EXCLUSIVE: Broward-based cybersecurity firm aims to add more than 100 workers in next 5 years
Leg room is hard to come by at ERP Maestro’s offices in Weston. Even Jody Paterson, the company’s CEO, is sharing a desk.
That’s why the cybersecurity software firm will move its headquarters in the coming weeks to an 8,500-square-foot office space on University Drive in Plantation. The headcount at the South Florida-born startup is expected to rise to between 150 and 200 people in the next five years from its current 35-person staff. ERP Maestro’s employees earn above-average wages with benefits such as unlimited time off and flexible schedules.
“We really liked the building and wanted to be around other innovative companies in South Florida,” Paterson said.
ERP Maestro is moving to an area that’s also home to internationally known augmented reality startup Magic Leap, construction management darling e-Builder and other high-tech companies of note.
Paterson said the tech talent being cultivated for those companies will help grow his own company’s workforce. And he hasn’t had much trouble attracting talent from outside South Florida, either.
“What is amazing is you can find people anywhere in the country,” he told the South Florida Business Journal. “They all want to move here as long as you’re willing to pay for their relocation.”
That’s a change from five years ago, when ERP Maestro was first established, Paterson said.
Five years ago, Magic Leap hadn’t yet raised billions of dollars from backers such as Warner Bros. and Alibaba, creating buzz nationwide and beyond. It was also before Manny Medina launched the eMerge Americas technology conference, shining a spotlight on South Florida’s technology sector and its connections to Latin America. Five years ago, Chewy hadn’t yet been acquired by PetSmart, and Amazon.com hadn’t yet announced it would consider the region for its second headquarters — all among the recent deals and business moves that have raised South Florida’s profile as an emerging technology hub.
Since ERP Maestro launched in 2013, many potential investors have implied that Paterson should consider moving his startup elsewhere.
“It’s always been asked of me in capital discussions,” he said. “They ask: ‘Why aren’t you in Silicon Valley? Why aren’t you in New York? Why don’t you look at Washington D.C.?'”
Without relocating away from South Florida, ERP Maestro has cultivated $20 million in total funding, having recently raised $12 million in investments led by Naples-based Aspen Capital. Both talent and funding have been easier to come by recently, Paterson said.
Paterson is a native of South Africa who arrived in South Florida after being relocated here by global auditing firm KPMG for a security redesign project for General Motors. A week into the project, his coworker dropped out.
“I didn’t even know how to raise my hand and ask for help at the time,” Paterson said.
Despite a rocky start, he was able to pull the project together three months ahead of schedule, getting him noticed by KPMG’s leadership in Johannesburg.
When he laid out the methodology to his bosses, he realized the project was repeatable. With the task of rolling out the same project across the U.S., he became a director at KPMG at 28 years old.
“It made my career skyrocket,” Paterson said.
The new position put him in contact with companies around the world with auditing problems that cost millions of dollars to fix.
“I said: OK, I have the product and an amazing job that’s paying me a huge amount of money. What do I do now?” Paterson said.
Well, he quit.
Using the knowledge of the problems large companies faced in the auditing process, Paterson would teach himself to code and invent an automated software that helped those firms reduce access control risks in their financial reports without having to tether the information to huge servers. With that, ERP Maestro’s first signature cloud-based product was born.
Although ERP Maestro has millions of dollars in funding now, it was hard to find at the start, Paterson said. The Fortune 500 companies that used his technology didn’t want to buy in yet.
“To get the first customer was hard; to get the second customer was even harder,” he said.
So he sought out angel investors AdvancedStage Capital LLC. The company helped Paterson finalize a deal with Tyco International, in addition to giving the company its initial funding. KPMG eventually became a customer, as well.
ERP Maestro has doubled its revenue annually, and its software is now used by seven of the Top 10 auditing firms.
Paterson hopes technology companies that are flourishing in South Florida like his can help reduce the region’s “brain drain,” a term used to describe a trend where students who are educated at local universities leave the area for jobs.
“It does exist, but I found talent here. I want people to go to university and not leave,” Paterson said. “And I think that’s starting to happen.”
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