Behind Every Dark Cloud There’s BoardSuite – Solutions for Success with Oscar A. Jofre

by Morgan Whalen

Oscar A. Jofre

What started as a potential disaster turned into another starting point for Oscar A. Jofre. When the company that Jofre was working with faced legal penalties because of a small oversight, he was struck by a service idea that would help board managed companies keep themselves out of similar troubles. In October 2004, Jofre launched BoardSuite, his fifth startup, a secure board portal providing an essential utility that organizes and manages a customer’s critical corporate information and provides it to selected stakeholders  securely, quickly, effectively, and inexpensively.

BoardSuite is a “freemium” secure on-demand board portal for Board Managed entities and helps them to communicate more efficiently and effectively with their officers, directors, and trusted advisors. BoardSuite also provides user companies with seamless integrated access to regulated and business partner services – services that are essential for board managed entities.

BoardSuite combines many of the value propositions of competitive point solutions into an integrated system that addresses governance and compliance needs by combining corporate document management with directors, officers, and advisors providing workflow intelligence. The company is led by an experienced management team reporting to a strong, active Board of Directors with access to the industry knowledge of a veteran Board of Advisors.

BoardSuite has received recognition within the online industry for its achievements.  March 2011 BoardSuite was select one of the Top 15 Companies to watch by AlwaysOn onDemand2011. In July 2009, BoardSuite was selected as one of Canada’s leading Web 2.0 pioneers by KPMG and Backbone magazine at the PICK20 Awards, the only national roundup of Canada’s up and coming Web 2.0 pioneers who are leading the 2.0 evolution of the Web. BoardSuite has also been called a disruptive innovation in the board portal industry by IDC who also identified it as one of Canada’s Top Cloud Computing Solutions To Watch.

As the senior corporate leader and spokesperson for BoardSuite, Jofre is responsible for establishing the overall strategic direction for BoardSuite and has senior oversight of its operations, product, and business development.  He applies more than two decades of experience in successful startup enterprises to lead the company’s ongoing development and growth with senior customer contacts, partners and key stakeholder relationships.

Stephen Harper and Oscar Jofre

A Chilean-born entrepreneur, innovator, and IT specialist, Oscar brings a background of 20 years in senior management, marketing, investor relations, and sales and a proven pattern of results-focused leadership. As founder and CEO of Ottawa-based BabelFish Corporation, a software-as-a-service-based multilingual translation portal, he built and led a team of over 135 individuals in providing high-tech multilingual solutions to 7,600 contractors around the world.

Oscar co-founded the Canadian Network of Language Industries and sat on the steering committee of the Language Industry Technology Roadmap – an initiative of Industry Canada and the National Research Council. He was the only Canadian on the United Nations/MIT Digital Nations board. Oscar currently sits on the boards of BoardSuite Corp., OSOLOS Ventures Inc., and CorpTropolis Corp.

Oscar has been recognized as one of the 10 most influential Hispanic Leaders in Canada.  In May 2010, Oscar A. Jofre Jr. was recognized by the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper for his accomplishments.

Being an entrepreneur is not something you can learn, in my personal opinion it is something you have.

What inspired you to start your business?

The genesis of BoardSuite was the result of me, personally, getting into trouble with Securities Regulator in 2003.  At the time I was an officer and director of a privately held company. Because of the number of shareholders in our company, we were required to submit to the Securities Commission an offering memorandum for a transaction the company was completing internally.  This document was not for the general public, but would be available for our shareholders.  The document was created by our lawyer and approved by our board of directors who were spread throughout Canada.  Within the document, we missed ONE Sentence that cost each of the directors a fine plus legal costs.

The Securities Commission only gave us a fine because we were able to demonstrate that we had in fact disclosed the information, that the information was in our minute book, and that the information had been disclosed to the shareholders and directors of the company. We were fortunate to only get a fine and not a sanction.  A sanction is the most severe penalty you can get, but never the less the lesson here for me was I need to be in control and have access to my information.

During this process, in my discussions with the Securities Commission, I learned that the one person that did not have to pay for the fine was our lawyer.  The irony was the lawyer was holding our minute book and created the Offering Memorandum. Further research revealed that this was an ongoing issue with companies in Canada and USA.  So I began designing BoardSuite.

What was the market need?

Just as my personal story was unfolding, the ENRON scandals appeared in the market place and global financial markets had to begin the process of protecting investors.  The regulators did the rest; new rules came in to protect shareholder interest which required all Listed Issues to make sure they had their compliance and governance in place.

I am fortunate enough to know others who share my vision

What was the hardest part about starting out?

When I first started out in Alberta, I would constantly hear that Governance was just a fad and it will go away since it was only the big companies that were doing wrong.  Well, governance is not going away and as it turns out its not just big companies: small companies and not-for-profits all have ongoing issues that are now starting to emerge.

Where did your business’s seed capital come from and how did you go about getting it?

Seed capital came from investors in Alberta, BC, and Ontario who shared the vision I started in 2003.

Tell us about your product.

BoardSuite is a secure on-demand board portal solution to help you manage, organize, and share your organization’s confidential information for any board managed entity.

Image Courtesy of BoardSuite

What makes your products different?

BoardSuite board portal is for any board managed entity and it has a single point of entry to manage all your corporate affairs, and it’s 100% free!

How long did it take to build traction behind your business?

We have been providing our service for 7 years.

How do you keep your staff motivated and engaged?

Our team believes in the vision of our company.  With vision and strategy you can motivate a team to move forward and be excited to be part of it.

How did you brand your business and market it?

Our portal today is marketed via social media platforms like LinkedIn. The most effective strategy is viral word-of-mouth.  It is by far the most powerful marketing tool we have going for BoardSuite.  Today BoardSuite is being used in 20 countries and we have never advertised.

It’s easy to quit.  But it’s even harder to stay.

Could you give a brief description of your biggest success so far?

Our biggest success to date was on March 11th, 2011. We were recognized as one of the OnDemand’s Top 15 Companies to watch worldwide and we were the only Canadian company on the list.

Some of our other major milestones that we have reached recently include:

  • Selected by IDC in the Top 10 Cloud Computing
  • Selected by Web2.0 as a Top 10 Web2.0 Company
  • Selected by Scotiabank as a Top 10 Hispanic Leader in Canada

Do you have plans to expand to new markets/products?

BoardSuite is currently being used in 20 countries, and our goal is to begin localizing our application to the next growth markets in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

What are your goals as an entrepreneur?

My personal goal is to build and make an impact on how things are done.  Technology evolution is changing our way of life each day, and I would love to leave a footprint that made a change in how people work and do their jobs.

Image Courtesy of BoardSuite

What is your exit strategy?

When we deliver on our vision, the exit strategy will materialize on its own.

Do you have any other ventures you are working on?

I have invested in other ventures but my 100% dedication is to BoardSuite. The temptation to veer away is always there but you must be committed to your venture and to your shareholders, employees, partners, and advisors who bought into your vision.

Any insights on Acquisitions and Mergers?

Acquisitions are an integral element of our growth strategy for the next 3-4 years. We have already completed 3 acquisitions and we have additional opportunities we are looking at to further expand our market reach.

What is your definition of success?

Success for me personally is measured by seeing that what I have built is meaningful and people continue to use it. This means you made an impact.

To what do you most attribute your success?

One is truly tested at the darkest hour, you can pack and go or you can stay and prevail!  It’s easy to quit.  But it’s even harder to stay.

My success is my inability to never give up.

What advice would you give to others who want to become entrepreneurs?

ENTREPRENEUR = RISK.  Risk is not for everyone but for those rare few people who keep the innovation movement going forward, risk is what they love, understand, and embrace.

The temptation to veer away is always there but you must be committed to your venture and to your shareholders, employees, partners, and advisors who bought into your vision.

What advice would you give to those seeking to build their businesses up to the next stage in growth?

When building a company understand the ecosystem in which your business fits in.  I believe this is by far one of the most critical elements that could be a barrier to your business once it begins to grow.

If you were to recommend a book or movie to a young entrepreneur, what would it be?

FREE by Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired Magazine

How has being an entrepreneur affected your life?

Being an entrepreneur is not something you can learn, in my personal opinion it is something you have.  Being an entrepreneur comes with many unexpected collateral damages.  Your personal life can be next to nothing when you decide to risk it all for your venture.   It has also provided me the gift off ongoing learning and nothing compares to that.

What is the best part of owing a business?

I do not personally feel I own my own business but that I am fortunate enough to know others who share my vision in building this venture and want to be part of it.

If you had the chance to start over again, what would you do differently?

Absolutely nothing!

Technology evolution is changing our way of life each day, and I would love to leave a footprint that made a change in how people work and do their jobs.

A true visionary with a talent for identifying technology opportunities, Jofre founded BoardSuite in what he calls his mission to humanize technology. By finding a solution to a problem for many companies, large and small, Oscar was able to create a product that the market needed. The product has spread quickly, demonstrating the necessity of BoardSuite. To learn more about the company and the other products offered, visit the BoardSuite website.

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