Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Geosign - what a story!/Welcome Kevin Restivo

This is a two-for-one post. First item is Geosign, a very mysterious company based in Guelph, Ontario. I posted about them last March after they quietly received a humongous funding of $160 million. This kind of money is unheard of in Canada, especially for an obscure company in an obscure town. In the IP communications space, most ventures are lucky to scare up a few million, and this raise is probably more than the whole space has received combined. I've never seen anything so out of whack at this level of magnitude. It just didn't add up.

After hearing about the funding, I approached them for me to come out and do an interview with their CEO. Initially, they were receptive, but suddenly the trail went cold - they were no longer giving interviews. Over the course of last summer, I had a dialog going with a journalist who was trying to get the story, and she had all kinds of interesting tidbits that were difficult to substantiate, but you just could tell something wasn't right. We fell out of touch, and Geosign has been off my radar for a while - but I've always wondered what the real story was.

Well, the other day I got my answer. Last weekend, the Financial Post Business Magazine ran a cover story on Geosign, penned by Robert Thompson. It's one of those you-have-to-read-this-to-believe-it stories, and I'm not going rehash it all for you here. I'll just say this was the classic Google pay-per-ad-click model on steriods, with hundreds of bogus websites set up as landing pages with nothing more than online ads on them. The scheme worked well enough for Geosign to attract $160 million - incredible! - but once Google caught on to their M.O., they changed the rules of the game, and the whole thing collapsed practically overnight.

Someone should make a movie of this. Canada is such a nice, modest, polite place, and you'd hardly ever suspect something like this would come out such a wholesome place like Guelph. Incredibly, as you read through the story, no crimes were committed, and the founders have simply moved on to other things - as if nothing ever happened.

I just want to say enough here to tempt you into reading the article. It's a great read, and I don't want to take away from Robert Thompson's good work.

Now for Part 2 of my post. I never would have seen this if it weren't for fellow analyst Kevin Restivo. He actually used to cover tech for the same paper as Robert, the Financial Post here in Toronto. He left a few years back for the analyst world, and is currently at IDC. We see each other at local events, and more recently, he's made me aware of his blog, which was started back in the summer.

While scrolling through his recent posts yesterday, I came across his post about Geosign. That was the first news I'd heard about Geosign in ages, and I'm so glad he referenced the magazine article, as I never see the Post. So, now I have the full story, and am happy to share it here.

More importantly is a shout-out here to Kevin and his blog. It's really good, not just for local and Canadian coverage, but Kevin is a strong analyst, and has keen insights on technology trends in general. We have very few analysts blogging about the Canadian market, and I'm glad he is. We have reciprocated links on our blog rolls, and I'm happy to introduce Kevin to my readers.

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Posted by jonarnold at March 19, 2008 11:53 AM


Jon: Thanks for the kind remarks. The story was very well received -- and what a tale it is!

Posted by: Robert Thompson at March 23, 2008 07:31 PM

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