There’s yoga meditation at the office and craft beer on Fridays, but that doesn’t mean Myplanet Internet Solutions Ltd. – better known as Myplanet Digital – isn’t serious business.
Founder and director Jason Cottrell, 26, says his team has fun, but it knows when to put its collective head down and get to work. The privately held design and technology company is on track to double last year’s annual revenue of just under $5-million.
Although Mr. Cottrell has been designing websites from his parents’ basement since 2000, he never studied computer science.
After completing an undergraduate degree in biomedical science, he enrolled in a three-year business administration program at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, where he started Myplanet in his last year. He refers to the company as being “pretty small” until after graduation in 2009, when he “really started ramping things up.”
From an original team of five – all of whom are still on board – MyPlanet now has 55 employees with plans to be 100 strong by the end of this year. Based in Toronto, it also has a Chicago branch office. The company’s clients include The Royal Conservatory of Music, Warner Music, the Town of Uxbridge, StockNetwork, and Carnegie Hall.
Q: What does Myplanet Digital do?
A: We’re a digital strategy company that uses open platforms to create a meaningful user experience with interactive technology. In terms of the web platforms that most people might interact with – a government agency, a university or an enterprise – we mix our platform expertise with our expertise in delighting the end user to make the client look good.
Q: Why business over science?
A: I’m a geek at heart but more than anything else, I’m a builder. I enjoy the creation and process of building the team. When I started off, I did a lot of the building myself, but I really like the role I have now.
Q: What’s that, exactly?
A: I’m the director so it’s the equivalent of the CEO or president. Our leadership team has directors for each functional area, so we have directors for operations, creative, technical, business development and administration. My specialty is trying to keep all those pieces moving together and setting the general direction for the company, making sure we’re executing on our key initiatives and building our team.
Q: How did you build the company so quickly after graduating?
A: At first, I got a full-time job with a consulting company and thought I’d just do my own thing on the side. But we ended up getting a contract to do some work for a prominent consumer package group company so it reignited my interest.
Within that first year of graduating in 2009, we had grown the team to five people. I count them as the founding team at Myplanet so I refer to them as the co-founders. We got lucky in that this was a group that acted as if they were owners of the business and took responsibility for their different areas of specialty. Not only that, they’ve been able to grow with the business and continue to lead. I couldn’t have grown the business to where we are without them. On the equity side, I’ve tried to provide options for them as well so they can be owners and not just act like owners.
Q: Who owns Myplanet Digital?
A: I sold part of the business, about 20 per cent of the company, to two of the co-founders about a year-and-a-half ago. They have about 20 per cent of the shares and I hold around 80 per cent of the company, so I remain the majority shareholder, with two minority partners.
Q: Did you get investors?