Michael Tippett can’t put the Wantoo hype genie back in the bottle

Every entrepreneur craves press clippings. Social proof can serve as important early validation, and makes a good impression too. But there’s a fine line between style and substance, between vapourware and a real product. When looking behind the curtain reveals a Munchkin instead of the Mighty Oz, your credibility can evaporate in a flash in the eyes of potential customers or  investors.

I’m sure everyone on the BetaKit team is regularly asked “is this newsworthy?” Or “how do we get coverage?” Often it’s all about timing, and sometimes it’s as simple as whether we find you interesting or if we care enough about what you’re doing. Before pressing us to write your story it’s always worth asking, “can my credibility, stand up to the scrutiny?”

There’s also the notion of having what’s perceived as an ‘unfair advantage’. Things like having insider information or deep domain knowledge; the right “expert” endorsements; a dream team; or someone with strong personal authority can have an effect on the stories that get written too. Ever notice that it’s often the entrepreneurs with a track record that get coverage as well?

Call this a cautionary tale or the story of a non-story. I knew Vancouver’s Michael Tippett had something in the works and there’s some buzz building around the fact he’s back in the game. It caught me off-guard when he asked for help to put the story genie back in the bottle. Tippett knows it’s way too early to be planning the victory parade for this startup.

Here’s a few facts we can share:

  • For the last two years Tippett has been running Hootsuite Labs, building new products.
  • He’s a fixture in Vancouver’s startup community.
  • He founded one of the country’s first digital agencies in the early 90’s – WebPool.
  • Moved to New York when Theglobe.com recruited him to help them understand the metrics around social media before it was called social media.
  • After TheGlobe he joined Afternic as employee # 4 where ran product and marketing.  the company sold within 18 months of it’s inception to Register.com for almost $100 MM (CAN).
  • Tippett returned to Vancouver to build NowPublic  – user generated news site.
  • International headlines during the catastrophic events of Katrina using citizen reporters – with over 2,000 reporters in the area NowPublic had more people on the scene than the Associated Press had globally.  Tippett raised over $12 MM and turned the experiment into the world’s largest user citizen news site with over 300,000 reporters worldwide.
  • Was the founding Executive Director at Growlab (now HIGHLINE), running events like Startup Weekend.

Michael Tippett Wantoo

Tippett shared with BetaKit that he’s “been blown away by the support and interest. After announcing this latest venture on Facebook we got over 1,000 people asking to be put on the beta list when it goes live.”  While this could be one the country’s most highly anticipated startups, there’s still a very long road ahead.

Right he’s now focused on building his team up and closing a round of financing. The high level concept is about helping people predict the future around the products people will buy. People will be able to see what others will want to do and see.  “My son gets it saying, it’s like a digital crystal ball.” Tippett added, “I’m optimistic, and taking the hype in stride. I do know that devil is in the details.”

While still under wraps, there are some early hints about his plans to be found on their just launched landing page. Tippett knows you can only keep people’s interest piqued for so long. He’s been there and done that, so it’s worth noting that this experienced entrepreneur realizes it’s never good for business to be found guilty of “premature adulation.”

Disclosure: BetaKit’s East and West Coast news desks operate out of HIGHLINE’s co-working space.


John Gray

John Gray is the co-founder and CEO of Mentionmapp. As a writer, John cares about keeping the humanity in our stories and conversations about technology. He has a B.Ap.Sc. in Communications and a B.A. in English, both from Simon Fraser University.

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