No matter how successful a product is, it’s tough to grow when you can’t find enough skilled workers.

When Replicon Inc. couldn’t find the engineers it needed in its native Calgary, the maker of timesheet management software took a drastic step. It moved the company’s headquarters to the Silicon Valley earlier this year.

Replicon co-foundersReplicon co-founders Raj Narayanaswamy, left, and Lakshmi Raj moved their timesheet management business to Silicon Valley from Canada.

Now settled into a new office in San Mateo, it’s full speed ahead for Replicon. Revenue has grown steadily, with the company projecting it to increase by 62.5 percent to $32 million this year. Hiring hasn’t been a problem, either. Co-founder and CEO Lakshmi Raj said the company hopes to bring aboard about 200 people by the end of the year, boosting the work force to 500.

“It was like night and day,” she said of the move. “When we were in Calgary, we’d post a job for a kind of designer role, for example. And maybe we’d get a hundred resumes, and out of that there would be one we’d be interested in. But here talent is a commodity. It’s like everyone we see, we want to hire them. We never realized it was like this. When they say the valley has a lot of talent, you have to come here and experience it to realize what that means.”

Relocating headquarters isn’t the only big change the company has made. Replicon shifted to the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model in 2009, after it had marketed on-premise software for tracking employee work hours and generating payroll reports since it was founded in 1996. Aside from the obvious technical hurdles in adapting software designed to run on a user’s computer to run on a server in the cloud, this transition brought with it a change in how the company thought about its products, Raj said.

“That transition was painful,” Raj said. “We had to get a deep understanding of SaaS. It’s not just putting your product on a server where people can get at it. We had to build a service-oriented mentality. I mean, your service cannot go down. Uptime is very important. You have to keep it available, otherwise customers will call you. Providing that hassle-free experience is something we had to learn. And we had to learn it quite fast.”

Replicon already serves a broad swath of industries — retail, professional services, consulting and manufacturing. Regardless of the industry, Raj said, a company’s needs around payroll and productivity tend to be similar, allowing Replicon to appeal to a diverse base of clients. Replicon prices its SaaS software as a monthly charge of $16 or less per user.

Elizabeth Brown, an event planner at the San Francisco event planning company B Line Events Inc., said her company was initially attracted to Replicon’s product in part because it was in the cloud. Like a lot of small businesses, B Line managed its staff of about 50 using an Excel spreadsheet. This approach quickly became untenable, particularly when the company was running multiple events at once. Brown had to track each event separately for billing purposes. Switching to Replicon enabled the company to simplify this process significantly, Brown said.

“It was getting complicated keeping track of all that,” she said. “It’s been a big help streamlining everything and knowing everything is up-to-date and online.”

Another important feature for many companies is reporting. Tim Sears, co-founder of the Oakland-based nonprofit solar installer Grid Alternatives Inc., said his organization became a Replicon customer after it was awarded a contract to oversee a state program that provided solar installations to low-income households in 2009. Before switching to Replicon, Sears said his organization kept track of hours using paper timesheets.

“We needed an external record for that contract. In order to administer this big statewide program, we had to bill for hours, so we needed to have a structured way to document that and back that up,” Sears said. “Paper is definitely not a good way to do it at that point. Replicon had an attractive pricing model, the interface was easy to use, and the reporting functionality was able to give us all the reports we needed. It gave us the right combination of usability and affordability.”




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