Author: Avery Hartmans, Pittsburgh Business Times
When Chris Meyer began working at Excel4apps Pittsburgh in 2009, he was the third employee at the company’s office in Upper St. Clair.
Now, Meyer has been named CEO, the Pittsburgh office has grown to 23 employees and the company is in the process of moving from the South Hills to the Strip District.
“We’ve just really been able to grow really successfully here in the U.S.,” said Meyer, who previously served as the company’s president for Americas and Europe. “It grew and it grew and I think as we’ve seen now, seven years later, the U.S. is just the biggest part of our business. A lot of our growth and our people growth has been here in the Pittsburgh office and a lot of our core functions have really established themselves here in Pittsburgh.”
Excel4apps, an Excel-based financial reporting software company for Oracle and SAP users, was founded in South Africa and has offices in London, Dubai and North Carolina. The company’s global headquarters is in Australia, but the Pittsburgh office is now its largest. Meyer said they chose Pittsburgh 15 years ago because the region had big city benefits without the big city overhead.
“As we look to recruit folks even from other parts of the country, even other parts of the world … we know that it is a competitive place where we can establish ourselves and where we feel confident that we can grow a business, a global business,” Meyer said.
The company’s new offices will be located at Oxford Development’s 3 Crossings in the Strip District. Excel4apps is taking 6,000 square feet at 2501 Smallman, which is also the corporate headquarters of Rycon Construction Inc.
The company originally chose Upper St. Clair for its offices, Meyer said, because it was a central location for the company’s early employees. But it was often challenging to recruit new talent that wanted to work in the South Hills.
“We were able to find and attract really strong candidates,” said Ashley Heinnickel, global marketing director at Excel4apps. “But for a lot of people, it was a deal-breaker coming south.”
The company began looking for new space, ruling out Southpointe, downtown and Bakery Square. Ultimately, the move to the Strip District came down to one reason: proximity to Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh.
As Excel4apps continues to expand, the company hopes to source more employees from the nearby universities. Its new office space can accommodate up to 45 people, so there will be room to grow in the coming months. The neighborhood surrounding 3 Crossings also appealed to the company, Meyer said, because of amenities like upscale restaurants, new apartment buildings, proximity to the riverfront trail and the architecturally modern design of the new space itself.
While the company has local clients, like CMU, Excel4apps works with clients worldwide and is working right now to tap into the Japanese and German markets. What’s helped the company grow globally, Meyer said, has been been an emphasis on customer support and personal relationships.
Excel4aApps has customers in 68 different countries and tailors its approach to the different cultures within those markets. In the Middle East, for instance, the company is open on Sundays because Middle Eastern companies do business on Sunday rather than Friday. That mindfulness is what has helped the company’s reputation abroad, Meyer said.
“It takes a lot of effort, it takes a lot of time,” Meyer said. “You have to overcome those cultural barriers and earn their trust before they’ll be willing to transact with you. People still want to buy from people that they like and trust.”
Excel4apps is approaching its 1,000th customer, which Meyer said is a goal the company has been working toward for a long time.
“We had a big celebration when we reached 500, so to now go to 1000 — we’re looking to cross that threshold within the next year — that’s one thing I’m very excited about,” Meyer said. “It is quite an achievement for a startup.”