Justin Couto is confident that 2012 will be a “record-breaking” year for Couto Solutions, a San Luis Obispo-based company that builds online communities for large corporations.
Couto, 38, started the company in 2004. Since then, it has grown an average of 60 percent annually, except for 2008 when growth was flat as the company shifted its strategy to focus solely on online community development, he said.
This year, it is on track to grow as much as 80 to 90 percent.
“Think corporate Facebooks for companies like McMaster University, The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Microsoft and SlimFast,” said Couto, explaining his company’s specialty.
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Couto Solutions develops social networking communities in partnership with Telligent, a company that develops software to power social networks. “In addition, we create software packages that plug into Telligent’s platform, adding much needed functionality,” Couto said.
One of Couto Solutions’ fastest selling products is Bragger Badges, which provides social recognition to community members. Members receive badges, or achievements, for their participation in the community from community owners.
“It is rewarding with pixels instead of pennies, and it is very effective,” Couto said.
“There is even a leader board so people can compete for top contributor amongst their peers. Some of the largest companies in the world are buying our add-ons and loving them.”
The company recently completed a deal with Microsoft Dynamics. While the company is growing, Couto said his first priority is to maintain what he called its “stellar reputation” in the industry.
However, with only 14 employees, Couto said the company has had to turn away business because it does not have enough resources to take on additional work. He plans to hire three additional software developers soon, but said it’s “very difficult to recruit software engineers in San Luis Obispo that have the experience we are looking for.”
To overcome the problem, Couto has been working on a training program and moved into the Cal Poly Technology Park on the university’s campus to connect with students who want to stay in the county.
“We are also hoping to work with Cal Poly to introduce curriculum that better prepares students for the jobs we have available,” he said.
The future of Couto Solutions also depends on his ability to maintain a solid revenue stream to fund the development of his ideas. Couto said he’s on the cusp of developing a cloud-based service, which he plans to self-fund. Additionally he company is focused this year on adding the music industry to its portfolio, developing communities for musicians, rappers and bands.
As it continues to grow, Couto said the company is “fully committed to being in SLO for the long haul,” which is “why we are doing everything we can to foster the local tech community.” Couto Solutions is a major contributor to Softec, and the founder and host of both the Central Coast Design Group and the .Net User Programming Group; it also is a chief sponsor of the Central Coast Code Camp, which it organizes and runs.