Some of the most influential venture capital firms in the technology industry are betting that one of the epicentres of the social media revolution is in Vancouver.
HootSuite Media Inc., a leading social media analytics and software firm, has completed one of the largest rounds of venture capital funding in Canadian history.
The Vancouver-based company has secured $165-million in capital, HootSuite announced Thursday. The round was led by New York-based Insight Venture Partners, whose previous investment targets include crowdfunding startup IndieGogo and online retailer Newegg.
The round is also being backed by Accel Partners (an early Facebook investor) and OMERS Ventures, an arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. All three will now have members on the HootSuite board of directors.
HootSuite says the venture funding round is the largest ever for a Canadian software company. Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, said the company will use the money to continue building its worldwide reach.
“Our goal is to continue with international expansion,” he said, noting that HootSuite’s software has grown to support 16 languages. “We have customers in every country in the world and we want to continue that growth.”
Mr. Holmes said HootSuite will likely also use the money to look at acquiring other companies. He pointed to analytics and social advertising as two business areas where the company sees the potential for acquisitions.
Founded four years ago, HootSuite has roughly 300 employees and a user base of about 7 million.
The company develops software to help manage and measure social media interaction on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It offers a free version of its software, which comes with limitations on certain features. A more full-featured version that can handle more social media accounts is available for a monthly fee. HootSuite also sells more powerful tools to enterprise customers, which include almost half the Fortune 500 companies.
“Over the last couple of years, the question about social relevance is over – we know it’s here, and brands know that they need to be there,” Mr. Holmes said.
“[Customers are] telling everybody on social media that they’re having a good or bad experience with your product, and you need to be there to guide and shape that conversation.”
HootSuite’s software offers a number of features that have become staples of social media management, including the ability to update multiple accounts at once or schedule tweets and updates to post automatically at certain times of the day. The software also helps users collect data on which of their posts resonate the most with their audience.
In recent years, HootSuite has become one of the anchors of Vancouver’s fast-growing technology scene, which also spawned the photo-sharing site Flickr and now boasts large offshoot offices of companies such as Electronic Arts Inc. HootSuite’s relatively early entry into the social-media tracking and management market has helped it stand out from its myriad competitors – including startups that were subsequently acquired by social media giants such as Twitter Inc.
“It is a really competitive space, but Hootsuite did a good job of getting in early and adding features without overwhelming the user,” said Alexandra Samuel, vice-president of social media at Vancouver-based software firm Vision Critical, and the author of a how-to book on HootSuite software. “The people who work there aren’t there to make their fortune, they’re there because they’re passionate about social media and what it can do for communities and businesses.”