Building Media Empires

Is it possible to build a new Canadian media empire?

I’m not even sure what a media empire looks like. People still want content. And content needs distribution. It feels like the majority of distribution in Canada is controlled by a small number of players:

  • Postmedia
  • Torstar Corporation
  • Rogers Media
  • Corus Entertainment
  • Astral Media
  • St. Joseph Media
  • Now Communications
  • Blue Ant Media
  • DHX Media (thanks @johntoryT0 for the correction)
  • plus more

I still don’t really understand the economics of distribution and monetization of traditional media. But this seems like a start to understanding about the Canadian landscape. In 2014, there was a lot of VC money (yes, yes, VC dollars is not the only metric of success) going into journalism companies (I  really like the CB Insights description of fat content companies): Buzzfeed, Vice, Huffington Post, First Look Media, Pando Daily, Vox and others. Canada seems to be stuck in the online properties of traditional media outlets.

We produce interesting/engaging content including YouTube stars:

I want to build a better understanding about content creation, distribution and monetization in Canada. Where should I start?

/me goes to spend more time consuming CANADALAND.

 

 

Questions for 2015

Benedict Evans posted the questions he’d like answered in 2015 and in mobile with the platform wars over. Here are some of the questions I’d expect to see answered in 2015 for Canada and Canadian companies.

  1. What happens to Canadian companies in the mid-stage?
    Jim Orlando described a strong 2015 market in both early stage (local) and late stage capital (international) for technology startups. Are their enough Canadian funds that can invest >$15MM/company, i.e., >10% of their capital pool, to fund growth stage Canadian startups?
  2. Where will Kik land?
    Ted Livingston’s view of messaging as universal UI and the race to become the Wechat of the West feels like the right thing. It seems like figuring out how to operate profitably is not the most likely outcome, so it must be an exit. Facebook has already acquired Instagram and Whatsapp, so it seems like this is out (particularly given a teenagers view of social media apps).  Does a non-Google Android provider like Cyanogen or Xiaomi purchase Kik?
  3. When will a Canadian company report their first major cyberattack and breach? We’ve seen attacks and branches on the federal government it feels like only a matter of time until a financial institution or retail announces a major breach.
  4. How many narwhals will we see?
    There have been a number of US companies go to the public markets including HubspotBox and others. It feels like there are a number of Canadian companies that are on cusp. How many will forego the TSX and only go NASDAQ or NYSE?
  5. Will Shomi and CraveTV become true OTT competitors allowing non-cable subscribers access to compete with Netflix? Or do these offerings plus GameCentre Live and other live sports keep cable subscribers in Canada?
  6. Will Netflix be forced by content owners to cut down on grey market geofencing? What does this mean for services like Unblock-Us and TunnelBear? What does it mean for accessing foreign content like BBC iPlayer, Premier League Pass, NFL Game Pass? (p.s. where is my Internet access to Formula 1?)
  7. Will the Copyright Modernization Act changes that went live on Jan 1, 2015 impose additional fee increases because of management costs for independent ISPs?
  8. When will ApplePay launch in Canada? Will Apple be able to get mobile payments adoption than Suretap, Enstream, PayWave, PayPass, etc. that the carriers and banks have?
  9. Will one of the Canadian wearable companies begin rolling up others, that do not find product-market fit or a large enough audience, for the talent? Or will they be acquired by larger players like Under Armor?
  10. What impact for will the falling Canadian dollar and resource economy have on the tech ecosystem? We’ve already seen the rise of minimum app prices in the iOS store on Jan 9 to Cdn$1.19. Will a weaker Canadian dollar see a resurgence of the conversation and companies around near-shoring for larger US companies? Will this continue to build a stronger acquisition market for startups that struggle to find mid-stage growth capital?
  11. Do we need a Canada-based data centre for one of the larger hosting providers, i.e., Digital Ocean, AWS, Azure, Rackspace? IBM opened a SoftLayer data centre in Markham in 2014, with a few startups building on the infrastructure but all of the startups were still very small. Does data or computation sovereignty matter to Canadian startups?
  12. Is there a need for another startup conference in Toronto? There are great events in Montreal (Startup Festival), Vancouver (Grow Conference) and an investor focused event in Toronto (Canadian Innovation Exchange). But is there a need for more functional led events (design, growth hacking, CTOs, etc) like Warm Gun or Brooklyn Beta?
  13. Does one of the wireless carriers create a division or group with tools and pricing to support a strong IIoT ecosystem? We’ve seen Canadians like their oligopolistic carrier ecosystem, but there are segments like Wind Mobile users that are willing to compromise coverage or roaming for price. It is unclear if a 4th national carrier can survive on these customers alone, and the CRTC has determined that Telus cannot absorb Wind as their discount brand (like Fido or the MNVOs on Bell). Is there an alternate model where Wind or other carrier bets on the data carriage fees and the necessary tools to build a stronger IIoT ecosystem. The tools that mix RFID, cellular and Wifi?

Thanks Gideon Hayden for feedback and insight on the post.

ebooks, monopolies, monopsonies, DRM and me

I was late last night reading. I had finished reading Evan Currie’s Valkyrie Burning (Warrior’s Wings Book Three) on Amazon. I went looking for new publications from Evan which included The Heart of Matter: Odyssey One. But there was a change in price, The Heart of the Matter is $7.99. Sure it’s not a lot of money. But I’ve previously bought 4 of Evan’s books (including the price I paid):

So from an average price of $3.49 to a new book of $7.99. A 229% price increase. I want my authors to get paid. I like them earning more and generating more and better content. But a 229% price increase, and it’s not just the popularity of authors but current events and my choice of operating system that have me paying more. So I support an author and they become “famous” or “popular”, and I’m am supposed to grin and bear it because I can. I’m all for paying for integrated services, I’m all for authors earning more, I’m all for a better experience. But seriously a 229% price increase, something doesn’t feel right.

Amazon Prime pricing for $0.00

But wait, I can get the book for $0.00 as a Prime member. I didn’t think Amazon Prime was available to me in Canada. I was on Amazon.com, but my credit card and my shipping address is Canadian. Maybe with hope that Amazon Prime was finally available in Canada. I don’t think so, Kindle Owner’ Lending Library is only available in the US. I was just being hopeful that perhaps another large company had decided to invest in the Canadian market, much like Netflix and take on the regional licensing restrictions. </sigh>

I am trying to better understand the implications of my choices, i.e, buying and consuming DRM books in a closed ecosystem (see Kindle SF). I like integrated services. I like unified experiences. But I don’t like being taken advantage of, or having freedoms taken away.

Distribution, Disintermediation, and Monopsony

I was trying to understand Amazon’s ebook strategy and what its implications mean for me as a consumer in Canada.

We’re use to monopolies, well really ogliopolies (wireless companies, banks, internet service providers, we’re good on this one) and monopsonies (Canadian Wheat Board that ended Aug 1, 2012) . But I was surprised in Charles Stross’ analysis of Amazon, was they were playing both sides of the monopoly/monopsony market equation.

“And the peculiar evil genius of Amazon is that Amazon seems to be trying to simultaneously establish a wholesale monopsony and a retail monopoly in the ebook sector.” Charles Stross

One explanation for the increase in kindle prices is predatory pricing. And it’s not like the DOJ is investigating Amazon, Apple and the big six publishers for predatory pricing of ebooks. This has disintermediated retailers and how consumers purchase and consume books. Next to disintermediate the publishers themselves, and Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing has given authors a way to get large distribution and forego publishers. The ebook market is growing at 200 percent per year, and Amazon owns “70 to 80 percent of the [ebooks] market“.

 “By foolishly insisting on DRM, and then selling to Amazon on a wholesale basis, the publishers handed Amazon a monopoly on their customers—and thereby empowered a predatory monopsony.” Charles Stross

Crap, I fell for it. Other consumers fell for it. Publishers fell for it. What to do next?

“And the only viable Plan C, for breaking Amazon’s death-grip on the consumers, is to break DRM.” Charles Stross

O'Reilly eBooks Advantage - No DRM

This means changing my behaviour to support authors and publishers that publish DRM-free content. Thank you O’Reilly, all of the technical books I’ve purchased are available without DRM. It also means that I might consider removing the DRM from my existing Kindle purchases, oh wait, I can’t do that any more. It might violate the Terms of Service for Kindle, which you, like me, probably didn’t read. It’s too bad that I have bought a “limited license to use the product, rather than actual ownership of an object” with the ebooks (yah, it surprised Bruce Willis about his iTunes collection). It is why for a long time, I purchased movies on DVD rather than iTunes. At least, I could back them up.

But the goal isn’t to put the books back on my Kindle, but to have a back up copy that is future proofed.

Bill C-11 and Changes in Canada

But I can’t do that in Canada since Bill C-11 which passed in June 2012. It includes a digital locks provision that is “one of the most restrictive digital lock approaches in the world“. It seems that my worries in Dissident, Citizen were more about the Canadian government. And it seems that my worst nightmares about copyright and content are coming true.

I am going to have to rethink all of my media consumption behaviours. Ranging from ebooks to mp3s to DVDs.

I’m starting to really understand companies like Wattpad, Smashwords, CD Baby, O’Reilly and others that offer distribution, monetization and consumer choice related to DRM.

Additional Reading

Social Media Monitoring Tools

The folks at KISSMetrics and oneforty have co-produced a great infographic about Social Media Monitoring Tools. Great to see my friends BackType, PostRank, HootSuite and Radian6 mentioned. The guys at Lymbix need to do a little more work acquiring customers with TweetTone, maybe next year. There article ended with some interesting observations about the Social Media Monitoring marketspace including:

  • Relationship with vendor was noted as the least important factor in selecting a social media monitoring tool, while metrics were seen as the most important. Why do you think that is?
  • The vast majority of people said their budget for a social media monitoring tool was less than $500/month. Many tools start at $500/month. What ways can social media professionals prove the value of their efforts to get more budget for measurement/management tools?
  • Most people responded with indifference toward their choice of a social media monitoring tool – 60.1% said it was “okay” and that they’d try something different if it came along. What features would your ideal social media monitoring tool include? If you’ve already discovered it, which one is it and why?

Social Media Monitoring Survey by KISSMetrics & oneforty
From What are the best social media monitoring tools? or download a high resolution PDF

From out of the ashes

Reposted from my StartupNorth post:

Photo by Timm Suess http://www.flickr.com/photos/lord_yo/3493740271/in/set-72157617600789670/
Photo by Timm Suess

Is there any questions that the Canadian venture captial industry is in turmoil? There is a change that is happening, it might just not be happeing as fast as it could. Mark McQueen talks about the the creative destruction of the VC industry in Canada.

“There’s no robust “new class” of VC firms coming in behind the current oligarchy, with a similar amount of capital to deploy as those they are planning to replace. We are witnessing the destruction piece of the equation, for sure, but not the rebirth that is the essence of “creative destruction” if it is to succeed.” – Mark McQueen, Wellington Fund

While there are a few new players entering the market (I’m looking at you ExtremeVP and Mantella VP), we’re seeing a lot of roadkill. There are firms that are not able to raise their next fund, partners that are on life support, startups that are left to wonder what happen to their partners in raising additional capital. However, many that remain are digging in and fighting for their way of life. They are lobbying for support to “manufacture an environment that is hospitable to their investment style”. Adam Adamou at Caseridge Capital Corporation argues that the existing venture players, the Canadian VC oligarchy, has successfully lobbied for restrictions that have kept out new players including the public/private venture capital that was used to fund RIM.

“The traditional venture capitalists see themelves as the founders of a “Silicon Valley North” and they follow the US trends, which unfortunately do not apply to our Canadian market. They seem to see themselves as avant garde investors in tomorrow’s technology companies, however, they behave more like bankerss[sic] – preferring security and downside protection over opportunity”

Yikes, that’s a damning review of the Canadian venture industry. However, I’m not sure that the suggested alternatives including Capital Pool Companies and the TSX-V are really better choices for Canadian entrepreneurs (or investors). (I’m not an expert on CPCs or TSX-V but when my friends and trusted advisors like Mark McLeod provide commentary, I listen). What I took away from The Adamou Rant is that many of the funds have a vested interest in the maintaining something akin to the current system. Governments should look critically at the numbers being presented and who is presenting them.

The State of a Nation

Is the sky falling? What is the state of venture capital in Canada? Is it really this bad? And why does it matter to early-stage entrepreneurs? Should we all just move to Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston or somewhere else?

The Canadian VC environment has been challenging for a lot of entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, you need to understand the environment that you will start, fund, and grow your company. Canada has a strong track record of access to capital, a stable economic policy and should be a great spot for entrepreneurs. It’s also unique. Canadian companies tend to be at a later stage of corporate development and raise less money than their US counterparts. I’ve written about the impact of the state of the funding environment has on startups. And what entrepreneurs can contintue to expect to see, includes:

  • The number of investors will continue to decrease
  • Valuations will continue to decrease
  • Customer uptake will be slower
  • Need to become cash flow positive
  • Acquiring entities will favour profitable companies

Mark McQueen provides the best summary of state of the Canadian Venture Capital landscape I’ve seen in a while:

  • VC investments in Canadian firms hit a 14 year low in 2009
  • US venture market saw US$18 billion invested in 2009, Canada saw only $1 billion (5.5%) our economy is approximately 12.5% the size of the US economy
  • Up to half of current Canadian VC funds will not be able to raise their next fund
  • Ontario government has sunset the $1 billion Retail Venture Capital Industry
  • “Section 116″ was fixed in the 2010 Federal Budget, however, this is not a silver bullet
  • 117 disclosed cross board investments since January 2008 (this includes Canadian investments in US companies)
  • Canadian Fund of Funds have lots of capital to invest in foreign led funds: EDC ($1.2 billion); Teralys ($700 million); OVCF ($205 million)

A New Hope

We need to hope that from out of the ashes will emerge a better funding environment for Canadian entrepreneurs. Whether this is led by new funds, angel investors, US funds, or the existing players learning from their mistakes, it doesn’t matter.

We’re starting to see a strong set of the big players making acquisitions across Canada:

Our startups need real capital to continue to compete on the world stage. But They can’t survive on SR&ED credits alone. We need to hope that this creative destruction happens quickly, so that something can rise from the ashes and we can witness the rebirth of the Canadian tech startup.

Compared to others

Reposting my StartupNorth post.

“With the proper level of ambition, talent, and opportunity, even a small, islolated company can turn the world into its market” – Michael Cusumano, Dealing with the Venture Capital Crisis

I’m reading Michael Cusumano’s Dealing with the Venture Capital Crisis in the October 2009 issue of Communications of the ACM, I’m struck by the idea that our geographical proximity to the US, advanced economy, good universities and strong intellectual property rights might be the spawning ground for new ventures, sources of wealth, social welfare and employment. The article proposed 4 markets that meet these requirements including:

  • Israel
    Estimated 2009 Population: 7.4 million
    2008 Venture: 483 investments totaling US$2.08B, $780M from local VCs (Cdn$2.54B/Cdn$904.84M)  (IVA
    Investment-to-GDP: 0.0125/0.0045
  • Finland
    Estimated 2009 Population: 5.3 million
    2008 Venture: 406 investments totaling 360M euros (Cdn$620.55M) (FVCA)
    Investment-to-GDP: 0.0032
  • Ireland
    Estimated 2009 Population: 4.9 million
    2008 Venture: 160 investments totaling 243M euros (Cdn$418.87M) (IVCA)
    Investment-to-GDP: 0.0022
  • New Zealand
    Estimated 2009 Population: 4.3 million
    2008 Venture: 52 investments totaling NZ$66.1M (Cdn$46.81M) (NZVCA)
    Investment-to-GDP: 0.0004

Well these are great numbers, how does this compare to Canada?

  • Canada
    Estimated 2009 Population: 33.8 million
    2008 Venture: 371 investments totaling Cdn$1.3B (CVCA)
    Investment-to-GDP: 0.001

When compared to the US and Israel, Canada looks like a poor third cousin. What is the appropriate measure here? Investment as a percentage of GDP? Well we fall somewhere between New Zealand and Ireland. Maybe things aren’t as bad as we’d like to think. We have more venture money than New Zealand. We’re closer to a larger market. Maybe we should start to look at the positive factors and exploit the constraints to build opportunities.

  • Advanced economies
  • Sophisticated customers
  • Good universities
  • Strong intellectual property rights
  • Favorable tax laws
  • Vibrant entrepreneurial cultures

What’s an entrepreneur to do?

In my opinion, there are only 2 items on the above list that are directly impacted and influenced by entrepreneurs: Sophisticated customers; and Vibrant entrepreneurial cultures. Sure, the net result of a more positive entrepreneurial environment is a advanced economy that produces good universities. We can lobby politicians for strong intellectual property rights (and consumer freedoms) and favorable tax laws. But there are advocacy groups like the National Angel Capital Organization and the Canadian Venture Capital Association that more directly benefit and are better funded to act on the behalf of entrepreneurial financing. This is not some that necessarily deserve any additional attention than you currently dedicate to the political process. I’m arguing the entrepreneurs should build companies and leave this to the pundits, advocates, policy wonks and politicians.

Sophisticated customers

For entrepreneurs,we need to work on helping develop sophisticated customers. Often these customers are located near where the entrepreneur is building their product or service offering. However, this is not a requirement. Entrepreneur should look for sophisticated customers around the globe. Including customers in your product design and development process is key to creating products that meet customer needs and to develop more sophisticated customers. Steve Blank and Eric Reis have proposed the Customer Development Manifesto and Lean Startup as ways for founders to engage customers in the earliest work. All startups should read these posts.

Vibrant entrepreneurial cultures

Isn’t this what we’re trying to do? Read our thoughts on:

Part of the reason that we are luck enough to have Dave McClure in Toronto (and he had a great time). First Round Capital had office hours with Chris Fralic and Phin Barnes. We continue to see folks from Atlas Ventures, General Catalyst, and Microsoft (Don Dodge presented at StartupEmpire and will be presenting at CIX). This is a result of your participation. Canadian cities have a lot of buzz and attention based on the things that are going on.

It’s cumulative!

It is the force of a thousands of butterflies flapping their wings. All of the blogging, twittering, attending conferences, showing up to events, participating online. It’s about the DemoCamps, Launch Parties, StartupDrinks, Social Media Breakfasts, Third Tuesdays, Founders & Funders, NEWTECH, SproutUps, Meshes, and everything else.  It is a cumulative effect. It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort, but it adds up to the rest of the world paying attention to the noise.

We have great spokespersons like Saul Colt, Mathew Ingram, Mike Lee, Michael McDerment, Leila Boujnane, Brian Sharwood, Sarah Prevette, Pema Hagen, Bryan Watson, Anand Agarawala and others running around the world telling their stories of being a startup and the reasons they are doing it in Toronto. In Vancouver there’s Robert Scales, Kris Krug, Boris Mann, BootupLabs, Boris Wertz, Andre Charland, amd others. In Montreal it’s Austin Hill, Heri Rakotomalala, John Stokes, George Favvas, Ben Yoskovitz, Fred Ngo, Pinny Gniwisch, Ray Luk and others. Let’s not forget Social Media Breakfast, StartupOttawa, Scott Lake, Allan Isfan, Jacqui Murphy, and everyone that I’ve missed (it’s on purpose, because I don’t like you any more and I hate your startups).

But it is up to us to make noise. It’s up to us to build successful companies. It’s up to us to make Canada a better place for startups. No one is going to walk in and make it easier. We all have to participate and build a vibrant entrepreneurial culture. We need to talk about entrepreneurship as a career path. We need to talk to politicians about policy decisions.

So the first rule of being an entrepreneur is to reach out. Invite a friend. Make a connection. Tell a customer. Most of all, do the things that make the ecosystem better for you.

Software, support & visibility

microsoftbizspark It’s funny, I’ve asked about startups building on .NET in the past. And with the development of programs like BizSpark the continued support of events like StartupCampMontreal and Founders & Funders, and yesterday’s funding announcement at Xobni, there a number of new opportunities for startups to get access to free software and exposure.

Microsoft Blue Sky competition for the so-many startuppers using MS technology” – Heri

BizSpark is a program aimed at providing startups with access to software, support and visibility. Startups need to meet the following requirements:

  • Is in the business of software development,
  • Is privately held,
  • Has been in business for less than 3 years, and
  • Has less than US $1 million in annual revenue

There are no initial costs. At the end of the three years there is a US$100 fee. Startups can participate in BizSpark for up to 3 years, (assuming they haven’t changed ownership or gone public in years 1 or 2). The program includes Visual Studio Team System Team Suite (VSTS) with MSDN Premium for development, testing and demonstration purposes. There are also production licenses for Windows Server, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, and Office SharePoint Server. It’s a pretty complete package for startups looking to gain access to the tools for design and development.

How do I sign up?

First you need to find a Network Partner.

What is a Network Partner?

“Network Partners are active members of the local software ecosystem engaged with high-potential, early stage Startups. They are organizations specifically focused on supporting software entrepreneurs and Startups, or whose activities include a focus on promoting and supporting software Startups, through programs, mentoring, networking, business advices, financial and legal assistance or similar services and activities.” – Network Partner Program Guide

Basically, these are the folks supporting startups. In Canada today, there were over 20 Network partners including:

I keep looking for Network Partners to join the program. I’ve been working on folks in Alberta, British Columbia and on the East coast. Turns out there is a lot of ground to cover in this country. If you have an organization that supports start-ups in Edmonton, Calgary, Sudbury, Charlottetown, Halifax, Dartmouth, St. John’s, Quebec City, Yellowknife, drop me a note and I’ll do my best to get them to register. Or if you think you should be a Network partner, sign up using the Champ ID = davcrow.

If you can’t find a Network Partner, drop me a note.

Other Programs

If you don’t meet the requirements for BizSpark, there are other partner programs. I’m not an expert here, I find that most early stage companies are limited due to the “being in business for less than 3 years”. The other program is Empower for ISVs. I’m not entirely sure where you fit if you’re offering a SaaS solution outside of BizSpark. But there are programs that can help, check out the SPLA and SaaS On-Ramp Programs

BlueSky & Ignite IT

blueskyThere are 2 programs that offer developers and ISVs an opportunity to showcase their products and solutions. The Microsoft Blue Sky Innovation Excellence Award offers Canada ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) a way to gain access to product experts and members of the Emerging Business Team Portfolio Managers (think Christopher Griffin, Don Dodge, Cliff Reeves and others), exposure on MicrosoftStartupZone and a case study, access to new technologies and architectural guidance, software tools, among other things.

igniteitawardsThe Ignite IT Awards are a Microsoft Canada awards program aimed at celebrating the problems that were solved through IT solutions. There are both Developer and IT Professional stories. There are 2 prizes of $5,000 along with exposure. These aren’t primarily startup focused, however, since a lot of startups should be using technology to solve a problem and the Submission Form is nothing more than your elevator pitch. It’s should be good practice to practice giving your pitch and creating a 60 second video demonstrating why your solution is valuable. Think demo or clip of happy users. My thought is that this could easily be repurposed to help explain to your potential customers the power and benefit of your solution.

 

Facebook and Canadian Innovation

Albert Lai sent me a link to his blog post about 60% Facebook Fund Phase 2 investments being Canadian. Each of these “winners” recieved US$250,000 with “no strings attached” (the initial US$25,000 grant as part of the Phase 1 finalist selection; and an additional US$225,000 as part of the user selection. The Canadians in the group include: Kontagent, MouseHunt and Wedding book.

  • GroupCard – GroupCard lets users rally their friends to sign the same printable online card to celebrate any occassion. Each friend can add a message, upload photos or audio, and even make a gift contribution. GroupCard started at Stanford, and is already used by thousands of groups worldwide.
  • Kontagent – Kontagent is a “leading viral analytics platform for social network application developers. Kontagent analytics provides deep social data visualization and analysis that delivers actionable insights delivered via a hosted, on-demand service.”
  • MouseHunt – “MouseHunt, a HitGrab creation, is a game of epic proportions. Players are hunters, hired by the king to trap mice that infest his kingdom. For each mouse caught, users will find a reward, bringing them closer to being the best MouseHunter in the land.”
  • Wedding book – “WedSnap created Wedding book, a social network on Facebook for those preparing for a wedding. Brides and grooms meet on Wedding book to get advice, support, and inspiration during their engagement and wedding planning process.”
  • Wildfire – “Wildfire enables consumers to discover, share and engage with interactive promotions like contests, sweepstakes and give-aways and enables companies to easily create their own attractive, branded promotions that are automatically integrated with Facebook’s social features.”

Jevon provides coverage on StartupNorth and it will be interesting to see if Facebook will continue to be a viable social media platform or if it is indeed dead. It always helps to have an additional $250k ($313,925 according to the Bank of Canada daily rate on December 10, 2008).

Backtype launches

backtype Christopher Golda and Mike Montano have launched BackType. Jevon writes about the BackType launch on StartupNorth. And includes coverage of their previous startup, iPartee and their interview by Austin Hill on StartupNorth. I had the priviledge of meeting Christopher at Mesh 2008 in Toronto, and we’ve shared a number of email conversations about iPartee.

BackType is funded by Y Combinator. It is a search engine for comments on blog posts and other media. The BackType engine forages the web for comments, allowing them to be searchable, trackable and attributable to authors across the web. Comments can be displayed and searched on the meta-data including by author, by topic, by time, etc. It can allow social media businesses like Radian6 and others to gather conversational data and begin associating reputation and impact of authors and their conversations.

I’m hoping the BackType guys are returning to Toronto. Their blog post indicates that “BackType, Inc is a privately-held consumer Internet start-up based in Mountain View, CA”. There are lots of reasons for a startup focused on social media to be based in Silicon Valley (Paul Graham has a few thoughts on moving to a startup hub).

Dissident, Citizen

littlebrother-corydoctorow Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Thank you Cory for Little Brother. I can’t wait for my children to be old enough to read it. It has been a few years since I couldn’t put a book down and decided it was worth giving up sleep to finish. Cory has captured the feelings behind my mistrust of government and corporations. And the power they can exert over citizens, and the challenges when this power is abused.

You’ve inspired me to take action to protect my rights. The anti-circumvention provisions of the C-61 copyright amendment does more harm than good. It prevents crucial rights for citizens in a digital age. It prevents citizens from having the right to “use digital works without permission for research, private study, criticism or news reporting”. Michael Geist has posted 30  Things You Can Do to help reflect a consumer view of this amendment.

“The Industry Minister has time to meet with the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, time to meet all the major telcos on the spectrum auction issue, yet hasn’t made time to meet with user community on copyright.”

Bill C-61 scares me. It represents a shift in public policy back towards corporations. It reminds of the acceptance of monopolies and oligopolies that Canadians accept as tradeoff for our geography. The bill makes it an infringement to circumvent digital locks to prevent copying and distribution. To make it worse this bill prevents the distribution of the tools that can be used to circumvent digital locks. This means that watching a European purchased Region 2 encoded disc, like the legal copy of The Future is Unwritten I purchased from Amazon.co.uk, in Canada is illegal under Bill C-61.

This kind of thinking is important no matter what side of security you’re on. If you’ve been hired to build a shoplift-proof store, you’d better know how to shoplift. If you’re designing a camera system that detects individual gaits, you’d better plan for people putting rocks in their shoes. Because if you don’t, you’re not going to design anything good.

Trading privacy for security is stupid enough; not getting any actual security in the bargain is even stupider. – Bruce Schneier

Help keep Canada free! Free as in freedom! We need to ensure we have the freedoms so that we can continue to think, explore, innovate, question and challenge authority and government in Canada.

Thank you Cory!

Little Brother
by Cory Doctorow
Read more about this book…