Inside Blacksburg, Virginia-based Qualtrax's 26-year transformation as a compliance software startup - Technical.ly DC

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Nov. 21, 2019 4:45 pm

Inside Blacksburg, Virginia-based Qualtrax’s 26-year transformation as a compliance software startup

The company, which helps streamline tasks such as accreditation, process management and employee trainings, treats itself as much like a startup as a long-standing expert.
Qualtrax’s Blacksburg headquarters, with its giant, green Q.

Qualtrax's Blacksburg headquarters, with its giant, green Q.

(Courtesy photo)

Full disclosure: The Virginia Economic Development Partnership coordinated and paid for the travel and accommodations of the author of this post during a media tour. However, this article was reported independently and was not reviewed by VEDP.
A fun fact about Qualtrax’s logo: It used to be a combination of hot pink and blue.

“It was a true ’90s logo, and we gave it a bit of a facelift,” President and CEO Amy Ankrum said.

The logo does have some historic value. Since the 26-year-old company started with the idea of “quality tracking” in mind, the evolving Q graphic symbolizes the life cycle of processes and continuous improvement.

The symbol matches how the company sees itself, too: Travel a few hours southwest from D.C. into Blacksburg, Virginia, and you’ll find an evolving company treating itself as much like a startup as a long-standing expert in all things compliance.

Founded in 1993, Qualtrax helps companies maintain regulatory requirements for document and data control through its compliance and management software solution to streamline tasks such as accreditation, process management and employee trainings. Qualtrax has a global customer base across a wide range of industries including federal agencies, medical labs and manufacturing companies.

“They’re making critical contributions to society and we use our technology to drive out unnecessary overhead and just, honestly, improve the quality of life for the people that are using our product,” Ankrum said about the clients the company works with during an October tour of its office, which features a high ceiling, many windows and open workspace.

Ankrum said she often sees clients “getting emotional” in trainings once they realize how well the Qualtrax compliance software works. If that sounds far-fetched, consider this: At the heart of it, the software handles document and revision management, collecting audit trails, all the way down to flow charting information that can actively interact with employees on the system who need to complete tasks. It’s complicated, potentially tedious work that many clients didn’t know they could digitize before.

Qualtrax first started as subsidiary company under Christiansburg, Virginia-based FoxGuard Solutions (formerly CCS Inc.), a provider of industrial and commercial computing solutions for mission-critical applications. Qualtrax broke away into its own stand-alone company in 2016, and relocated to Blacksburg.

“We think this is a wonderful place to live,” Ankrum said about Blacksburg. “There is a quality of life here that has a lot to offer families.”

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A year after becoming its own brand, the company closed a $3 million funding round to propel its growth plans. For this raise, Qualtrax received investments from Roanoke, Virginia-based Common Wealth Growth Group, San Francisco-based venture capital firm Lyden Capital and CCS executives Marty Muscatello and Tim Lawson. Ankrum said the company has raised an additional $3 million since then.

Though the company has been around for 26 years, Ankrum said her employees have operated with a startup mindset since branching off. Qualtrax has a team of about 40 split between its Blacksburg office staff and remote workers across the U.S.

“We found pretty early on that in order to continue to scale the way we needed to, we needed to be open to taking talent where we can get talent,” Akrum said. “As much as we want to bring jobs here, it’s extremely competitive in this area.”

The Qualtrax team. (Courtesy photo)

The team collaborates daily via Zoom conference meetings, constant communication on Slack, of course email, and through a daily huddle that includes “a quick moment of zen” (which might include talking about dogs, for instance). The engineering team members behind the software work side by side in the office, and each engineer works with specific clients using the Qualtrax software.

This system seems to be working: Qualtrax was ranked in the top five “Best Place to Work for Small Biz” by Virginia Business for the past two years.

For its customers and partners, Qualtrax hosts a user conference at the nearby Virginia Tech every 18 months to train and collaborate with its team members face-to-face. Each conference has a theme — most recently, superheroes — with nearly 180 Qualtrax customers present. Outside of this, Ankrum said Qualtrax has an accounts management group that does regular check-ins and quarterly visits with its customers throughout the year.

The company partners with accrediting organizations whose compliance standards its clients are working to meet. Some of these accreditors are even using the Qualtrax software internally.

“We thought we could make a lot bigger difference if we really are working with the accreditors and understand everything we can do to drive out unnecessary overhead,” Ankrum said.

The company also frequently interacts with The Roanoke — Blacksburg Technology Council, of which Akrum is a long-time member and, she said, led Qualtrax to its initial $3 million investment opportunity. The council is a member-based organization that provides investment and legislative connections for tech leaders. It also hosts a monthly tech and toast event, roundtable discussions and a yearly tech awards event.

Qualtrax HR Director Jacqueline Lackey, who has been with the company for about three years, and Christopher Page, who has been with Qualtrax for two years, joined the team after previously working together at education software provider PowerSchool Group LLC, which they supported toward an exit; Page shared that he and Lackey heard about Qualtrax through the Council.

Ankrum said as Qualtrax continues to evolve, the company is working to break into emerging markets like cannabis, since labs and companies in this space are looking to get accredited; Qualtrax currently has a customer in each state that has legalization regulations for cannabis. The company is also continuously working in the crime lab space, as well as gaining more cyber customers.

Oh, and as for the updated color of Qualtrax’s logo, from its original hot pink and blue? Ankrum said the team just really likes green.

The company’s logo and office decorated for this past Halloween. (Photo by Michelai Graham)

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