Archive for the ‘Highlighted’ Category

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.

3 Must-Dos After A Conference

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

How do I know I’ve attended a quality conference? I leave energized, inspired and with a stack of business cards.

At most conferences I meet fantastic people and am inspired by a ton of fresh ideas and endless possibilities. I walk away with a long list of practical suggestions and some game changing strategies, and then reality hits:  

  • I am days behind on emails
  • I have a pile of new contacts with varying degrees of value
  • I have ignored colleagues, projects and life in general

So I hurry back to my office and before I know it, I’m back on the hamster wheel.

Sound familiar?

Recently after leaving a two-day conference, I realized this had to change. Almost all the value from a conference was lost because I didn’t have a moment to thoughtfully plan how to apply my new-found knowledge. I decided that I either had to stop spending money on conferences only to discard the learnings, or do something different that made the conference worth my time and money.

I decided to do something different and it’s working. Here are my tips for acting differently the next time you re-enter reality after a conference.

Starting with the obvious, you should do things, like:

  • Connect on LinkedIn (take 30 seconds for a personal message)
  • Send an email that says ‘great to meet you’ within 48 hours
  • Follow up with anything you promised a new contact, like web links, an introduction, meeting time, etc.
  • If a new contact really impressed you, mail them a personal, handwritten thank you card. No better way to stand out in a noisy online world.

But to upgrade your conference experience, I challenge you to try these three not-so-obvious must-do’s after an event.

  1. Set aside 20 minutes to use the new insights you’ve learned
    For me, the best time to do this is shortly after I leave — usually on the flight home. I set an alarm for 20 minutes and reflect on the key insights so I can organize my thoughts. I think about how I can bring the inspirations and tactical ideas back to my team. Your company can benefit from your conference experience by taking time to thoughtfully bring back new strategies for consideration.
  1. Make the first move
    If you’ve done a conference right, you’ve left with a healthy number of business cards, new LinkedIn connections, and Twitter, Instagram or Facebook followers. But let’s face it, not everyone adds the same value to you or your business moving forward.For those that can, devise a plan to stay in touch. For example:

    • Is there an event that you could invite them to speak at?
    • Is there information you could share, such as industry trends or hot new startups?
    • If you’re interested in what they are building, then consider being more actively engaged on social channels

When reaching out in today’s social media world, remember to use tools and platforms that are easily accessible and give you the best chance to stand out.

  1. Commit to changing one thing for the better
    We learn more than tactical skills from a conference. We learn how to be human. I once heard a CEO of a large company say on stage that during an elevator ride he asks employees what project they are working on. It gives the employee time to share (and shine) and provides insights he might not normally receive. This small change in behavior can make you a better manager, CEO or leader. If you listen for the non-tactical messages and commit to applying one, you could benefit in ways that will surprise you — and your team.

For me, the best conferences are the ones where I feel I’ve made meaningful connections and applied the messages I heard on stage to my personal and professional life. It really begins with taking 20 minutes on your way back to reality and then taking action.

Innovator Insights from the #BCTech Summit

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Lots of amazing things happen when you pack 5,000 people in a conference hall to talk about technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

This week the #BCTech Summit took over Vancouver to celebrate the province’s exploding tech sector and the timing couldn’t have been better. The Global Startup Ecosystem Report named Vancouver Canada’s leading tech startup ecosystem — surpassing Toronto and Waterloo.

Here are some of the top trends and our favourite moments from innovators we spoke to:

Advice from a 13-year-old developer:

How one of the largest mobile handset makers in the world is driving Canadian tech R&D:

BC’s opportunity to become the #cleantech capital of the world:

How blockchain is transforming banks:

But for the blockchain ecosystem to be truly disruptive, it needs more developers:

And one of the most amazing stories we heard centered around IBM Watson’s role in cancer treatment:

Chilecon Valley: An Immigration-Fueled Startup Success Story

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Foreign innovation drives startup economies. 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. Santiago, Chile, is forging ahead with a government-backed plan to attract top talent.

As reported in Brookings, part of Santiago’s success as Latin America’s tech hub is due to a program called Start Up Chile. The government-backed incubator/accelerator offers $40K of seed capital to entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world, as long as they stay in Chile for at least six months.

Since the program’s launch in 2011, $40 million USD has been invested in 1,309 startups. Out of these startups, 76% are run by foreign entrepreneurs, with 32% of the startups funded by Start Up Chile remaining in the country at the program’s completion. This influx of talent has given Santiago’s ecosystem an enormous boost, and has prompted the nickname “Chilecon Valley.”

iTech Vancouver’s Top 5 Takeaways for Cloud and Mobility

Friday, October 7th, 2016

If you’ve got your head in the clouds, you’re probably familiar with the iTech Conference, a cross-Canada event series that brings together those that work in IT infrastructure, security, cloud and mobility.

This week iTech’s Vancouver event attracted more than 700 people who came to learn about the changing role of the IT professional.

No longer just somebody who locks a server room at night, IT professionals are now responsible for managing the large-scale business opportunities that have been made available as a result of cloud computing.

Here are the top five insights from the conference:

1. Cloud is mature

Now that cloud has reached the mainstream, platform as a service (PaaS) providers are the norm, says Mark Janzen of IBM Canada. This means businesses such as Starbucks have access to previously closed-off markets.

2. Cloud is transformational

The “cognitive on cloud” movement will transform workspaces and customer interactions. Managers will split their time between human staff and leveraging cognitive technology, and bots will frequent customer service.

3. Cloud can expand or shrink

The cloud will make IT infrastructure a commodity. “In 3 years most companies will consume [IT] and pay a monthly fee, just like they do for water,” says Kyle Kilback, VP of Graycon.

4. Cognitive on cloud moves business beyond just storing data

One big industry that will reap benefits from the cloud and cognitive technology is health care. With 70% of corporate executives saying they plan to significantly increase their investments in AI-related technologies, companies will be able to extract more value as well as insight from the mountains of data they sit on. Terry Belanger, Brand Manager for IBM Power Systems, said treatment plans based on one’s genome are within possibility.

5. Security and the cloud go hand in hand

Investment in the cloud should be matched with investment in security. IT professionals need to raise awareness of issues ranging from vulnerable nodes, to people using personal devices on corporate networks, and corporate devices in personal use. Testing and updating a security plan is a must.


COBOL, Lisp and Logo Get New Life Among Coders

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Old programming languages are getting a new lease on life through modern interpreters, thanks to developers with time to spare.

Here are three languages, up to 50 years old, that you can play with today because of creative interpretations. Current usage rankings are from the TIOBE Programming Community index for September 2016.

Language: COBOL
Designed: 1959
Current popularity: 24th
Implemented in: Node.js

Developer Bizău Ionică has made it easy to run COBOL in a Node.js web application. Once an interpreter is installed server-side, COBOL can be executed within Javascript.

An interpretation on a quickly scaleable platform is a big deal for clunky COBOL, which is famously verbose. The language was designed to be human-readable in business systems and some legacy code is still in use today.

Language: Lisp
Designed: 1958
Current usage: 28th
Implemented in: Python

The powerful list processing language, Lisp, had its heyday in the 1970s with early artificial intelligence research. Hy (Github link) allows you to code in Lisp and gives access to the Python Abstract Syntax Tree. Like COBOL in Node.js, Hy also lets developers embed directly into Python programs by importing the module.

Lisp is still in use today through its modern dialect, Clojure, which is used by companies including Netflix.  If you want to play with Lisp through Hy, cathode-ray-tube screen and all, you can experiment here.

Language: Logo
Designed: 1967
Current usage: 36th
Implemented in: HTML5

Ex-schoolchildren of a certain age will remember building programs to direct an electronic turtle to draw ferns and flowers – lucky users might even have been able to program a “real life” turtle, a kind of proto-Roomba.

While Logo has few practical industry uses, the language has been introducing children to programming concepts such as flow control and recursion for decades, although other languages such as Scratch are more popular now.

As the basic version of the language results in visual output, it makes sense that people have created HTML5/CSS3 interpretations. One of the most faithful and child-friendly, which includes animation, is this from Logo Interpreter.

See also

Investors Weigh in on Programming Language Choice

Tech Stocks Approach Bubble-Era Valuations

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Computer and software stocks account for more than a fifth of the value of the S&P 500 – a near-15-year high. Strong revenues make a replay of the 2000 dot-com crash unlikely.

A Bloomberg News report delivers the following insights:

  • “Tech is one of the only industries where earnings continue to expand.”
  • “Gains are built on earnings, driven by demand for products such as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s web ads.” The S&P 500’s tech stocks are expected to expand profit by 2.8 percent in the third quarter.
  • “Information technology accounted for about one-fifth of the S&P 500’s operating earnings in the 12 months through March, almost precisely its market weight. 

Since 2015, investors have favored tech companies chasing revenues instead of user growth, which helps to differentiate today’s gains in the sector from the rally that ended with a crash in 2000.

“It’s healthy growth,” Bloomberg quoted Rich Weiss, a Los Angeles-based senior portfolio manager at American Century Investments, as saying. “I don’t believe we need to worry about a tech bubble here or in the near future.”

Related Articles: 

Cultural Fluency in Tech Startups

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Startups need visionary intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs, market analysts with foresight – and, of course, outstanding programmers. The skills that individuals bring to these fishbowls of innovation add up to nothing if the personalities don’t jibe with startup culture.

“You can’t motivate people, you can only create a context in which people are motivated,” Foundry Group Managing Director and TechStars Co-Founder Brad Feld, said in a 2012 blog post.

We are examining tech startup culture from as many perspectives as possible because if you don’t understand it, you can’t successfully launch, fund, or scale startups.

As part of our startup culture coverage, we’re focusing on:

Related Articles:

Canada’s Tech Sector Rivals Energy, Finance

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

A new study puts Canada’s tech sector ahead of finance and insurance and on par with mining and energy in terms of economic contribution.

The report by by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) at Ryerson University broadens the definition for the tech sector to include aerospace and pharmaceuticals, and pegs the tech sector contribution in 2015 at $117 billion, or 7.1 percent of Canada’s economic output.

The new numbers underscore the degree to which tech startup ecosystems have assumed a position of paramount importance to economies worldwide. Industries across the board, from healthcare to energy to finance, are seeking to leverage technology to make their operations more efficient and address consumer demand for more convenience.

The “mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction” sector accounts for 7.80 percent of domestic output, according to the latest April 2016 data from Statistics Canada. Finance and insurance, meanwhile, accounts for 7.06 percent.

A direct comparison using Statistics Canada data is difficult because technology falls across more than one industrial category, including “information and cultural industries” and “professional, scientific and technical services.”

BII+E said it developed its tech sector definition “from the ground up by adopting and applying methodologies first used by UK organization Nesta, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Brookings Institution.”

Startupfest Stories About The Past, Present and Future

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

For every startup launch that leads to funding, there is a unique story. Startupfest Montréal, which ran from July 14-15, showcased some of the best stories from speakers and audience alike.

The heat and humidity – and later, torrential rain – did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm around pitches given to a panel of investor judges, who offered a $200,000 prize for those with the best proposals.

Competition was so fierce that the judges kicked more into the prize pot, and split the funds three ways: $160,000 to Toronto cinemagraph startup Flixel, (which TechPORTFOLIO profiled earlier this year), $50,000 to “cannabis tech startup” Hello MD and $35,000 to 18-year-old Shaun Maclellan of YouCollab

“We had so many pitches that we liked but the spirit of this additional kid made us put in more money,” Startupfest founder Phillipe Telio told Montreal in Technology.

Speakers shared stories about the future and the past. Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit spoke about his experiences with online communities and pseudonymity while growing up in the early stages of the Internet – which contributed to the site’s unique ecosystem.

And Tim O’Reilly offered a hopeful prediction of the future where automation would give humans more meaningful work. “We’re going to do new kinds of work you couldn’t imagine,” he said. “Work on stuff that matters.”


Startup stories captured

TechPORTFOLIO talked to an investor about the importance of starting with a global perspective…


two brothers from a family of entrepreneurs…


a founder who discovered the excitement of adding value to his customers’ lives…

…and the funder who turned down Hotmail nearly 20 years ago. (In 1997, Microsoft acquired it for $460 million.)

More insights from Startupfest:

Artificial Intelligence Funding Latest Silicon Valley Gold Rush
Recode Co-Founder Calls Out Silicon Valley Indifference to Social Issues
At Startupfest, Shopify Leaders Praise Canada’s Startup Environment
500 Startups’ Dave McClure Advises Founders At Startupfest