Steve Engelbrecht has lived through some bad timing in his career trajectory. But now, he sees opportunity in the face of crisis.
Engelbrecht is the founder of Sitation, an Apex-based ecommerce software and services startup. He graduated with a degree in computer science from Cornell in 2001 as the dot-com bubble was bursting. He started work on Sept. 10, 2001, and then he got laid off after the 9/11 attacks. Engelbrecht went back to school in 2007 to get his MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one year before the housing market crashed.
Now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Engelbrecht is adapting once more. Though he says this crisis is arguably worse than the previous two, he still sees it as an opportunity for business owners and executives.
“Even though this has been a very difficult time for everybody in the last few months,” Engelbrecht said, “I think one of the winners coming out of this is ecommerce generally, and I think that we’re very well-positioned to help a huge number of customers to identify and execute on some of these opportunities that are growing out of the crisis.”
Engelbrecht started Sitation in 2001 from his home in Somerville, Mass., right after losing his first job. He kept it going through business school and later moved the HQ to Apex in May, 2015. Today, with all the different ways people are doing business, Sitation lives up to its name—a portmanteau of “website” and “creation.” The company’s software and services enable clients to create scalable product content initiatives on their sites.
Though to be fair, not everyone immediately grasps the meaning of the name. Some have contacted Sitation hoping to find former Jersey Shore star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Engelbrecht says, while others have sought help getting out of paying their parking citations.
While five of Sitation’s employees are based in Apex or elsewhere in North Carolina, Engelbrecht says he has not limited the geographic scope of his hiring. With 15 total employees in the U.S., the company has started to build satellite offices in Chicago and Minneapolis and has up to 100 people with partner companies in India.
The company is split into three internal teams—Professional Services, Data and Analytics, and Systems Integration—and has its own data management software platform that has been used directly with clients as part of its consulting practice. At least, that was the case until now.
Engelbrecht said Sitation is currently developing a SaaS version of the software for a global ecommerce audience, with plans to launch this year. He said he wants to “enable” clients and offer them a “do-it-yourself” version.
“There are lots of different systems that are out there to store different types of product and enterprise data,” Engelbrecht said. “But our approach is that we want to enable those technology investments for our customers, so we focus on the agility of creating a very specific, customer-focused, smart presentation of that product data, and then helping that data to move fluidly between those systems.”
Though the fully bootstrapped company has been around since 2001, Sitation only this year made Scott Wingo’s Triangle Tweener list, thanks in part to its 5x growth in 2019. Engelbrecht said he’s followed the list for a while and appreciates the value Wingo provides to the companies that make the list in the form of webinars and leadership throughout the pandemic.
“It’s a great honor,” Engelbrecht said. “I love the entrepreneurial community here in the Triangle.”