Unitask Software Wants to Make Oracle Users’ Experience Better
Dale Royal, the CEO of Bloomfield Hills, MI-based Unitask Software, is not a man who lets the grass grow under his feet. In 2001, he was an executive at Veritas Software but he realized he needed to tend to his homefront, so, at age 41, he retired.
“I had been running a billion-dollar company, but I had a seven-year-old son who needed my attention and father who had cancer,” Royal explains. “Something had to give. But nine months after I retired, my family had enough—they staged an intervention and begged me to go back to work.”
Royal wasn’t interested in just another job, so he set about interviewing the many venture capitalists he knew about what the “next big thing” was. It was through those conversations, he says, that he realized there is no next big thing—that a business fails or succeeds thanks to the caliber of people who run it. He decided he would devote his energy to helping small companies run by people with fundamental business smarts grow into something bigger. He’d consider it a success when the company was sold or went public.
It was in this new role that he went to work for Unitask Software in 2008. The startup was founded by three Israeli IT consultants who did a lot of work with the Oracle database. They noticed that Oracle was “tedious, complex, and hard to work,” Royal says, and they had the “there must a better way” moment.
The Israelis created a set of digital tools that “bolt on top” of the Oracle E-Business Suite. Unitask software automates and streamlines some of Oracle EBS’ more complex features, and gives users the ability to print, fax, or email directly from the Oracle database. Royal, who was brought on to bring the product the Israelis invented to mass market, says Unitask’s software bolts onto Oracle so seamlessly that users can’t tell it’s there. (Royal realizes it’s difficult to explain what Unitask does to those of us who aren’t IT professionals, so he invites potential users to visit the company’s website and request a demo.)
“Oracle has great functionality, but we make it our job to fill in those holes,” Royal says. “We add on to the value, we don’t replace it. We make the user experience better. We’re not exciting, but we’re important. Output management—that’s what we do.”
Unitask has users in every sector from healthcare to manufacturing to biotech. “Our customer base is everything from Amway to the Air Force,” Royal says.
2011 was a banner year for Unitask. Royal says the company doubled in terms of gross revenues, tripled the number of customers it has, and more than doubled its staff to 15 total employees. Royal, who is a native of Saginaw, MI, moved the company from Israel to Michigan after a $250,000 investment from Automation Alley. Since then, Unitask has snagged a five-figure investment from Invest Detroit’s First Step Fund and is currently negotiating with a local venture outfit for additional funding. Royal says he expects Unitask to triple every metric in 2012, but, despite that success, the fundraising has gone more slowly than he’d like.
“When I go to Silicon Valley to talk to VCs, we’re talking about half-million dollar investments,” Royal says. “People here think $50,000 is big. We need a frictionless venture capital engine that starts at $100,000—not $10,000. We need more people spending money, not sitting on it.”
Royal says that funding delays aside, he’s happy to be in Michigan because it’s rich in one asset you can never grow enough of: talent. “What drew me here wasn’t the tax incentives or the water, it was the people,” he adds.