Friday, March 9, 2007

Geosign Raises $160 Million - and Just Where is Guelph, Ontario?

So, who is Geosign, and how did they raise $160 million???

I'm asking the same questions myself. Geosign is a small, quiet company based in Guelph, Ontario - an hour or so from Toronto. Who knew???

It's a great Internet story for sure, and possibly a Web 2.0 story. They're an "Internet media" company, and it just shows how these success stories can truly come from anywhere. Guelph is in the middle of nowhere - a landlocked, agricultural town - barely big enough to be considered a city. I've been there a few times, and it's got a very interesting history. More importantly, though, it's in close proximity to Ontario's Technology Triangle, which is one of Canada's leading centers of tech innovation, most notably the home of RIM, and many others. More on that in a moment.

For the details, I'll steer you to today's Globe & Mail, which has a good writeup on Geosign and what they're going to do with all this money. As the article explains, Geosign has developed a network of 180 websites, all providing information for consumers on a wide range of goods and services. I'm not much for web surfing, so this is all news to me.

If you're curious, here's what one of their sites looks like - gizmocafe. Pretty plain, vanilla, mass market type of stuff. Nothing complicated, but hey, Geosign claims to attract some 35 million visitors a month to its sites. Can you imagine how many they'll be able to attract now? Gotta like their formula - dang, why didn't I think of that???

The item that really stood out for me in the article was the fact that this is the largest raise of private capital in Canada, and the largest in telecom/tech since Vonage raised $200 million in 2005. That's pretty impressive, and tells you that software and web-based businesses can still attract big money.

Mark Evans posted on this Wednesday, and his post includes a brief interview with their CEO, Ted Hastings.

I just wanted to add a brief comment about the size of this deal. Aside from its sheer scale, it says a lot about the potential that investors are starting to see in the Internet and online businesses. While it's surprising to see all of this coming from a low profile company based in a small city, it's not surprising that the funds are coming from the U.S. Followers of my blog may recall my visit to last year's Canadian Venture Forum. Canada may get its fair share of domestic VC placements, but the size of these deals is smaller than what U.S. companies get. It's hard to imagine any Canadian firm putting this amount of money into a company like this.

That said, you don't have to look far to see how hard it is to get funding up here, so in the IP communications space, there are still challenges for sure. I'm close to more than one startup here that has great technology, has done a lot of the right things, but still cannot get a deal. Makes you scratch your head and wonder how one company can get so much money, while so many others are hanging on by a thread. And to think how far these companies would get if they could just hive off 5% of Geosign's pot of gold. They're not going to spend that money Vonage-style, that's for sure. Geosign is bankrolled now to do some big things, and that's got to include acquisitions. I have no idea what their management structure or vision is like, but they're in a great position now.

On that note, I just may get to give Geosign some ideas about this myself. I'm in the process of organizing a mini-tour later this month of the Waterloo region, of which Guelph is part of, and Geosign is definitely on the list. Good timing!

This is coming as a result of my recent connection to Waterloo City Councillor, Mark Whaley, who has been encouraging me to this. It's in the works as we speak, and aside from my upcoming visit, I plan to do some podcasts about these companies afterwards.

Finally - just a small thing. You know what I like about this company? They spell their name Geosign, and not GeoSign. It's just so predictable the way companies concatenate two words with capitals. I'm old school that way, and am not a fan of forcing two words together that really don't belong together, and making it look right by using capitals. Enough. BackToWorkNow.


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4 comments:

ipcom said...

Posted by: Jim Courtney

Guelph has been the long time home of EMJ Data, one of Canada's initial personal computer product distributors that had 96 consecutive quarters of profits prior to being acquired by Etobicoke-based Synnex Canada a couple of years ago. Jim Estil, President of Synnex Canada, (and a director of RIM) recently announced that all of Synnex warehousing operations are being moved back to a 6,000 square foot warehouse in Guelph. So more high tech visibility coming for Guelph (in Wellington County, next to Waterloo Region).

Interesting turn around for Geosign as I first knew about them several years ago as a developer of geotagging of URL's to facilitate location-based services. Seems they have finally determined a business model.

ipcom said...

Posted by: Jon Arnold

Thanks for the comments, Ken and Jim. Ken - I'm impressed you know of Guelph, given that you're based in California! Jim - I know you've been in the IT/tech space a very long time, so I'm not surprised that you do know about them. I agree - it looks like they have a business model, and I'll tell you more about it after I get a chance to meet with them later this month.

ipcom said...

Posted by: Ken Camp

Jon - I'm actually in Olympia, WA now, but most of my life in CA. You forget that I did time with a company in Ottawa, well Kanata, and lived there for a short time. One of those pesky Newbridge affiliates back in the day.

ipcom said...

Posted by: Sue Richards

since you're headed to Guelph for a tour, you might be interested in this photo blog. www.blogguelph.com