Axentra seeking more funding for global expansion

Published on the Ottawa Business Journal website.
June 14, 2011

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Ottawa firm adding 1,500 to 2,000 users daily

Eric Lefebvre and Marc Benglia of Axentra
Axentra co-founders Eric Lefebvre (left) and Marc Benglia.
(Photo supplied)

Ottawa-based Axentra is preparing to grow both at home and internationally in the next two years, to about 100 people in total, following the news that its HipServ platform has surpassed 400,000 users and is set to grow to one million by the end of this year.

The company’s technology creates a “home cloud” environment that allows users to remotely access their photos, videos, music and other media located on devices at home, much like a “mini-Facebook,” without the dangers associated with having all that personal information floating around on the Internet. With the advent of smartphones, Axentra’s HipServ offering is taking off, and the company now boasts 1,500 to 2,000 new users on a daily basis, says executive vice-president and co-founder Eric Lefebvre.

That’s based on the number of devices that HipServ is built into, such as Seagate’s GoFlex Home network storage system, whose remote access ability is completely powered by Axentra’s technology, says Mr. Lefebvre. The company also counts Verbatim – another storage device maker – among its clients, as well as big names such as Netgear, Roxio and European telco Orange.

While Mr. Lefebvre says HipServ is targeting an estimated 1.3 billion compatible devices, from PCs to routers to tablet computers, with the size of the vast consumer space making it difficult to estimate the dollar value of his company’s market. It’s clear, though, that it’s a massive market that’s worth “well over $100 billion,” especially as HipServ isn’t tied down to any particular platform and can just as easily stream content from an iPad or an Android tablet to any television, for example.

That flexibility is a key strength and feature of HipServ, says Mr. Lefebvre, noting that consumers don’t want to have to choose between easily sharing their content in the “public cloud” with services such as Facebook, Flickr and Apple’s newly launched iCloud, which come with advanced features with which many people are already comfortable, and the security of the “home cloud.” He says HipServ allows for an easy transition back and forth between both, with Axentra providing everything from the server infrastructure that manages the devices, maintains updates and backs up the content, to the operating system with which the consumer interacts.

And the company has even more in the works: Mr. Lefebvre says Axentra will soon launch an open environment for HipServ, which will allow developers to add applications to enhance the ecosystem of devices. As well, the firm hopes to introduce new “premium services” that will incur an extra usage fee, including automatic synchronization on the fly for user content.

It’s all part of HipServ’s big push, which will see Axentra seeking expansion funding to add those features as well as to increase its global head count. The company has raised about $9 million to date through angel investors, bootstrapping and a US$6-million investment led by Deutsche Telekom in 2007, but Mr. Lefebvre says it’s time for Axentra to “come out of (its) shell.”

With users in more than 130 countries, Axentra is hoping to open satellite offices in Europe, given that much of the company’s business is in that more advanced and bandwidth-rich market. The firm is also just starting to get into the U.S. market, and eventually it hopes to expand into the Asia Pacific region.

However, Mr. Lefebvre says something like 80 per cent of the company’s growth will be in Ottawa. The hope is to secure that growth funding this year, and then to add about 40 to 50 people once the financing is sorted out. Hiring will cover areas such as marketing, engineering, tech support and quality assurance, Mr. Lefebvre says.

“We’re currently working underwater; we need more resources,” he adds.

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