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Announced this morning, Q&A and “expert chat” service Sprouter has found a buyer in fellow Canadian company Postmedia Network. It was back in July that Sprouter founder Sarah Prevette announced that the service would be closing due to lack of revenue. In August, the Sprouter team noted that they wouldn’t be shutting down and that they were in discussions with several parties to continue the service. The amount of the acquisition was not disclosed although the people I’ve spoken with this morning all assume it was very small but were pleased that the service will live on.
Sprouter put together a faq about the aquisition where they note that the acquisition price won’t be disclosed. It looks like the company will be run as a division of Postmedia Network and is looking to hire a business development expert.
They also have provided a description of what Sprouter is, “…where founders get help with their startups. Sprouter allows entrepreneurs to get curated answers to small business questions from people who know what they’re talking about.” The Postmedia network describes their offering as, “the largest publisher by circulation of paid English-language daily newspapers in Canada, representing some of the country’s oldest and best known media brands.”
I am a huge fan of stickers – they seem to be universally accepted and are a great way for a brand to travel across the world. I’ve sent out thousands of CN stickers over the past two years. There is one rule I have for anyone that wants to create stickers…make sure they are die-cut. Regular square or round stickers just don’t make the impression that die-cut stickers make. Have a look at some of the tech celebs wearing CN stickers.
StickerYou is a new Toronto-based startup that allows you to create custom die-cut stickers. The stickers are made on vinyl (an absolute must in my opinion), die-cut, sun-resistant, removable and waterproof. StickerYou has an image library with thousands of images or you can upload your own. StickerYou also has a partnership with Peanuts, Happy Bunny and Mr. Men/Little Miss (remember them?).
Since the sickers can stay outside, you can even create fun bumper stickers for your car. StickerYou sticker sheets cost $7/sheet and ship in just under a week.
What I really like about StickerYou is the ability to customize each sheet. This is a great idea as it allows for sticker testing and sounds like it would be great for kids and for students to customize their trapper keepers.
We first covered Canadian-startup CityFlitz last September. We learned about the car sharing service via the FreshBooks blog. CityFlitz is a car-sharing service offered in Canada. The concept of car sharing, popularized by ZipCar, is based around many people sharing a bank of cars. I use ZipCar about once a week and think it’s a great service as they take care of everything and I just pay for the hours I use the car.
CityFlitz tried a more involved business model than ZipCar employs. CityFlitz wrapped each of their cars with advertising and then only charged members $1/day to use the car (gas not included). ZipCar has a maximum mileage per rental period while CityFlitz wants you to drive as much as possible so that the advertisements are seen around town. If you drive less than 30km per day with CityFlitz, you are charged a penalty. CityFlitz cars also come with WiFi inside the car which is pretty neat.
We received a couple of emails today about CityFlitz and that their domain name is no longer functional. When we load CityFlitz.com, we are redirected to what appears to be a web hosting provider. I’ve tried to email the company but so far no response. If I receive a response, I will update this post. In my initial review I wondered if the company would be able to sign enough advertisers to support the cars as a going concern.
In July, Esteban reported that CityFlitz was expanding to Montreal. He also noted that advertisers were paying $7,000 a month on average for advertising on the fleet of cars.
One member left a comment on our initial post noting that CityFlitz charged a security deposit of $350 (unsure if it’s CAD or USD) and the member has been unable to receive a refund. There are two additional comments on the CityFlitz Facebook page also regarding the security deposit. You can read the full terms using the Google Cache. Let’s hope this is just a temporary issue.
I like the concept that CityFlitz used and maybe the way to make it work is to charge a minimum fee for the car rentals that equals the bottom-line cost and use the advertising as the profit. I might be willing to drive around in a advertising wrapped ZipCar if I received enough of a discount to make it worthwhile.
Standout Jobs is a Canadian company that launched a year ago and their service allows companies to create recruitment portals to help publicize their openings along with offering a better process for applicants.
Today the company has announced a number of new pieces of functionality to the Standout Jobs offering. The first update allows companies to setup chats with interested parties. The chat functionality comes from TinyChat and can be thought of as a simple way to setup an online career fair.
On the job listings side, they have added the ability to feature a Twitter account on the page. This gives potential applicants a chance to see what the company is up to.
There is also a new option for an expanded bio page (they call it a "people widget"). The bio page can include links to all of the social services a person is a member of – see a screenshot below.
Also check out Standout Jobs’ founder Benjamin Yoskovitz’s post on tips for hiring top talent at startups.
MyCommittee is a Canadian-based startup which seeks to help people and groups better manage their meetings. CTO Dirk Op de Beeck sent in a perfect pitch email and even included a login for me to use to test the application.
MyCommittee allows you to setup meetings, an agenda for the meeting including tabs for previous and new business, a place to store documents from the meeting and the ability to distribute the minutes to all attendees. Having been responsible for managing meeting minutes in the past, a tool like this would have come in handy over a simple word document.
The site could really use a step-by-step walkthrough for new members. I was a bit confused when I clicked on the meetings tab and was presented with a graphic sample but no links to actually make a meeting. Perhaps a "meeting wizard" would work as well.
What I like about the way MyCommittee has setup their freemium model is that they give you the bare minimum for free and push you into upgrading. I’ve written before that companies using this model generally give away so much for free that no one has a reason to upgrade. I would think they could work on an enterprise white-label version as well.
Twitter has announced that as of their post time, there will be no more outbound SMS messages delivered to Twitter users in the country of Canada. This follows similar shutdowns in the UK this past summer. The Twitter blog notes, "We can’t afford to support this service given our current arrangement with our providers (where costs have been doubling for the past several months.)"
In September there were reports that Verizon in the U.S. were going to triple rates for SMS which would also put the hurt on services like Twitter.
B5Media CEO Jeremy Wright is visably upset by this change as per his messages post announcement:
“WTF?!!! TWITTER LET ME PAY FOR PRO SERVICE SO I CAN GET MY F*CKING SMS’S IN CANADA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“@supernovacom – bite me. This SUCKS. I’ve been asking to pay for over a year! LET ME PAY. You can take my SMS but you can’t take my freedom!”
Not really sure why anyone would need to use the SMS service anyway – it’s ok, you can check your messages when you get back to the office. Knowing who ate what or whether their dog took a piss on the carpet can certainly wait. And you can always open a Web browser on your mobile and visit the service that way if you need to know whats "going on".
Toronto-based online invoicing service FreshBooks has announced the launch of an industry benchmarking service to help freelancers and small businesses make better decisions about their business. The service seems very similar to what PubMatic offers with their AdPrice Index. Basically FreshBooks takes anonymous data, aggregates the data and provides it back to site visitors so they can compare their actual numbers with the reported data.
The data will be updated quarterly and can be broken down into segments. FreshBooks explains how they get the data, "the data you see above is only collected from FreshBooks accounts that collect in US Dollars. We have removed the top ten 10% and the bottom 10% of the populations to eliminate outliers that might undermine the accuracy of the group as a whole. Also, we only include businesses we deem to be credible FreshBooks accounts."
Anyone can access the basic industry benchmark data and FreshBooks customers can request a "Report Card" which is tailored to their specific business.
This new program is smart on several levels. It helps everyone understand where they stand. It helps FreshBooks potentially gain a new service subscriber base. It also helps establish FreshBooks as a data service which can help drive new subscribers as the data is shared across the Web.