Do Startup Lists Have Any Value?

The folks at Techvibes, which does yeoman’s work of covering the Canadian technology scene, relaunched their Startup Index by publishing the top-100 on Canada Day.

Anything that puts the spotlight on Canadian startups is a good thing but the Techvibes list raised a couple of issues.

1. Do lists have any value other than raising the profile of many startups that may not other get a lot of attention? Or are lists simply beauty contests that provide more benefits for the publisher than the startups on the list? After all, everyone loves lists so they’re great ways to attract attention and pageviews.

2. Is there an accurate methodology to rank startups? Techvibes uses Alexa, which I view as a flawed approach given it uses a relatively small sample size to measure, and the people involved need the Alexa toolbar installed.

If Alexa is not the way to go, how else could startups be ranked accurately? Perhaps there isn’t a way to create an bullet-proof list given lists are so subjective and there are many ways to assess a startup’s traction, sexiness, momentum, etc.

At the end of the day, lists are digital candy: sweet and easy to consume but they shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

This isn’t to suggest they don’t have some value given there were a few mystery startups I checked out after reading the Techvibes list. A good example is Calgary-based, a free real-time stats tool for blogs and Websites, that is ranked third.

What do you think? Do startup lists have any value? Is there a more accurate way to create lists?

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  • Stéphane

    I’m curious so I opened up the list. Then, I see Plenty Of Fish listed in #2? I really like POF as it’s the good old internet success story, but is this still considered as a startup after 11 years? If so, the “startup” definition is really large. If not, this list has a major flaw.

    I also notice that Acquisio is in 66th place. Surprising for a company that probably makes more revenue and profits than the 65 first together.

    My startup isn’t there too and I’m good about it. Our Alexa rank is certainly really poor. Our vision isn’t to have millions of free customers, but some really profitable. We also believe in organic growth based on real sales. Does that make us a startup not worth listing? Maybe.

    That reminds me the top bloggers list of few years ago. At the end, the ranking doesn’t have much to do with the quality as SEO experts have top ranked blogs with not much good content.

    • Mark Evans

      The other thing about Plenty of Fish is it’s not a startup given it’s been around for a long time and likely generating enough revenue to have graduated to a small business. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  • BuzzBuzzHome

    It would be great if it would be possible to pull other sets of data, such as revenue, number of employees, and such, but the reality is that with small private companies, most of this information is impossible to obtain.

    An other question to ask: Does being on the list matter? We are on the list, and have never heard anyone comment to us that they saw us there. Of course, it is great too see! But, if it were not for this blog posting, we probably would not have known to go to the list to find out.

    • Mark Evans

      I guess I’ve provided the list with value by writing about it. :) Thanks for the comment. Mark

  • Dorai Thodla

    I think ranking them is a bit of waste of time. Listing them in different categories may be useful. Alexa ranking is certainly not the right way to go. I think directories are better than ranked lists.

    • Mark Evans

      I like the idea of categories as a way to make lists more digestible. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  • Abdallah Al-Hakim

    like all lists – this one creates debate and conversation. I don’t agree with their sole use of Alexa ranking and placing them in different categories as @twitter-786022:disqus suggested would have been better. Other lists such as Deloitte list of fastest growing startups and startups to look for are built with more data. Still all lists are there to be debated and as Mark mentioned – they do bring value in some sort of way

    • Mark Evans

      If anything, lists promote ideas and debate, which gives them value. That said, I always find it interesting for startups to promote their appearances on list unless it is a quantifiable metric such as sales. Thanks for the comment.

  • Bruno Morency

    The list is a fun way to discover and showcase Canadian startups generating traffic to their site so, yes, I think it certainly has some form of value.

    That being said, they should really rename it to something else than “Top 100″. That name implies an actual effort to research and classify startups, an effort that clearly isn’t there when you simply rank websites based on their Alexa traffic.
    As for your “how else could we rank startups?” question, I’d ask this counter-question: do we really need such rankings? There are so many “natural” ways startups are being assessed and ranked: traction, sales, rate of growth, customer satisfaction, profitability, (long-term) impact, (long-term) survival.
    Here’s my suggestion:
    - Do a monthly/quarterly “50 startups on our radar” list, a bit like what StartupNorth did with their Hot List but for companies, not people. Add a short paragraph about why some companies just got on the list. It’s very subjective but at least it’s very explicitly so. And you know what, while I respect an effort to produce an objective ranking based on a set of criteria, setting the criteria is subjective ;)
    - Do a “these companies seem to be doing something right” list because they’re still alive and kicking after X years.
    What do you think?