Saturday, February 16, 2013

Exceeding expectations

Exceeding expectationsSaeed El-Darahali’s working career started early and has included many stops. He began programming at the age of eight, and by 14 he was running a home-based confectionary business in which he paid his father to drive him to make fudge and candy deliveries. While serving in the Canadian military between 1997 and 2001, his army unit was one of the first to secure the scene of the Swissair disaster off Peggy’s Cove. He later worked at Innovacorp, a provincial corporation that funds early stage companies in Nova Scotia. Since 2009 he has been building his own start-up, SimplyCast, into a global online marketing company.
SimplyCast’s software provides a host of online marketing functions; it conducts surveys, sends newsletters by email, and automates Twitter feeds. The company has customers in 175 countries, and its products have been translated into languages spanning from Chinese and Russian to Portuguese. SimplyCast is debt free and posts seven-figure annual revenues. All that, El-Darahali notes, has been achieved in just three years from the company’s base in “Silicon Dartmouth.”
Despite his own success, El-Darahali, 31, who emigrated from Kuwait with his parents in 1992, acknowledges that Nova Scotia lacks a formal network for supporting tech entrepreneurs. “The people exist,” he says, “but there’s no central location where you can ask for advice.” The result is an over-reliance on government resources such as Innovacorp. “It’s not so much that people turn to government by default,” adds El-Darahali. “It’s that there’s nowhere else to go.”
Entrepreneurs often seek out El-Darahali for advice. And he’s happy to oblige, viewing it as an opportunity to return some of the support he has received. In late June, for instance, he attended 48hrs in the Valley. Held twice a year, the event is organized by C100, a tech group mainly composed of Canadians in Silicon Valley. For 48hrs in the Valley, the group invites 20 of Canada’s promising start-ups to California for two days of mentorship, workshops, and investor meetings. SimplyCast was one of two Atlantic Canadian companies invited to that session.
A decade ago, El-Darahali called for the creation of a $1-million private-sector-led fund to support early stage companies in Nova Scotia. The vision was never realized. But now, inspired by such groups as C100 and Propel ICT, he is calling for a formal network of mentors to guide entrepreneurs in his province.
“We need to create a group from the private sector,” says El-Darahali, who serves as a director with Digital Nova Scotia. “The best model is always led by the private sector.” Nova Scotia also needs a major tech exit—something on the scale of Radian6—to help break down the province’s conservative investing habits. Only a multi-million-dollar exit can show what is truly possible. “We need that big success,” says El-Darahali.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dartmouth firm upgrades online marketing software

December 1, 2011 - 5:01pm BY BILL POWER BUSINESS REPORTER of Dartmouth announced Thursday a major revamp of its online marketing software to be released in January, opening the door for a potential surge in growth and hiring next year.

“This is a major release of our all-in-one marketing solution that will allow us to compete with some of the biggest players in this space,” spokesman Michael Cusden said in an interview.

“We’re including more than 12 different products under one roof for various modes of communications with clients.”

SimplyCast is an online marketing application used by thousands of small businesses around the world.

The company is in Burnside Park and has about 25 employees.

Cusden estimated the system is used in about 175 countries, where small-business operators had checked out the system on a trial basis and then signed on as clients.

There is a free-access zone that provides low-level access to the system.

Version 7.0 of the SimplyCast solution will allow users to reach their audience, regardless of the mode of communication.

“This latest release of SimplyCast is a serious game changer for the business,” said Cusden.

Among the assorted added features is a news release submission application that will allow businesses to submit releases, articles and other forms of media quickly.

“If you are a small-business operator, it is very time-consuming to manage different client lists,” said Cusden. “With SimplyCast, you can easily expand marketing without having to hire additional people or having to pay somebody else to handle this aspect of the business.”

SimplyCast has grown in leaps and bounds in the three years since Saeed El-Darahali, president and chief executive officer, came on board.

Cusden said the company is looking for software developers as it prepared for a “breakout” year in 2012.

The province is supporting SimplyCast’s growth with a five-year payroll rebate to a maximum of $1,008,000 through Nova Scotia Business Inc., the province’s business development agency.

Under this agreement, the company’s plan could see it create up to as many as 100 new jobs in sales, software development, system administration, marketing and client support over the next five years.


About the Author

By BILL POWER Business Reporter

Businessman: Place trust in new hires

December 12, 2011 - 4:37am BY MARTHA WILSON

New workers in an organization shouldn’t be doing entry-level tasks, says Saeed El-Darahali, founder of the Halifax-based marketing software firm SimplyCast.
Find someone else to make the photocopies and water the plants; new hires and interns need to be given ownership of projects that are crucial, right from the beginning.

What, what? Major projects? Right from the start?

Absolutely, says El-Darahali, who has seen it work over and over. New employees deserve a lot of respect, he believes. "I report directly to them. If people are committing their life to my company, I’m going to commit to them."

This isn’t optics or make-work, El-Darahali adds. "The majority of projects they start on are actually critical to the company."

And doesn’t that ever pan out, ah, badly? Not really, he says. Careful hiring means that the people who join the company are likely to be a good fit; trusting them and relying on their judgment from the beginning ensures that they quickly become valuable assets within the organization.

He explains, "Taking a chance and making sure that new graduates and co-op students gain experience is a very important piece to the growth of a company going forward.

"There are not enough trained and experienced workers to go around now, and it will only get worse. The solution is to empower youth and overlook their lack of experience, and give it to them.

"Implementing in-house training and giving new hires the skills they need will only help the company, because those hires will most likely love their job."

Ellen Farrell, a Sobey School of Business management professor who specializes in entrepreneurship and venture development, says El-Darahali is doing a lot of things differently from the norm.

"Nobody seems to work for Saeed; they seem to work with him. Or he works to make them productive." One of his consistent goals is to help his employees succeed, she says.

When El-Darahali launched SimplyCast, about three years ago, he says, "I wanted to create a one-stop shop to allow any company to communicate with their customers."

Only large companies have traditionally been able to afford that, he notes, and he wanted to change that equation.

Farrell believes that what SimplyCast is doing is extraordinary in ways that go beyond the hiring and training process. "This is a business that is probably more revolutionary than we give it credit for. It’s not just another site on the Internet. We’re going to be hearing a lot about this company in this area in the future," she says.

El-Darahali, who started his first business at 14, emphasizes the key role of true entrepreneurial thinking in creating a life that’s joyous and fulfilled.

"We don’t need greedy bosses and control freaks; what we need is great environments for people to flourish and grow, he says.

"Being entrepreneurial means you are always thinking of what can be done next and what can you beat the competition to. Loving what you do every day is a rare feeling, and those with the entrepreneurial mindset never feel like they are doing work.

"The brain seems to merge work, fun and adventure all into one and keeps the person wanting more and more."

Entrepreneurial thinking also means a broad definition of success, he says. "There is no final win; there is always just the next challenge. Every roadblock in life creates more questions and solutions, and the entrepreneurial person does not wait for life to come to them."

About the Author


Monday, November 28, 2011

Saint Mary's University Student Lecture - Saeed El-Dara

Local Company Pays It Forward

Local Company Pays It Forward

Scholarships Honour Two Saint Mary's Professors

Two Saint Mary’s professors, Dr. Dawn Jutla, in the Department of Finance, Information Systems, and Management Science and Dr. Porter Scobey, in the Department of Mathematics and Computing Science, have had scholarships named in their honour by local company, SimplyCast, an international leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions.

"It is an honor to be a graduate from the best university in the world,” says SimplyCast President and CEO, Saeed El-Darahali, a Saint Mary’s alumnus who teaches part time at the University. “It is my goal to give back as much as possible. This is the least I can do for the excellent education you have given me and my co-workers at SimplyCast.”

El-Darahali has hired five St. Mary’s graduates to work at SimplyCast and is interviewing another one this week. The $500 scholarships take a positive step in shaping the next generation of business professionals. At the same time, these scholarships recognize two professors whose knowledge and dedication have helped shape SimplyCast as a company.

"I was deeply touched by Saeed's gesture and his appreciation of our interactions,” says Dr. Dawn Jutla, for whom one of the scholarships was named. “Saeed is an IT entrepreneur extraordinaire and certainly one to watch. He has a wonderful knack for realizing and extracting value from university-industry synergies and he never seems to stop wanting to learn from us, to challenge us, and to give back in many ways. As a university, we seek this type of fluidity among our business leaders, our thought leaders, and our students.”

SimplyCast is a web-based, marketing platform designed to create, track and deliver targeted online marketing campaigns such as email, survey, event, autoresponder, fax, SMS, Twitter and link tracking services. A third scholarship, also for $500, has been named for Mr. William Ritchie, SimplyCast's Chairman of the Board.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SimplyCast seeking new employees with $1 million rebate

SimplyCast's new five-year, $1,008,000 payroll rebate will be used to finance the company's next round of growth. is a homegrown multi-channel marketing software provider and international exporter, offering a software-as-a-service platform that combines online, offline, mobile and social media tools with platforms like Twitter. This service is often referred to as multi channel campaign management (MCCM).

According to the world's leading information technology research and advisory company Gartner Inc., more companies are using an MCCM approach to campaigns because it's interactive, measurable and reaches a broader audience.

"SimplyCast is actively recruiting new graduates and we look forward to continue growing our team," said Saeed El-Darahali, president and CEO of SimplyCast. "Based on current trends, we are confident the industry demand will be there to support our growth."

SimplyCast exports its services to more than 175 countries and clients include Sony Entertainment, Maritime Travel, Holiday Inn, YMCA and CarShare Halifax Atlantic Ltd.

The $1,008,000 provincial rebate to support SimplyCast's growth is being done through Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI), the province's business development agency. Under this agreement, the company's plan could see it create up to as many as 100 new jobs in sales, software development, system administration, marketing and client support over the next five years. It tops out at the $1,008,000 mark and is only payable as the jobs are created.

The payroll rebate has been the principle tool used to transition the province to a more globally focused, knowledge based economy. This shift has resulted in more competitive salaries in a broader range of fields.

“SimplyCast is a great example of a company creating good jobs for young Nova Scotians, innovating and competing successfully in international markets," says Economic Development Minister Percy Paris. "This company embodies the three pillars of our economic plan, jobsHere, and I applaud their future growth plans in our province."

"SimplyCast is part of a growing number of companies in Nova Scotia that are staying ahead of industry trends and creating in demand jobs," says Stephen Lund, president and CEO of NSBI. "These are forward looking, exciting opportunities that keep and attract young and innovative minds here."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Company expands with $1m in private funding

SimplyCast to hire 15 workers, advance email marketing platform
By BILL POWER Business Reporter
Fri. Dec 11 - 4:46 AM

SimplyCast Interactive Marketing of Dartmouth has secured $1 million in private funding to advance its email marketing platform.

Saeed El-Darahali, the president and chief executive officer, said Thursday the private-investor support will allow the new company to enter new markets, develop new products and hire more people.

"We expect to hire at least 15 new people this upcoming year but anticipate continued growth," Mr. El-Darahali said.

SimplyCast is a provider of email marketing, event management and online surveys for small businesses.

"The ultimate objective is to establish a single marketing spot for companies and institutions," he said.

SimplyCast’s flagship email marketing product is used by customers in over 175 countries.

Mr. El-Darahali said the system has found niches in the retail, non-profit and hospitality sectors.

"Rapid adoption to date is proof it is easy for anyone to create permission-based email marketing campaigns with a professional look and feel," he said.

The software provides a suite of tools and services designed to drive new leads and sales revenue, maintain and grow customer email lists, and maximize profits of businesses and organizations.

"Email is one of the most powerful, cost-effective and easy to maintain business marketing tools available today for organizations of any size," he said.

Mr. El-Darahali, 29, is a graduate of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. He instructs part time at the university and is a former venture analyst with Innovacorp, the provincial agency that supports technology startups.

He said the company is looking for staff and is especially interested in recent graduates of Saint Mary’s and Dalhousie universities.

SimplyCast is at 1 Research Dr. in the Woodside area of Dartmouth.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nova Scotia Email Marketing Corporation Attracts Top Talent

Nova Scotia Email Marketing Corporation Attracts Top Talent

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, November 18, 2009

SimplyCast, a leading provider of email marketing solutions for organizations worldwide, today announced that its Board of Directors has named Mr. Saeed A. El-Darahali to serve as the organization's President and Chief Executive Officer.

Saeed joins SimplyCast with over nine years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, startup advisor, board member and venture capitalist. Saeed most recently served as Acting CEO for the organization since January 2009 and mentor since January 2006. Saeed holds a Masters of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Certificate of Human Resource Management, all from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Saeed comes to SimplyCast with an exceptional background and an impressive track record of helping many startup companies in Nova Scotia. He is well versed in managing technology firms and his expertise in online marketing will serve the company well. Furthermore, Saeed has the industry knowledge, vision and passion to grow SimplyCast to become a world class company”, said Mr. Collins, Chair of the Board of Directors.

SimplyCast has thousands of customers in various industries with some of world's most recognized brand names in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries. The company's flagship Email Marketing product is a feature-rich solution that is used in 179 countries and is expanding rapidly to serve clients all over the globe.

“Email Marketing is the most effective medium of communications for businesses worldwide with the highest ROI. The future of email is very solid and every business must incorporate it into their marketing strategy. If you are not communicating with your clients, you are leaving a lot of dollars on the table. Email can be the most effective way to increase your sales, while keeping a high percentage of your margins”, said Mr. El-Darahali. “Our goal is to make email marketing available to every business worldwide with the mission to make it simple. Hence, why we named our corporation SimplyCast, it is very simple to use.”

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast is a leading provider of email marketing solutions for organizations worldwide. With thousands of customers in various industries ranging from accounting, law and retail to real estate, tourism and advertising, SimplyCast provides businesses with email marketing tools to help them effectively reach their customers and grow their businesses.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Venture capitalist got an early start

Halifax Daily News
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Venture capitalist got an early start

By Rachel Boomer

Saeed El-Darahali is only 27, but he's already accomplished more than most of us manage by 40.

El-Darahali, a venture capitalist at InNOVAcorp, bought his first investment property at age 19, a year after he'd saved up the down payment.

He's spent three years in the military reserves, ran his own business in high school, finished his MBA, and paid off his student debt. And he's also a new dad.

"I had a very ambitious goal: to get as much done as possible in a very short period of time. I knew that by the time you start a family, there's going to be other responsibilities - getting up to speed, paying off my loans, my debt, getting part of my family started. It would require a lot of work before I got to that point."

El-Darahali credits his parents, who immigrated from Kuwait in 1992, for giving him lots of responsibility at a young age.

The eldest of five, El-Darahali took his first job at 13, the year the family came to Canada.

His parents didn't speak much English then, so at age 14 and 15, he was communicating with banks, the city and other officials on their behalf.

"That built my confidence early on. It built my business acumen."

He held several jobs in his teens, and eventually ran his own business, selling popcorn and cotton candy between 1997 and 1999. He squirrelled money away for a down payment on a rental property.

In 1998, he joined the reserves, just in time for the Swissair disaster. El-Darahali's unit was the first on the scene; he set up security, helped the rescuers and guided grieving family members around the site.

For the first couple of hours, El-Darahali and a couple of others also picked up human remains.

"It wasn't the greatest experience, but I was happy to help the families who were coming to the scene at the time.

In high school, he wrote a software program to calculate mortgage amortization, and won a competition that eventually led him to Saint Mary's University.

He joined InNOVAcorp in January 2004, where he now analyzes new technologies and recommends whether they should get venture capital funding.

Eventually, he hopes to run for city council - a way of giving back, he says.

"If I didn't come to Canada, I wouldn't have the opportunities I had. I honestly feel I need to give back."