Wait, that can’t be right, can it? Longtime readers with a good memory and a handful of fingers should be able to count five years of BetaKit coverage. What if I told you today is BetaKit’s first birthday, but also that BetaKit has more than just one birthdate – that, in fact, it has three?
Allow me to explain.
BetaKit was launched February 15th, 2012 (first birthdate!) by Sarah Prevette and Erin Bury, following the acquisition of Sprouter by Postmedia. In the manifesto published at launch (almost lost to the sands of time were it not for the Wayback Machine), Sarah struck out a bold vision for a new kind of tech publication: heavy on the journalism, light on the snark, and with a global focus. “We want to earn your trust as a credible source for the technology news that matters,” she said. “We’re going to work hard to do so.”
And they did, scoring a bunch of big wins with a small but talented news team: partnering with the Washington Post on its Social Reader and reaching a lofty #35 on the Techmeme leaderboard, well ahead of larger competitors like Businessweek and The Guardian. Great things can be accomplished with pluck and grit.
But even pluck and grit need support. Postmedia, mired in what has become a long and steady flow of cutbacks and bad news was either unwilling or unable to properly monetize BetaKit’s insightful coverage and unique audience. Within a year, Sarah had left Postmedia, and by March of 2013, BetaKit was unceremoniously shut down.
A lot of people were genuinely steamed that BetaKit was no longer their daily destination for emerging tech news. One of those people was Ian Hardy, himself the founder MobileSyrup.com, Canada’s biggest, baddest, and reddest mobile tech publication.
I remember needling Ian at the time to get into the innovation game. Ian being Ian, he decided to do it in the most direct way possible: buying BetaKit from Postmedia and relaunching it July 22nd, 2013 (second birthdate!) with a Canadian focus.
“The story of how Canadians are building the next great tech or service needs to be told,” Ian said at the time.
“The story of how Canadians are building the next great tech or service needs to be told.”
The initial response to BetaKit’s new focus was charitably mixed: “Seems a waste of talent and opportunity.” Or: “Incredibly disappointing news… not having a global focus will once again shoot you guys into obscurity.” And my absolute favourite: “Now your core business is Canadian Startups? … Ok …”
There are two lessons here. One, never read the comments. Two, just four years ago no one considered the Canadian tech ecosystem big enough to be worth a damn. My, how things have changed.
Skipping past my own sordid history in tech and tech journalism (RIP Research in Motion and a bunch of sites you never heard of or forgot existed), I got involved in 2014. I can still remember the moment it clicked: well-rested from a long vacation, I had sat down in October to a wearable tech conference organized by none other than BetaKit’s own Tom Emrich, and the same thought ran through my brain on a loop.
This is the future. Innovation is the future of tech and Canada has a spot on the main stage.
By November I was BetaKit’s new Managing Editor and we were off to the races.
2015 was a big year for BetaKit, as we started to see real traction across Canada for our new approach. A lot of it overlapped with BetaKit’s original mandate – no snark, tell-it-straight journalism – but with a focus on startups and Canada’s tech incumbents, as both were chasing the muse of innovation, lest they become disrupted or destroyed. We broke news and added a bunch of new team members, trying to fulfill our promise to be the nation’s innovation trade publication.
By the end of that year, Ian and I both knew that BetaKit was reaching an inflection point. To reach its full potential at the speed required today for a digital media publication, BetaKit would have to learn to stand on its own, and not rely on the resources of its sister-site, MobileSyrup. So we spun it out.
On February 26th, 2016, BetaKit became BetaKit Incorporated. Third birthdate.
2016 was a yearlong lesson in turning a hot product into a business. We broke more stories, made new friends, and pissed a few people off. Traffic milestones were surpassed. Revenue milestones were, too. But most important for any young startup, we survived.
2017 is going to be another big year for BetaKit, with new announcements as we continue to grow in size and capability. Some of those announcements are coming much sooner than you’d think (add your email address below if you want to be notified when they happen). But we weren’t ready to share that news until we publicly recognized how we got here. It is important to us that everyone knows BetaKit cares about Canadian startups because BetaKit is a Canadian startup, too.
Founder, BetaKit Incorporated