Lion's Lair: Hamilton software company has plans to change marketing

Enthuzr co-founders Ruxandra and Alex Bucataru have big plans for their company and for Hamilton. Read about this Lion's Lair finalist here.
Ruxandra and Alex Bucataru founded Hamilton-based Enthuzr in October 2011. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

There is a philosophy in the software development world: release early and release often. It's meant for software to progress faster and helps the user define what the software will become.

This mantra is not only what software wizzes Ruxandra and Alex Bucataru develop by, it's what they live by.

Within two weeks of immigrating to Canada from Romania, they started their own software development business. They weren't even yet fluent in English.

"I've never heard of immigrants starting their own business so quickly," a bank manager told Ruxandra when she was getting some documents signed.

The husband and wife entrepreneur duo has no shortage of ambition and it extends to their newest project, Enthuzr.

"It's software for customer acquisition and retention," Ruxandra said.

Or in other words, "it turns every customer into a raving fan," she said.

Enthuzr is software that can be embedded into a company's website and tracks customer interaction. It learns what each individual likes by monitoring where they navigate to on the website, what they click on or buy.

Then, it works to make sure they keep coming back.

Ruxandra said using Enthuzr is akin to the "old-fashioned customer experience." It's like going to your neighbourhood restaurant where the waiter knows you and your tastes, and can make suggestions.

"That's what Enthuzr does online," she said.

Say a customer recently purchased a camera from an online store. Enthuzr remembers the purchase, as well as where else the customer navigated to on the webpage.

The next time that customer visits the site, they are offered a reward which is also tailored to their interest.

If Enthuzr senses this customer likes deals, they could be offered a discount a purchase. If they are interested in information about the latest gadgets, the customer could be offered a sneak peek.

The Bucatarus used their nearly two-decades worth of experience working with software and small businesses to develop Enthuzr.

They are no stranger to knowing what works in the technology world.

The couple

"The first day of university," Ruxandra and Alex said in unison when asked about when they met.

"And I don't think we've been apart for more than a week since then," Ruxandra adds.

That was 18 years ago in Bucharest. They've been married for 16 years, and business partners for 15, Alex said. He's the one who keeps track of their milestones. The Bucatarus are the couple that finishes each others sentences. Alex said they've had many colleagues who remarked that they think the same. But this all works in their favor.

"We've been entrepreneurs since forever," Ruxandra said.

They both laugh when she said they don't know where their love for business and technology came from. Her parents are teachers and he comes from a long line of medical professionals.

The two former economics and information technology students started their first software-based marketing company while in university to help pay the bills.

"We started a business when entrepreneurship was unknown [in Romania]," Ruxandra said. "People had businesses, but not many after communism. It wasn't something natural."

The social and economic situation wasn't condusive to entrepreneurship, she said, so the Bucatarus knew they needed to relocate.

"We wanted to find somewhere we could have a business," Alex said. "Canada was our first choice."

This couple has been so busy, they haven't made it back to Romania since they left.

"It's hard to take 3 weeks off," Ruxandra said.

On top of their numerous start-ups, the Bucatarus volunteered their time to help local small business.

Shortly after they arrived in Hamilton, they went to the small business centre, looking for ways they could help out. They became mentors to local entrepreneurs. That's where the idea for Enthuzr came from.

The company

Ruxandra said 90 per cent of online interaction a customer has with a company happens on their website. Not on Facebook, Twitter or blogs.

What the Bucatarus learned volunteering with the local entrepreneur community is that small businesses need some extra help to keep customers of all kinds returning back online. 

"Each customer is unique," Ruxandra said. "They are motivated by different things."

The Bucatarus wanted to help businesses understand and retain their customers as soon as they could. Keeping with the 'release early, release often' philosophy, Alex said they had some beta testers as soon as the Enthuzr software was functional.

Right now, they have 20 businesses using the initial software. They are mostly tech companies, app developers and e-commerce businesses.

Alex said one of their clients exhibited five times better showing online after using Enthuzr. Because of the positive feedback from their initial clients, they have a list of companies signed up to use the next version.

"The goal is to make the software as transparent as possible," said Alex. "It just looks like a feature they were already interacting with."

Enthuzr has customers from Canadian coast to coast, but the Buctarus are targeting locally. They majority of their customers hail from in and around Hamilton, and that's the way Ruxandra and Alex like it.

The Lion's Lair pitch: Why Enthuzr should win

Marketing is changing and it needs to evolve with social media, Ruxandra said.

"That's why Enthuzr is here," she said. "Our big goal is to change how marketing works."

The Bucatarus know they can make a big impact on Hamilton, if their company is able to expand.

"We want to hire," said Alex, if they win the big prize. "The human capital is here [in Hamilton]."

He cites the talent that is coming out of McMaster University and Mohawk and Redeemer colleges.

"Tech companies always have one foot on a plane to San Fransisco," Alex said. "But something can be built right here."