• By: Anne Dion

The Company That’s Transforming Ottawa

There’s a new business in town and it’s changing the landscape of Ottawa media. You might not know their name but you’ve definitely seen their content. shared.com is an Ottawa-based company that specializes in creating original online content. If you’ve enjoyed a funny video or read an article on a fun fact recently, then there’s a good chance you have Shared to thank for it. Ottawa Life Magazine got the chance to visit the Shared office and sit down with CEO Jordan Nabigon. “Our goal with Shared,” Nabigon tells us, “is to create a friendly, positive experience on Facebook where users can interact and engage on a daily basis without ever getting sick of it.”

What began as a small advertising network in 2005 has, by 2017, become a leader in online content. Their secret, besides an unshakeably positive impulse to create, is listening: “Facebook always played a really important role for us,” explains Nabigon, “but we didn't really start taking advantage of the community side of the page until about 2012. It provided us with a place where we could connect with our users in a very different way. we now had this opportunity to create a conversation.” The feedback loop between creators and users is now the backbone of this wildly successful enterprise. Nabigon credits the company’s growth spurt (reaching a 7 million-fan page within three years, a rate that even Coca Cola would envy) to this kind of engagement.

Their office is on Carling, on the lower level of an unassuming building. Inside, however, is a legion of hard-working creatives, a generous amount of studio space where at least one video is being filmed at any given time, a shared-food kitchen, and several pet dogs. Shared currently has a total of 66 employees, 6 of which form the semi-autonomous Toronto office. The other 60 make up the Ottawa talent. Employees are encouraged to bring their pets to work — it’s one of the many ways in which Shared sets itself apart from other workplaces.

In March of 2016 Shared shot its first video. “Now we have a video production studio, those videos are getting over 700 million views on Facebook every month, we’re producing over 300 videos every month, and we’re actually designing 2 new video production studios upstairs as well. We’ve jumped in with both feet.”

With flexible hours and plenty of creative encouragement, it’s no wonder that driven and inventive processionals are flocking to this fast-growing business. “We encourage everyone to try to incorporate whatever they’re excited about into their job” explains Nabigon. In this past year, this attitude happily led to a Green initiative, an idea for an informative video about what it means to live with Huntington’s Disease, and an atmosphere where no one gets in trouble. “An idea that may not have worked a year ago might work right now. We won’t know until we try it because Facebook is always changing. And in that way no one needs to get in trouble, everyone gets to try whatever they want and we all learn.”

The week that Ottawa Life visited Shared’s Carling Avenue office was the same week that it filled its last empty desk. Expanding at such an impressive rate, the company’s plans to take over the upper level of their building could not be coming at a better time. The main floor used to house a furniture store, but now that the large and window-lined space has been recently vacated, Nabigon and his team have big plans for it. The renovation will include two soundproof video production studios in which their audio-visual ambitions can come to life. “Right now our videos are anywhere from 10 seconds, 30 seconds, to a minute and a half. We’d like to have more episodic videos that’ll live on social media and that can be 10 minutes long, for example.” Nabigon tells us. “We still need to work within the confines of Facebook and social media, but we’d like to take a little more of people’s time, and we can only do that if our audience thinks we’re deserving of it.”           

This unique and successful business is a relatively new feather in Ottawa’s cap. “We’re also proud that something like this is in Ottawa.” says Amy Orfanakos, a PR and Communications Representative at Shared. “We took a tally of how many people came from Algonquin, Carleton, and the University of Ottawa and it’s huge. I’d say a good half of the staff have come from Ottawa schools. And there’s not a lot of jobs that are like this in Ottawa. That’s something that sets Shared apart.”

You heard it here: watch out for shared.com, because it looks like this company will be transforming the professional landscape of Ottawa in the years to come.