Monday, October 15, 2007

More Biggest Canadian Internet Success Stories

Canadians aren't good at trumpeting their own success. Granted, we're a small market so our stories aren't always that big and glitzy (though some are).

I noticed that Canada's Internet history and successes are not well documented and I'm hoping to help improve this situation.

While my list of Canadian Internet Successes is by no means scientific, it is a start.

While some companies are obvious successes (eg. Flickr, StumbleUpon, RIM) there are some I'm not sure about (eg. is Nygard truly a leader in e-Business that one source claims it to be?).

Also, the list is biased towards front-end and B2C companies - this is not intentional, but reflects my limited knowledge base.

Please help me out with any omissions, corrections or details about companies already listed.

Criteria for inclusion:
* doesn't have to be an Internet company, but must use an Internet component (ie. Web, e-mail, FTP, etc.) successfully
* scope or influence extends beyond Canada
* founded or based in Canada
* commercially successful or influential for online offerings, technology, design, research, etc.

Top Canadian Internet Successes

1) Club Penguin (Kelowna, British Columbia)
Disney’s purchase this summer of Club Penguin for $350M US (read Globe & Mail article) must make Club Penguin the biggest monetary success story of any Canadian Internet company. Club Penguin is a gaming and social networking site for pre-teens. I believe they were so desirable not only for their site's stickiness with a choice demographic, but also because they had a viable, profitable model in place that doesn't rely on advertising.

2) Flickr (founded Vancouver, British Columbia)
While Flickr sold out to Yahoo for a paltry, rumoured, 20-30 million, this photo-sharing website is one of the most popular and most used websites in the world. Flickr was a pioneer in the tagging of photographs.

3) Reseach In Motion (Waterloo, Ontario)
While RIM's BlackBerry device is capable of web browsing, its claim to fame is being the first to allow users to retrieve non-wireless email accounts from a wireless device.

4) Kevin Ham (Vancouver, British Columbia)
One of the first and, by some accounts, the best domainer, Ham owns a portfolio of websites worth at least $300M and with revenues of $70M a year. (Read Business 2.0 profile)

5) Archie (Montreal, Quebec)
Considered the first Internet search engine. Archie was created in 1990 at McGill University to search and index FTP sites.

6) CryptoLogic (Toronto, Ontario)
One of the top four online gambling software companies. While tighter online gambling regulations in the States have hurt, they are still doing well and recently done a high-profile partnership with Playboy.

7) StumbleUpon (founded Calgary, Alberta)
Started in Canada, this social bookmarking and recommendation site gets more popular every day. StumbleUpon relocated to San Francisco for financing and was subsequently bought by eBay in May 2007 for $75M US.

8) Open Text (Waterloo, Ontario)
One of the first search engines and an early leader in web-based content management.

9) Lavalife (founded Toronto, Ontario)
While Lavalife didn't invent online dating, they revolutionized it by making it much more fun and thus became North America's most popular dating site. They sold out to an American company for $152.5M CDN.

10) iStockPhoto (Calgary, Alberta)
iStockPhoto is one of the leading royalty-free stock photography websites, and, by their own admission, the "world’s busiest image market", pioneering the use of micropayments. They sold in Feb. 2006 to Getty Images for $50M.

11) NowPublic (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Billed as the world's largest citizen journalism network with thousands of citizen reporters in 140 countries. The company recently received (see CBC article) one of the largest investments ($10.6M) in citizen journalism.

12) William Gibson (Vancouver, British Columbia)
This science fiction novelist didn't work on the Net, but his work predicted the Net - and he coined the term "cyberspace". Gibson has also been a contributor to Wired Magazine and writes his own blog.

13) AbeBooks (Victoria, British Columbia)
The world’s largest used book online marketplace, AbeBooks continues to grow. They have recently bought other book websites and remain a favourite with bibliophiles.

14) (Toronto, Ontario)
This company, selling men’s clothing (not just white shirts), was an early e-commerce success. Somehow they managed to lose their head start and went out of business last year.

15) WebKinz (Woodbridge, Ontario)
Owned by toy and gift company, Ganz, this company makes plush toy animals that come with a secret code that let's the owner participate in the WebKinz virtual world. With at least a million registered users and stickiness and loyalty in line with Club Penguin, WebKinz is undoubtedly a goldmine.

16) Naked News (Toronto, Ontario)
Originally a free online website with daily news coverage by stripping anchors. Naked News launched in 2000, before the heyday of high-speed connections but were nonetheless phenomenally popular for awhile, due, no doubt, as they say in Avenue Q - "Grab your xxxx and double-click, the Internet is for porn!"

17) eHarlequin (Toronto, Ontario)
The leading romance story online destination, eHarlequin is a branch of Harlequin Enterprises, the world's top romance book publisher. The popular website was also an early pioneer in web 2.0 techniques.

18) Cambrian House (Calgary, Alberta)
A leader in crowdsourcing via its online community and software to enable peer production.

19) TakingITGlobal (Toronto, Ontario)
TakingITGlobal is a website with an active, international community that enables developers to create IT projects to aid developing nations.

20) 20-20 Technologies (Laval, Quebec)
The leader in software for the interior design industry (according to their own site) 2o-20 Technologies offers a suite of products many using or enabled by the Web.

21) Tucows (Toronto, Ontario - originally Michigan)
I knew this company when it was owned by my first ISP, i-Direct. Tucows was the ultimate site for freeware and shareware downloads.

22) (Montreal, Quebec) is one of the largest jewelery e-tailers and certainly one of the nicest looking.

23) Têtes à Claques (Montreal, Quebec)
This French-language humour website, Têtes à Claques started with a series of bizarre animated online shorts. It's the most popular French-language website in Quebec and its popularity is spreading into France.

24) Nygard (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
According to an Industry Canada report , Nygard was a pioneer in the fashion industry in using technology, saving at least $10M a year back in 2002 for its innovative use of e-Business. Apparently, Nygard was one of the first designers to actively display their catalogue online.

25) Weblo (Montreal, Quebec)
I’m reluctant to put this virtual reality site on the list, as it seems to be much ado about nothing. Lots of money was spent here with the hope that audiences will come, but there’s little to draw them in.

26) Simply Audio Books (Oakville, Ontario)
The largest company in the rental and sale of audio books via their website. Simply Audio Books earned revenues of more than $6M last year.

Honourable mentions
  • Iceberg Radio - one of the largest and first Internet radio portals
  • b5media - global blog syndicate
  • Chilly Beach - web-based Flash cartoons that transitioned to a TV series
  • MegaDox - legal documents
  • Long Pen - Devised by Margaret Atwood, now on the board, LongPen enables remote celebrity signing events via online conferencing and robotic signing of books/goods
  • Don Tapscott - co-author of Wikinomics and digital evangelist
  • Digital Cement - marketing services firm with a specialty in e-mail marketing, acquired by Pitney Bowles in May 2007 for $40M
Close, but no cigar
Founded, totally or in part, by Canadians living abroad:
  • SitePoint, publishers of web development books, videos, websites and forums, but although co-founded by a Canadian, they are based out of Australia
  • Jeffrey Skoll – first president of eBay and he wrote their business plan
  • Thompson Corporation – started in Canada, now headquartered in Connecticut, though largely owned by the Canadian Thompson family (that is, pre Reuters merger). Thomspon, a specialty and trade publisher, was one of the first companies to go into digital publishing in a big way.
  •, founded by Ottawa-native Graham Hill, but based out of New York, this environmental blog was bought this summer for $10M by Discovery Channel.
  • Bob Young - from Ancaster, Ontario, Young co-founded Linux distributor Red Hat and he is now CEO of, one of the first websites enabling digital and print micro-publishing.
Canadian pioneers
These were certainly Internet leaders in Canada:
  • Chatelaine - one of the first Canadian magazines to really do something with their "companion" website, then were leaders in integrating & cross-promoting print & web
  • Sears Canada - made a success out of e-commerce in Canada, while others were giving up on it or just not able to figure it out
  • Chapters - before Amazon came to Canada, Chapters' website was doing just fine here
  • Grocery Gateway - for a long time they were the only grocery website and it seems still one of the best
What did I miss? Please help out with some additional information or with some additions to the list.


Glen Farrelly said...

The Canadian dating website seems to be more popular now than even Lavalife

Glen Farrelly said...

Since I have published this there are lots of companies to add:
* Freshbooks
* AideRSS
* DotBoom
* Tech Vibes
* Octopz
* Concept Share

Glen Farrelly said...

Thanks to CrunchBase I found out a bunch more Canadian Internet-related companies.

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