Archive for the ‘Focus’ Category

An Innovation Mindset: Silicon Valley’s Biggest Export

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Silicon Valley’s biggest export isn’t the iPhone, Google search or Tesla cars. It’s an Innovation Mindset and right now it’s getting exported at an exponential rate.

Over the course of the last 20 years, Silicon Valley has produced some of the most disruptive and game-changing innovations in the world. In just a 49 square mile radius you’ll find three of the 10 largest companies in the world by market capitalization: Facebook, Google and Apple. Dozens of others are making massive businesses by overturning old markets: Uber, Airbnb and Netflix to name just a few.

Virtually every major world city now has some form of Startup Hub, at least partly inspired by Silicon Valley. It’s here you’ll find the scrappy local entrepreneurs huddled in co-working spaces hammering out the next big disruption. And, virtually all of this is new in just the last 10 years.

Corporations are taking note that innovation is on an exponential growth curve and are fighting to not be left behind.

Spending for R&D programs worldwide is now at an all-time high with little sign of slowing and, among them, technology companies lead the pack. In a recent Global Innovation Study by PwC, it was found that nine of the top 20 R&D spenders were tech companies. Unsurprisingly, many of those names listed are the companies we’ve come to associate with growth and success.

Organizations are starting to respond: Corporate Innovation Officers and Head of Innovation roles, virtually unknown 10 years ago, are becoming a de facto standard in corporate America.

There is very little room to argue against innovation leading to success. Despite this knowledge, companies are struggling under this sudden “innovate or perish” imperative. Transformation doesn’t happen with business as usual, and change makers are increasingly turning to the tools, techniques and cultural approaches that created the Silicon Valley boom as their guiding light.

New thought leaders like Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, and Geoffrey Moore, creator of Crossing the Chasm, are exporting this knowhow to the world. Corporations are also discovering that innovation culture is at odds with their traditional quarterly-driven mindset and are looking for solutions.

On his blog, Silicon Valley guru Steve Blank points out that a business’ innovation practice needs to be uniquely accepting to experimentation and failure in order to achieve long-term success. Indeed, the “fail fast” and experimentation culture of Silicon Valley lore is starting to make sense for corporations that need to push conventional boundaries to remain competitive.

Innovation is hard, there is no doubt — and by any objective measure, Silicon Valley has led the way. As cities and companies battle to stay on top, it’s awareness of this that will separate the winners from the losers.

That’s why the Innovation Mindset is, and will remain, Silicon Valley’s biggest export.

Overpromising and Other Lessons Learned From Failed Unicorns

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Since unicorns — valued at more than $1 billion — are given valuations based on the promise of future growth, it’s not surprising many never live up to their potential.

In Entrepreneur Magazine, guest writer Daniel Neiditch highlights five major pitfalls that prevent unicorns from actually living up to the hype.


“Lofty goals are an important thing to have,” he writes, “but your business can’t be based on something you’re not ready to deliver.”

Not Valuing The Workforce

As the vital cogs that keep a growing company’s engine moving, it’s important to value the contributions of your employees.

Trying to Grow too Fast

Be patient. Don’t give into the temptation to spend like a big company.


Be honest with customers (and employees too).

Ignoring the Competition

A great idea is one thing but you need to prepare for the competition you will almost certainly face down the road.

3 Practical Steps to Increase Gender Diversity at Your Company

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

In 2016 women held only 21.6% of board seats in Canada’s largest corporations by revenue, according to the Canadian Board Diversity Council.

While this is an improvement from 2015’s 19.5%, many companies still appear to be lagging behind adding women to their boards. A 2016 survey by the Ontario Securities Commission found that 45% of issuers did not have any women on their boards. Something needs to change.

Enter theBoardlist, a talent platform that engages the tech community to increase gender diversity on boards. Launched in the U.S. in 2015, theBoardlist currently has over 1600 board-ready women. For the past six months, I have relentlessly worked closely with founder Sukhinder Singh Cassidy and the team to support the expansion of theBoardlist to Canada.

If you know a board that needs more women check out theBoardlist to see how it can help. If you know a highly qualified woman who would be an asset to a board, why not nominate her right now.

If your company needs more gender diversity at all levels, you’re not alone. While working with companies of all sizes, I’ve learned these three steps can make a significant difference:

  1. Visit community colleges to find potential employees instead of Ivy League schools.
  2. When looking to fill a position at your company, demand that your HR department or staffing firm show you at least 50% female candidates for the role.
  3. Be a voice for change by calling attention to the number of women at every meeting. When numbers are low, relentlessly ask what can be done to improve it.

World First: IBM Researchers Store Data On a Single Atom

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

IBM researchers have read and written data to a magnet consisting of just one atom for the first time ever. The company’s research results, published in Nature, prove that “the experiment truly creates a lasting, stored magnetic state in a single atom that can be detected indirectly,” TechCrunch reports.

“Magnetic bits lie at the heart of hard-disk drives, tape and next-generation magnetic memory,” said Christopher Lutz, lead nanoscience researcher at IBM Research Almaden in San Jose, California.

“We conducted this research to understand what happens when you shrink technology down to the most fundamental extreme — the atomic scale.”

Although right now the product is pure research, the density of atomic-level storage could substantially alter our relationship with data.

You can already fit your entire music library onto a storage device the size of a penny. IBM’s technique would allow you to fit 26 million songs — Apple’s entire music catalog — onto the same area.

In the future, this development could have significant implications for everything from personal devices and business records to artificial intelligence.

Need a Silicon Valley Champion? Meet Joanne Fedeyko

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Since moving on from her role as executive director of the C100 last year, Joanne Fedeyko has continued to be a champion and a partner for Canadian startups, scaleups and corporate organizations that want to develop a deeper innovation strategy.

“I help people build trusted networks in the Valley,” says Fedeyko, now CEO of Connection Silicon Valley. “Whether you’re a startup, corporate, or someone in-between, think of me as your innovation partner who will help you navigate the Valley ecosystem.”

As the 2017 event season kicks into gear, you can expect to see Fedeyko at key startup events across Canada and in Silicon Valley. Between flights and private events, Fedeyko sat down with TechPORTFOLIO to talk about how her company, Connection Silicon Valley, supports companies at all stages and in sectors such as IoT, Energy Tech, Life Sciences, Retail Tech and Ag & Food Tech.

TechPORTFOLIO: Why do people need help building networks in Silicon Valley?

Joanne Fedeyko: The “Silicon Valley normal” is not normal outside of the Bay Area — which many people realize. But it can be a very helpful place if you tap into the network, passion and urgency around new technologies being created and funded in the Valley. I want to help Canadians make the most of their time when they come to the Valley by tapping into those critical success factors.

Many startups, accelerators, corporations and even economic development agencies are coming to the Valley to build their own networks — and it’s wonderful to see! They book meetings and ask for introductions, but if they don’t have the right connections they might miss out on some huge opportunities. For my clients, I’m a dedicated resource who will fill their calendars with meetings tailored to the goals of their trip. I connect them to the right people at the right time in their innovation journeys.

TechPORTFOLIO: Startups typically head to Silicon Valley for funding, so what does this look like for a corporate partner?  

Fedeyko: We are seeing a plethora of corporations from across the globe recognize the need to tap into the innovation in these startup ecosystems, particularly Silicon Valley. It’s important for corporate leaders to visit these tech hubs and immerse themselves in the technology trends that are disrupting their industry. Corporate innovators shouldn’t just have a single head of innovation, they should have innovation partners — people that can help them engage with startups in a way that is successful for both parties.

For my corporate clients, I curate multi-day immersion trips in the Valley that include meetings and workshops with a variety of key players — technology hubs, accelerators, VCs, startups and other corporate innovators and influencers. These trips expose corporate leaders to the culture and processes needed to manage inbound requests from startups and understand what is the best way to bring the startups into their corporate environment.

TechPORTFOLIO: Do you help people make connections outside of Silicon Valley too?

Fedeyko: Absolutely! I’m an expat Canadian living in the Valley for almost 20 years and I’m relentlessly building my network to make connections across Canada, in the Valley and in other critical tech hubs across the globe. I want to give my clients a leg up, regardless of where they call home.

Singapore’s Startup Scene Surpasses $1 Billion in VC Investment

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Foreign innovation drives startup economies, and in the US alone, 51% of billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants.

Cities across the world have taken notice: encouraging the free movement of information and talent is crucial to tech sector success. That’s why Singapore, a longtime advocate of attracting foreign talent, has seen major growth as a startup hub. As Industry Leaders Magazine reports, this city-island-nation has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley.

Any doubts? Look at the numbers: VC investment in the tech sector in Singapore increased from less than $30 million in 2011 to more than $1 billion in 2013, with 10 local exits in 2014.

The epicentre of this boom is an area known as Block 71, a vibrant community housing a cluster of startups near the National University of Singapore that The Economist called “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

One of the driving forces behind this growth is Singapore’s attractive immigration policies. The government has actively encouraged startups to set up shop, with programs like the Global Investor Program. The EntrePassa specific employment pass targeting would-be entrepreneurs—facilitates the relocation process for foreign startups who want to set up shop in Singapore.

Ongoing Startup Survey Shows Strength of Ontario Universities

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

In the startup world, connections matter. And in Ontario, one key connection for entrepreneurs is university.

Early results from an ongoing survey by MaRS Discovery District and Endeavor Insight show that educational institutions are the strongest connecting hubs in Ontario’s entrepreneurial networks.

The survey is still live and taking responses, however, it’s clear that “many entrepreneurs appear to have attended multiple universities, likely one for their undergraduate degree and others for postgraduate studies,” says the MaRS Blog.

This is a map of the connections between entrepreneurs and universities:

University Networks

The ongoing survey is part of a project managed by the Global Entrepreneur Research Network that aims to map startup ecosystem connections in 100 cities in the next 5 years.

While previous surveys have focused only on cities, such as NYC and Cairo, this is the first to plot connections over a wide area, like Ontario.

MaRS is using this relationship data to inform best practices in startup mentoring, and will try to replicate the most important and valuable connections for its startups.

The research team says “in the current data, only 0.1% of the connections that could exist in the ecosystem actually exist.” To make sure they have the full picture, they have extended the deadline to complete the survey to the end of December.

Full results, including an interactive map covering the whole of Ontario, will be released by March 2017.

Click here to take the survey and add to the network. When results come out, you will be able to zoom in to see your own place in the ecosystem.

Quantum Startups Aim to Future-Proof Corporate Security

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Existing cybersecurity measures deployed by banks and companies don’t stand a chance against quantum computers, speakers at Toronto’s Venture North conference warned.

“Bank encryption will be rendered completely vulnerable when hackers get quantum computing,” ISARA Corporation VP Paul Lucier said, adding that the technology will likely become widely available within the next nine years.

The threat posed by quantum computers to cybersecurity is down to the speed at which encryption can be brute forced. A 10-letter password that contains punctuation and at least one number and capital letter would take roughly four weeks to crack, according to Dashlane.

If we take Google’s claims of the speed of the D-Wave processor at face value, with a quantum computer this time would be reduced to 0.02 seconds.

ISARA works with organizations to future-proof them against forthcoming technology with “quantum resistant” security. They have released a toolkit aimed at developers in the security space, which consists of drop-in algorithm replacements for current technology.

Christian Weedbrook of CipherQ, another startup focused on corporate security, said e-mail hacks such as the one sustained by Ashley Madison were like “a mosquito bite to the nuclear bomb of quantum that is coming in a few year’s time.”

E-mail hacks have lost the corporate world some $2.3 billion in since January 2015. As well as malware, an increasingly common vector has been social engineering: legitimate-seeming e-mails posing as requests for high-value bank transfers are often targeted at CEOs or finance officers.

Weedbrook added that cash scams are not the only issue. Hackers may use compromised systems to steal confidential information and offer it to a competitor.

ISARA is based out of Kitchener-Waterloo, a region that produced BlackBerry and is becoming a North American center for quantum technology research. CipherQ is based in Toronto.

“Canada is a remarkable country to be doing quantum technology,” said Weedbrook.

And if you’re missing an explanation of quantum computing, look no further than Canada’s PM:


IBM Partners with MaRS Fintech Hub

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

IBM is deepening its cooperation with Canadian fintech startups through Toronto-based MaRS, following up on pledges to help promising startups develop and commercialize their innovations.

The tech giant will join a network of corporate partners including CIBC, Manulife and payment processor Moneris in the MaRS C Suite, MaRS’ “corporate innovation district.” Partners provide startups with product feedback, advisory services and other forms of support.

“What we’re doing is saying: you have a great idea,” Patrick Horgan, VP, Manufacturing, Development & Operations at IBM Canada, said in an interview with TechPORTFOLIO in June. “You’re missing some ingredients to be successful. Let’s help you through that because we have some history of being able to get through all of those cycles and to the world market.”

As part of IBM’s partnership with MaRS, the company will provide technology and services, including access to IBM Cloud and cognitive computing (Bluemix and Watson), support for demonstration projects, data analytics internships, and “soft-landing export development opportunities.”

Fintech startups will also get assistance in opening new markets, completing international sales transactions, and connecting with new parties for collaboration.

“As IBM transitions into the physical building in the space, we’ll continue to expand the programming elements of the partnership,” Adam Nanjee, head of the MaRS fintech division, said in an emailed response to questions. “This type of collaboration tears down silos to accelerate the rate of innovation and leads to tangible, meaningful results.”

MaRS’ fintech hub aims to connect the financial services sector with startups developing next generation technology in emerging payments, financial services, peer-to-peer transactions, alternative lending and crypto-currencies.

IBM Resources:

  • Click here for a free IBM Bluemix trial.


  • To apply to the IBM Global Entrepreneur program, click here.
  • To learn more about IBM Cloud, click here.

Related story:

DevOps Salaries Surge

Friday, August 26th, 2016

DevOps programmers are making bank.

The number of U.S. “IT practitioners” reporting annual salaries above $100,000 jumped by 11 percentage points, according to software engineering firm Puppet.

Released earlier this week, the 2016 survey results confirm just how valuable software and network engineers are. The percentage of IT practitioners making more than $100,000 rose to 58 percent this year after staying the same from 2014 to 2015.

The results help to back up assertions that software is eating the world and that tech is one of the few industries creating net job growthWages in the broader economy aren’t keeping up with the stand-out growth in tech salaries.

For example, Economic Policy Institute pegged overall private sector nominal wage growth in the U.S. at 3.5 to 4.0 percent in its most recent update. That’s down from the average growth rate of 6.3 percent, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, from 1960 to 2016.

Job titles in the Puppet survey’s IT practitioner category include “DevOps engineer,” “software developer or engineer,” and “cloud or infrastructure architect.”

Other highlights from the 2016 survey:

  • Highest earners: IT practitioners in the Australia/New Zealand region, the United States, and Canada.
  • Best industries: If you’re in the United States, our data shows that you’re more likely to make a better salary if you are a tech practitioner in technology, finance, or healthcare.
  • Lowest paid regions: Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Latin America/Caribbean region.

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