This original series documents the stories of Canada’s modern tech companies from inception to today.
In 2008, Vancouver-based digital agency Invoke Media released a tool called BrightKit. At the time, BrightKit was an app that allowed users to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single interface.
In 2009, BrightKit’s name changed to HootSuite (then with a capital “S”). The name was suggested by user Matt Nathan, who contributed his idea when the startup asked its Twitter followers for a new name.
After a White House endorsement, Hootsuite (which would lowercase its “s” in 2014) added Facebook and Linkedin integrations, becoming the fully fledged social media dashboard we know it as today. It followed up this evolution with its first round of capital: $1.9 million in early 2010 from Hearst Interactive Media, Blumberg Capital, and angel investors.
That summer, Hootsuite started to monetize, utilizing the “freemium” model by adding optional paid accounts with additional features. By the end of the year, the company had hit its first major customer milestone: one million users.
Within a year of that milestone, Hootsuite had already reached two million users. At 32 months old, Hootsuite was responsible for the sending of 500,000,000 messages across 4,000,000 unique social profiles.
In the months following, Hootsuite would raise $3 million in capital, acquire competitor TwapperKeeper, and expand its executive team. The year ended with an acquisition of Geotoko and rumours of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg being in Vancouver to buy the blossoming startup.
The year 2012 started with CEO Ryan Holmes stating his ambitions: he wanted to build Hootsuite into a billion-dollar company, ultimately taking it public. Just weeks later, Hootsuite would reach three million users.
With more than 300 employees, and paying customers in 156 countries, Hootsuite was a force to be reckoned with. Holmes was named one of Vancouver’s most powerful people. Before the end of the year, Hootsuite was at eight million users.
As Hootsuite passed nine million users—including 75% of Fortune 1000 companies—the company changed its logo for the first time. And, as IPO rumours persisted, Hootsuite hit 10 million users. In the fall of 2014, the company raised $60 million and acquired social telephony company Zeetl.
Today, with almost 1,000 employees and an estimated valuation north of $1 billion, Hootsuite is an anchor in Vancouver’s startup ecosystem.
Holmes has hinted at an IPO in 2016—at this point, it is a matter of “when,” not “if.”
Still aggressively hiring and gaining new users, the story of Hootsuite—which started as Brightkit, a basic free tool with three employees in 2008—is only just beginning.