Ottawa-based Fuel Industries acquired by California agency

Schiefer Chopshop
From left, Schiefer Chopshop chief creative officer Zach Lyons, CEO James Schiefer and president Jeff Roach.

One of Ottawa’s struggling tech firms has a new lease on life after an acquisition that sets the digital agency back on its original path.

Fuel Industries said Thursday it has been acquired by California’s Schiefer Chopshop, a marketing and creative services agency. The Ottawa-based studio, which has roughly 20 employees locally and five more working remotely, will join the 60-person U.S. firm to bolster its digital capabilities and launch its first Canadian outpost.

The acquisition comes roughly one year after the firm entered insolvency and was subsequently acquired by creditor Chou Associates Management.

Once a bright spot in Ottawa’s gaming sector with nearly 200 employees and marquee clients including McDonald’s and Dreamworks, Fuel Industries fell from prominence in the past decade after deciding to branch out into original game development rather than continue to focus on interactive advertising projects for clients.

Founder Mike Burns left the company when it was acquired last year.

Various former Fuel employees will join Schiefer Chopshop’s executive ranks, including president Braden Bailey as chief operating officer. Recalling the acquisition a year ago, he says the firm was able to refocus on its clients and found purpose in getting back to business.

“We just really wanted to do great work,” he says.

The company has traditionally specialized in content that uses gaming as a form of engaging advertising, such as NASCAR's Acceleration Nation app.

Under the Schiefer Chopshop banner, the company will once again focus on the advertising work that first set it apart, bringing clients such as NASCAR and Warner Bros. to the new parent agency’s full-suite creative service offerings.

Schiefer Chopshop CEO James Schiefer says it was Jeff Roach, the firm’s president and former chief strategy officer at Fuel, who “connected the dots” that the acquisition would make a good fit for the growing company. He adds that Fuel’s experienced team and its expertise in digital will help the California marketing agency reach new heights and push further into the Canadian market.

“Fuel really checked all of those boxes,” he says.

Bailey says he’s excited to work with Schiefer Chopshop’s large list of clients, which includes BlackBerry, Blizzard Entertainment and Vans. For the decades-old Ottawa firm, the acquisition marks a stretch of stability after a few rollercoaster years.

“The future is incredibly bright,” Bailey says.