Author Archive

Ecosystem Spinoffs: New Tech Hubs Form Outside the City Limits

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Urban tech hubs have followed the trend of San Francisco: As success skyrockets, so too does the cost of living. In British Columbia, New York, California, and beyond, startups are taking advantage of the connected digital age by finding new places to set up HQ.

Offering physical proximity to major tech centers like Vancouver and Silicon Valley, along with a great quality of life, these three up-and-coming startup ecosystems are attracting talent and investment from around the globe.

Okanagan Valley – B.C.

With tech incubators like Accelerate Okanagan helping to attract and develop talent and a new innovation center in the works, the Kelowna/Okanagan Valley area in B.C. is poised to become the next go-to destination for tech companies. The area has already seen tremendous growth, thanks to an attractive lifestyle, a temperate climate, and an affordable cost of living.

Albany/Tech Valley – New York

Encompassing over 250 miles from just north of uber-expensive tech hub New York City, Tech Valley has become the epicenter of the Northeastern U.S. for tech companies with a focus on biotech, nanotechnology, and life sciences, thanks to its concentration of world-class educational facilities. Median incomes in the area have steadily risen since tech investment began to take off.

Silicon Beach – California

As the cost of living and working in Silicon Valley rises, more and more tech startups are heading to the beach—specifically Silicon Beach, an area on the west side of Los Angeles from Santa Monica south to Venice and Playa del Rey.

While these areas once faced significant challenges attracting top talent away from major tech hubs, the narrative is starting to shift. With a continued focus on quality of life and investment in the tech sector, these smaller ecosystems prove that startups can thrive in new environments.

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.

Wealthsimple CEO Takes 2016 Techvibes Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Wealthsimple launched just over two years ago, and already the Canadian company is rolling out their robo-adviser services across the United States. That’s only part of the reason why CEO Michael Katchen just took top honors as Entrepreneur of the Year at the Techvibes 2016 Canadian Startup Awards.

As the Financial Post reports, Wealthsimple’s steady climb to 20,000 users in Canada and CA$750 million in assets is a result of aggressive but smart expansion, and an outlook that takes national regulations into account while pushing forward with an international vision.

“We want to build one of the largest and most innovative financial services companies globally,” says founder Katchen. “(Our recent U.S. launch) is very rare for a financial services company, especially a company at our stage.” 2016 also saw Wealthsimple introduce socially responsible investment portfolios and a new account minimum of $0, allowing investors of all levels to join.

“It’s exciting for me and for the whole team,” says Katchen of his Entrepreneur of the Year win. “It’s humbling to be in that category with some amazing people. Mike Serbinis (of League) is one of the Canadian entrepreneurs I most admire, so that was awesome.”

Katchen and the Wealthsimple team don’t aim to be industry disruptors: instead they want to be enablers working with financial services professionals to make investment wealth a real possibility for everyone.

“I feel very lucky,” says Katchen. “We feel energized and excited about where we’re going to go from here. We’re just getting started.”

Federal Startup Funding Drives Major Economic Growth

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

A global view confirms that governments are catching up to what VC’s have known for a long time: investing in tech startups has a massive payoff.

As the Globe and Mail reports, Canada’s Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains is urging a push toward increased federal investment in startup tech. It’s easy to see why: countries that invest in startups with a vision and actionable plans see a confirmed economic uptick within just a few years.  

In Singapore, the government has provided enough funding to startups to secure the 10th spot in Compass’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report. This national success story is defined by huge growth and major exits.

Finland’s government investment programs have contributed to the country’s rank in the top five of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Global Innovation Index. Employment and revenue have consistently risen alongside government investment.

Canada’s tech and startup growth has steadily made the industry a massive pillar of the nation’s economy. While federal funding and tax credits are available, government investment hasn’t risen to a level that recognizes the massive worth of the country’s tech sector.

Entrepreneurial passion and smart private funders continue to drive international tech growth, but governments are an essential part of the startup equation. The countries that recognize this are quickly becoming major players in an increasingly competitiveand excitingglobal tech scene.

Northern Trust and IBM Team Up to Bring Blockchain to the Financial Sector

Monday, March 6th, 2017

In the first commercial implementation of blockchain technology for the private equity market, Northern Trust has collaborated with IBM to solve the problem of increasing transparency, efficiency and security in private equity administration.

The solution, a security-rich blockchain-based system, provides real-time insight to all parties, and has been designed to follow local regulations. It’s currently being used for administration of Geneva, Switzerland-based Unigestion, an asset manager with $20 billion in assets under management.

The private equity field has been historically slow to innovate, and both parties are confident that this collaborative solution will be a breakthrough. “Blockchain is an ideal technology to bring innovation to the private equity market,” says Bridget Van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Industry Platforms.

“This is an important first step to connecting participants much more effectively, including investors, managers, administrators, regulators, advisors, and auditors,” says Justin Chapman, global head of market advocacy and research at Northern Trust.

Treating regulators as partners is an essential part of innovating in this sector. Over at the THINK blog, IBM VP and Global Partner Financial Markets Kevin Pleiter offers insights on how this collaboration has the potential to transform the industry.

Taking Strides Toward Gender Diversity in the Tech World

Monday, February 27th, 2017

As engineer Susan J. Fowler’s viral account of her year at Uber underlined, a lack of gender diversity and faulty HR policies can lead to a vastly flawed corporate culture.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick replied indirectly to Fowler’s allegations with a company letter where he flagged stats of other leading Silicon Valley companies: Women make up less than 20 percent of technology teams at many, if not most, leading Silicon Valley companies.

Correcting imbalance and combating unacceptable behaviour are the responsibility of everyone in the tech industry. Right now, women are taking the lead. Whether through funding, advice, or mentorship, women are helping other women to thrive and succeed.

One of the keys to progress? Women funding other women:

The Clear Link Between VC Diversity And Success For Female Founders

But that’s not enough. VC firms often lack a female partner, which can create a culture of funding the familiar:

Propelling Tech Industry Success For Women: The Right Funders and the Right Insights

Building the ranks of female engineers and innovators starts with education. Organizations like Hackbright Academy are bridging the gender gap in tech through teaching:

There's constant discussion of the gender gap issue in the tech industry. "So what are the steps needed to change it?” asks Carol Langlois, VP Admissions and Marketing, @Hackbright Academy, a software engineering school for women founded in San Francisco in 2012. To close the gender gap in #engineering and #technology, #Hackbright says it has reimagined and improved engineering education through a model proven to bring women back into the field. #Hackbright’s results show it’s working. Over 90% of graduates have a job within 6 months. The role of leadership in tech companies is another part of solving the gender balance issue. It comes down to leaders demanding diversity and embracing change. “Companies ask us ‘how do we make a company more attractive to women?’,” says Langlois. “Unless their culture is open to it, it’s going to be hard for the women to work there and stay long-term. It’s one thing for a company to identify it, but they have to put measures in place to change the culture and make sure they are successful.” #Hackbright has an impressive list of partner companies who eagerly snap up their graduates, including @Uber, @Pinterest, @Dell, @NewRelic, @GoDaddy, @Salesforce, @Eventbrite, @Slackhq, @Udemy, @SurveyMonkey, and @Dropbox. “The numbers are slowly, but steadily increasing. We have graduates from two or three cohorts back that started as a coder but now run a department,” says Langlois. “That helps shift the culture around it too.” Click our bio link for our look at how VC diversity is impacting female founders in tech startups.

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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.

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.”

IBM Machine Learning Puts Watson’s Analytics Power Where the Data Lives

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

With the ability to process up to 2.5 billion transactions per day, IBM z Systems mainframes are data-generating powerhouses: that’s why they’re favoured by large-scale enterprises. But massive quantities of data without intelligent analysis is the equivalent of speed without control.

Until now, companies that wanted to leverage the powerful analytics of IBM Watson had to first make the decision to move their data off-premise. Now, with IBM’s Machine Learning Platform, that compromise has been eliminated: all the necessary resources reside in the private cloud.

With IBM Machine Learning, data scientists can automate the creation, training, and deployment of operational analytic models that will support:

  • Any language (e.g., Scala, Java, Python)
  • Popular Machine Learning frameworks such as  Apache SparkML, TensorFlow, and H2O
  • Any transactional data type

Gone is the cost, latency, and any risk of moving data off-premise.

Top Hat Takes Vanguard Position in EdTech with $22.5 Million Funding Boost

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

The textbook era is over. VC investment in sector-shifting EdTech innovations, like interactive classroom apps and web-based assessment tools, is mounting. Toronto-based startup Top Hat, under the leadership of CEO Mike Silagadze, is the latest to benefit: the company just netted a $22.5 million investment in a series C funding round, according to Bloomberg.

With its cloud-based interactive software that helps educators create and distribute academic content, Top Hat’s technology is currently used in 75% of the top 1,000 schools in North America. The rivals Top Hat’s taking on next? Traditional “overpriced” textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill and Pearson. Backers including Union Square Ventures, iNovia Capital, and Georgian Partners have put millions of dollars of confidence behind this savvy startup.

Once considered a risky venture, as TechCrunch reports, EdTech has captured the attention of investors and teachers, too. As EdTech Magazine reports, 84 percent of students, faculty, and administrators believe a digital shift will help them conquer classroom challenges.