Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

Closing Canada’s Tech Skills Gap: Teach Youth to Code

Monday, May 1st, 2017

220,000 workers needed: That’s how vast Canada’s tech skills gap could be by 2020, according to Canadian government and industry experts.

If that gap isn’t closed, many tech companies will be forced to look for opportunities outside the country, Waveform CEO Kirk Simpson recently told CBC News.

“If we can find the talent somewhere else, we might open a second location in the U.S. market or in a European market,” he said. “And those jobs will not go to Canadians.”

Teaching young people to code and harness the power of cognitive computing could be the solution. Cognitive is, “beyond doubt,” our future, says Tanmay Bakshi, a 13-year-old developer, coding advocate and IBM Cloud champion.

“If we can get the youth involved in this technology, we’ll be creating more job opportunities for them. They’ll have (a better) chance of getting a better job in the AI field.”

Bakshi is certainly doing his part.

He hopes to personally assist 100,000 aspiring coders through keynotes speeches, his YouTube channel and his new book Hello Swift: iOS Programming for Kids and Other Beginners.

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.

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.

Startups Never Rest: 5 Companies That Expanded Into New Markets

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Not satisfied with establishing market dominance in just one area, forward-looking companies like Airbnb and Uber continue to explore new arenas of profit. Leveraging success into adjacent markets isn’t about making a complete pivot: it’s about applying your enterprise’s core competencies in a new way.

As reported in Forbes, this kind of agile startup strategizing benefits even well-established companies, in the tech world and beyond. Here are 5 companies that understand the vast potential of expanding into adjacent markets.


The home-rental startup is getting into the flight-booking game with Flights, an online airline reservation tool. This move will position the company to cover all aspects of the consumer travel experience, and makes it a viable competitor for booking giants like Expedia and Priceline.

Red Bull

Red Bull the energy drink may “give you wings,” but Red Bull the media company will give you TV shows, magazines, movies, books, and music. Producing original sports and lifestyle content has made Red Bull Media House one of the world’s leading premium content providers. The bonus? An effective venue to advertise its main product.


Exploring adjacent markets predates the digital age. Direct-selling giant Avon has always stuck to its original marketing model, but used to be known for another product: books.

As Amazon would do decades later, Avon expanded its offerings while keeping the same door-to-door and community-based marketing technique. Eventually abandoning bookselling, Avon switched to beauty, household, and personal care items in 1886 and the rest is history.


Elon Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, recently moved into the energy storage business with the Tesla Powerwall. Using technology developed for its cars, the company created a home battery product—and with it, branched out into a growing $19-billion industry.


Uber made the move into food delivery with UberEATS, launched in 2016. By using the same back-end tech the original Uber app is based on and drawing on the massive network of drivers it already has in place, UberEATS is in a favourable position to be a major competitor with food delivery services such as Grubhub.

Take a look at our story on Uber’s move to leverage its passive data into profitable partnerships here.

Taking On Explosive Scaleup With GitHub

Monday, January 30th, 2017

With great success comes great challenges, and GitHub has learned that lesson during the company’s explosive growth. TechPORTFOLIO talked to GitHub Project Manager Daniel Hwang about tackling growth challenges with strategy, long-range thinking, partnerships, and product “superfans.”

TechPORTFOLIO: GitHub has scaled up massively in just a few years. As a startup dealing with large-scale success, what have been some of the key takeaway lessons for smart growth?

Daniel Hwang: Nine years ago, GitHub was started as a side project for developers looking for a better way to collaborate on code together. As we grew, we kept our focus on building something people loved, and that we loved.

We thought about what it meant to have not just fans, but “superfans.” For us, creating superfans meant growing smart. To do that, we approached our product with a lot of thought around design and utility. We want GitHub to be an accurate representation of our developers, our peers, and ourselves each and every day.

TechPORTFOLIO: About half of GitHub’s employees are remoteand GitHub’s product, of course, facilitates remote work. How important is factoring in remote work for startups making a growth plan?

Daniel Hwang: Remote work is extremely important when making a growth plan. Especially if a startup aims to build a well-rounded, global company.

When you limit recruiting to a single region, or even just one country, you limit the talent pool that’s available for you to hire from. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a distributed engineering teamfrom the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and the U.S.that brings their naturally different perspectives to our technical discussions.

TechPORTFOLIO: Last year saw the debut of GitHub Enterprise on IBM Bluemix. How important have collaborations with established corporations been in GitHub’s scaleup?

Daniel Hwang: Our partners are incredibly important to us. Millions of developers already use GitHub to build software; partnershipslike the one with IBM Bluemixmake GitHub available to even more companies and developers across the globe, allowing them to tap into the power of social coding while building the best software, faster.

GitHub Tackles Growing Pains

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

GitHub Inc., the web-based repository hosting service designed for developers to store, share, and collaborate on their work, has grown rapidly—and that comes with bottom-line costs. Most recently, as Bloomberg reports, GitHub took a $66 million hit in the first nine months of 2016.

While GitHub has always focused on catering to coders, it also sells more advanced programming tools to companies, both large and small, and striking the right balance between these two aspects of the business may well be the key to the company’s success. As competitors emerge, GitHub’s relationships and approach are crucial to making the company stand out.

“I want us to be judged on, ‘Are we making developers more productive?’” GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath tells Bloomberg. And with new features, new leadership, and an influx of fresh capital, Wanstrath is confident GitHub can remain a leader in the software category it essentially originated. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and right now we’re definitely in an up.”

Payment Rails Pushes Fintech Beyond Borders

Friday, January 13th, 2017

The international vision of Toronto-based company Payment Rails has placed company founders Tim Nixon and Ferhan Patel at the cusp of a new movement: fintech startups who see the opportunity in a worldwide customer base. TechPORTFOLIO spoke to co-founder and CEO Tim Nixon about matching ambition with execution on the world fintech stage.

TechPORTFOLIO: When starting a fintech company with an international vision, how do you begin to absorb and work within all the various financial regulations you’ll be dealing with?

Tim Nixon: Our long-term vision is to help business all around the world with their payout needs. However, right now we are primarily focusing on assisting Canadian and U.S. businesses. Our team has extensive experience in navigating financial, payments, AML and compliance rules and regulations, along with the support of experienced and respected advisors and partners.

Therefore, we were able to address these requirements really early on before we even started coding the platform. If I had some advice for other fintech startup founders, it is to understand exactly what is required of you from a regulatory point of view in all the markets you wish to serve and to have a plan to address those before you start building.

TechPORTFOLIO: How important were forming banking partnerships before the launch of Payment Rails? Was this difficult?

Tim Nixon: Working with banking partners and financial institutions is very important to building a global payments business. Fortunately, my co-founder Ferhan and I have almost 20 years’ combined experience in the payments industry. Over the years, we have built trusted relationships with some of the smartest and most influential payments, banking and compliance experts from around the world.

We are truly thankful to have the opportunity to work with many of these people through our new venture, Payment Rails. Within the next two to three years, I believe we will count over 150 financial and non-financial partners working closely with us to provide our next-generation payment infrastructure globally.

TechPORTFOLIO: Is there a “typical” Payment Rails user? What sectors and countries look to be the most active adopters of your service?

Tim Nixon: Right now we are focusing on online marketplaces and platforms that need to pay on-demand workers. We believe very strongly in the future of the on-demand economy, and the millions of people who are deciding every day to start working for themselves as an independent contractor or “freelancer.” This transformation of how people work is truly amazing. There will be half a billion freelance workers worldwide within eight years, according to McKinsey. Almost any skill or service is now readily available from a global labour force, all connecting via online marketplaces and platforms.

In traditional workplaces, a company would turn to a local payroll provider, such as ADP, to pay its employees working in that country. However, new platforms and marketplaces suddenly have workers from 190+ countries to pay. And there aren’t good solutions available today to support their payout needs. This is where Payment Rails and our global mass payout API comes in.

There are many use cases for sending global business payments. We are really just scratching the surface of what is a $54 trillion opportunity. We have received strong interest from businesses in both Canada and the U.S., along with companies from Europe, Asia and Australia reaching out to us.

Bluemix Case Study: Kiwi – A Motion Sensor for Developers

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

As hackathons proliferate, the value of winning one declines.

That is, unless you turn your winning hack into a startup that attracts $2.5 million in seed funding, as Kiwi Wearable Technologies co-founder and CTO John David Chibuk did. The first iteration of Kiwi’s technology, a heart rate sensor app, was the result of a victory at AngelHack Toronto 2013.

Kiwi produces intelligent motion capture technology that analyses speed, direction, angle, and torque. The company is targeting developers looking for an easier way to integrate these functions into a variety of products.

“We found there were a variety of different products on the market that all offered a form of step counting, or different types of motion classification,” Chibuk says. “However, the software was not available for other developers or people who actually wanted to make a product.”


The device accepts development on several platforms. SDKs are available for iOS and Android, as well as for open-source electronics platform Arduino and JavaScript.

Kiwi aims to form partnerships, completing pilots for consumer and industry applications with potential use cases in sports, healthcare, and in the industrial internet of things. Pilot projects so far include integration of sensors on forklifts at a car parts distribution center.

“The aim for this pilot was to determine down time optimization – when there is a piece of equipment not being utilized, and to improve the floor workers’ schedule,” Chibuk said.

To test in the sporting arena, Toronto-based Kiwi picked lacrosse, the national summer sport of Canada, and worked with Silicon Valley-based sports wearable technology startup Snypr to capture movement of lacrosse throws and see how players’ forms developed and improved over time.

“The purpose is player performance enhancement, to see the nuances in their movement,” says Chibuk. “They can undergo different training schedules and see when they’re performing best, or when they need to alter their routines to perform better.”

Kiwi Wearables was also part of the Cannes Lions Innovation Festival 2016. Soccer players wore wristbands that recorded each kick and touch of the ball. The data was processed by Watson, and donations to charity were made for each movement.

And Kiwi has strong support in other respects. FounderFuel is Kiwi’s main seed investor, and the company counts GoInstant’s Jevon MacDonald as an advisor. MacDonald gained prominence in Canada for selling Golnstant to Salesforce in 2012 for a reported $70 million.

IBM Bluemix is an integral connector in Kiwi’s technology. The cloud platform “allows for a lot of variety of APIs to be integrated quickly together,” Chibuk explains. “There’s a good methodology for distribution and hosting applications.” The device sends the recognition events to Bluemix, storing them and interfacing with an online presentation layer for clients.

One key aspect of Kiwi is the importance of accurate motion data at source. The more that data is converted and its format is changed, the more the quality degrades, particularly if the data is being captured in real time. Everything is classified on the device.

Developing for industry and the consumer market means different emphases. For the former, accuracy and high performance; the latter, keeping the cost of the parts down. “It’s the same mathematics, it’s just what’s computationally available in each of the use cases,” says Chibuk.

Kiwi aims to launch its first developer-focused product by the end of this month.

Click here for a free IBM Bluemix trial.

To apply to the IBM Global Entrepreneur program, click here.

Global Startup Cultures: Looking Beyond Silicon Valley

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Silicon Valley has peaked.

The ballooning costs and relentless competition entrepreneurs face in the mother of all tech startup ecosystems might make Silicon Valley more of a suffocating force than a supporting factor in terms of locale.

As software eats the world, governments on all levels – and in every region – understand that tech innovation is a vital component of economic vitality. This recognition, and the resulting policies governments implement to support tech startup ecosystems has undercut the rush among startups to Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, global tech ecosystems each have their own unique cultures, which tech entrepreneurs can leverage depending on the markets they’re trying to reach and the problems they’re trying to solve.

A scan of social media data and search results reveal how culture shapes and defines the world’s tech ecosystems.

Here are the results.

North AmericaLatin AmericaEuropean UnionMiddle East and North AfricaSub-Saharan AfricaIndia and PakistanEast AsiaSoutheast AsiaAustralia and New Zealand