Andrew Reid was just 23 when he founded market research company Vision Critical in 2000. With 670 employees in total – 360 in Vancouver – 16 offices globally and $95 million in revenue, it is now one of Vancouver's most successful technology companies.
Although the company does market research, it is not a traditional polling firm like the one his father, pollster Angus Reid, is famous for. It uses social media and online communities of customers to gain ongoing insights for major brands, including one-third of the Fortune 100 companies.
Just last year, OMERS Ventures invested $20 million in the company. But Vision Critical was no overnight success. In fact, it nearly went under in 2003.
Reid studied multimedia at Vancouver Film School in 1995 and worked in advertising for a while. He then spent six months working for his father and learning the ropes, and started Vision Critical around the time Reid Sr. was selling the Angus Reid Group to Ipsos.
"When I started Vision Critical, really it was the result of looking at my father's industry and realizing it was ripe for disruption," Reid said.
Originally funded by Discovery Capital, Reid bought the company out – and nearly went out of business.
"In 2003, I was paying my employees out of my own money. I wasn't taking any salary myself. My father kept telling me I should shut down my business. I kept stubbornly going forward."
Eventually, the company's online "insights community" model caught on, and in 2004, Reid's father bought into the company with a $1 million investment and became CEO.
"Angus played a massive role of getting us to where we are today," Reid said.
Vision Critical has 600 online communities that provide "ongoing engagement" with the customers to get feedback on a brand's products and services. The feedback is not just ongoing – it can be generated within hours.
"My father's business did a very good job at helping people get decisions support, but that was a six-week process, and it was very ad hoc," Reid said.
"Part of our success is being fuelled from what's going on in the world of social media and big data and business intelligence, which is all about the rear view: what did my customer do, where did they do it, how did they do it? We're the 'Why?' And you can't answer 'Why?' unless you actually talk to someone.