Founder Sana Salam on building her Canadian tech businesses from scratch

A Toronto-based software company has found success using the SAP Cloud Platform, even being named one of SAP’s top partners of the year all led by founder and president Sana Salam.

Sana Salam founder and president of Sodales Solutions

Sodales Solutions, which creates cloud-based software for regulated business processes is now an international company with offices in Toronto, the U.S., and India and has over half a million customers.

But Salam’s path to success was not an easy one, after moving to Canada to attend the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, she did consulting work for IT projects and it was then that she noticed complex products with a lack of standardization; this is what inspired her to create standardized, simple-to-use technology for businesses.

From there Sodales Solutions was born, but getting a company started was hard since Salam had no money, “I was new to Canada, had just finished school and paid off my school debts. I had also lost all my credit history so there wasn’t even a line of credit I could get. I had a little bit of money to experiment with some app ideas but nothing coming in,” she told 

She said that the first year was very hard and at times even her own friends and family doubted her. “But I had to believe, believe that this was the right technology and right area to invest in.” And in the end, Salam launched Sodales without any external investment or loans.

To build the company Salam and her team focused on service and volunteering gigs that didn’t take up to much of their time so they could still focus experimenting with ideas and creating the business apps that were Salam’s focus. She says networking also played a big part in helping Sodales, which started in 2013, to survive that first year and in the end, it made enough money for one big project.

In 2016 the entrepreneur made another game-changing decision, she decided to start working through the SAP Cloud Platform. At first, she says she felt like Sodales was at the “bottom of the pot” when it came to the other product and service apps being offered and thought all the good ideas were probably already taken.

“But that’s not how it works,” she told, she remained positive, and when looking at the over 200,000 potential customers on the SAP platform she stated, “I just need one.”

Now Sodales, creates a number of apps for both SAP and Google Apps for Work and has around half a million customers. However it has seen the most success with two apps, ‘Labor Relations Software’ and ‘Employee, Health, Safety and Environment Management Software’ which are both offered through the SAP Cloud Platform.

Sodales uses SAP Fiori user experience tools and services to design its apps which offer human capital management (HCM) cloud-based services for businesses. Salam says there has been a low-technology adoption in health and safety as well as labour relations because they are highly regulated industries that are extremely cautious and often rely on paper-based systems.

“Entering the human resources (HR) space was never our initial focus, but we kept finding different ideas and found that this was a market opportunity that could scale and was a real white space or a gap in the industry,” Salam told about the decision to develop the apps.

She says Sodales noticed that there were other similar products available, but found they were so focused on just compliance and didn’t offer flexibility and adaptability that allows users to be self-sufficient when using them. “So by looking at those two gaps in the HR market we brought our own solutions,” she says, noting that Sodales has a heavy focus on both compliance and offering an easy to understand and use service.

Earlier this year Sodales also won the highest award that can be given to an SAP partner, receiving an SAP Pinnacle Award and was named the independent software vendor (ISV) partner of the year.

David Sacks, SAP’s senior director for platform partner ecosystem in North America, who nominated Sodales for the award told that Salam and her company deserved the award not only for its products but its company culture as well.
“People want to work with them because they make good products but they also do one thing really well… they respond quickly, within an hour, two hours and can quickly turnaround responses to requests for proposals (RFPs). Nobody else does that and even if other companies did they wouldn’t have the passion that comes from Sodales,” he says noting the positive culture where Salam works hard to hire driven employees. “It’s the culture of the entire company that makes that difference and it comes from Sana, but it permeates through all the people that I’ve met.”
Given her recent successes and the way Salam talks about her experiences, she makes it sound easy, but creating a company with this type of culture and success was anything but. “I‘m a short, petite female and coming into this field I felt very overwhelmed and intimidated. I thought that people would make fun of me. I didn’t believe in myself and my ability to lead a team and compared to others, all of my competitors were mostly men,” she notes, but says she found support and acceptance from customers.
“It has nothing to do with how you look…if your content is good, you work hard, respond and respect your work, people will give you opportunities.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Meagan Simpson
Meagan Simpson
Meagan Simpson is a staff writer for IT World Canada. A graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program, she loves sports, travelling, reading and photography, and when not covering tech news she can be found cuddled up on the couch with her cat and a good book.

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