The Story of and How It Changed the Canadian Startup Ecosystem

A few weeks past I posted about the hockey stick growth of exit in Canadian startups. Well, let me give some interesting colour to some of the cause of that growth. is a company that most of you probably know very little about, despite its relative fame in the hey-day of the dot com boom. Back in the day when I was a student at Waterloo, I remembered coming on compass and having some great recruitment events at the local pub, The Bomber. That was the last I heard of them. Little did I know that would eventually help permanently alter the Canadian eco-system. was a Silicon Valley based company. They built a really cool IVR service, cutting edge stuff in 1998 when they were founded. Steven Woods was co-founder, CTO and Chief Product Officer at Dan Servos later joined quack as its SVP Alliances and Sales. In the year 2000, they sold to AOL for a hefty $200mm price tag. Big exit, even by that era’s standard.

A few years later Steven Woods & Dan Servos were at it again. Classic serial entrepreneurs – Steven started another company, NeoEdge which Dan joined. Not quite as big a success as, but not every venture leads to a $200mm sale of your company.

Fast forward to 2008. Dragged from the startup world kicking and screaming, Google steals Steven Woods and hires him as site manager and engineering lead for Google Waterloo. You have to understand how big this is. Steven Woods is a 2x entrepreneur with a big, big exit under his belt, also serving as an advisor & investor to several startups. He is a big deal in Silicon Valley, let alone in Waterloo where he should be recognized as an entrepreneurial god. Only the duo at 295 Philip St hold more entrepreneurial street cred than him in Waterloo. Not only is his startup background a big deal, but he has a fricking phd in computer science. An immense example of reverse brain drain if I’ve seen one. Which is ironic, since Woods was famously ripped as being a big cause of Canadian brain drain when they hired 50 Waterloo grads in 10 months before selling to AOL.

Check out what started to happen shortly after he came to Google Waterloo:

1. Google acquires Toronto-based company BumpTop for $30m.

2. Steven Wood’s old colleague, Dan Servos, ends up as CEO of Social Deck.

3. Shortly thereafter, Toronto-based Social Deck gets acquired by Google.

4. Toronto-based Zetawire gets acquired by Google.

5. Toronto-based Pushlife gets acquired by Google for $25mm.

6. Waterloo-based Postrank gets acquired by Google.

(and now Dan Servos lands as COO of Locationary. Hmmmmm…)

Steven Woods & Dan Servos have been machines, invigorating the Canadian startup ecosystem with new possibilities. Via his role at Google, Steven Woods has provided a real source of opportunity for entrepreneurs in Canada to do something with their company other than “move to the Valley”. 6 exits probably at near $100m in total money in under 2 years. Dan Servos has provided huge leadership to Canadian startups like Social Deck, Locationary, etc. This should be massive motivation to entrepreneurs. If you have success, find ways to be like Steven Woods and Dan Servos and help the ecosystem continue to grow. Don’t be like this.