It’s taken three years, but a Canadian-owned Web hosting directory finally has a site with a red maple leaf.

TopHosts.com, started in 1997 by Regina, Sask. teenager Robert Laidlaw as an advertising-supported yellow pages of Internet hosting sites, Wednesday opened a site for Canadians shopping for local service providers.

Owned by VerticalScope Inc. of Toronto, TopHosts has been concentrating on getting listings in the United States and Britain.

But Laidlaw, now 20 and president of VerticalScope, says the Canadian hosting market is big enough for its own site, ca.tophosts.com.

However, he said VerticalScope won’t be opening a Canadian site on ASPScope.com, its directory of application service providers, because the market isn’t big enough here yet.

Competitors include HostIndex, HostReview, BigHosts and directories on search engines such as Yahoo!

VerticalScope’s directories rely entirely on advertising to support the sites. Laidlaw wouldn’t give details of the privately-held company’s revenues. But he did say that because the sites attract an audience looking to buy specific services, it charges more than most consumer sites.

A listing in one of TopHosts categories, which includes an animated logo and a descriptive paragraph, starts at US$1,500 a month. A banner ad costs US$50-plus a month per thousand impressions.

Both sites offer articles to help companies understand and search for the hosting company to meet their needs.

Laidlaw says VerticalScope is profitable and hasn’t needed to tap the ample financial resources of co-owner Jesse Rasch.

Rasch, 25, collected $115 million last year when he sold his Toronto start-up, WebHosting.com (since renamed InQuent Technologies), to SBC Communications Inc. of San Antonio, Texas. In addition to continuing as InQuent’s chairman, Rasch has his own venture capital firm, Aprilis Ventures.

In October, 1999 Laidlaw gave Rasch half of VerticalScope in exchange for his expertise. Last year VerticalScope hired Wayne Bigby as its CEO. Bigby is also vice-president of legal and business affairs at InQuent and executive vice-president of Aprilis.

VerticalScope is looking to expand into Asian nations and other European countries, said Laidlaw. It also hopes to expand into other high-tech verticals as well as specialty niches.

For example, it operates AdultTopHosts, a directory of British high-bandwidth sites for serving adult online Web sites, which are heavy users of streaming video.

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