Archive for the ‘Technology’ 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.

Wanted: Cybersecurity Experts To Fill Canadian IT Skills Gap

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

From smart fridges to apps that control your room temperature, connected devices are redefining what’s possible when it comes to home and domestic technology. But they’re also spawning new cybersecurity threats: that same life-improving Internet of Things (IoT) device could turn deadly if taken over by a remote intruder.

It’s a scary reality, but these fears also represent an opportunity for a new generation of computer engineers to tackle emerging security challenges in an ever-changing industry.

However, Canada is facing a severe skills gap in IT-related cybersecurity jobs, especially as the number of job-seekers declines despite an abundance of opportunities. More needs to be done to encourage people to develop these skills, and panelists at the BC Tech Summit offered their thoughts on solutions.


Tyson Macaulay of BAE Systems and Keith Cerny of ACL underlined the need for more post-secondary degree programs with a greater focus on cybersecurity. While some Toronto schools are focused on filling the gap, schools and institutes from across the country are encouraged to follow suit.


A significant part of the problem — especially with IoT products — is that not enough people realize the risks of their connected devices, said Absolute Software’s Jo-Ann Smith, another BC Tech panelist. The solution to this problem may start at home, where children could be brought up with a stronger knowledge of online threats.

With a solid understanding in cybersecurity, both kids and parents would be equipped to make better choices about which devices to allow into their homes. Further, fostering an early interest in connected devices with youths could lead to many more IoT and cybersecurity professionals in the future.

With automation — including machine learning and artificial intelligence — the cause of much debate for employment experts, cybersecurity looks to be one field that will need many more human workers long into the future.

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.

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:

Slack Enterprise Grid Gears Up to Compete With Trello

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Smooth collaboration and project management are crucial to success across startup and corporate ecosystems. As TechCrunch reports, Slack recently introduced its Enterprise Grid to target larger companies. The web-based Trello application has a head start in this space: the company has already proven its value to over seven million users, as Frederic Lardinois writes.

The dollar figure of that value? Software titan Atlassian set it at $425 million in cash, shares, and options for Trello in its largest acquisition yet. The mobile-friendly tool’s ease of use and versatility, lauded by Lifehacker, and its huge user base, match up with Atlassian’s ambitions.

“We’re super excited,” Atlassian president Jay Simons told TechCrunch. “They are a breakout product and have achieved incredible momentum.”

Fifty percent of Trello users work in non-technical functions, and Atlassian wants to expand beyond its traditional developer-facing user base. Part of that aim involves pulling in Trello users across business teams in finance, HR, legal, marketing and sales.

Atlassian hopes to leverage Trello’s versatility beyond office walls with personal as well as professional projects, and Simons is aiming for an “audacious” goal of 100 million monthly active users.

Read more about the Trello acquisition here.

Beyond 360 Walkthroughs: How VR Became a Real Estate Game-Changer

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

A crucial part of the consumer experience of renting and buying real estate is experiencing the space before a decision is made. Until VR entered the real estate picture, the only way to experience an office, home, or retail space was to visit it: Matterport is the startup that changed that.

TechPORTFOLIO spoke with Linda Itskovitz, Matterport’s vice president of marketing, about VR’s entry into this sphere, and how VR tech is resounding across the enterprise world.

TechPORTFOLIO: Have real estate agents and companies been rapid or reluctant adopters of VR tech?

Linda Itskovitz: The real estate industry has been an early adopter of Matterport and VR. We set out to make capturing and experiencing real-world spaces virtually as easy as possible.

Real estate agents are adopting Matterport’s CoreVR for a competitive advantage. We’ve heard stories of their use of VR in their marketing by creating virtual broker tours and open houses, as an example. We have real estate agents tell us about selling houses to buyers who view the property in VR without ever stepping foot inside the house.

We expect 2017 to be a pivotal year for adoption. In a recent survey we conducted with real estate agents and brokerages (n>300), 76% of respondents said that they had already adopted or plan to adopt VR in 2017. And it is catching on with other industries as well.

They are turning to Matterport because they can integrate VR into their offerings seamlessly and deliver it at scale immediately. The ones that are adopting sooner are getting a real competitive advantage in the marketplace.

TechPORTFOLIO: For those who aren’t familiar with Matterport, what is the target market for your technology, and what makes Matterport unique?

Linda Itskovitz: Matterport is an immersive media technology company that delivers an end-to-end system for creating, modifying, distributing, and navigating immersive 3D and virtual reality (VR) versions of real-world spaces on the Web, mobile devices, and VR headsets.  

We power industries from real estate, travel, and hospitality to architecture, engineering, and construction, and everything in between. We give people a sense of what it is like to be inside a space, without actually being there, which has many practical applications across a myriad of industries. There are a number of things that make what we do unique:

  • A key Matterport innovation that is important to understand is the simplicity of our capture system. We wanted to make it super easy to capture real-world spaces, so that was a huge focus for us—to make it easy enough so you don’t need training or to have a technical skill set.
  • 3D is much more sophisticated than 360 walk-throughs, which might not be obvious at first glance. Only Matterport 3D lets buyers move through a property as if they were really there, and offers complete measurements and real-world dimensions.
  • Our proprietary Dollhouse View gives a unique perspective of each level of the property, enabling users to peel back floors one-by-one to get a true understanding of how different levels fit together in three dimensions, while offering an unobstructed view of lower floors.
  • And lastly, and very importantly, we enable our customers to make Matterport Spaces available in VR, instantly.

TechPORTFOLIO: Ranging a little outside of the real estate space—are there any other current applications of VR and Matterport that you’re excited about in different spheres?

Linda Itskovitz: Yes, we are already seeing Matterport being adopted in other industries, beyond the real estate market. There are important applications across a wide range of verticals—in travel and hospitality and business listings, for example.

Matterport is being used more and more to enable people to experience spaces in advance of being there (such as researching a vacation property or selecting a restaurant with the right ambiance) as well as instead of being there (for educational purposes, for example).  

Medical VR in the Operating Room and Beyond

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Far beyond gaming, the vast potential of VR is inspiring innovators from a wide range of sectors.

In healthcare, researchers are constantly discovering new applications for VR in everything from pain management to surgical training. Here’s a roundup of startups and hospitals that are leading the way:

Medical Realities: Surgical Training

Access to hands-on operating room training for surgeons has decreased in the past decade, potentially leaving gaps in medical students’ training. Medical Realities, a London-based startup, is filling this gap through simulation, by using a proprietary training regimen called Virtual Surgeon, and using VR headsets that give surgical trainees a 360-degree view of procedures.

Currently bootstrapped, Medical Realities will be expanding its filming access to 10 surgeries a month, giving wider access to the simulations to medical students at universities and hospitals around London.

Cedars-Sinai and Shriners Hospital: Pain Management

When it comes to pain management, VR is an attractive option over pain medication. Meds can cause patients to build a tolerance over time, and may also lead to addiction: VR is free of these consequences.

Hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas have been working with startups like AppliedVR and DeepStream VR to experiment with VR as a pain management tool, immersing patients in games and simulations designed to dampen pain processing and calm the nervous system.

Rush University Medical Center’s Road Home Program: PTSD

At Rush University Medical Center’s Road Home Program in Chicago, social workers are using VR as part of a treatment program for veterans to overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Using a $40,000 VR setup, patients are exposed to the sounds, sights, sensations and smells of the events that trigger their trauma in a safe, controlled setting, allowing them to retrain their brains to overcome fear.

The treatment is just one part of a holistic approach the center takes to help, not only servicemen and women but their families, to overcome the lasting effects of emotional and psychological issues.

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.

Massive Global Market Leads to High Valuation for Stripe

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Much has been said recently about the pitfalls of globalization, especially in the manufacturing industry, but when it comes to software and fintech, international expansion represents incredible opportunity.

For a prime example, look no further than digital payments company Stripe, which just closed a new round of financing from Alphabet Inc. and General Catalyst Partners, pushing its total valuation to $9 billion.

Why the enthusiasm for a company that is challenging payment giant PayPal? “The company’s valuation is a reflection of its size, scale, potential profitability and an unbounded market size,” General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja says.

Stripe knows that international expansion is the key to growth. The company is already in 25 countries, but has users in 110 countries; it plans to use the new investment dollars to push its boundaries further and faster. Analysts are convinced Stripe is also on the fast track to an IPO, which could mean a very fast payout for its backers.

For the full details, read the Bloomberg report.