SoftCom was established in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1997 as a shared web hosting and webmail service business focused primarily on the consumer and small business market. As the business grew and diversified, SoftCom introduced the myhosting.com brand in 2001 to better position itself in the shared web hosting industry and continued to promote and grow the mail2web.com service which has grown today to over 2.5M monthly unique users. In the beginning, mail2web.com earned no direct revenue and was purely a lead generator for the myhosting.com business. In the last several years mail2web.com began generating both advertising revenue and subscription revenue from email services sold to consumers.
The company was established by a group of high school friends. Toronto was chosen due to the proximity to the U.S., access to local technical talent and the overall cost of living.
By the end of 1997, all shared web hosting and domain registration services were launched under the ‘softcom’ brand, while ‘mail2web’ became the brand for the free webmail service.
It took less than 1 year for the company to officially become cash-flow positive from operations. This was primarily due to the fact the company instilled a very disciplined approach to automation, growth initiatives, operating expenses and had minimal debt obligations.
To better establish a brand presence, SoftCom decided to change the brand associated with the shared web hosting services from ‘softcom’ to ‘myhosting’. The ‘softcom’ brand was re-positioned as the name of the corporate entity behind both brands ‘myhosting’ and ‘mail2web’. SoftCom later in 2002 pursued and was successful securing the Canadian, U.S. and European Community trade-marks for both terms ‘myhosting’ and ‘mail2web’.
SoftCom officially became a Microsoft Certified Partner. This provided valuable Microsoft resources and greatly improved licensing arrangements, which ultimately benefited our customers.
At the end of 2001 SoftCom launched an international advertising campaign in the major airline companies. At the time, it was decided of the two brands – myhosting and mail2web – the latter had greater consumer and mass-market appeal. And, as it was the model at the time that mail2web.com was leveraged to drive online traffic to the myhosting services, mail2web would be positioned upfront and significant advertising money would be allocated toward promoting it worldwide. Toward the end of 2001 with the airline market suffering the fallout of September 11th, an opportunity was presented that allowed SoftCom to place highly visible print advertisements in the major airlines at significantly discounted prices. SoftCom seized the opportunity and placed destination ads promoting the mail2web service on the back cover of United Airlines, American, British Airways and KLM. The campaigns enabled mail2web to grow from 1M monthly unique users to over 3M monthly unique users in a relatively short period of time
In mid-2002 SoftCom decided to sponsor an American team heading to compete at the Le Mans 24 race in France. The opportunity was discovered only 2 weeks prior to the race and the price to participate seemed very reasonable. mail2web would be presented on the world stage to millions of TV viewers associated with one of the fastest and most reliable automobiles in the market. Two attributes we felt we had in common. The team we sponsored won the race in the GT-Class and the success inspired SoftCom to explore further sponsorship opportunities with Porsche in North America. The association with racing continued until the end of 2005.
In August 2002 SoftCom became the title sponsor of the Mosport Grand Prix just north east of Toronto. The event was a stop on the 2002 American Le Mans Series tour and included the Porsche Racing team SoftCom was also sponsoring at the time. The exposure, on TV, in print and on the radio was very significant. mail2web had their name broadcasted all throughout the NBC telecast that aired in millions of U.S. and Canadian homes. mail2web grew in popularity and eventually became one of the top 500 website worldwide according to online metrics firm Alexa.
From inception until the middle of 2003 SoftCom was solely responsible for maintaining their own Data Center facility. It was decided owning and operating a Data Center was not the business we wanted to be in – it was costly, it was difficult and most importantly it distracted us from providing the service quality we wanted for our customers. Our core business was to provide high value web hosting services, not operate a physical Data Center and need to worry about electricity, A/C, back-up generators, etc… In August 2003, SoftCom moved into a Data Center owned and managed by MCI Canada (now Verizon Business).
The timing of the move may appear suspect, as it occurred right around the time of the Great Blackout that effected 50 million people along the Eastern U.S. and Canada. We can assure you the decision and initial planning occurred well in advance of the Great Blackout. We did accelerate plans to migrate when the blackout occurred, but if not for the initial planning the move would not have been as successful as it was.
As the web hosting industry was evolving, the issue of which platform to select between (Windows or Linux) began to cloud everyone’s decisions. It was decided that SoftCom would offer something different in the market, the choice to get both for the price of one. All windows hosting plans automatically came with the option to provision a Linux account, while those customers who only desired Linux could opt for a less expensive plan.
At the beginning of 2005 it was decided SoftCom needed to offer other hosted applications to diversify their portfolio. Hosted Exchange, at the time, was becoming increasingly popular in the market as our competitors gained traction and customers, particularly SOHOs and SMEs, realized tremendous cost savings compared to in-house solutions. However, at the time hosted Exchange on Exchange 2003 was not straightforward and required a lot of customized development to make it suitable for application hosters. SoftCom officially launched Exchange under the ‘mail2web’ brand at the end of 2005.
SoftCom enhanced their Microsoft SharePoint service to make it easier for small teams to utilize the platform. SoftCom worked closely with Microsoft to launch improved templates which enabled customers to deploy their SharePoint sites faster and make the overall experience more valuable.
SoftCom decided to take the very bold step and offer a consumer-grade hosted Exchange service for free on the ‘mail2web’ website. The only revenue would be through advertising, or subscriptions if the customer decided to upgrade to their own domain name or had multiple users. The free version included ActiveSync and enabled all compatible mobile devices to access their email, calendars, address books and tasks all over the air. SoftCom grew their base of users of the service to over 120,000 inside of 18 months.
In the middle of 2006 SoftCom became the email and web hosting provider for Fenerbahce Soccer Club in Istanbul (Turkey) and the email provider for their fan base. SoftCom also began streaming over the Internet live feeds from the Fenerbahce owned TV network to fans worldwide.
Until 2007, the Gold Certified Partner program was mostly orientated toward VARs and ISVs. Microsoft revamped the program and the result was an acknowledgement and renewed focus on Hosters, particularly application hosting providers that offered Exchange and SharePoint to their customers. SoftCom is a Gold Certified Partner with 5+ recognized competencies.
TAs competition increased, particularly in the shared web hosting space, SoftCom decided to broaden the portfolio by launching VPS. VPS enables customers to have more control over the server where their data resides, along with the applications they install and use. SoftCom launched their VPS service based on the Microsoft Hyper-V platform, but has since then expanded to include the popular Parallels Virtuozzo platform.
In March, Turker Sokullu – a cofounder, partner and former CTO – was appointed CEO of SoftCom. A decision was made that it was time to re-position the company as the market had changed in recent years, and future growth would need to come from a different strategy. A new business plan was adopted that included increased focus on more services, better overall customer experience and a very disciplined growth strategy that would include; advertising, affiliates, resellers, direct sales and acquisitions.
Also in March, SoftCom successfully purchased the domain ‘softcom.com’ and transitioned away from the ‘softcom.biz’ domain to the more commonly used .com gTLD.
In June, SoftCom officially dropped the ‘Technology Consulting’ from their name by renaming themselves to ‘SoftCom Inc.’ and filed Canadian, U.S. and European Community trade-marks registrations for the ‘softcom’ brand.
In August, SoftCom formally establishes a Turkish subsidiary based in Istanbul to focus on the MEA region (Middle East & Africa).
In September, SoftCom establishes a U.S. subsidiary to facilitate U.S. expansion opportunities.
In October, SoftCom begins the transition to a new Data Center managed by Switch and Data in Toronto.
In November, the Turkish subsidiary launches the ‘daha.net’ brand in Turkey focused on selling domain registrations, web hosting (shared & VPS) and application hosting (Exchange and SharePoint) in the local language and currency.
In February, SoftCom launches the myhosting.com onCloud platform powered by Parallels automation software. The platform empowers SoftCom with increased bundling capabilities, reselling (private label and co-branded), multi-currency, multi-language and the ability to attach and manage 3rd party cloud-based services that can be sold through to end customers and multiple levels of resellers.
In March, the U.S. subsidiary acquires the SLHOST.COM brand and customer base as part of their U.S. expansion and opens an office in Rochester, New York.