three years), Maropost had grown its revenue over ten times. It had started at $20,000 in 2011 with no marketing spend. By 2013, it had reached $300,000, in 2014, $3.3 million, and in 2020, it started acquiring other businesses for tens of millions of dollars.
The Commerce Behemoth That Is Maropost Today
Today, Maropost covers every conceivable aspect of B2C for growing businesses. It still offers marketing functions like automated emails and CMS. However, the team has since added broad commerce functions like order management, logistics tracking, and customer service functions like chatbots – to name a few.
“We want to make it so growing B2C businesses don’t need 50 different platforms to manage their company,” says Ross. “On Maropost you can build your storefront, manage your inventory, and service and engage your customers all in one place. We also have hundreds of technology partners helping our customers go even farther.”
That’s no exaggeration. Ross wants to cover every aspect of B2C and muscle in on the turf of giants like Shopify and Salesforce. To that end, he set Maropost on an aggressive albeit brief startup acquisition campaign in 2020.
As of 2021, Ross says Maropost is at over $50 million in revenue with 50 percent year-over-year growth. It’s acquired two more companies and has closed the book on its acquisition spree to focus on the core product and unifying customers under one roof.
Today, Maropost is a truly global company with customers in 45 different countries – with most of their business from the US, Canada, and Australia. It is entirely employee-owned and preparing to take on the world stage as a publicly traded business.
Buying Out the VCs
While Maropost is bootstrapped, Ross experimented with taking on investors for a time. It is hard to say no when you’re trying to grow.
In 2016, Ross sold a 25 percent stake to two VC firms and family offices. It only lasted three years. While the relationship was amicable, Ross bought his shares back in 2019. He didn’t like people looking over his shoulder all the time.
“I’d say our most difficult time was during this period,” he says. “We’d historically operated at 60 to 70 percent of cash flow, but the investors had a different philosophy. There were a lot of internal issues too because having investors can be distracting. You’re burning out and not doing your job because you’re focusing on growing the business at all costs.”
Ross thinks the experience was good for Maropost because it cemented his belief that bootstrapped businesses are the best investments. Now that he has his own venture fund, he knows exactly what to look for in businesses he acquires.
Today, we live in a sphere where everyone is raising hundreds of millions of dollars and not creating anything exciting.
“Businesses today take in too much money and spend too much money,” he says. “Today, we live in a sphere where everyone is raising hundreds of millions of dollars and not creating anything exciting. People are not used to doing the work. I focus our ventures arm on companies actually building a business, not looking for quick money.”
Thoughts on Leading a Multibillion-Dollar Business
Founders rarely sit back while their business grows, even one doing as well as Maropost. As his business has scaled, Ross says leadership has become much harder and he wants to expand his team.
As a CEO, being involved in the day-to-day issues simply isn’t scalable.
“You have to have the right people working for you who can bring you clear items or situations you need to advise on,” he says. “As a CEO, being involved in the day-to-day issues simply isn’t scalable whether you’re a 50-person company or a 3,000-person company.”
Ross feels Maropost has reached a critical mass where he now requires more core staff to run the business. However, he feels it is hard to do this while staying true to his vision.
“The more of the company you own, the more time you spend working on it,” says Ross. “If you want to maintain a vision, everything needs to come from the top. That means I’m on all the time. Unfortunately, I’ve found that when I’m not involved in situations they can fall apart quite quickly. Also, if you’re acquiring companies like we’ve done, you cannot be slightly involved. Ninety percent of guidance needs to come from the CEO.”
Very few startups ever make any money. Even fewer make a million dollars. The number of bootstrapped startups looking to IPO is almost zero. Ross’s story is a rare vantage point from someone who knows how to grow and adapt explosively and consistently. We’re sure we won’t be the last to write about him.
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