Startups

Why 13-year-old ZenQMS just took its first outside investment

The Ardmore company helps life sciences companies keep a "paper trail" for regulatory organizations. It recently brought on Susquehanna Growth Equity as a minority investment partner.

Panos Boudouvas.

(Courtesy photo)

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Panos Boudouvas worked for an outsourced manufacturer that partnered with companies developing drugs, mostly for clinical trials. He saw firsthand the struggles that business faced with meeting industry requirements.

“We were using paper, pencil and Excel, and the very best intentions of the people at our site, and it was a real struggle,” he told Technical.ly. “And in this business, when you’re developing drugs or devices that are supposed to help people, you really don’t want to leave those things to chance.”

After watching his former employer fail a regulatory inspection, Boudouvas felt there was room in the marketplace for a platform that could help companies coordinate all of the requirements, like those set forth by the International Organization for Standardization.

So 13 years ago, Boudouvas and cofounder Graham Wert set out to build a platform that was simple and easy to use. The pair created software company ZenQMS which sells a cloud-based platform for companies — mostly in the life sciences industry — to manage their compliance.

“Proper documentation is everything for life sciences compliance. If you don’t document your activity properly, it stands to reason that it didn’t happen,” Boudouvas said. “Paper or manual systems often include mistakes or gaps that call into question the integrity of the documentation — for instance, a signature with no date stamp.”

The CEO said it’s even harder for a company to manage their documents as they grow, and when it has to prove it is meeting compliance requirements for an audit, using a paper system can be difficult. The “paper trail” while using an electronic system like ZenQMS is a clear benefit, he said, especially for companies that deal with intellectual property.

"Most of all, how will your new partners represent you and your company in the marketplace?"
Panos Boudouvas, ZenQMS

The company has less than 100 employees, but Boudouvas said its headcount has almost tripled since 2020. And while its HQ is in Ardmore, the company has employees all over the world, specifically Brazil and Romania. As the company continues to grow, it’s looking to fill in some positions in the Philly area.

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To help with that growth, in August, ZenQMS brought on Susquehanna Growth Equity as a minority investment partner. It’s the first outside money that the company has taken. Boudouvas said it felt like the right time to take on a partner because of its steady expansion over the last few years. He added that the company was not necessarily looking for capital when they began talks with Susquehanna — which has previously backed the likes of Philly transplant Phorest and DC’s Clutch — but rather for a partner that understood how the company was unique.

“This was really opportunistic on our side to over the last year think about, ‘Do we want to take on a partner?'” he said. “If so, on what terms?”

Susquehanna is an “analytical and strategic group with a unique approach to value creation” that resonated with his team, Boudouvas said. “Susquehanna, also being in our backyard, was a really unique partner for us in that respect. They really understand the company, what we’re trying to achieve here in our next chapter.”

Boudouvas said his biggest lesson with ZenQMS has been curating a team culture focused on kindness, empathy and respect. How his employees treat each other is an indicator of how they’ll treat clients.

“We simply could not have growth without the right team in place,” he said.

His advice to other companies considering a similar partnership with an equity firm: Be thorough by contacting references, paying attention to details on term sheets, and thinking about how this partner will impact the company’s independence and growth.

“Most of all, how will your new partners represent you and your company in the marketplace?” he said.


Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-
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