Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SV Entrepreneurs Flock to Smaller, More Affordable Markets

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Silicon Valley’s reputation as the hub for the world’s most progressive innovators is slipping.

Accusations of sexism, sexual misconduct and the marginalization of women have tarnished the Valley’s shiny reputation, says Silicon Valley consultant Angela Ruth in Entrepreneur.

On top of that, Silicon Valley’s success has lead to exorbitant real estate prices which is, in turn, driving away talent.

The good news is that a lot of smaller markets have the talent and investment potential to someday challenge for the tech throne.

Tech talent is flocking to these seven smaller — and more affordable — U.S. markets, according to Entrepreneur:

Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Startup ecosystem worth $12B
  • Ranked No. 1 in innovation and entrepreneurship by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Tampa, Florida

  • Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment is pumping $2B into the city to prepare it for growth

Huntsville, Alabama

  • 309 percent growth in tech jobs over the past year
  • Nearly 17 percent of the workforce is employed in a science, tech, engineering or math-related job

St. Louis, Missouri

  • Home of the Ameren Accelerator, which aims to help drive innovation in the energy industry

Seattle, Washington

  • Seeing big growth in space startups

Phoenix, Arizona

  • 188 percent growth in tech jobs in the last year

Albany, New York

  • 161 percent growth in tech jobs over the past year
  • Universities supply a well educated talent pool

Social Capital: The Currency of Networking

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Social capital and social proof are the currencies of networking and the glue that binds meaningful relationships.

If you don’t know what these are, how they work and how to increase your share of both, you are missing key opportunities to successfully build your network.

What is Social Capital?

Social capital is what we use every time we ask someone for something.

In the startup world, you’re typically going to ask for a connection to someone you do not know. For example, when a founder asks me to make an introduction to a VC (let’s call her Jane), I need to use some of my social capital with Jane to facilitate that introduction. 

This only works if I have pre-existing social capital in the bank with Jane. I need to know her or have interacted with her before. Otherwise, she has little reason to accept an introduction. The deeper my connection with Jane, the more of a trusted source I am for her and the more likely she will read my email and consider my ask.

What is Social Proof?

Now, social proof is when an introduction reciprocates value back to the person you are reaching out to with a request. In my example, I have to ensure the person I introduce Jane to is a valuable match for Jane herself.

Nine times out of 10 people that ask me for an introduction get it wrong. They assume this exchange is about what they will get out of it. For example, they want Jane’s experience, knowledge, money or access to their network. Generally, these are not reasons why Jane — or anyone — would accept a meeting. There must be value in it for the person you are introducing someone to as well as the person asking for the introduction.

How to Ensure You’re Creating Social Value

The goal of any introduction is to provide value to the person you’re asking something from. In my example, it must be clear why Jane would benefit from a meeting with my other contact.

The following are a few examples of potential value offered back to a Jane — aka providing social proof:

  • If your contact’s product would significantly enhance Jane’s company’s profit or efficiency.  
  • If it is a technology that Jane isn’t using but has proven traction in the market.
  • If Jane is professionally interested in what the contact is working on (she tweets about it or write blog posts on the topic).

How it Comes Together

When the introduction successfully provides value to Jane, after I’ve used my social capital and provided social proof, this now equates to more social capital in my bank for future use. A win-win for all involved.

On the other hand, if the introduction wasn’t a good one, which could happen for many reasons such as improper fit, the alignment was completely off, or the founder was ill prepared and wasted Jane’s time, then I will lose significant social capital and risk not being able to use that connection again.

Often times people will give you one pass for a bad intro, but usually not two.

So, if you’re asking someone to go out on a limb for you make sure you do your homework and provide value in return for that person doing you a favor.

Not only will it increase your chances of success exponentially, it will provide for the best possible outcome — more social capital in the bank and value for the person offering their time.


Toronto Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum: Space for #RadicalGenerosity

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

The Toronto Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum 2017 took a disruptive approach to the entrepreneurial conference model. Instead of talking heads doling out advice, #TWEF17 was about women entrepreneurs entering into a conversation.

SheEO founder Vicki Saunders has a direct explanation for #TWEF17’s invigorating approach. “Why repeat old approaches in a completely disrupted world? It’s time for new approaches, from large-scale economic ones to even in the way we run conferences. We’re creating an open, generous environment, one that isn’t telling entrepreneurs what they need to do: it’s building a conversation.”

Part of that conversation was the remarkable mid-conference #RadicalGenerosity session, where women entrepreneurs approached the mic to explain what their enterprise needed: And hands all over the room shot up to offer the exact help that each speaker was asking for.

“At most conferences, you’ve got the experts onstage, and then someone in the audience asks a question or makes a point that resonates perfectly with you—then you never get a chance to speak to that person,” says Saunders. “Our #RadicalGenerosity session addresses that. We find that female entrepreneurs often keep their businesses smaller because they don’t ask for help, they don’t put themselves out there.” The session (and SheEO’s upcoming app) creates a safe space for contact between women who can help each other.

The standing-room only success of the event points to another exciting aspect of Toronto Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum 2017: the city itself. “Toronto right now is so exciting for entrepreneurs,” says Saunders. “It’s a city that gives you permission to get out there and go for it. And for women entrepreneurs, who start businesses at twice the pace of men, we’re saying that there’s no need to replicate what guys are doing: what women are doing is working.”

The Cascadia Innovation Corridor: B.C. Tech’s Ecosystem Advantage

Monday, May 15th, 2017

The tech sector is taking off on Canada’s West Coast and accumulating a growing number of accolades. Vancouver recently passed Toronto as Canada’s top startup ecosystem, according to Startup Genome, and the city’s global influence is growing.

The strength of B.C.’s tech sector is no accident. There are three big advantages of doing business in B.C., according to Ernst & Young’s B.C. technology sector leader Richard Mockett:

1) A ‘Really Strong’ Ecosystem

“[BC has] some of the world’s leading companies…spending a lot of time and money in B.C., establishing real, sizeable operations,” says Mockett.

Those companies introduce a lot of talent, money and innovation to the region.

2) Socio-Economic Benefits

“There’s some favourable government initiatives and policies that enable new businesses,” says Mockett. “There’s a really strong focus on diversity and inclusiveness, which is so fundamental when you’re working in an industry that is based on new ways of thinking and doing things.

“There’s also world class education organizations and a deep talent pool which is just going to get deeper and broader in the short term.”

3) Collaborative Opportunities Between B.C. and Washington State

“There’s synergies between both province and state there to really grow a technology supercluster (The Cascadia Innovation Corridor) that could compete with the other big technology clusters around the world,” says Mockett.

GitHub’s Massive Scaleup Journey Continues

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Despite recent growing pains, GitHub remains a leader in the software category thanks to its dedication to its base clientele: coders.

GitHub Tackles Growing Pains

How did GitHub manage to find the balance between rapid growth and long-term planning? We talked to project manager Daniel Hwang about overcoming the challenges that can come with large-scale success.

Taking On Explosive Scaleup With GitHub

And in this Facebook gallery, we outline some landmark moments from Github’s history:

Taking Fintech International Pays Off for Startups

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

If the potential of expanding your fintech startup’s vision to encompass the world was ever unclear, the $9 billion valuation of Stripe made it crystalline:

Massive Global Market Leads to High Valuation for Stripe

But how does a startup begin to think globally in the heavily-regulated financial arena? We asked MaRS Fintech Cluster director Dinaro Ly about the logistics of taking your fintech plans worldwide:

A “Global First Approach” For Growth Potential in Fintech

Rounding out our look at the worldwide market for fintech startups was our conversation with Tim Nixon of Payment Rails, which we started over on Facebook:


We concluded our Payment Rails conversation right here, finding out just how important partnerships with existing financial institutions worldwide are for a fintech startup:

Payment Rails Pushes Fintech Beyond Borders


The Clear Link Between VC Diversity And Success For Female Founders

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Much of the coverage of Silicon Valley lately has focused on the gender gap in technology, and for good reason: The gap is growing, not shrinking, despite very public support of the issue by giants such as Intel.

Hiring practices are part of bridging this gap, but in an entrepreneur-driven industry, funding is another key part of the solution. According to Sahil Raina, assistant professor of finance at the University of Alberta School of Business, a deep-dive into the history of startup successes and failures reveals something of a surprise: The likelihood of female-led startups enjoying the same exit rates as that of male-led businesses is the same, but only when the female-led startup has been funded and guided by a VC with a female partner.

This isn’t news to Karla Friede, CEO of, who recommends that fellow women entrepreneurs look for VCs with female partners: “The men at these firms are probably more comfortable working alongside women and their expectations for women’s roles are likely different,” she says. But Friede points out that women can tip the balance in their favour through other tactics too: 

  • Make confident, not cautious statements in pitches
  • Talk to VCs that already understand your niche
  • Up the emotional connection by showing happy customers
  • Show quantifiable results

The good news is that despite the ongoing gender gap problem, there are more supports for women-led tech companies than ever. “Nearly every week, there seems to be a new fund, a new network of innovative women, a new effort convening smart people to bring the venture world much needed diversity of thought,” says Joshua Henderson, an outspoken champion of women in the tech world. He has identified over 100 VCs, networks, and dedicated programs that exist specifically to help women entrepreneurs succeed.

Building a Future on Blockchain

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Nuco co-founder and COO Kesem Frank and his team are passionate about blockchain’s potential: “We asked ourselves, do we believe this has the potential to change the world — spoiler alert, we do — and what do we want to do about it?”

Founded in mid-2016, Nuco is a Toronto-based startup that provides blockchain infrastructure for enterprise markets. The brainchild of three former Deloitte employees, Nuco is preparing to take on the international fintech scene.

We talked to Kesem Frank about Nuco’s roots and the company’s place in the future of digital infrastructure.

TechPORTFOLIO: Could you tell us a bit about how Nuco got started?

Kesem Frank: Nuco is actually the continuation of work we started over 24 months ago, with our other founders Matthew Spoke and Jin Tu. Pursuing the blockchain is a real opportunity domain for enterprise. But two years ago, it was much more focused around the community and public chains, stuff you would read about if you followed things like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

But there was not a lot of consensus work — or even thought, to be honest — around distributed ledgers such as blockchain, and how they could play a more significant role in powering services and functionality in the enterprise sense.

That was the beginning of putting together the framework of why enterprise should care about this emerging domain.  

TechPORTFOLIO: If a layperson from outside of the fintech world asked you, “What is Nuco’s product?” how would you answer?

Kesem Frank: What Nuco does is significant — we believe even fundamental — but pretty simple. Our product is blockchain networks that are customized and dedicated per use case.

Nuco sets up a blockchain made for enterprise clients to be able to do truly peer-to-peer, transactions that don’t rely on intermediaries. Not just in the financial sense, but any interaction or communication between two stakeholders, and in real time.

As far as we’ve had a civilization, we’ve had a challenge as a species to be able to say who owns what. The approach for millennia has always been: write it down and put it somewhere secure.

The problem with databases in knowing who owns what — and you can put firewalls around them and try to segregate them from the outside world — is that it assumes we trust our counterparts. We’re forced to trust another party implicitly when we rely on their data.

Bitcoin is built on the blockchain. It answers how to move value from point A to point B without having to know my counterpart, without having to trust my counterpart, and without having to go through an intermediary. There’s no such thing as a Bitcoin bank, right? You can just move value directly.

TechPORTFOLIO: What’s your relationship to the London, Ontario startup scene?

Kesem Frank: We’re based in Toronto, but we have very good relations with Western University and the London region. We had a team of five MBAs from Western’s Ivey Business School who were part of a project with us for almost four months. We absolutely see London as a top-tier source of talent.

5 Reasons 2017 Will Be A Transformative Year For Tech

Friday, December 30th, 2016

If you thought 2016 was a banner year for changes in IT, look ahead: 2017 is shaping up to be even bigger, according to industry analysts. Although there aren’t many new concepts on the immediate horizon, trends that began a year ago now possess momentum few organizations will be able to resist. Here are the top five forces that will shape IT in 2017.

It’s All About The Customer

According to Forrester Research, focus on customer experience will dominate enterprise strategies, and this will have an effect on all aspects of organizations including IT. “In 2017, expect firm-wide operational changes to focus on customer experience—and an increasing number of wholesale business model changes to focus on specific customer journeys.”

Heavy Clouds

Small scale experiments with cloud platforms will give way to major transformations. “The cloud will be distributed with 60% of IT done off-premise and 85% by multi-cloud by 2018 and 43% of IoT will be processed at the edge in 2019,” according to Forbes’ summary of IDC’s tech predictions.


Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things will continue to grow as companies seek to increase efficiencies through better algorithmic analysis of the data that connected sensors generate. But Forrester warns there could be unexpected costs and complexity, thanks to a growing number of vendors, an increase in the kind of wireless protocols used, and a shortage of skilled networking professionals to manage it.

Changing Realities

AR and VR are two more areas of experimentation that are expected to become more deeply embedded as companies find new ways to interact with consumers, as well as internally. “In 2017, 30% of consumer-facing G2000 companies will experiment with AR/VR as part of their marketing efforts,” says IDC. One in five global brands will use AR for shopping by the end of 2017, predicts Gartner.


Deep learning, machine learning and natural language processing will all continue to play growing roles in the enterprise: IDC states that by 2019, 40% of digital transformation initiatives —and 100% of IoT initiatives—will be supported by AI capabilities.

Toronto is a Fintech Testing Ground, says MaRS Innovation Lead

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

The way we borrow, save and invest money will never be the same thanks to a surge in financial technology (fintech) companies driving a digital revolution in the financial services sector. (more…)