To outside observers and even many who worked there, the Ottawa company was a roaring success. But CEO Tobi Lutke saw signs of complacency – and issued a call to arms to ‘avoid being yet another BlackBerry/Nortel.’ Sean Silcoff goes inside a rising tech star’s push to join the mobile revolution
thanks to the many of you who have forwarded Angus Reid's recent LinkedIn posting about my coverage of Vision Critical in the Globe and Mail. I have indeed read it, and I stand by my reporting. Here's the big piece the Globe published in May: ... See MoreSee Less
Five years after Andrew Reid, son of renowned pollster Angus Reid, launched a market research startup in 2000, his father joined him to become the Vancouver firm’s largest investor and CEO. But in the years since, a revolt at the top of the company has led to a series of conflicts between the elder…
Jaxson KhanJohn Koetsier here's an excerpt of the opening paragraphs that Sean posted in his original post (along with additional commentary for us):
I am posting the opening few paragraphs of this 6,000+ word story (which was 8 months in the making) so that you can see it's not actually about hamburgers. Voila: Angus Reid was facing a mutiny.
It was April, 2014, and the executive chairman of one of Canada’s most successful emerging tech companies, Vision Critical Communications, had just learned fellow directors were preparing to strip him of his “executive” title, effectively dismissing him from management.
Their main concern: Mr. Reid’s constant meddling in the business since he had hired an outsider, Scott Miller, to replace him as chief executive officer in 2012. It had become so intrusive that several executives felt they could no longer do their jobs.
Mr. Reid looked enraged as he walked into the board meeting. He confronted each executive and director individually, asking if they supported the move. “The reply across the board was ‘You need to go!’” Mr. Reid said. “[It] was painful to hear.” Among those at the table: his son, company founder Andrew Reid.
In the preceding nine years, Canada’s most famous pollster had transformed his son’s struggling startup into one of Canada’s hottest software companies, a disruptive leader in the global market research business. With a new CEO and a new big-name investor – the venture capital arm of pension giant Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System – Vision Critical was positioned to go public with Mr. Reid as its chairman and largest shareholder.
But since that boardroom confrontation, the company’s top ranks have been mired in conflict – centred around Mr. Reid – pitting directors and investors against one another in a corporate civil war involving some big names of the Canadian business establishment. Some directors have left after facing his ire. “A private company of its size shouldn’t turn over directors [so] much,” said one source familiar with the players. “It’s been a power struggle.”
The Vision Critical story is about more than one company’s internecine squabbles. Since the downfall of Nortel Networks and BlackBerry, exciting public companies in the Canadian technology sector have been scarce, unlike the United States, where Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Netflix and others have become multibillion-dollar investor darlings. That is now starting to change. At a time when software companies are upending entire industries and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trumpeting innovation as key to Canada’s stalled economic growth, a number of homegrown, world-beating tech firms are expected to go public soon, following the lead of Ottawa-based Shopify and revitalizing Canada’s public markets.
Near the front of the line is Vision Critical, which some investors see as a potential “unicorn” – a private tech company worth $1-billion or more. But the company’s boardroom drama has cast a pall on Bay Street, where its squabbles are well known. .....//the rest is in Saturday's paper and online. You can subscribe, buy a single paper copy, or read it for free at your local library.
2 days ago · 4
Kemp EdmondsI've been trying to read your stories Sean but have been stymied by the pay wall :/
Bohdan ZabawskyjGreat article. However, you don't need to wait till next year to have a cogent conversation with Canada's senior technology leaders. Check out the TrueNorthCTO slack team or the regional CTO meetups. There are over 300 leaders on both the slack team and the Toronto CTO Group.
I'm working on a second edition of my book, Storytelling for Startups. To make it more "user-friendly", I want to create graphics that show people how blog posts, infographics, etc. are structured. I'd it to be "hand-drawn" (like the photo) so looking for a graphic designer or illustrator. ... See MoreSee Less
On #GivingTuesday, Ben Zifkin shared The Upside Foundation's #CelebrateTheUpside campaign. It was awesome and inspiring to see all the amazing things that people from the startup community across Canada do to give back! Today, the winners of the campaign were selected. Congratulations to Joelle MacPhee & the team at Ooka Island for winning a $1000 donation to their charity of choice, and to our Community Champions Vivian Chan, Daniel Rodic & Lee Dale, who won $250 donations towards their causes (HoHoTO is tonight!)- you all give back so much. Love being part of a community of do-gooders :) ... See MoreSee Less
#CelebrateTheUpside was a campaign to celebrate and encourage giving back from the Canadian startup community. Through the campaign, members of the community were invited to share how they give back or what causes they care about.
This is a remarkable story of ups and downs - how a Canadian founder (Waterloo student, went through Velocity incubator) moved his startup from Canada to the US (Y Combinator); raised over $10 million in a Kickstarter campaign, and then another $15 million in VC funding; and according to reports here, the highest acquisition offer received was for $740 million in 2015 from watch maker Citizen, which was turned down. And now this, regardless of the amount or who gets what, a successful acquisition nevertheless.
Amazed that BlackBerry was not involved in this back in 2008-2009 when Pebble was growing in their own backyard..
Jesse RodgersBest to not know how the sausage is made. In 8 years Pebble inspired/amazed. The inspiration lifted founders and the network Eric fostered contributes to the growth in Waterloo. Sad to see Pebble go. Hope Eric and the team continue to do great things.
Anthony NovacI remember when Eric Migicovsky first came into our office to show us his first prototype. He was still a student. This guy is a visionary who developed a tremendous product. I am so proud of his accomplishments.