10 Web 2.0 companies to watch

Developing strategies that keep users engaged will be one key for Canadian Web 2.0 companies trying to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, according to an IDC analyst.

“For anyone in the (technology) industry, Web 2.0 isn’t new,” said Krista Collins, an analyst who covers ICT innovation for IDC Canada and author of the report 10 Canadian Web 2.0 Companies to Watch. But for the mainstream enterprise, Web 2.0 is a recent phenomenon.

“One of the key challenges companies are facing is retaining constant users,” she said. It’s important to motivate users to come back to the application and continue to contribute.

Companies on Collins’s list approached that challenge in different ways. Ad Hack, a do-it-yourself advertising community based in Vancouver, uses e-mail alerts to let users know when their ads have been viewed and when’s there’s feedback. Toronto-based Octopz integrates its collaborative design portal into users’ regular business processes, making it easy and seamless to use.

Another challenge to would-be Web 2.0 winners is the fact that enterprise still has a bias toward on-premise solutions. “They have concerns with security and control,” Collins said. Gatineau, Que.-based meeting collaboration company Tomoye addresses that by “hedging its bets,” providing an on-premise version of its solution as well as a hosted version.

Other Web 2.0 strategies Collins said will be successful include making the application easier to use and understand with virtual tours and tutorials, focusing on a single market to build expertise and credibility, and offering services to teach enterprise best practices in a Web 2.0 environment.

“It really is a complete business process transformation,” Collins said. And, she said, it’s not just about having a cool solution; “It’s about making that transition from being a cool solution to being a critical tool.”

The companies on the list were selected from a field of about 100, Collins said. “It’s important to note that it’s ‘companies to watch.’ It’s not a Top 10 list,” she said.

The list of 100 was boiled down to 10, on the basis of their clarity of vision, partnerships, user base, their navigation of the competitive environment and their trajectory in the market.

“There are some really interesting companies,” Collins said.

Toronto’s PlanetEye, for example, combines geo-tagging and a range of online sources to help users plan vacations. “There are a variety of different sources travelers can use,” Collins said. PlanetEye gathers it in one, conantly updated and relevant place. The company is currently relying on licensing fees and affiliate income – the company has affiliate deals with Travelocity, among others – and has partnered with Open Table’s restaurant review and reservation portal and Flickr for travel photography.

Standout Jobs, based in Montreal, is out to reinvent the online jobs and career management market, said Collins. The company’s social media tool, Reception, is designed to simplify its customers’ recruitment process. “Essentially, it’s like having an entire Web site to market your company to potential applicants,” Collins said. It gives the company an opportunity to cheaply put its brand out in front of job-seekers and engage an ongoing pool of candidates. “With the job market the way it is today, I think it’s a powerful tool,” Collins said.

Other companies on the list include:

* dThree, a Mississauga, Ont.-based enterprise marketing company;

* Ottawa-based Overlay.TV, an interactive video commerce platform;

* Collaboration software and services companyRamius, also of Ottawa;

* Three-dimensional online community Scenecaster, based in Richmond Hill; and

* Meeting portal Tungle of Gatineau, Que.

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