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Vision Critical adds OMERS veteran as chief revenue officer

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One of Canada's hottest technology companies, market research firm Vision Critical Communications Inc., has named a venture capital veteran chief revenue officer as it seeks to take sales to $1-billion from about $100-million.

Vision Critical is installing Derek Smyth, who had been an executive at Vision Critical investor OMERS Ventures, in the new role. Mr. Smyth was also a board member at Vision Critical for a time.

Vision Critical has also hired of late a new chief financial officer, a new chief technology officer and a new public affairs person. The company, founded 13 years ago, now has about 700 employees in offices around the world.

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The company's technology enables companies to talk to customers about ideas for new products and developments, allowing companies to be more responsive to customer criticism and input.

At OMERS, Mr. Smyth led a number of high-profile investments, including those in travel company Hopper and Twitter platform Hootsuite. He said Vision Critical stuck out.

"From my perspective, having spent nine years in venture, after my being an operator my entire career, I did have the opportunity to look at the majority of the higher-quality companies in the country and this is the one that made me rethink what I was doing," Mr. Smyth said in an interview.

The goal is to make Vision Critical's products more critical to clients. That client list includes companies ranging from media and technology companies such as Time Inc. and Yahoo Inc. to Montreal's transit system to retailer Banana Republic.

"I believe we have the opportunity to build a billion-dollar top-line business over the course of the next four to six years," he said. The company is growing at 30 to 50 per cent a year and "will continue to do so," he said.

Given that growth, Vision Critical has long been touted as an initial public offering candidate. The market for technology-related companies is busy and the hires in the executive suite suggest a company looking at going public. Mr. Smyth declined to comment on when that might happen.

"We're really just focused on building an organization," he said. "We run the organization as if it's a public company today."

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As for an IPO, that timing is "difficult to control. The thing we control is driving continued growth."

To that end, he said, "you are going to continue to see our product footprint continue to expand beyond market research."

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