Lunch with Andrew Reid

Andrew Reid, Vision Critical | BCBusiness

By doing first and thinking second, Andrew Reid has built a powerhouse that marries social media with big-data business intelligence

Fast-paced technology is an ideal match for the kinetic personality of Vision Critical’s Andrew Reid. The 37-year-old may temper his abundance of energy through exercise—the explosive “morning grinder” CrossFit and snowmobiling-type—but it’s the resulting focused productivity that fuels his life as a doer. An over-thinker, Reid is not.

“If I spend too much time trying to dot every i and cross the t’s, I feel like the world will go around too many times,” he says over clams at Gastown’s Pourhouse restaurant near his offices. His approach is “just try—experiment and don’t be worried about it.”

Reid predicts that Vision Critical, which he founded 13 years ago, will “cross over to being a $100-million business in the very near future.” His explanation for the rapid growth: “We’ve been able to get to our level by being opportunistic, trying a lot of things, moving quickly and staying fast on our feet.”

The chief product officer explains that Vision Critical combines customer insight with big-data business intelligence to validate hypotheses. He describes Vision Critical as the “interpreter” between social media, which acts as a voyeur on customers, and big-data business intelligence, where companies collect data from transactions.

Andrew Reid’s Favourites

1. “The bartender Robyn at Pidgin (350 Carrall St., Vancouver; is the best in the city. When you hang out with him, you just have to say, ‘Pick what I want,’ and he’ll look at you and get the choice of cocktail right every time.”

2. “I love a good time and I’m very social, so one of the best spots is Bistro Sakana (1123 Mainland, Vancouver; bistro It has a good buzz, which I think helps with conversation during a business lunch. My go-to picks are sesame tuna sashimi, brown rice dynamite rolls and Aburi-style, flame-seared salmon.”

3. “It’s probably a bit of a cliché to say this because it’s so popular, but my favourite restaurant is Hawksworth (801 W. Georgia, Vancouver; It’s such a versatile room, somewhere I will go for a date with my wife, or to celebrate—or to clinch—a deal.”

The company gathers data by polling pre-selected online communities—up to tens of thousands of consumers—on, say, a new product or an advertising campaign. “How much more confidence do you have when you’ve talked to a bunch of your target customers—living, breathing in the moment—before you pull the trigger on that spend?” Reid asks. “It’s about asking the right people the right questions at the right time and in the right context to help make big decisions,” he says, downing an espresso. Vision Critical—with its 700 staff—has helped some 650 companies make decisions, including the Discovery Channel, Banana Republic and Aeroplan.

When chatting shop with Reid, it’s unavoidable to mention his father, Angus, the famed pollster who sold Angus Reid Group to Ipsos for $100 million in 2000 almost always comes up. Andrew initially shunned following his father into the industry (Andrew went to Vancouver Film School, where he met his wife, Sarah), but happenstance—his father’s need for a website and Andrew’s digital skills—brought them together. Vision Critical disrupted the tradition of phone interviews by instead polling online communities, and in the process Andrew reinvented market research, with his father serving first as CEO and now as executive chairman.

“The industry was ripe for transformation and disruption,” Reid notes. “Our creativity was ready to go.” Reading essential reference materials such as balance sheets, however, was not Andrew’s strong suit. “I got a home-schooled MBA from Angus,” he says. “He taught me a lot about tenacity, about finance, about how to harness my creative energy and use it to drive the business forward.”

Now the family—Andrew and his wife have two young sons—lives near Andrew’s father in West Vancouver, where Andrew is also a doer in the kitchen. He’ll tackle recipes from chefs Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Masaharu Morimoto, for example. “I like experimenting,” he adds.

Which is no doubt why Reid feels a move may be in his future. While he “gets the fuzzies” about Vancouver as a technology hotbed—he’s a member of the B.C. Technology Industry Association—he admits to toying with the idea of living with his family in New York City, site of one of his 15 global offices, for a year. “As the company grows, I get to evolve with it,” he says. “It’s all about life experience.”