The founder of one of Canada's most successful emerging tech firms, Vision Critical Communications Inc., is setting out on his own – but he isn't going far.
Andrew Reid, the president of corporate innovation with the Vancouver company he started 16 years ago, is leaving to launch VC Labs, which will build software applications that can be used with Vision Critical's online market-research platform.
"It feels like a great time to move on," the 40-year-old said. "The fact that I'm calling my new company VC Labs is probably good proof that I have a really good relationship" with Vision Critical. "To think I was responsible for creating this, that no one would be here if I hadn't taken a bunch of risks and stuck with it – that's special."
Vision Critical CEO Scott Miller welcomed Mr. Reid's move to an allied firm that he said would help his own company expand. "Look at the most successful software companies: If they have to build everything themselves, they can't scale. … We need to demonstrate to the marketplace that these types of capabilities can be built" by third parties.
Mr. Reid is the latest in a string of top-level departures after a tumultuous few years at Vision Critical.
His father, pollster Angus Reid, invested in and became CEO of the fledgling digital services firm in the mid-2000s after it developed software that enabled large companies to gather opinions from "communities" of customers. Under the elder Mr. Reid's watch, Vision Critical also built a conventional market-research and consulting company. But as the software business took off, new venture-capital investors were eager to see it focus on the high-growth digital business.
Tensions ensued among the company's senior ranks over the pollster's role and involvement after Mr. Miller's hiring as CEO, a Globe and Mail investigation revealed in May.
Older investors loyal to Angus Reid were keen to sell, while newer investors wanted to wait. Mr. Reid also clashed with board members over whether to sell the research and consulting business and moved successfully to oust directors who opposed him. Vision Critical did sell that part of the business this year and is preparing to go public in 2017.
The internal conflicts sometimes left the younger Mr. Reid, who reported to Mr. Miller and had a stormy relationship with his father in his early years, in an awkward position. At one point, he had to tell his father he was aligned with a board decision to relieve him of his executive role.
The young founder moved between various roles, most recently running Vision Critical's corporate-culture program, as Mr. Miller refocused the firm around its subscription-software business and recruiting outside executives. The company is on track to exceed $100-million in revenue this year.
"I've got some strong ideas about some things I'm passionate about building," Mr. Reid said. "Vision Critical has a lot of competing priorities of things that are all important for us to pour our development resources into. Having a separate company that I'm funding on my own allows it to be fairly easy to make those calls."
Former Vision Critical president Jason Smith, who now runs Vancouver software startup Klue, said Mr. Reid's move is "a logical evolution. It aligns with something Andrew has been excited about for years, gives him the space to chase it and keeps the linkage [to Vision Critical]. This allows him to expand on things he loves to do and leaves room for all the great new product leadership they've brought in. The only question is how long it will remain solely focused on Vision Critical product extensions. I see him tinkering and expanding" to other areas.
Asked if he would ask his father to invest, he replied: "Well, I can tell you he's always going to be my father, but beyond that, I have no plans."