business About us

Our story

Reinvention through disruption

Change is often difficult to embrace. It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.

The early days

In the mid–Nineties, the monumental shift of the internet had just begun it’s first wave. At the time, an online presence was an afterthought, secondary to traditional communications. As more and more companies began allocating marketing budget to the web, we were there to offer tools to manage content.

We started as a Content Management company for small business. We developed a proprietary Content Management System and began building online communications on top of the platform. Named Utilis, it was sold to firms in Australia, Bulgaria, the UK, and throughout North America.

Focus on entertainment

Still relatively small, the online community was growing in leaps and bounds. Schools were introducing new programs and hype was at a high. Many of the first online destinations were art based.

The Toronto International Film Festival had been around since the Seventies, but they needed to move into the digital domain. Since their major sponsor has always been Bell Canada, their agency of record, Cossette, was tasked with bringing TIFF to the web.

Cossette reached out to us to build the first online TIFF schedule. What today sounds simple, at the time, with screen resolutions of 800 pixels × 600 pixels being the norm, was quite the challenge.

The dynamic TIFF schedule was our first foray into the entertainment industry.

Toronto CN Tower

Everyone needs a companion

Still in the Nineties, we began getting calls from Film and Television production companies to produce companion experiences for their shows. Our first contract was with Insight Productions for a show named The Goods. The Goods website ended up being nominated for a Gemini Award and growth for us in this sector accelerated.

Robert Lantos’ Serendipity Point Films came calling next. We developed their first online corporate presence and micro–sites for many of their feature films including David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises & eXistenZ, Bruce McDonald’s Picture Claire, Itzvan Szabo’s Being Julia & Sunshine, Norman Jewison’s The Statement, Denis Arcand’s Stardom, Paul GrossMen with Brooms, Jeremy Podeswa’s Fugitive Pieces, and Atom Egoyan’s Ararat & Where the Truth Lies.

Interaction through games

The entertainment industry in Canada was (and still is) booming. Tax credits and other incentives made cities like Toronto and Vancouver central hubs for Hollywood productions. Similar incentives emerged for digital entertainment producers as well.

The ABC Family and Global Network TV series Falcon Beach was one such show that benefited from those incentives. Together with Insight Production Company, we secured a substantial budget dedicated to the digital endeavour, and created a multi–player Virtual World based on the show’s creative. All the characters from the show lived inside the Virtual World and fans could interact with them through an artificial intelligence engine we developed.

Falcon Beach once again got us nominated for a Gemini Award and exposed us to SmartFoxServer. We have maintained a close relationship with SmartFox that continues today.

It’s a connected world

Having worked with SmartFoxServer, a number of companies called on us to create multi–user games & applications. At the time, social media had yet to take hold, and online communities with live interaction were all the rage.

Yahoo! Canada (NASDAQ: YHOO) engaged us for a Yahoo! Answers promotional application called Karma’s Quest and U.S. based TweenBrands (NYSE: TWB) asked us to develop a digital brand extension called ScapeNation.

ScapeNation was developed with Philadelphia based ad agency Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners. TweenBrands wanted to start a new conversation with their digital native customers and ScapeNation achieved just that. Again, built using SmartFoxServer, we managed to push the envelope and create an extraordinary digital experience.

Toronto CIty Hall

The shift to mobile

The proliferation of mobile devices, combined with Cloud Computing has created an ever connected world. Industry after industry began to fall to simple, yet ingenious ways of using technology. Disruption is often perceived negatively, but in reality, it moves us forward. Traditional ways of the past can be efficiently accomplished in a fraction of the time and often a fraction of the cost. Linear –or “pipeline” business models have given way to the platform and data has become the new currency.

This new digital ecosystem opened possibilities and after working within the TV and Film industry for years, a project like BackSpin was timely. Software as a Service (SaaS) allows for compute power to be centralized in the Cloud. Clients connecting to the application interact without having to install software and businesses can deploy platforms with no IT investment. Providing access to software from any place on any device frees users from the confines of their desks.

Another SaaS that exemplifies this shift is DigThisData. Developed for the Ontario alcohol beverage industry, it focuses on Business Intelligence and Sales Cycle Management and has grown to be the leading platform in the space.

As an agency, we had always produced online software, however the SaaS model has it’s intricacies that are only exposed through trial and error.

The power of the platform

Over the last twenty years, the platform as a business model has proven to be powerful. Linear models rely on efficiency or capacity to increase the bottom line while the platform relies on the network effect. By externalizing resources and governing interactions, platforms can transform industries and outperform linear models within a few years.

As the alcohol industry faces evolutionary shifts and growing pains, platform strategies are playing an increasing role and incumbents are taking note.

Working with numerous Ontario alcohol producers and agents has been rewarding and as we continue to contribute to their evolution, focus remains on platform viability and sustainable growth.

What’s next?

Our next act is yet to come. We’re actively building on DigThisData, recently worked with the CBC on strategy and RunSocial, readying their multi–user HD running app for use on the International Space Station. We’ve signed a new client in LA and are expanding into the full intersection of technology and design - incuding interiors.

A crystal ball would be nice, but at this stage in the game, we’re quite accustomed to adapting to what’s next.

Want to talk to us about a project? Get in touch.