#OKGNTECH SUCCESS

Beyond the Startline

Featuring Corey Wagner CEO of Bananatag

In this series, we look at local entrepreneurs with growth-stage companies who are finding success in a competitive global economy.

Bananatag is a Kelowna-based tech company that helps its clients track and measure email communications. Can you imagine being able to easily keep tabs on what happens to your emails after you press send?!

Bananatag works with over 70 of the Fortune 500 companies around the world and they are continually inventing new ways to evolve. Today they help internal communicators create emails using Outlook or Google Apps, with embed surveys so they can get feedback from their employees and really just communicate better with each other. “What we aren’t doing is trying to get people creating MORE email,” says Corey Wagner, CEO of Bananatag. “We actually want to encourage LESS email.” [Editor’s note: we are slow clapping over here!]

Corey believes that being able to read metrics and send more relevant emails is the answer to more effective communication—period. “I mean, if I think about the number of emails I get in a day, I probably don’t read half of them,” he admits. “Being able to track and measure so you can send emails to the right groups at the right frequency is just really important in terms of getting actual engagement.”

Corey was working in sales for his Dad's company and was looking for ways to get more transparency around the sales emails him and the rest of the team were sending. Were people getting the emails? Were they opening them? Reading them? Watching the videos? It is one thing to send 10,000 emails but what the team really wanted was a metric for one-to-one email engagement. Where were the leads? We built the Bananatag software to solve an existing problem in my Dad’s business. It was only after we experienced the effectiveness of the tool that we realized “Hey, this could be an actual business!”

“Being able to track and measure so you can send emails to the right groups at the right frequency is just really important in terms of getting actual engagement.”

After a lot of building and testing, Corey launched Bananatag in August of 2012 with two other co-founders.

Banana Tag Stats

Although they quickly found demand for their product, the real growth of Bananatag didn’t start until 2014 when they were able to quit their day jobs and start hiring people. After a lot of building and testing, Corey launched Bananatag in August of 2012 with two other co-founders. Although they quickly found demand for their product, the real growth of Bananatag didn’t start until 2014 when they were able to quit their day jobs and start hiring people. “Working with a mentor through Accelerate Okanagan was a great kick in the pants!” says Corey. “There were a lot of hard questions like, “Hey why aren’t you guys hiring people when you have revenue and you have money?”. Once we started hiring people we were able to really scale the business.”

Although Bananatag started out as a tool to help sales teams find and track their emails, it wasn’t long before Corey had clients asking for internal communications too. They quickly realized this sales tool they had created also worked really well for tracking internal communications giving companies metrics and insights around where employees are actually engaging.

This break into the internal communications side of things was a real game-changer for Bananatag on both a business and a personal level. “Not only were we supporting the sales teams within an organization, now we were helping leadership teams communicate with their employees and drive culture,” says Wagner. “These are things that spoke to us a lot more as founders and something that we could get really excited about”.

One of the first challenges the leadership team faced with the growth of their small startup was people. Although they were running a successful, small company and hitting all their numbers, Corey and the other two founders had not spent any time investing in culture. “I remember someone came into the office and was like “Hey, I just feel like a number around here,” Wagner recalls. “ It was a real wake-up call that we were now big enough that we needed to start building a culture”. For the Bananatag team, positivity, responsibility, and radical candour are core values the team is committed to living by.

Another challenge of fast-paced growth is the scaling process. Really being able to forecast and say with accuracy where they were going to land at the end of each month and each quarter was a real problem. “Back in the early days, we kind of just hoped we would hit our numbers but working with our mentor Larry Smith, Executive-in-Residence with Accelerate Okanagan, gave us the opportunity to really focus on accurate forecasting accuracy and creating a system that worked for us and the team. We created a system to help us figure out what we needed to look for and what steps needed to be in place in order to accurately forecast what accounts were going to close.

“Now we are planning three years in the future and realizing, “Wow, we actually have a business that could be a billion dollar company”

“Working with Bananatag to improve their predictability and cash flow gave them the ability to consume growth at a much faster rate,” explains Smith. “The fact that the leadership team can now really trust the numbers has had a huge impact on the way they make decisions.”

There is no question that Bananatag has come a long way since 2012. When they first started the founders set out to build a $10 million dollars company... one day. At the time, that was a BIG dream. Since then, the team has grown and so have their goals. They are projecting that the team will be at well over 100 people by the end of the year and they are setting their sights on goals that had once believed would always be out of reach.

“We are planning three years into the future and realizing, “Wow, we actually have a business that could be a billion dollar company,” Wagner explains. “Getting out of the day-to-day and actually concentrating on what we need to grow has helped us see what we could do and that’s really cool.”

“Having a forecasting process and really trusting the numbers has had a huge impact on our business”


Want to learn more about the Corey and the Bananatag Team? We recently caught up with Corey to get the skinny on what drives them to create, how they cope with high growth, and why they chose to call the Okanagan home.

READ THE FULL Q&A >

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