Web 2.0 winners | July 11, 2008
Congratulations to all our PICK 20 winners!
By Elaine Pratt, KPMG, and Peter Wolchak
The PICK 20, Canada’s best minds and sharpest practitioners
With this issue, Backbone and KPMG unveil the PICK 20, the first and only national roundup of Canada’s Web 2.0 pioneers and practitioners. In the pages that follow you will discover 20 companies that are leading the way into the second iteration of the Web.
Web 2.0 has been defined, redefined and argued over, and there’s no doubt the 20 winners our judges picked will create some of the same debate. For our purposes, we defined Web 2.0 as the use of emergent online social platforms to link individuals to each other and, increasingly, to connect companies to partners and clients. The real point, though, is that Web 2.0 happens when the talk goes from a monologue to a dialogue, when everyone gets a say and when those voices can actually change opinions, company policy, government decisions and so on.
What follows is a ranking of the top 20 Web 2.0 players in Canada. To assemble the list of winners we held an open public nomination process and then turned those entries over to a panel of judges. Most of our judges are active bloggers and they come with a diverse range of professional experiences, including work in academia, marketing, public relations, corporate communications, venture capital and e-commerce. All are passionate about Web 2.0.
For each PICK 20 winner we have also included the judges’ analysis of the implementation, because in addition to simply highlighting Canada’s Web 2.0 stars, we also want to offer insight on what these companies are doing right and what they need to improve to continue their success. This is especially important as many of these implementations are in the early stages of development, and the next year or two will be critical.
One important note: Any judge who was in any way involved in a nominated implementation did not participate in its judging process. This allowed us to engage Canadian experts while maintaining the integrity of the process.
In addition to our top 20 ranking, we also placed the winners into one of four categories, to give even more insight into these projects.
This is the first annual PICK 20 from Backbone and KPMG. Early in 2009 we’ll announce nomination details for next year’s list, so if your company or project isn’t here this year, we’ll look for you in 2009.
Come out to meet the PICK 20 winners and learn how your company can leverage Web 2.0 technology in either Vancouver at the Wosk Centre, Sept. 16, 2008, or in Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Sept. 22, 2008, during TorontoTechWeek. E-mail email@example.com to receive an invitation.
The PICK 20 process divided Web 2.0 into four broad implementation categories:
1) Problem solving: customer response, idea generation, solution brainstorming
2) Innovation: crowdsourcing, market prediction, participatory feedback
3) Collaboration: jams, customer input, user rankings
4) Knowledge sharing and management: teamware, wikis, blogs and collaborative content creation
Backbone and KPMG assembled a prestigious group of Canadian thought leaders, movers and shakers, practitioners and pundits to judge the PICK 20 nominations and comment on the winners. Our lineup, in alphabetical order, is:
Dave has been involved in the technology industry across Canada for more than 10 years in sales and marketing roles. Dave is the chair of Toronto Tech Week, an annual industry-wide initiative that showcases Toronto as one of the largest, most innovative and fastest-growing information and communications technology (ICT) markets in North America.
Michael is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law. Michael has written numerous academic articles and government reports and is a columnist on technology law issues. He is the founder of the Ontario Research Network for E-commerce, serves on the advisory boards of several leading Internet law publications, and is a member of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Expert Advisory Board. He has been recognized with several important awards including the 2008 Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the 2003 Public Leadership Award from CANARIE for his contribution to the Internet in Canada.
Mitch is president of award-winning Twist Image, a digital marketing and communications agency. Marketing Magazine called him the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing.” Both his blog and podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, are widely regarded as top marketing destinations in Canada.
As an answer to marketing’s future, Sean founded Agent Wildfire — Canada’s Word of Mouth Experts, a marketing, media and research firm dedicated to customer advocacy, social media, influencer marketing, user-generated content, brand evangelism and buzz-building. He was recently ranked one of Canada’s leading marketing innovators and speaks frequently on the subject of new marketing and media. He chairs and speaks at conferences and seminars, and rants and muses through his top-ranked blog Buzz Canuck, e-newsletter “The Buzz Report” and in executive marketing 2.0 white papers.
Michael O’Connor Clarke
Recognized as a social media pioneer, Michael is one of Canada’s most experienced consultants on the integration of Web 2.0 approaches within mainstream public relations and marketing campaigns. As a vice-president at Thornley Fallis Communications, Michael combines 20 years in technology and corporate marketing with seven years of experience as a blogger to help the firm’s clients make the appropriate connections with their audiences through both traditional and social media communications campaigns. In 2006, Michael’s blog was named one of the Top 10 Corporate Marketing Blogs worldwide, based on Technorati rankings.
Prior to joining JLA Ventures, Rick was president and CEO of Microforum, a provider of integrated e-business solutions. Rick joined Microforum in July 2000 from Chapters Online, where he held the position of president and COO. Rick was also a partner at the international firm TMS Consulting and worked at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. Rick is also the author of four books on network management and Windows software development. He serves as a director of Planeteye, HealthUnity, b5media, MusicIP, Sirit and Truition Marketplace Solutions.
Ron joined the Jennings Capital Toronto office in October 2006 and covers the technology sector. He has a 15-year industry background in technology, holding positions as CEO and CTO in various Canadian software companies. In addition, he was executive-in-residence with Vengrowth and also consulted to various leading venture capital organizations and early-stage technology companies within their portfolios.
Previously, Ron was technology analyst for Lowen, Ondaatje, McCutcheon.
An Internet trailblazer from pre-Web days, Kate Trgovac started her digital marketing career when plain text e-mail was the marketing tool of choice.
Over her 17-year career, she has worked for several clients, including Nike, Molson, Nabisco, Procter and Gamble, Fido and Petro-Canada. In 2007, Kate founded LintBucket Media, a boutique marketing agency headquartered in Vancouver that focuses on social media, community building and co-creation between brands and their audiences. She writes about the intersection of marketing and technology on her blog and publishes OneDegree.ca, an online magazine that provides the inside scoop on Internet marketing and social media for Canadian marketers.
The PICK 20 Winners
1. Club Penguin
A snow-covered virtual world where children play games and interact with friends in the guise of colourful penguin avatars.
Club Penguin was purchased by Disney in August 2007 for a reported US$350 million and is no longer Canadian, but we didn’t want to penalize this homegrown company simply because of its huge success story. And, indeed, our judges praised the Penguin for both its simple charm and its enviable profits. “Such a great idea, and well-executed,” Moffitt said. “They identified a gap between children’s commercial sites and MySpace and nailed it. The fact that their revenue base is by subscription is all the more amazing. The site is very sticky and has tonnes of interesting parent-approved and kid-loved avenues to explore.”
Trgovac concurred. “I think Club Penguin wins for return on investment and ongoing value. It’s a great product with great execution. There are a lot of virtual worlds for kids out there, so it’s not super innovative, but they certainly won big with the Disney buyout.” Shuttleworth, however, sounded a cautionary note on the company’s ongoing revenue base. “Kids can be fickle, so the community needs to extend to maintain relevance.”
An online invoicing and time tracking service that “saves you time and makes you look professional.”
This one scored very well across the board, with O’Connor Clarke calling its implementation “superb.” He commented, “Using pure Web 2.0 tools to solve real business problems, FreshBooks also scores high marks for using the full spectrum of Web 2.0 and social media tools to connect with their customers and market themselves. Consistently one of the leading innovators in Canada, in my opinion.” Forde was similarly complimentary: “FreshBooks makes great use of various social media tools to not only promote FreshBooks, but also its clients.” Moffitt said: “Who doesn’t want to get paid quicker and take the pain out of tracking a problematic piece of inventory — employee time? This has great execution, collaborative forums and open transparency of the company. With 300,000 users, they have a real scalable advantage to provide expanded service offerings.”
An online design collaboration space that allows users to share, discuss and mark up designs for online review.
“The ease of use and fluidity of the UI makes this a standout winner for me,” O’Connor Clarke said, while Trgovac simply said, “ConceptShare knocks it out of the park. It’s an exceptional implementation that is solving a real-world problem for designers. The business model totally makes sense and their interface is sweet.”
Moffitt liked the revenue model. “There is strong revenue potential, given its ability to partner with software companies. I also love the fact they were able to create this out of Sudbury, Ont. Web companies can succeed anywhere.”
4. Cambrian House
The home of a large crowdsourcing community, members earn Glory Points by posting in forums and submitting or commenting on ideas and businesses.
Although it earned high marks across the board — Geist called Cambrian “a global leader in outsourcing” and O’Connor Clarke called it “a national treasure in the Web 2.0 space, constantly pushing the boundaries in all they do” — there were some concerns expressed about the business end. Shuttleworth said Cambrian is an “excellent idea but the business model needs streamlining” while Moffitt gave the group “high marks for innovation but it still needs to tap a revenue-generating model that is sustainable and can deliver more profitable ideas to market.”
5. Smallthought Sytems’ Dabble DB
A site that helps people create online databases. As one blogger described it, “If Chuck Norris was a data crunching system, he would be Dabble DB.”
Dabble is noteworthy because of the power it puts into the hands of the average person, according to our judges. “This is an outstanding utility that brings the power of measurement to anyone,” Shuttleworth said, while O’Connor Clarke admitted, “I’m clueless when it comes to programming, but I know how to scope a project for ROI; Dabble DB lets me do that same thing in a 2.0 sexified way. It’s a terrific execution of a relatively old idea, but still scores highly across the board for the way they’ve done it.” Trgovac simply said, “these folks have created a very cool app.”
Online collaboration built for creative professionals, with integrated support for text messaging, VoIP and webcams.
“I wish Octopz had been around 10 years ago (although that would have been impossible, of course),” O’Connor Clarke said. “It has a superb UI and great customer support and is a fantastic and enthusiastic participant in the Web 2.0 community.”
A number of the judges compared Octopz to ConceptShare. “I don’t think their implementation is as nice nor does their pricing model make as much sense as ConceptShare’s, but still it’s a really nice product and easy to use,” Trgovac said. Moffitt said it “demonstrated a lot of value” yet “their ability to generate revenue seemed less clear than ConceptShare’s.”
7. Open Text
An enterprise content management company with 46,000 customers and users in 114 countries.
The judges praised Open Text’s functionality, even though the company is not necessarily on the cutting edge of innovation. “This is a good idea but not particularly original, and it seems like it would be table stakes for any software company these days,” Trgovac said, while Moffitt called it “a leader in its space although I wouldn’t suggest their business model is overly innovative.” O’Connor Clarke called Open Text “one of the most important Enterprise 2.0 firms in the world, not just in Canada, and I’m greatly impressed by what they’ve done here. What’s interesting here is that the implementation has all been achieved with their own very well-established software which is essentially 1.0 in many respects. Their application of LiveLink in this project has many 2.0-type aspects and the concept itself is certainly Enterprise 2.0-ish, even though the product itself wasn’t originally conceived as a 2.0 framework.”
Kaboose describes itself as “Crafts, recipes, games, health, holidays, parenting and more.”
Geist said, “I really like this site. It has been in the game a long time and is now a leader.” Others pointed out that competitors may not be far behind. Shuttleworth said the site offers “Full life-stage marketing for a valuable demographic, but there are lots of new entrants,” and Trgovac said, “Kaboose was one of the first, but many players out there are catching up. They have a great-looking site and some good features, but they will need to continue to innovate and link their community even tighter together if they are going to remain at the top.”
9. Standout Jobs
A suite of Web-based recruitment tools.
Opinion was a little divided on Standout Jobs. Trgovac called the site a “fantastic product” and added, “It has a great target market, excellent business potential (talent wars are huge; culture is everything) and the implementation and tools are excellent. This is really exceptional.” However, Moffitt said, “Although I liked it and thought it was innovative, I do question whether companies can and will effectively outsource their career face to others.”
NowPublic is a crowdsourced media outlet. Sign up for an account and the site promises “You’re seconds away from publishing your news, your way.”
If you’ve heard the term “citizen journalism” it’s because of companies like NowPublic. “This is a superbly thought-out and executed approach to crowdsourced news,” O’Connor Clarke said. “There are a lot of players in this space, but the way NowPublic have put things together, the way the site operates and their success in securing major partnerships with traditional media companies are all well worthy of recognition. NowPublic is a superb example of how 2.0 thinking can bridge the old and new media worlds to create something wholly new.” Other judges also raised the competition flag. Shuttleworth said there is “too much competition in this space” and Moffitt felt that “given its success already and its international scale, NowPublic could be creating an interesting form of new journalism, but it could also raise the hackles of well-moneyed competitors — but they have the head start.”
A daily blog about Toronto covering “music, film, arts, people, places and other happenings.”
“This is a great site. It is innovative and is developing a strong local brand,” Forde said. “Local is hot, but this needs to extend from a single platform — like GeoCities — into multiple local communities.” Trgovac, however, praised the site’s innovation: “One of the best city-oriented sites I’ve seen. BlogTO pulls together a number of Web 2.0 tools to really cater to their audiences and the different aspects of Toronto life. They’ve also extended beyond the blog with their Facebook apps to really be where their audiences are.”
For people considering a career move, Jiibe promises to help them “make better decisions for a happier life.”
“I liked this one a lot,” Moffitt said. “A fortune is spent recruiting talent. Here, companies and recruits can both benefit through the use of user-generated content and personality testing.” Shuttleworth summed it up as “Monster meets Match.com with a dash of LinkedIn,” but Geist was more cautious: “It’s an interesting site but I’m skeptical about its ability to deliver.”
12. Something Simpler
Something Simpler tied for 12th place with Jiibe. Much of the functionality here is still under wraps, but the site touts its “unique and hugely functional applications that process vast streams of real-time Web information.”
O’Connor Clarke characterized the company’s Pulse, a social networking Facebook application, as “genuinely brilliant, kind of like the Pandora ‘music genome’ stuff, but on a more focused scale. Superb execution and radically new thinking. It’s the simple genius of the core concept that makes this one an outstanding nominee.” Trgovac agreed: “This has quite a nice engine and application. Recommendation engines are nothing new, but this one works on a network I’m already on, which is a big plus.”
The issue, however, may be the deliverables. Geist called this type of network “the Holy Grail” but added “I’m not clear that they have achieved it.”
A crowdsourcing site that came out of Cambrian House, Mob4Hire is a bidding system for mobile application testing. Testers bid on various projects and developers choose the testers they require.
Trgovac said she can “totally see the business value, as there is huge competitive advantage here both for the parent company as well as any application developer that uses them.” Both Moffitt — “It’s a great model if they can find customers and build enough testers” — and Geist — “It’s a cool idea that could take off as the mobile market grows” — are positive but are looking for numbers.
This site aims to be the “premier online destination for behind-the-scenes access to films in production.”
Geist said this is a “niche market that could emerge as a winner,” and Shuttleworth sees it as “Perez Hilton + Silicon Valley Insider = stickiness and movie loyalty,” although he did add that the execution should be simplified. Trgovac simply said it “totally makes sense” and is “super sexy.”
There were a few warning flags raised, however, specifically because the site’s functionality may be easy to duplicate. “A lot of money gets spent by the big studios on the hype machine and on tweaking to get movies noticed, and I’m just not sure what MovieSet can provide that a studio can’t themselves,” Moffitt said. O’Connor Clarke added that it’s a “nice idea, but I’m not sure how this is significantly better than the kind of thing that could be accomplished with Ning or Snapp.”
b5 tied with MovieSet for 15th place. A blog aggregator that claims more than 350 blogs, 15 vertical channels and more than 10 million unique visitors a month.
b5 gets lots of points for being the best at what it does. Geist called it “Canada’s best aggregated blog network” and Moffitt said, “Kudos to b5 for getting in early and creating something with scale; they have managed to get a number of A- and B-list bloggers together.” The judges also pointed out that companies of this type are not exactly on the cutting edge. “b5 serves Web 2.0 but they themselves are not very Web 2.0,” Joel said, while O’Connor Clarke added, “I love the b5 blogs but it’s probably fair to say that what they’re doing is not necessarily all that innovative; they’re just darn good at execution.”
This is a community-created site that compares rates on U.S. mortgages and other financial services.
Forde and others pointed out that “this is a Canadian company that doesn’t offer a service Canadians can use” but the judges still found the basic idea to be solid. O’Connor Clarke pointed out that, in helping others save money, the founders might make some for themselves: “I think they’ll have a really nice exit, getting bought by someone smart and deep-pocketed.”
The company makes what it calls “an intranet for intranet-haters.” Basically, if your company needs an intranet, ThoughtFarmer wants to build it.
The judges all liked ThoughtFarmer’s approach but questioned its longevity in the age of free wikis. “Intranet products are always tricky. Extra points for integrating with Windows technologies, there is some great use of Web 2.0 stuff to make it friendly and there’s a good collection of functionality,” Trgovac said. However, Shuttleworth called it “good thinking but wikis may kill the concept” and Moffitt said, “the benefits aren’t immediately apparent on why it might be better than another solution.”
A collaborative fiction Web site in which “one author writes a story and others post branches or chapters to it in different directions. The result is an organic, evolving story where everyone can participate.”
“Beautiful thought. I love this and can see myself spending a lot of time on this site,” said O’Connor Clarke, although he and others expressed concerns about the site’s revenue model. “It’s an interesting niche, although I’m not too sure of the business model nor of the benefit of collaborative fiction writing vs. the single creative artist,” Moffitt said, and Trgovac added, “It’s well implemented as a concept, but how are you going to monetize it? Advertising, or no-advertising with subscription?”
20. Store Ops-Center
An on-demand service that enables two-way communication and task management between head-office and retail locations.
“I think this is an excellent idea for a B2B application and I haven’t heard of anything like it,” said O’Connor Clarke. “They don’t have pricing info or even a tour online, but maybe it’s too early in their development cycle.” Moffitt said the service offers “effective operational management of retail, but I didn’t see anything radically new that companies shouldn’t be doing internally.”