Cognovision acquired by Intel

UPDATE: We are hearing that the acquisition price tag is closer to $30m and possibly even higher. 

Another great exit for the Toronto startup community and some great news in advance of CIX in a few weeks. Toronto based Cognovision has reportedly been acquired by intel. According to DailyDOOH, which covers the digital out of home market, the pricetag was $17m.

Cognovision was the winner of the CIX pitch competition last year.

I have to admit that when I first heard the Cognovision pitch, it felt holodeck cool. It also seemed “too good to be true” — Turns out I was wrong and the company shot to ~$1m in revenue pretty quickly. Using a camera on top of a digital display, Cognovision could give you some rough estimates that covered:

  • Actual Impressions – The number of people who look at your displays
  • Length of Impressions – How long people look for
  • Potential Audience Size – The number of people who walk by
  • Dwell Time – How long people stay near your displays
  • Anonymous Demographics – Demographics of your audience (gender and age bracket)

Congrats to Shahzad, Haroon an the entire team.

John Ruffolo joins OMERS to manage new Venture Capital arm

Some great news for Ontario, and the national startup community, today. We are hearing from multiple sources that John Ruffolo will be joining OMERS as Senior Vice President of Knowledge Investing. He will start in the position on January 3rd 2011.

This position, which is focused on managing direct Venture Capital investments, has been the subject of speculation since OMERS announced that they planned to take a similar direct investment model with Venture Capital as they have with Private Equity deals, which has been a successful model for them so far. Pension and other labour sponsored funds like OMERS have historically taken Limited Partner positions in third-party funds (the VC funds you know and love already) and this hands-on approach is unique in Canada.

John Ruffolo was previously a Managing Partner at Deloitte’s Toronto office and he conducted the survey of Canadian VC GPs that we wrote about earlier.

John’s reputation is positive and his knowledge of both the past and current startup and Venture Capital environment in Canada is unique. It is great to see things moving ahead in the development of a new capital source for startups in Canada.

Rogers out to woo mobile devs with Catalyst APIs

This a.m. in Toronto, the folks at everyone’s favourite big red carrier, invited a collection of local developers and partners to give a sneak preview of their new carrier services API called Catalyst.

At first swoopy-rosy-red blush, Rogers’ Catalyst looks almost oddly familiar to that old software branding of a certain other Markham-based technology heavyweight. Functionality wise however, Catalyst has a lot more in common with the similar multi-carrier initiative called OneAPI (also supported by Rogers btw). The difference with Catalyst is that it signals a split with OneAPI to give dev’s access to supposedly deeper/better but also proprietary integration with Rogers network. for now, these are services like messaging, location and billing. For developers, richer but proprietary api is either good or bad news, depending on your appetite for carrier-specific app development. Rogers and Fido may be Canada’s biggest mobile operator. However, tying your app to their network is obviously no way to reach every Canadian, let alone the world market.

Those caveats aside, there is good stuff in this API. First up, everything is build on web and “SOAP and restful standards” promising to abstract away historically crufty telco interfaces, dedicated lines and slow/expensive integration certification.

Functionality wise in this release we get:

  • Messaging: Web-based SMS origination, SMS delivery confirmation, and “instant” shortcode provisioning
  • Location: Server calls at various levels of accuracy vs speed that allows your cloud to geo-locate and track any handset on the network. A scary thought, but the service also comes with built-in opt-in and privacy controls.
  • Billing: the ability to bill up to $100/month to Rogers bills for apps or content. The revenue split is 30% Rogers, 70% developer, no need for CWTA shortcode to start using billing
  • More stuff, apparently coming soon

So what does it mean for entrepreneurs and tinkerers? Sure you won’t yet take over the whole world with Rogers-only API integration. However I see a few great use cases: as fast/cheap proof of concept sandbox before you invest in scaling your app with many carrier integrations, for enterprise app development, for academic or mobile research projects. Now if only Rogers would also provide subsidized (or at least more flexible) hardware, sim cards and data plans with their developer programs they’d have a real winner. Where are our api’s for Canada’s aspiring hardware hackers I’d like to know? Where are our api’s for helping us do real commerce over mobile not just virtual goods? I may just be biased, maybe we’ll get there in time.

The big picture here is we are seeing carriers trying to claw their way back into digital content value chain. It remains to be seen how well a single carrier can compete on alerts, location and content billing which, let’s face it, all smartphone platforms nowadays support some pretty decent version of natively. But notionally that’s fine. More choice and competition is good for developers. I’d like to see more big companies opening their kimono’s and offering up interesting APIs. Once they’re in the wild, have at the Rogers Catalyst APIs and let me know what you think.

Rogers Catalyst Beta is not publicly available just yet, but should be launching in beta form within a week or so at