A growth surge driven by the pandemic

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Innovative Solutions moved into its facility on East River Road at the end of 2018.

Justin Copie says the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technology decisions at businesses by two years. For Innovative Solutions, that has resulted in a surge in revenue and high demand for its services.

“We saw crazy things happen over the last year and a half with regard to how fast customers wanted to move to the cloud,” says Copie, CEO of Innovative Solutions. “They didn’t want to buy hardware that they put in their office or in a data center.”

Copie’s firm helps businesses move to the cloud, including managed-cloud services, cloud-native software development, cloud migrations and security. Founded 30 years ago, Innovative Solutions has seen 100 percent growth in the first seven months of 2021. Copie expects the private company to top that mark by the end of the year. 

At the start of 2021, Innovative Solutions had 60 employees. By year’s end, it will have nearly 100 people, he predicts. The company has expanded to 14 cities outside Rochester, attracting talent from around the nation and Canada. Innovative Solutions currently has 18 open positions.

“It’s just absolutely astounding,” says Copie, who bought the business from Bob Titus in 2016.

Last week, Innovative Solutions opened an office in Toronto to further grow its customer base. It hopes to build and offer services and products that are geared to meet the needs of Canadian businesses, with the intent to leverage the power of the cloud.

Justin Copie

The company, which moved into a facility on East River Road at the end of 2018, decided to become an Amazon Web Services Consulting Partner, a group of firms that help customers speed up their migration to the cloud. AWS, a subsidiary of Amazon, is a cloud platform that offers reliable, scalable, and affordable cloud computing services. Innovative Solutions is an AWS Premier Consulting Partner—a designation given to the most experienced AWS consulting partners and recognized leaders in their markets, with deep technical expertise and success with many customers on AWS. 

“We built what we call a transformation strategy for the whole company to pivot and go all in on AWS,” Copie says. “That December of 2018 (we) moved to Riverwood, to our new office, and I got up in front of everybody, all of our employees, and I said: ‘Everybody look at the room around you. See the bricks? These bricks were all put here by Kodak, a company that completely became irrelevant, because they wouldn’t … pivot and move in the age of digital. 

‘We will not be the next Kodak. We’re going to pivot our business, and we’re going to move forward. We’re going to bet on the best, and we’re going to help our customers get to where they need to go in order to grow this company.’ And it has been a freakin’ whirlwind.”

By January 2019, customers learned of Innovative Solutions’ new capabilities. Today, every employee is AWS certified, including the receptionist at the front desk. 

“I wanted everybody to have context and know what we were doing,” Copie says. “The employees have gone all in on this.” 

The shift to AWS from traditional Microsoft offerings has worked in Innovative Solutions’ favor. Its customer base tops 500 customers now, more than doubling from 225 customers in 2019. The company recently hired Ryan Boyer as vice president of product. Boyer left AWS to join Innovative Solutions to oversee the development and monetization of products and services, a new role at the firm. 

“What we want to do is scale the business,” Copie says. “Before, when we were adding … 10 new customers per month (for example), you could scale through osmosis… Today, we’re adding three, four new customers per day. So, it is just so much faster that we have to move. We’ll have 1,000 new customers this year. … We needed somebody to come on board as a VP of product to help us build these products and bring these services to market fast and, obviously, reliably, because we want to continue to deliver a great solution every customer.”

While the move to AWS has been fortuitous for Innovative Solutions, Copie is aware of the need to scale in a smart way. A company that has its roots in managed information technology services, which still accounts for half of its business, Innovative Solutions has its eyes set on a bigger national and international presence. The firm hopes to attract customers on the West Coast and overseas, and Copie would like to make that happen over the next year. 

He would also like Innovative Solutions to not lose sight of customer needs for customization.

“Customers want choice, and customers want us to customize to their needs,” he says. “We need to continue to figure out ways to do that while scaling. These are big problems that we have to solve before they manifest themselves into deal stoppers.”

Copie, who has no plans to sell the business, expects to triple its customer base next year to 3,000. Employment is likely to reach 150 to 175 people, he says. 

“The reality is this technology is changing so fast, every day,” Copie says. “There’s so much stuff for us to stay ahead of. It’s our responsibility to do that for our customers. … We know what happens with irrelevance and we’ve got thousands of bricks that surround us in our office to remind us of going irrelevant and what happens.”

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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