UVic Torch -- Spring 2003
Spring 2003,
Volume 24, Number 1

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Secure In The .COM Storm Secure in the .COM storm
Photography by VINCE KLASSEN

Sticking to the game plan keeps a Victoria software company strong a decade after its genesis in a fine arts lab.

“IT FELT AS IF I WAS RUSHING TO SAVE PRIVATE RYAN WHILE THE ENEMY stormed the beach,” says Eric Jordan, co-founder of PureEdge Solutions, recalling how his technology company weathered the recent economic upheaval. The visual arts graduate, BFA ‘93, is a recognized Internet pioneer who is in demand as a speaker at Harvard and numerous industry events. He has plenty to say about staying afloat in stormy seas. PureEdge is a Victoria-based company that is not only surviving the continued market uncertainty, it’s thriving.

Since its inception 10 years ago, PureEdge has become the leading provider of secure e-forms for governments and regulated industries. The company’s technology substantially reduces costs by moving valuable business documents to the Web. This decreases paperwork and processing costs, and improves client service. PureEdge also ensures data accuracy, eliminates lost documents and, most importantly, creates secure electronic transactions.

The youthful, 34-year-old Jordan and his company operate the from an unassuming building in Royal Oak, just north of Victoria’s city centre. Inside the concrete and glass structure, the atmosphere is all business. The flamboyant excesses and “work-cum-play culture” associated with the dot-com era are absent, with the exception of Jordan’s casual attire. His utilitarian office reflects his no-nonsense, focused, prudent attitude. In place of the pretentious trappings one might expect of a successful technology company, Jordan displays a greenish-blue painted sculpture he created from textbooks he used during his student days. Several photos of his wife and two pre-school-aged children dominate his working space.

Jordan and his band of tech-wizards have brought the company from a mere concept to a bustling enterprise with 60 employees, many of whom are UVic graduates and engineering co-op students. When the economic slide turned into a raging avalanche, PureEdge not only rode out the turbulence, it prospered. “We’ve got a real product with bottom-line benefits for our customers,” explains Jordan when asked how PureEdge differs from the legions of failed dot-com companies. But it did suffer some tough jolts during those months of roller-coaster uncertainty. “We dug in and concentrated on the core business that created our initial success.” And that strategy has worked. In 2002, annual revenues reached CDN $10 million. Perhaps their success is also due to Jordan’s tenacious attitude. “I believe we should be brutally honest about what we want to do in life, to commit to that choice, and never give up. As a student, that meant pursuing my interest in visual art, while many of my friends went into computer science and engineering.”

The PureEdge story begins in the early 1990s when Tony Welch, former dean of fine arts, asked Jordan and engineering student (and company co-founder) David Manning to manage a new computer system donated to the fine arts laboratory of extended media. “I asked them to look at making and storing manipulated graphics images, an important component for teaching and research,” says Welch. “Then they came to me with the idea that business forms could be seen as pictures.” Welch realized the potential of Jordan’s and Manning’s work and saw it as a fit for the UVic Innovation and Development Corporation, established to incubate ideas with commercial potential. PureEdge (originally called UWI.com) became IDC’s biggest success story. It’s an unlikely scenario since, as Welch notes, most technology transfer ideas usually come from science and engineering labs, not fine arts.

Before long, the young men had developed a solution to virtually eliminate a company’s paper burden through its unique e-forms technology. With IDC’s guidance, Jordan and Manning formed a company and entered into a joint venture with BC Systems, a provincial-government technology agency, now-defunct. This provided PureEdge with office space and access to funding, and introduced the company to customers, including Ameritech, a US tele-communications firm. “In 1996, when BC Systems restructured and stepped out of its agreements with the private sector, we made the transition to a truly independent company by raising venture capital,” says Jordan. “And with this support, we moved into the bigger marketing arena.”

PureEdge courted and won significant contracts with the RCMP, the US Department of Defense, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and financial investment giant JP Morgan Chase. Using PureEdge technology, the defense department reduced its paper burden from 18 million yearly paper invoices to an almost paperless environment. In 2002, the company so impressed US Air Force officials it won a US $6.7 million contract to convert approximately 15,000 air force forms into e-format.

With PureEdge’s applications, the SEC radically lowered costs to both subscribers and taxpayers to become the global model for filing and registration applications. The success of this innovation was recognized by CIO Magazine when the SEC received one of the 11th annual Enterprise Value Awards. PureEdge was also named a top 10 e-commerce company by Internet Week and a “Company to Watch” by Wall Street and Technology.

As the company matures, it is making a major shift from a technology focus to customer service. To achieve this goal, Jordan’s team went back to the streets and successfully snagged $15.5 million in venture capital financing. The company plans to expand its North American sales force, extend the company’s visibility and marketing programs, and strengthen existing software products.

As PureEdge pushes new frontiers, it has not forgotten its beginnings. Now that it has reached critical mass, there are hints that it is looking at ways to continue its relationship with the university. The company is also recognizing its place in the Greater Victoria community, with active involvement in the United Way campaign. “We were formed and nurtured in Victoria and we want to give back, to be part of the social good,” says the Victoria-born Jordan.

How will PureEdge continue to move forward and defy fickle business cycles? “As long as a company delivers value to its customers, it has a place in the market,” says Jordan. “And of course, when times get tough, you have to hunker down, keep the faith, believe in what you are doing, and storm the beaches if need be.”

© 2006 UVic Communications | Last updated: Mon, 6/22/09

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