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Inspiring and informing Ontarios


young tech entrepreneurs


DEFINING START-UP: Where to draw the line

HAMILTON: The next Waterloo?

Brennan McEachran, 22 CEO of HitSend/Red Bull Drinker/DMZ-er/Multitasker Bryan Xu, 29 Managing Director of IdeaNotion Coffee Addict/Multitasker

How women are making a name in tech


How start-up entrepreneurs multitask

HOW I MET MY CO-FOUNDER? What start-up bachelor(ette)s need to know about co-founder matchmaking



Table of C ntents
Briefs 3-4 Community Your start-up is growing, whats next? 5 Hamilton: The next Waterloo 6-7 Breaking the boys club 8 Tech brain drain: A Canadian problem? 9 Money Why Ontarios cant use KickStarter 10 Learn the ropes: How do investment work in the start-up world? 11 Lifestyle Designing by utility 12-13 How to Rock like a one-man band 14-15 Q&A: Can friends be business partners? 16 What start-up bachelor(ette)s need to know about co-founder matchmaking? 17 Before the beginning of everything: Preparations for launching a business 18 Four secrets for success 18 Education Start-up: Rethinking the term 19 Entrepreneurship centres: Build your business with your schools help 20-21 Career guide to video game writing 22-23

Editor's Word
From the BlackBerrys birthplace of Waterloo to Toronto classrooms developing life-changing medical apps, Ontario is a hub of technological innovation. Start-ups a trendy term for technology-focused businesses that are trying to make it big are attracting thousands of young people to the heart of the provinces economy. ONset Magazine covers Ontarios start-up culture, offering young entrepreneurs a publication that informs, inspires and empowers them in the knowledge economy as they vie for success. We dig deep into technology and business issues and develop Canadian and Ontario-specific news angles. We tell our readers in plain language about training programs, laws, government grants available in the province and in the country and ways to find investors. We also highlight success stories to inspire readers, and appeal to groups underrepresented in the industry, including women and immigrants. Please join us as we explore Ontarios startup community in the next 24 pages. Sincerely, ONset Magazine editorial team

Editorial Team

Dylan C. Robertson

Jennifer Pang

Sarah Taguiam

Sunnie Huang


Pitching: your verbal business card

Nset Magazine talked to two panellists on Business News Networks weekly show The Pitch to compile a demo day survival guide. The half-an-hour show where entrepreneurs pitch in front of investors has featured anything from anti-bacterial towel to intimacy toy gift boxes. Dr. Leslie Roberts, president and founder of GoForth Institute, a small business training company, said she cant stress enough to entrepreneurs how important it is to always have a sound pitch ready to go. All entrepreneurs should be rehearsing a oneto two-minute pitch in their head, so they could pull it out of their pocket like a good business card and deliver it, said the entrepreneurship specialist. Those could be game changing some time. Whether you are actually raising money or you are just being introduced to somebody at a cocktail party, you have to be prepared for those moments, because opportunities can be lost if you are not able to communicate what is so great about the business you are running, she said. That doesnt come naturally for tech entrepreneurs, however, according to Dr. Roberts. Technology entrepreneurs are some of the worst pitchers I have ever heard, because the only thing they know is the technology. They are not clear, concise and slow communicators. They get lost in the technical jargon. And that of course loses the investors. Jacoline Loewen, director of corporate finance firm Loewen & Partners, said the communication gap between entrepreneurs and investors can be best explained by John Greys 1992 relationship advice mega-bestseller. Finance people are from Mars and entrepreneurs are from Venus. You have to speak their language, she said. Metaphor aside, to Loewen, pitching is more like an art than science. She looks for clues that reveal young entrepreneurs commitment. It is not uncommon for the once-enthusiastic pitchers to leave behind their ideas and work for more prestigious companies, leaving their investors empty-handed. Im looking at the idea, but Im really looking at the person, she said.
Sunnie Huang

Pitching tips
Prepare different versions of your pitch. Be ready to pitch on TV, to a live audience, or at a coffee shop to an investor who is ready to sign a cheque. Pitch often. The more opportunities you have to tell the story, the better. Dress for success. Although costumes and props might help investors remember you better, professional attire is imperative. Dont be over-optimistic. Use real numbers. No kittens or rainbows. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If you pitch on TV, the footage can be recycled on your website as a virtual pitch. Some humour and a smile go a long way.


Caffeine + stress = app success?

We followed a 48-hour hackathon. A full story and video are posted online, but heres a taste
dents in each province will have spent a weekend at one of the participating 39 colleges and universities. When Guptas team kicked off at 5 p.m. Friday, they were upbeat and ready for a challenge, stoked as Perkins put it, to build a game that mixes chess with this years theme: retro design. But the clocks ticking, as team leader Budd Royce Lam is well aware. Were on schedule, we just have to keep it that way, says Lam, whos working on just five hours of sleep. Though he doesnt want to get ahead of himself, Lam has his eye on the $25,000 top prize. His team, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF), is competing for a spot in Canadas competitive but understaffed game industry...
Dylan C. Robertson

unched in front of his laptop, Abhishek Gupta sifts through hundreds of lines of code, figuring how best to fix a small programming glitch. Its 1:30 a.m. and the Toronto student is spending his Saturday night at Ryerson Universitys innovation lab overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square. This late September weekend, hundreds of post-secondary students like Gupta are pulling allnighters across Canada. Theyre participants in the two-day Great Canadian Appathon. I think I slept three hours, says Gupta, pushing his hair back with one hand while con-

Dylan C. Robertson/ONset Magazine

tinuing to type. His eyes dont leave his screen. Thats after he passed out facefirst on the beanbag, chimes in teammate Brandon Perkins. The two pause for a brief laugh, then go back to coding. Theyre trying to win the third edition of the appathon, dubbed GCA. Teams of up to four students have been invited to build a mobile game app from scratch in just 48 hours

for cash prizes, geek stardom and much more. A spectacled student in a neon-green giveaway T-shirt is splayed out on a bench in a dark corner. About 25 students are silently tapping away on their keyboards. One just phones in an order of Chinese food. One team has built a pyramid made of the 25 cans of giveaway Red Bull they consumed. By Sunday at 5 p.m., 518 stu-



Canada to launch start-up visa in 2013

hen a Vancouver incubatior head put out a worldwide call for talent, he never knew hed end up driving to Detroit. Danny Robinson welcomed two promising Romanian wunderkinds to launch a start-up. But with no visa for companies that have yet to launch, the group ended up in a two-year bureaucratic saga of denied applications, quixotic drives across the U.S. border and red tape. The experience put in concrete terms how hard it is to launch a start-up while getting a visa in Canada, says Boris Wertz, a longtime colleague of Robinsons. The two launched an advocacy organization of tech employers and entrepreneurs, petitioning for a start-up visa similar to ones in New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland and Chile. The petition generated enough pressure that Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenny announced a start-up visa in April, at a press conference with CBCs Dragons Den star Kevin OLeary. CIC anticipates opening 2,750 spots in a pilot project starting in 2013. The visa is set to follow the conventional path of requiring applicants to secure funding before arriving. The industry petition called for a $150,000 requirement, a third more than an ongoing U.S. proposal and double the U.K.s amount. Some blogs have criticized the governments requirement for venture funding, saying that entrepreneurs who gain funding through crowdsourcing are excluded, while venture capitalists are given an undue amount of power. But CIC officials believe it could prevent fraud. If we want to succeed as a country we need to attract the best companies to Canada, says Wertz, who was born in Germany. The visa is not the whole solution, but I think it can be a pillar.
Dylan C. Robertson
Jason Kenney Kevin OLeary

Courtesy of CIC Media Centre

Theres much more to the visa story, including an ongoing project to launch an innovation hub on a boat just outside U.S. jurisdiction Catch the full story at


Start-ups compete against age-old methods

Start-ups aimed at people with health needs face off against some unconventional rivals
GaitTronics was established in April, 2012 by Beranek and other two owners. [The] technology that were developing is a robotic patienthandling device. So the concept is that we can bring some automation and some productivity support the patient, so the main thing with that is the risk of injury for both patient and the nurses is significantly reduced. As a recently established company, GaitTronics still needs sufficient time to realize its vision. develops iPhone and iPad applications that help people with speech disabilities to communicate effectively, is also competing against a strong competitor. But MyVoices competitor has been around for centuries. We sometimes joke that our number one competitor is paper, which is a sort of a funny thing but its actually true if you look at just the sheer number of people, the most common communication aid in the world right now are paper boards, said Alex Levy, CEO of MyVoice Inc. He explained that even though papers are commonly used to assist people with speech disabilities, they are not very effective. There is less that you can do to anticipate a users needs. [And] somebody has to watch them, he said.
Jennifer Pang

ne way to make sense of a companys vision and goal is to look at its competitors. But forget about market share and price wars, for now. GaitTronics Inc., an Ottawabased company that designs a robotic device that helps patients to move around, is in the battle with a much more established competitor. Our real competitor is the status quo where you have three or four staff helping the patient get out of bed and walking them down the hallway so they can get the exercise they need after the surgery, said Richard Beranek, president and co-founder of GaitTronics.

Our real competitor is the status quo where you have three or four staff helping the patient get out of bed.
increases to nurses and hospitals so that [they can] get patients up and walking right after a surgery with the whole help of only one staff, Beranek said. Beranek also explained that their device has an automatic fall detection system, which allows the device to catch the patient automatically rather than having the nurse there to

Richard Beranek

I think our final product probably wont be launched until 2015 or 2016. Its gonna be in some form of product development in the next a couple years. I think we will be in the position to start selling beta versions or early versions of it into the research market sometime in 2014, Beranek said. Similar to GaitTronics, MyVoice Inc., a company that



In New York, a desk at a typical coworking space costs about $600 a month and comes with phone lines and Internet access.

Chris Sukornyk

Your start-up is growing, whats next?

Globe-trotting CEO Chris Sukornyk shares some advice on running multiple offices

Courtesy of Chango Inc.

ible. Changos Toronto team, for example, will soon take over another floor of its King Street West office complex. While setting up new offices south of the border, Sukornyk also learnt to tailor employee benefits to regional differences. Whereas most of his Canadian employees dont see benefits as the deciding factor of taking on a job, their American counterparts place great emphasis on health care coverage. You play by ear and figure out as you go, Sukornyk suggested, adding that hiring local lawyers to draft contracts is essential. Sukornyk also said the culture in each office can be subtly different. The Toronto office houses mostly developers, who Sukornyk describes as introverted. The U.S. offices, which are marketing-focused, are homes to sales specialists who are more outgoing.

our offices and four kids later, Chris Sukornyk is still going strong. The CEO and founder of Chango Inc., a real-time ad targeting company, announced on Nov. 21 that his start-up has secured an additional $12 million in funding with existing investors, making it one of the fastest growing marketing technology companies in the world. Along with 50 new positions, Chango will also open three more offices in Detroit, London and Chicago, adding to the impressive lineup of offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Toronto. These are great cities to visit, said Sukornyk, 32, from his Toronto office. But I spend a lot of time on Skype. While communications technology is breaking down the confines of office walls, start-up entrepreneurs still rely on their fundamental judgement, keen observation and business instinct when it comes to launching and running multiple offices. Changos U.S. offices usually start with one person who works from home. As lo-

cal clients grow, additional employees are brought in and the company proceeds to rent desks at coworking spaces. You only get your own office once you have an established growth plan and you want to get out of the desk-by-desk situation, Sukornyk said. With the announcement of the most recent round of funding, Changos revenue has grown more than 600 per cent over the past two years. When a start-up is growing so rapidly, Sukornyk said its sometimes difficult to gauge how many offices or how much space is needed. Entrepreneurs need to strike a balance between over-commitment and underestimation sometimes using gut instinct. As a start-up, you really do want to be absolutely busting up the scenes before you commit to anything thats fixed big cost, Sukornyk said. One of the strategies to mitigate uncertainty, Sukornyk suggested, is to negotiate a flexible lease with landlords who are flexWWW.ONSETMAG.COM

ob Mitchell, assistant professor at th Richard Ivey School of Business who specializes in entrepreneurship, agreed that culture is valuable to start-ups, but it doesnt have to be consistent throughout all locations. CEOs can either encourage competition among different offices or teams, or reward them collectively for collaborated work. Its not necessarily one or the other is better, it depends on what [the CEOs] are trying to accomplish, Mitchell said. One of the biggest challenges for a company with multiple locations, according to Mitchell, is the missed opportunity of informal encounters, such as hallway conversations and lunch-time talks. Technology such as video conferencing and live chat can shorten the virtual distance, but cannot replace the face-to-face interaction. Entrepreneurship is inherently uncertain. Having multiple offices is just one element of uncertainty [entrepreneurs] are facing, Mitchell added. For Sukornyk, no matter where his office takes him, one thing is certain. Im not CEO of multiple offices, Im CEO of one company, he said. When you are expanding into new cities, it means your company is growing and thats exciting. Sunnie Huang


In 2011, Hamiltons population was 520,000; thats a fifth of Torontos 2,600,000. Waterloo counts 98,700 people.

The Next Waterloo?
A concerted effort is steering The Hammer from a grimy steel town into an innovation hub for medical technology. Dylan C. Robertson explores how one city is pivoting its industry through start-ups

Godreault is good at contests. In May, Mohawk College sent him to Vancouver, to compete and win the e-Health 2012 Apps Challenge. The $3,500 competition required entrepreneurs to pitch their app to health software professionals. Judges grilled all nine teams, and Godreault says he was ready because his instructors prepared him for it. We learned how to pitch and get people interested and paying attention. I knew nothing about pitching, he says. Im a guy with an idea. They showed me how to make it work.

evin Browne is on a mission to change the face of Hamilton. As a 29-year-old computer science PhD candidate at McMaster University, his decade-long career has included a 16-month stint in Waterloo, Ontarios tech mecca. [Waterloos] a nice place to live; good place to raise a family, Browne says. But Hamilton is home to me. And we have so much to offer. Despite Hamiltons low cost of rent, vibrant art scene and sizable ohawk College sits atop Hamilton Mountain. A platform down downtown, it wasnt enough to keep his tech colleagues in town. the street overlooks the citys aging steel mills and industrial Browne says it was very personally frustrating to see friends leave downtown. for jobs in Toronto, Waterloo, New York and Silicon Valley. In 2010, In the heart of the main campus, past its wind turbines and glass after years of the usual rotation, he asked a friend why he was leaving. walls, Jerad Godreault, 21, types sporadically on his Macbook. He sits He said you need a community; you need events and networks, on an IKEA couch at iDeaWORKS, the colleges innovation hub that Browne recalls. You cant just create this out of thin air. takes bright students with ideas and equips with them resources and Determined to stop the brain drain, Browne gathered his friends know-how. together and launched Hamiltons first DemoCamp in March 2011. Godreault, a software development student, co-founded the medi- The event attracted 100 people, including unfamiliar faces. cal app Imaginauts with his brother Leo, a nursing graduate. Their Things snowballed. Within a year, Hamilton had multiple monthly and app tracks a patients prescription compliance by reminding them to annual events, from networking and competitions to employee-employer take their drugs, and logging when they do. Doctors can monitor the matchmaking sessions. data, which can suggest when in the day a prescription works best. In early October 2012, the city held its second annual Lions Lair A born-and-raised Hamiltoevent, a take on Dragons Den nian, Godreault is enthusiastic that sees 10 entrepreneurs comabout his citys nurturing, suppete for $100,000 in investment portive community. Hes also a and contracts. Both events sold test case in a concerted effort to out, with over 500 guests and transfrom this municipality of plenty of media coverage. 520,000 from a steel town to a hub Brownes initiative is only part of medical tech innovation. of the story. Local colleges, uniThe iDeaWORKS lab is a conversities, city planning departcrete-walled room with tables of ments and employers are taking computers, multiple whiteboards an all-hands-on-board approach and binders of information on coto making new technology a key op placements. Three-dimensionpart of Hamiltons economy. al cardboard figures from video Were all on the same page games hang from the ceiling, inand its not an issue to say Hey, cluding a Zelda logo and the Super Im doing this event, do you Dylan C. Robertson/ONset Magazine Mario question-mark cube. have anyone who could help me Godreault is sending mesout? says Carolynn Reid of the Jerad Godreault sages to people he met at recent networking events. Hes asking for citys economic development department, which offers consulting, votes in Startoff Hamilton, a city-wide, month-long contest where funding and promotion. start-ups pitch their idea to Hamiltonians, who vote for the best At least one tech patent is filed from Hamilton each week, and the idea. The contest, with $150,000 at stake, has attracted 27 teams. citys digital footprint is displayed through the hundreds of stickers for Stickers with 8-bit graphics promoting the long competition are Octobers Hamilton Startoff competition, as well as the 17,000 unique peppered across the city. voters. CBC chose the city for its first digital-only branch this spring.

James Street

Business District

Gore Park

With Victorian stone houses, a bustling business district and wide streets, Hamilton mixes a city and town feel. See more photos online at

A big force behind this shift toward new technologies has been Innovation Factory, a non-profit, provincially funded organization that connects start-ups with investors and resources. It even mirrors the tech industrys penchant for unconventional spelling: iF. In less than two years, iF counts 350 start-up clients, half of which work in information and communications technology. That gives Hamiltons tech industry roughly a fourth the heft of Waterloo, a city the province started investing in as a tech hub in the 1960s. If building a tech base from scratch is a challenge, fighting negative impressions is no cakewalk. I never thought of living in Hamilton until I actually explored the city. It differed in every way from my first impression, says Keanin Loomis, iFs chief advocate who lived in Waterloo and Washington, DC. People are friendly and really down-to-earth. I fell for the city. Start-ups have followed a similar path, like REfficient, an online marketplace where businesses can buy and sell surplus inventory across seven countries. Founded in Mississauga, the company moved to Hamilton last year to save 30 per cent of their business costs and rent, and hasnt looked back.

Steels important to our economy and our identity, but were so much more. People have to come and see the city for what it is.
But Loomis says Hamilton can be dwarfed by its proximity to Toronto, and long-held perceptions linger. When people from Southern Ontario hear Hamilton, they see the steel mills along the QEW, says Loomis. The other route into Hamilton is through Hwy. 403, which passes by the McMaster Innovation Park, a red-brick building where researchers and entrepreneurs share workspaces and ideas. Steels important to our economy and our identity, but were so much more, says Reid, of the citys economic development department. People have to come and see the city for what it is.

Carolynn Reid

ts a windy Thursday night in October and The Winking Judge, a microbrewery pub operating in a Victorian house, is bustling. Upstairs, a group of about 30 techies is chatting big ideas. Some are in their 20s, but most are mid-aged. Almost all are male. Unbuttoned

cardigans are in vogue tonight, as is pumpkin-flavoured beer. Its the one-year anniversary of StartUpDrinks, an informal monthly evening where ideas, business cards and craft draught flow. I cant think of a reason to leave the city, says Steve Veerman, a software developer for Postmedia who was raised in Hamilton. You have events like tonight, and a bunch of stuff that Kevin [Browne] got going and some sort of tech culture here. Outside his day job, Veerman is working on Eventity, an app that maps out social media on events around the city. Tonight, hes also hawking for votes for the online Startoff Hamilton competition. Over the course of an evening, two strangers will come up with an idea for an app and write it on a napkin, a young entrepreneur will land a job interview and almost everyone will discuss the citys monthly outdoor art crawl that happened earlier that week. From what I can see, were blossoming as a city, says Duane Hewitt, a biologist by trade whos hoping to expand his consulting work into mobile health technology. Hamiltons sort of the best place for health-focused work. Many of the projects discussed at this months StartupDrinks have a medical focus. Hamilton is where most North American eHealth records systems are designed, and the city hosts medical competitions like Apps for Health. Healthcare has long been the citys second industry after steel, propelled by decades of health research from McMaster, the provinces largest medical school. Through new technology start-ups, health is remerging as Hamiltons raison dtre. The citys switch to health innovation echoes the path travelled before by Kitchener and Waterloo, two cities that pivoted from insurance companies and manufacturing to mobile innovation over the past two decades. Communitech, a Waterloo non-profit similar to Hamiltons iF, estimates that 30,000 people are now employed in more than 1,000 tech firms in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, with new ones popping up at a rate that doubles every year. Just as Waterloo start-ups steered the city to mobile innovation, Hamilton start-ups are looking to make waves in medical technology. A lot of my clients have health-related businesses. I guess health is sort of our bridge into the tech world, says Tim Miron, an accountant who works with many start-up clients. He points across the bar to some entrepreneurs hes been chatting with, all in their 20s. Well get there through these guys.

Dylan C. Robertson/ONset Magazine WWW.ONSETMAG.COM

iDeaWORKS at Mohawk College


In Canada, 25 per cent of the tech sector is made up of women. Only 16 per cent of them hold leadership roles.

Laurie Rauch


Sarah Taguiam/ONset Magazine

aurie Rauch is fond of words. After weathering the recession, she never imagined shed still be writing but with new languages like HTML and CSS. I was always fascinated with web developing but it was just something a lot of women at the time didnt do, Rauch said. Taking a giant leap, she learned the necessary skills for a tech career and now owns web developing company Code Diva. Rauch is part of the glaringly small 25 per cent of women working in Canadas tech sector a number that has puzzled industry professionals for decades. We have this potential to impact just about every business but we arent taking up that challenge, said University of Toronto computer science professor Kelly Lyons. I dont understand why were still not 50 per cent of tech. Though no one knows the exact reason, Lyons, who joined previously worked as an IBM program director before joining U of T in 2008, said there are theories explaining the situation like the stereotype that tech is a boys club. CanWIT executive director Emily Boucher found that most women see tech companies as a room full of men working in a dark room coding in the wee hours.

A 2007 Ryerson University Diversity Institute study found the notion that tech jobs are focused on coding contributed to a decline in female enrollment in tech university programs. The place where women are most scarce, however, is boardrooms. In Canada, only 16 per cent of women hold leadership roles in the corporate sector and only 14 companies had women in executive ranks in Deloittes list of 50 fastest growing technology firms.

There have definitely been some meetings where Im more pre-occupied with my kids and what theyre doing than whats being discussed .
Aliza Pulver
Facebook CEO Cheryl Sandberg famously deconstructs the phenomenon in a 2012 TED Talk, saying that rearing children and managing a household on top of having a job cause some women to quietly shy away from the career enhancement. Toronto-based CEO, and mother of two, Aliza Pulver is all too familiar with this scenario. After giving birth to her second daughWWW.ONSETMAG.COM

ter one month after raising funding for her luxury home decor sales site, Pulver acutely felt the pull of motherhood. There have definitely been some meetings where Im more pre-occupied with my kids and what theyre doing than whats being discussed on the table, she agreed. But Pulver said its possible to balance it as long as you have a good support system. In Ontario, several industry organizations and initiatives are put in place to assist women who are already working in the industry or looking to enter it. CanWit and Wired Woman offer mentorship programs that pair new professionals with leaders in the field, while Toronto incubator Driven Accelerator Group provides training and support to startups led by women and people of colour. The group Girls in Tech Toronto hosts socials featuring women tech speakers, while Ladies Learning Code facilitate introductory workshops on like HTML and CSS. Though these initiatives are fairly new, they have already grabbed the attention of the Ontarios tech world a possible sign of better things to come for women. Life s moving and women have to evolve with it and I think we are, Pulver said.
Sarah Taguiam


According to a 2012 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, finding and keeping great talent is the biggest problem of most Canadian start-up CEOs.

Tech brain drain: a Canadian prolem?

ven in his teens, Albert Lai always knew that ih wanted to make a name for himself in tech, he had to go to San Francisco. Driving for the first time down Interstate 280 during the late 90s, the 33-year-old Toronto native recalled looking out his window, seeing green lawns flanked by giant brick and steel campuses the size of miniature cities thinking, Ive found my place. Like him, hundreds of Ontarians flock to San Franciscos Bay Area yearly joining 350,000 Canadians, who according to The Globe and Mail, reside and work within the region eager to try their fortune in the worlds largest tech mecca. But the huge influx of Canadian employees leaving this country has created a gaping hole in the industry, creating a worrying tech brain drain. finding more reasons to stay in Canada such as: the increase of start-up funding, the prestige associated to being in a a local startup and the large amount of high-profile start-ups that have spawned and been acquired in the country. After co-founding five start-ups, and exhausted from living out of a suitcase, Lai decided to set up his sixth start-up Big Viking Games in London. The cost of livings lower, talent from hotbeds like University of Waterloo and Sheridan College is good and tax credits for building games are impressive, he said. Atlee Clark, director of C100, an organization of influential Canadians in Silicon Valley, said that Canadian companies also have the ability to focus on their products away from the pressure of competition. People flock to Silicon Valley and though that can be very inspiring to be around, it also means its very loud here, Clark said in an interview from her San Francisco office. Tunezy CEO Derrick Fung agreed, saying that being a big fish in a smaller pond can help propel start-ups into success. At the same time, Fung, 26, who founded his Toronto-based music-sharing company 10 months ago, acknowledges that big boys like Facebook and Google can easily steal away elite employees and offer them more attractive pay. Tech employee salaries tend to be higher

People flock to Silicon Valley and though that can be very inspiring to be around, it also means its very loud here .

Sarah Taguiam/ONset Magazine

Atlee Clark

According to a 2012 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, finding and keeping great talent is the biggest problem for most Canadian start-up CEOs. Sixty-two per cent of the CEOs interviewed said finding qualified tech personnel has been harder, as Silicon Valley companies scoop them up. One of the reasons behind this, according to University of Toronto organizational behavior professor Samantha Montes, is that the younger generation, who are mostly employed in start-ups, is seeking challenges instead of long-term job security. The new cohorts more interested in getting experience that make them more marketable and if theyre not getting it, they may leave, Montes said. Lai agreed but said brain drain has been a smaller problem Canada in recent years. According to him, tech employees are

in San Francisco where entry-level incomes start around $60,00080,000 CDN, while Toronto employees are paid around Canadian $40,00060,000 CDN, Lai said. However, companies like Fungs and Lais stay competitive in hiring in several ways. As a newer start-up, Fung said fostering a more relaxed office culture through flexible work hours, stock options, a mini-Google setup and offering medical benefits makes his start-up more attractive to employees. Lai recognizes that while there will always be talented and curious employees who cant be held back from wanting to experience working in a tech centre like the Bay Area, there are others that are talented, but apathetic about location. Regardless of location, C100 director Clark said Canadians should support each other. Instead of adapting an us-againstthem mentality, Canadians, should encourage their peers who come down to the Valley to work, because after all, the Internet know no borders.
Sarah Taguiam


The Beacon bike light, launched through a KickStarter page, can now be found at bike stores in Toronto and beyond:

Why Ontarians cant use KickStarter

Archaic regulation laws are holding entrepreneurs back from crowdfunding initatives

ric Migicovsky had a good idea. He just needed money. It was spring of this year and the 26-year-old engineering student from Vancouver had developed Pebble, a multi-purpose watch that connects wirelessly to smartphones. He invented the watch while a student at the University of Waterloos innovation lab. But when he couldnt get a venture capitalist on board to make it big, he turned to the Internet. Websites like KickStarter facilitate crowdfunding: pitch your idea globally and ask for small bits of investment on a site that takes a 5 per cent cut. U.S. crowdfunding firm Massolution estimates that $1.5 billion was raised through online campaigns worldwide last year. Migicovsky launched a KickStarter page this May, offering a Pebble watch to people donating over $100. He thought he was being ambitious, asking strangers to cough up $100,000. In five weeks, almost 70,000 people donated a total of $10 million the most successful donation in the U.S.-based sites three years. For Migicovsky, it was the chance of a lifetime to fulfill his dream. But hed need a U.S. banking account to receive funds through KickStarter, even though contributions can come from any country. It wasnt a problem for Migicovsky, who moved Pebbles operations to Silicon Valley after frustration with a lack of Canadian venture capital. Its far from the first start-up to migrate south for funds. This summer, the federal government said it was alarmed by the frequency of Canadian entrepreneurs moving abroad, and contributed $400 million to help the often-lamentedkj lack of private investment. According to an October study by Ottawa crowdfunding firm Ideavibes half of Canadian start-ups rate friends and family as their top source of funding. Taking on debt was the second most popular. Lack strong personal credit records, young entrepreneurs often max out credit cards and pester relatives for cash. Crowdfunding could be a debt-free option, but red tape means Ontarians can only reach so far. teve Tam is a Torontonian who got sick of having thieves yank the lights off his bike. So he launched Beacon, a company that designs a $15 bike light thats almost impossible to steal.
The Canadian Media Fund published the report Crowdfunding in a Canadian Context in August. Listing 461 crowdfunding sites by country host, Canada ranked a modest eighth place.
US 191 UK 44 Netherlands 29 France 28 10 Brazil Germany Spain Canada 21 20 18 17

Beacon was started through a KickStarter page this May, linked to the bank account of an American employee. In six weeks, the Beacon bike light page raked in double their goal of $5,000 It was fun to watch it grow, said Tam, 24, who opened the page following the press boom generated by Migicovskys $10 million success. Echoing most crowdfunding projects, Beacon offered small gifts to donors stickers, T-shirts, battery packs. Like Migicovskys Pebble, the Beacon team sold the product being developed, at a fraction of the market price, to people who pitched in. Tam regularly posted updates on his progress, a common crowdfunding technique to form a captive audience of potential clients and show investors where their contributions going. In total, his start-up attracted 250 backers through KickStarter.

The traffic you get on KickStarter isnt even comparable to other sites.
Steve Tam
The Canadian Media Fund has counted a total of 17 active Canadian crowdsourcing websites, none of which come close to the top U.S. sites killer for sites that run entirely on buzz. For Tam, other sites like Indiegogo the most popular site that allows entrepreneurs to register with Canadian bank accounts werent even a question. Friends who had started businesses all said the traffic you get on KickStarter isnt even comparable to other sites, he said. Beacon has made the bike lights, shipped them to donors and put them on shelves in Toronto and beyond. But not all crowdfunding projects go smoothly. Thousands of Migicovskys backers have yet to receive their promised Pebble watches after the company missed its original September deadline, attracting a host of negative press. In June, American tech site AppsBlogger studied 60,000 KickStarter projects and found that only 30 per cent of projects meet their goal, of which 25 per cent deliver their results on time. Success tends to be hit-or-miss, with projects either reaching only a third of their goal, or bypassing it by more than double. Its because of this lack of accountability that offering equity in the company a common way to seduce investors and prove project leaders take their company seriously is illegal in Canada. As an added headache, each province has its own regulatory bodies that set rules on crowdfunding. Industry groups are lobbying the Canadian government to implement a national policy, as the U.S. did in 2011 through its Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. The Ontario Securities Commission limits those who can invest in unregistered private companies to what they call accredited investors: people with a salary of $200,000 or a net worth of $1 million. The regulator announced it was studying opening exemptions to allow JOBS Act-style investment, launching consultations this year. Meanwhile, KickStarter opened shop in the UK in October, welcoming British bank accounts and pounds sterling. A spokesperson would only say other countries are being studied. Until private funders, regulators or KickStarter officials step up, young entrepreneurs are left bugging Mom and Dad for cash until they can move down south.
Dylan C. Robertson



Learn the Rope$

Yuri Navarro, National Angel Capital Organization executive director, says: - The problem of not understanding the angel capital or the difference between angel and vc is not a problem restricted solely to young entrepreneurs, its something that we are dealing with as an organization right across the spectrum. - Typically the relationship between an angel and the investee is that of a mentor. Typically speaking, the way the angel model operates is that the angel takes a very active role in the development of the company and provides advice, input and helps the entrepreneur develop their skill set in the company at once. Scott Bowman, Canadian Youth Business Foundation, senior director, Ontario, says: - Investors are investing in you and in your business, but its for a return. - They are going to see if theres a sales aspect to your business, what the cash flow is and whats the revenue like. - Venture capitalists will be looking for things like potential for growth. - They would want to see measurable impacts, where their moneys going and how their money will be spent, as well as how their money is going to come back in terms of success.

How do investments work in the start-up world?

Some young entrepreneurs starting out in the tech industry are usually eager to raise capital but unfamiliar with the concept of angel investors and venture capitalists. Jennifer Pang interviewed five stakeholders about the ins and outs of investments.

Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder of Wattpad, an online community where people share and read stories, says: - If you want to raise money, the process of going out and networking has to start a little bit earlier.

Jesse Rodgers, director of University of Torontos Creative Destruction Lab at Rotman and co-founder of TribeHR, an Ontario-based company that develops human resource management software, says: - It took almost two years to go from a concept to where we were moving towards fund raising.

Sid Paquette, Omers Venture senior associate, says: - If you look at North America, most venture capitalists are investing in traditional information and communications technology companies that deal with hardware, software and their various combinations. However, over the last few years, you see a lot of venture capital being moved into life sciences and clean tech. - VCs generally meet with a lot of companies over the course of a year so getting a warm intro from them is very beneficial. This gives you an indication if you can get some time with a VC to talk about your idea. - In order to get this warm intro, try to factor any way you can use your network, figure out which people in your network knows that VC and see if they can introduce you.


tep into web consulting start-up Nascent Digitals shared office space with ad agency Rethink and youll be greeted by sparse white walls, neatly lined desks overlooking Torontos cityscape and a pearl white Tama drum kit and fire engine red chairs sitting atop astroturf in the middle of a wide open space. The place has all the trappings of a modern tech office: clean yet funky with a buzz of creative energy. But asked about the philosophy behind his offices design, Nascent Digital CEO Shawn Konopinsky chuckles. I wish there was a more romantic story, but its a design by utility, he says. Along with his partner, Konopinksy says they chose designs that met their needs as a growing start-up and that seems to be a philosophy most tech start-ups follow. Our design concepts are built around having a place that has transparency, openness and most importantly, collision, says Tonya Surman, CEO of Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), which offers shared spaces, private offices and desks for entrepreneurs in Torontos tech world.

To foster this type of ecosystem, Surman says CSIs branches in Spadina, Annex and Regent Park are outfitted with glass walls. Everyone is always able to watch and keep an eye on whats going on, she says. Another way to create an environment like this is by having an open-concept office according to Konopinsky. If we were to section people off, we wont get that serendipitous communication thats so vital in this business, he says. The positive effect of having an open and interactive atmosphere can be seen through CSI where Surman says 85 per cent of members have collaborated with each other. Another theme common in most startup spaces is purchasing cheaper furniture. Konopinsky recalls sitting down with his partner and pouring over an Ikea catalogue to figure out what furniture to use. According to him, a custom workstation costs $1,2001,800 per person but they spent only $400 per station in Nascent. As our company gets bigger, we might outgrow our furniture so we wanted to make sure that it wont be painful to throw

things out, Konopinsky says. The ever-changing nature of start-ups dictate that companies have to find cost-effective ways to do expensive things like, in Nascents case, soundproofing. To fix their boardrooms loud echo, Nascent dotted their walls with astroturf insteadto dampen the sound. This ability to be resourceful and use funky materials is another vital characteristic of start-up spaces: having a fun and relaxed atmosphere, says Lux Design interior designer Laura McLellan, who has helped design tech offices like Climax Media. According to her, since start-ups employ a younger generation of people, the office has to cater to their needs. They believed in having fun while working so we accommodated that, she says. In designing Climax Media, McLellan had to pencil in a lounge where employees can play video games and movies. Each office should be tailored to the people its housing and though tech spaces dont usually follow the layout of traditional offices, it still works, McLellan says.




Sarah Taguiam explores how interactivity, relaxation and Ikea furniture play into a tech offices design





Jennifer Pang explores how start-up entrepreneurs multi-task and balance their day-to-day activities
What multi-tasking really means is allocating the tasks [according to] the overall time you have and being able to finish one thing at a time.
Bryan Xu
like Xu to multi-task in order to get their company running. Entrepreneurs end up being multi-taskers because there are so many things to do, said Drew Smylie, coordinator of the business administration program and entrepreneurship program at Centennial College in Toronto. When explaining what its like to start up a business, Smylie calls up a YouTube video. In the video, an acrobatics performer quickly runs back and forth trying to make more than a dozen plates spin at the same time. Starting up a business and getting it running is like plate spinning, Smylie said. Even if there [are] two people or ten people [in the company], there are different business systems that have to be kept in motion all the time. Xus strategy of spinning all his plates is to break his work into pieces and tackle each one of them with a focused mind. [Multi-tasking] doesnt mean you do multiple things at one time. That doesnt get things done, Xu said. What multi-tasking means is allocating the tasks according to the overall time you have and being able to finish one thing at a time. Not five minutes this, five minutes that, and then five minutes of that. Xu is not the only person battling the challenges created by multi-tasking. Brennan McEachran, 22, a student working towards a Ryerson BComm degree, is the CEO of Toronto start-up company HitSend. Like Xu, McEachran also highlights the importance of focusing on a single task when managing to get multiple things done. To me, effective multi-tasking is a mix of time management and honesty. Optimize your routines and make sure youve allotted enough time for each task, he tells ONset Magazine in an email interview, If you need to do work that can be done by yourself, do it at night when there are no distractions. McEachran started working on a management application SoapBox when he was in his second year at Ryerson. SoapBox is an app that aggregates ideas based on popularity. Backed by community members, these ideas for example, increasing bike sharing in Toronto are then sent to stakeholders,

nlike most IT guys, Byan Xu, a 29-year-old Toronto entrepreneur, is a morning person. Hsu usually gets up at 7 a.m. After doing some exercises, he heads off to his office in Markham. During the day, Xu takes care of all aspects of his companys daily operation: sending out bills, replying to emails, trying to push forward the application for government funds, and conducting project work. Xu works at IdeaNotion, a software consulting company he established in 2010 with his partners. Its currently run by a team of five. Xus usually the first person who arrives at the office. I get to the office at around 8. I respond to all my emails. Some of the guys will come in [later], Xu said. After, his team kicks off the new day with a daily scrum meeting. Most of my people will be more focused [on specific work]. For me it is more or less struggling through multiple things all the time, he said. Experts say its typical for start-up entrepreneurs


Brennan McEachran

Sunnie Huang/ONset Magazine

who have the ability to instill change. McEachran decided to become a nightschooler, saving the day for his business. As the project grew into a company, I dedicated more time into it and less time into school. As we started booking meetings, we needed to be available during the day. At that point I switched my courses over to night school, he said. As a student and entrepreneur, McEachrans day is particularly long. He wakes up at 8 a.m. and then walks to work. At about 10 a.m., McEachran becomes lost in a whirlwind of sales meetings, business meetings and finally, lunch. After, he continues work and goes straight to school. The length of his working hours is not the only challenge. At work, McEachran needs to switch roles according to the tasks that need to be accomplished. [The most challenging aspect of my work is] managing both development and sales/business and constantly switching from one to the other, he said. Besides working long hours and attending night school, McEachran, like many other entrepreneurs, also needs to be his

own boss instead of waiting for instructions from others. Im constantly working through a problem in my head or doing research on what we could be doing next, he said. I think like most entrepreneurs, I work significantly more than the average worker. As intense as his work can be, McEachran credited his girlfriend for helping him balance between work and life. Without my girlfriend I would be burnt out. She helps me focus on life every once and a while, he said. To maximize their abilities to run their businesses, both Xu and McEachran spend extra hours on learning new knowledge. While McEachran chooses to attend night school, Xu is working on several things including developing his sales skills. I have been working with a couple of sales [people] from the industry, they have been coaching me on sales, Xu said. When running start-ups, trying to learn everything about the business all by oneself, however, may not be the most effective way to keep the company functioning. Both Xu and McEachran value the team

effort when it comes to dealing with things that are outside of their field of expertise. McEachran thinks a team can fill the knowledge gap. First, you have to be honest with yourself. There are only so many hours in a day and so much you can know. If nothing else, know what youre bad at and ask for help. Find a team that balances itself, McEachran said. Xu has a similar strategy. One thing is to keep trying, and the other thing is to find smarter people and hire them, allow them to do it, he said. By the time the sun rises and lightens up the busy streets, Xu and McEachran, as well as many other start entrepreneurs, get ready to head off to their companies. Its probably going to be another day filled with meetings, phone calls, and project work. But like them, dont be discouraged, because you are bringing ideas into reality and creating jobs. So dont be overwhelmed when theres too much on your plate. Just go and make your plates spin.
Jennifer Pang



here are some available tools that can be utilized to help efficiently track tasks and manage time. Professor Smylie suggested two tools he described as boring, but that worked well for him. One is a day-timer. The second thing is a to-do list. I work from a to-do list all the time where Ive got little things

that are somewhere between a minute and an hour to do, he said, As I get them done, I check them off. Xu and McEachran also use some digital tools to help their performance. I use Google Calendar, Trello, Github, and tools weve made internally to track everything, McEachran said. Xu, on the other hand, uses an iPhone app called Errands.



ROXI is not Jeff Tchadjeu and Chris Spokes first business. The duo started an airbrush T-shirt company in high school.


Jeff Tchadjeu

Can friends be business partners?

Jeff Tchadjeu met Chris Spoke at high school. A decade later, their friendship is as strong as their start-up company ROXI

Chris Spoke

chadjeu, 25, and Spoke, 26, co-founded ROXI, a nightlife brokerage app that replaces promoters and connects partygoers with night clubs. They sat down with editor Sunnie Huang in their Queen Street office, just minutes away from the limelights of the Entertainment District, and shared their decade-long friendship and business adventure. How was the transition from friends to business partners? JT: It was very easy. Our personalities match really well. I know Chris is very proficient in where I need help and vice versa. Its unspoken respect we have for each other. We are all looking for the same thing. He was a good pick. CS: We were friends before we were business partners. We have a relationship that makes it very easy to be objective. We could both be passionate about the project, but dispassionate when putting our opinions across. We also recognize that we each bring separate skill sets. Why did you decide to get a third founder to join the team? CS: Neither of us are technical. Thats an obvious gap. So we plug that gap by first bringing on a technical co-founder. Why not go with the classic two-founder model like most start-ups? CS: There is no real formula. You find what works for you. The main issue with bringing on more co-founders is you dilute your own equity stake, but at this point we are

more concerned with building a good product, launching it and creating a successful business than how much we can maximize our own share. What happens when disagreements arise? JT: Chris and I are the rational people. If we disagree, we disagree, and thats it. CS: We know that being a tech start-up, we can iterate and change course very quickly, so its more important that we are decisive than always right. Sometimes its better to shoot first and aim later. You could be paralyzed with indecisiveness and constantly argue over every minor detail. What do you guys think of online dating for co-founders? JT: What?! Thats interesting. I havent had to use it yet. Now you mention it, I might use it to find my match. CS: Its not ideal, but its a solution. It gives you the benefit of not just finding out who the technical people are, but technical people that are specifically interested in starting a business. And of course because you are meeting through this medium, there is very little baggage, so you can be more objective. Ten years and still going strong. What advice would you give to other start-up co-founders to maintain a healthy relationship? JT: Its important to be transparent. If you have an issue, just voice it. Dont keep it in. As long as you share the same vision, it

Sunnie Huang/ONset Magazine

should work out. CS: You need to be able to compartmentalize your business and friendship. You have to stay objective and very rational. Make use of data as much as possible when making decisions so its not just conflicting assumptions. If you see a lot of disagreements that arise, develop a systematic method to work through them. Do you guys hit the clubs a lot because of what you do? JT: We are over the whole clubbing scene, as weird as that sounds. Its strictly business. CS: Less than youd think. More so in the past, and we understand the business having gone through that. Do you guys still play basketball together JT: Maybe when we have time. Its getting cold. Whos better at basketball? CS: Ill give it to Jeff. Im taller but hes more athletic.

Rapid fire round


Who is more bossy? JT: Its a synergy. CS: Neither. Our dynamic is more cooperative.

g Beer or wine? Favourite club? JT: Theres a sick lounge with a JT: Im a fan of both, but beer cultural twist called Zam. wins if I had to choose. CS: I play pool at Spaccos as its CS: Beer by a slight margin. cool and near where I live. g



Did you know: CoFoundersLab was launched on Nov. 11, 2011 (11/11/11). Founder Shahab Kaviani attributes the curious date to his fascination with the number.

How I Met My Co-founder

What start-up bachelor(ette)s need to know about online co-founder matchmaking sites
en DAngelos black-and-white portrait makes him stand out among other faceless online profiles. The young Torontonian is seen sporting a plaid shirt, with a genial smile complementing his Sunnie Huang/ONset Magazine curly locks. His brief yet punchy biography reads, I have been programming online flash games since high school and college. I have read all the classic programming books and cant get enough of it. But DAngelo is not looking for a romantic partner. For the past four months, the 21-year-old has been on the Maryland-based matchmaking site CoFoundersLab dubbed as the eHarmony for entrepreneurs searching for a business partner for his start-up website Throw the Game, a platform where users can create, share and play games. [Throw the Game] is outgrowing how fast I can work. Im just a one-man guy, he said. I need someone to focus on a different aspect of the site. Like DAngelo, more start-up bachelors and bachelorettes are taking their matchmaking endeavour online to complement the search for business partners, and the algorithm-based cupid comes with its own etiquettes and challenges. DAngelo describes his ideal business partner, preferably an artist or a game designer, as someone who enjoys playing games and can draw or program. After that, he is not picky. Passion is number one, he said. It will be a cofounder relationship. We will be best buddies. To help his future cofounder understand who he is, the recent Humber College graduate of a game program has been building his web presence with online resumes, such as a complete LinkedIn profile, an active Twitter account and several online portfolios showcasing his coding skills. He has also been reaching out to Toronto start-up blogs for advice, but few of them replied. DAngelo also signed up for three other business partner matchmaking sites, but all of them seem to offer the same candidate pool, as he kept running into the same names and profile photos from the Toronto area. Another challenge for the young entrepreneur is the imbalance between candidates with ideas and those who have the desire to team up with them. There are not enough people looking to join a start-up, DAngelo said. Everyone is looking for someone to join theirs. This is an area CoFoundersLabs CEO Shahab Kaviani acknowl-

edges and would like to address. It is common for business developers to seek partners with technical skills, such as programmers or designers, to join their venture and polish their ideas, but the site has a shortage of such candidates. For that, CoFoundersLab recently acquired its competitor,, to better match people with complementary business and technical skills. Although many businesses originate as an idea, Kaviani said having the right team is more crucial.

You are going to take so many different turns along the way, it doesnt really matter what the initial idea is. Its more important that you find the right person who can help you navigate the market, refine the product and bring it to market.
Shahab Kaviani
The advantage to online matchmaking, according to Kaviani, is it exposes entrepreneurs to a larger pool of candidates than their own network of friends and business connections. Strong teams need diversity. They need people from different industries, different age groups and cultural backgrounds, he said. The more diverse the team is, the more effective it is. According to Kaviani, there are currently 300 to 500 Canadian users on CoFoundersLab, most of whom come from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. One in four users will make contact with a candidate within the first week. Having reviewed hundreds of profiles, Kaviani said including a video with a personal message in the profile is one of the most effective ways to attract views. Users should also balance their profile descriptions with both visions and concrete evidence, such as their education and experience the more details, the better. Having a real photo and using a real name wouldnt hurt, either. To encourage profile completeness, CoFoundersLab will soon give preferred placement to users with fully completed profiles. Another upcoming feature will match users based on their personalities, goals and complementary skill sets. While the one-year-old start-up continues to improve its algorithms to find the perfect formula for a successful business partnership, Kaviani reminded entrepreneurs the old-fashioned coffee date is an effective follow-up. Online dating is more pervasive and you can look for more people that way. But we encourage people, once they discovered someone online, to get together in person, said Kaviani, who first met his co-founder at a local Cofounders Wanted event. While the search for his best buddy continues, DAngelo recently took a developer job at a Toronto company to get more experience and meet more people. But working on his start-up website with a wingman remains his goal. Im pretty young, so this is pretty new to me, he said. Right now its an experiment, but I think it will work out. -Sunnie Huang



efore Oakley Chan, a right people because you dont 24-year-old Toronto entrewant to suffer emotional backpreneur, established his company drops, Goyal said. Tranquil Capital Corporation in Goyal said they do see some 2010, for days, he repeatedly called great companies run by one perPreparations for Launching a Business son but they do not see many of up the webpage on which he could get his business registered, clicked everything on the page and closed them. He strongly recommends that a team should be put together it before completing the final stage of the registration process-making when building a start-up. the payment-because he did not feel certain about launching his busiJames Zuo, president and founder of Canasia Capital Consultness. ing Inc., a Toronto-based company established in 2010, doesnt see Everyday I opened that page, and thought if I should register the need for a team behind him. my company but [then] I thought Not yet. I dont know enough [to In my case, I am really just a single professional with a business enlaunch this business] yet. Then I closed it, Chan remembers. titlement [] Im working by myself and I outsource whatever I need For entrepreneurs like Chan, the preparation before launching to professionals [] But as my business grows, I will need a secretary a business may involve a lot of work such as conducting market and [hire] some in-house employees. That makes more sense, he said. research, checking the law and relevant legislation, and figuring out Another reason to open a company is that it gives him a more how a certain type of company operates. official title when doing business and meeting people. Between the time Chan came up with the idea of launching this So when I talk to someone, instead of saying Hi, Im James. I am investment company and the time he had it registered, he spent a consultant who is floating around independently doing my own four months researching and getting himself ready. things, Id say Im James, president of the company and what we do, Tranquil Capital Corporation now has two branches-the invest- no matter how many people I have in my firm, isthe exactly the ment company that Chan operates privately in the form of an in- same thing that I would have said if I were independent, he said. vestment club and a printing and advertising company, Tranquil Equipped with experience and a network and having already Printing & Advertising, which was launched about a year later. dipped his toes in the business, Zuo said launching his own firm But research is not enough. Building a functional team is crucial did not require substantial market research. to starting up a company, according to Nilay Goyal, associate diAs far as market research [] not much was needed but I did rector of the Creative Destruction Lab at Rotman, University of kind of inquire among my peers, similar companies, of what would Toronto. be a successful business model for people providing similar serWhen youre building a team it is very important to choose the vices, he said.
Jennifer Pang

Before the Beginning of Everything

Four secrets for success

ow that you know how to launch a start up, the trick is to keep it running. Between one-half and two-thirds of Ontario startups fail within three years of launching, according to 2009 estimates by the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation. ONset spoke with three Ontarians about how young entrepreneurs can avoid becoming a statistic. Do your market research Toronto native Vlad Barshai co-launched setNight in 2010, a website for users to rate venues and plan soires. You cant just build [a product] and expect that people will come, said Barshai. Mark Evans, a marketing consultant who writes an entrepreneurship for the Globe and Mail, agrees. Probably the biggest two causes of failure for start-ups are that theyre not solving a problem, or theyre creating a feature and not a product, he says. Youre operating in a silo if you dont speak with people who would use your product. Stay positive We strongly encourage people that sometimes (failure) can be a good thing, said

Mike Kirkup, director of the VeloCity incubation program at the University of Waterloo. Its a way of firsthand learning that can be a key to success. Though Canadians can be hesitant to admit failure, the vibe is much more lax in Silicon Valley. San Francisco hosts FailCon, an annual one-day event where entrepreneurs share their failures and seek advice from industry experts. Try, try again Barshais team took what they learned from setNight to launch Reachli, a social media aggregation tool that tracks marketing on sites like Pinterest. They found a strong market and now have

a 65,000-client waiting list. You have to keep shipping, he said. A lot of stuff you ship wont work but if you develop a sense of what works better, you can make it. Seek advice When a start-up is failing, the best thing an entrepreneur can do is be honest and realistic about their situation, says Evans. That includes investors and advisors, who Kirkup says can often see when a start-up is close to success. Its going to be one of the most tricky parts of being an entrepreneur. Youre going to get contradictory feedback and you cant do both, said Kirkup.




start-up \strt-p\ noun 1. a fledgling business enterprise 2. the act or instance of seting in operation or motion
Courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary

A StarT-up Is...
Matt Braga
Freelance tech journalisT


nstagram: a photo-sharing app used by more than 100 million users and acquired by Facebook for $1 billion despite virtually having no revenue. Bufferbox: a one-year-old Waterloo-based company offering temporary parcel pick up stations for packages ordered online. It was bought by Google last November. Color: another photo-sharing app that initially raised $41 million in funding in 2011 and pivoted to a video-sharing app only to announce its closure after failing to catch traction. Though all different, the one thing these companies have in common is theyre still often referred to as start-ups something that drives freelance journalist Matt Braga insane. People use the term startup interchangeably and its not always necessarily correct, says Braga, who has written for publications like Ars Technica, Tested, the Globe and Mail, and National Post among others. Sometimes, myself included, if Im writing about a company and Im not super up to date on its history, the term start-up is a catchall that works. One thing that almost everyone in the industry agrees on, according to him, is the vision of a start-up as two or three people working in a garage at their parents house night and day, ceaselessly perfecting a mobile, internet or tech product. But outside of that, there are lots of other definitions and even more gray areas. To OMERS Ventures Managing Director Derek Smyth, a start-up is a company unable to fund itself or be self-sufficient. Start-ups they need outside funding because their business is not yet fueling itself, he says. Smyth adds that most startups 8 out of 10 are rarely able to generate their own cash even past the 510 year mark. Once they hit all these points, they can successfully become a full-fledged business. Alan Lysne, Ryerson Digital Media Zones Director of Programming describes start-ups as companies that have yet to develop a business model. Because its fairly early in its inception, a start-up usually lacks long-term planning and the time and capital invested in older companies. He says once a start-up has less financial risk, its only then that they can become a successful business. When a founder can step away for a period of time like a 2-week vacation and know that their business will continue without them there, it means they have the proper infrastructure in place, he says. Another good indication of what a start-up is, according to Lysne, is the kind of employees the companys hiring. Start-ups would usually hire people for essential positions like designers and software developers but once hiring focuses on other aspects like human resources and legal aid, its a sign that a start-up is maturing. Due to their leanness, Braga adds that start-ups usually focus on developing one product. Facebook on its early days was just about connecting people to their friends but now it has 20 products just dedicated to advertising, he says. Despite all sorts of the informal descriptions being thrown around, Lysne says there is no one definition of a start-up. Its really just a bit of a mindset and follows no fine set of rules, he says. But is this a problem? Braga says it shouldnt be, as not having a unified definition aptly captures the ever-changing nature of start-ups. The term start-up is a culmination of a bunch of circumstances, he says. Im not sure if its the most precise language but I dont know if it matters. Besides, he adds, in this industry, you cant just put everyone inside a box.
Sarah Taguiam

r a company that focuses on developing one product r a company with a small number of employees who work in either a small office or at home


r a company that has yet to practice long-term planning and develop a business model r a company that has a lot of year-term financial risk r a company that doesnt have infrastructure in place that allows a founder to step away for a period of time from the business with the knowledge that it can still thrive r a company that only hires the essential tech personnel


r a company that isnt selfsufficient and needs outside funding to stay afloat r a company thats been in the industry for a short time



Building your business with your schools help

Entrepreneurship centres
Student leader, college dean, entrepreneurship centre manager, and business owner. Jennifer Pang finds out how schools take students entrepreneurial dreams under their wings.

hen the topic of successful innovative entrepreneurs is brought up, names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are almost always dropped. The most frequently mentioned aspect of their success is the fact that the Microsoft and Apple founders managed to rise to the top without finishing college. But before you decide schools are useless, can I have 15 minutes of your attention to share how schools are working towards helping young entrepreneurs to build businesses? Lets check out some of Ontarios post-secondary resources tailored to serve student entrepreneurs.

We keep an open door policy, so we ensure that anyone who is interested [can] come by and discuss anything related to [REI] .
Curtis Yim

According to Entrepreneurship and the Canadian Universities: Report of a National Study of Entrepreneurship Education: 2009, in 2004, there were 27 university-based entrepreneurship centres, after 2009 there are now 39, eleven centres are located in Ontario. If you havent visited any of these centres or checked their services yet, let us start our trip by meeting Curtis Yim, a fourth year Ryerson student, majoring in marketing and minoring in finance. Yim, 22, is the president of Enactus Ryerson, formerly SIFF (Students in Free Enterprise) Ryerson, and the ambassador for Ryerson Entrepreneur Institute (REI).

REI is a student-led entrepreneurship centre. If you walk in REIs office located at 575 Bay Street with your business idea, youll see Yim, a clean cut young man wearing a pair of square shaped glasses and a shiny earring, sitting in front of his MacBook, ready to help you start your venture. We keep an open door policy, so we ensure that anyone who is interested [can] come by and discuss anything related to [REI] with us, Yim said. According to Yim, the institute connects entrepreneurs with other available resources to help them further their goals and provides education and funding. REI works with other groups and organizations like the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) at Ryerson University, a workspace designated to supporting startup entrepreneurs and Ryerson Angel Network. Once REI has helped you connect with the resources you need, you maybe better prepared to move forward with your business venture. Yim recognizes the fact that being a student-entrepreneur means you have to deal with schoolwork while you build your business The advantages of being a youth is that you have that time, you have opportunities and you have those resources. As students, you have free resources out there such as REI, such as these programs here, [and] faculty that can help you out on different aspects and give you free resources you wouldnt receive [otherwise], he said. Being heavily involved in the entrepreneurship world, Yim says the spirit of enWWW.ONSETMAG.COM

Jennifer Pang/O

Nset Magazine

Curtis Yim

trepreneurs inspires him. A really cool quote I love to say is Like the sun, whenever I fall, I will rise again. And thats what life is all about, he said. I came up with that quote just going through the experience of entrepreneurs, working with entrepreneurs, going through failures, trying different initiatives, trying different projects, and helping spread [the entrepreneurship culture]. The story of Damn Heels Now lets hear the story of Hailey Coleman, 24, a former business management student at Ryerson. Coleman first attended REIs StarMeUp program in 2009 and has become the owner and founder of Damn Heels, a company that designs and sells easily portable womens flats.

Jennifer Pang/ONset


Hailey Co leman

The pain caused by wearing heels inspired Coleman to develop a product that gives women a break from their best (or worst) friends: heels. I found myself hobbling home in bare feet after a night in heels, and I was like, Why do we all do this to ourselves? I wish somebody could do something for us, Coleman said, And then I was kind of like, I can do that. She presented her idea at StarMeUp Ryerson Idea Consultation. When I first started thinking of this idea, I initially went and pitched this idea to [] a panel of experts [and] they provided feedback, Coleman said. So thats how I got started and they said, Its time to stop thinking about it and actually do it, she added. Coleman, of course, did not let the idea pass by. It took her less than a year to launch her creation, Damn Heels. I went to the idea consultation in the beginning of 2009. And I worked to develop the business plan, [...] I hired a designer, I had to search for factories, and then I launched in December of 2009. And then I did the business plan competition in 2010. In the following year, Coleman competed at the Slaight Communications Business Plan Competition, an annual event organized by Enactus Ryerson, and brought home a $25,000 prize. The funding helped me definitely to get


to where I am today, Coleman said. But the good news did not stop there. The prize opened another door for her. One of the good things about winning the business plan competition is that you are also eligible to get funding from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, so I did pursue that. And in [their] program they also set you up with a mentor. So thats where I would say I got a lot of additional support, she said. All this is an old story to Coleman now. After the business took off in 2009, Coleman discovered that she did not love the product she originally launched. She then spent a year and a half to redesign

I just lunched a new product at the beginning of October, she said, Its still Damn Heels. Its just a different style. Colleges are ready to help, too While attending university means campus life can even be a doorway to the entrepreneur world, here is the even better news: entrepreneurship centres are not exclusive to universities.

Centre of Entrepreneurship at Centennial College located at 941 Progress Avenue. The centre was established 20 years ago, it evolved over time, but fundamentally we provide the advisory support and tools to people who have good a business idea, said Sharon Mooney, manager of the Centre. One of the programs offered by the college is the Student Business Incubator (SBI), a program that provides student-entrepreneurs with services designed to develop their entrepreneurial skills. Staff finished its most recent intake in Sept. 2012. We just did another intake, we had 30 businesses come out and present. We narrowed it down to about 12 of them. They are just unbelievably good ideas, solid thinking, and passionate people, Mooney said, And most of these kids are in their final year or from the alumni. Why is education important? One of the common obstacles encountered by people who work with Ryersons REI is that the absence of essential business skills creates roadblocks on their way to success. Often times when people come in, they have an idea but they dont have structure or a model, Yim said. Mooney has heard stories of people who jump into the business world unprepared, which eliminated their chances of getting financing. In the past couple of months, she talked to small business bankers. One shared that in a weekly basis, he usually sees nine out of ten applications that are unreadable. Theyre not in good English and theres not enough information for him to make a decision., Mooney commented. With that in mind, Mooney said education is really important. Avoiding education mostly likely will not make you the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, who both Vourakes and Mooney called anomalies. True entrepreneurs look at people, and they say, Where is their need, where can I fit into the lifestyle of what people are doing? Vourakes said. There are lots of opportunities but entrepreneurs need the tenacity and the ability to capitalize on them, he added.
Jennifer Pang

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Nset Magazine

Sharon Mooney

Most post-secondary institutions have a place [for entrepreneurship], said Michael Vourakes, dean of the school of business at Centennial College in Toronto. This becomes evident when you visit the


Sunnie Huang/ONset Magazine

Like some of the elaborate stories crafted for video games, the route to become a game writer is far from linear. Sunnie Huang takes a behind-thescene look at the career of a narrative designer

n the early 2000s, Dan Vader, a recent university graduate from Ryerson Universitys film program, was working as a truck driver for a Toronto document recycling company when he came across a pad of blank graphing paper that was about to be thrown away. He kept it for himself. Eight years later, the same pad or whats left of it is tucked comfortably under the keyboard on Vaders desk at his Capybara Games office in Downtown Toronto, slightly wrinkled with curled corners. The tabloid-sized paper is where Vader, now a narrative designer at the independent game studio, makes undecipherable doodles and scribbles, gives birth to characters and creates fictional universes. For me, getting a job in video games was as improbable as going to Hollywood, said Vader, 33. As video games become more story driven, game studios are realizing the importance of employing writers in the creative process. But like some of the elaborate stories crafted by game writers, the route to a career in game writing is far from linear. Despite sharing his last name with the Star Wars antagonist, Vaders undergraduate studies in film didnt turn into a career in film writing. Working on a film set cured me of my desire to work for film, he said. Instead, he turned his interest in screenwriting from the silver screen to the smaller and much more interactive screens of game consoles and smartphones. As game writers look to animation, TV and films for inspiration, the narrative skills between these screen-based products are often transferable. For example, Vader said, it is not uncommon for heavyweight game studios to hire acclaimed screenwriters from the film industry to become the face of their upcoming releases. The gaming industry as a whole is taking good writing and good story more seriously, so they are looking to other mediums to bring pedigree, Vader said. avid Khavari, a narrative designer at game juggernaut Ubisofts Toronto office and the writer behind the latest instalment of Splinter Cell, also worked on TV and film projects during university. After completing his degree in history and political science at the University of Toronto, Khavari made his break into the gaming industry with Bedlam Games in 2009, where he worked on Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale among other gigs. The beautiful thing about game is it has the most eclectic group of individuals youll find. Theres no one direct path. You can be coming from anywhere, he said. Whats common amongst everyone is you are always writing. You just have to love doing it. Depending on the budget and scope of the project, Khavari added, game studios often employ contract freelancers in conjunction with in-house writers.


It doesnt have to be either or, he said. Theres so much opportunity for stories in game. Its an unbelievably exciting time.

rom the back of Kimberley Sparks first-year game writing class at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, students laptop screens displayed math lecture slides, graphic design programs and comic strips, while they waited for the lecturer to start. The universitys four-year game development and entrepreneurship program allows students to experiment with a wide range of courses from linear algebra and animation to accounting for IT and entrepreneurship. Sparks, who has been a screenwriter for more than a decade, started her class by showing the opening scene of action-adventure game Unchartered 2 and asking students to write down what they see. Instead of letting students come up with original writing right off the bat, it is easier to do the reverse, Sparks explained. Although this class is mandatory, Sparks found many students are more interested in the other aspects of game development. I always ask at the beginning [of the semester] how many of them actually want to be writers, said the soft-spoken teacher. I'm lucky if I get about 10 per cent.

Source: The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

The problem is everybody thinks they can write, but it is a skill and it takes a lot of practice. You dont necessarily have to go to school for it, but it takes some degree of talent and a lot of practice.
-Kimberly Sparks

What's happening is more video games need to be story based to engage the player and stand out in a very crowded market place, said Kelly Lynne Ashton, director of policy at WGC. As more members are dabbling in video game which pumps $1.7 billion into the Canadian economy every year and other forms of digital writing, WGC has published digital guidelines based on industry statistics and actual contracts. Unlike the Guild's other collective agreements, the digital guidelines do not set out minimums fees are negotiable between producers and screenwriters but they contain suggested rates and conditions to guide them through this process. One of the challenges the Guild faces is the nascence of video game writing and the muddles that come with it. For example, like many other careers in gaming, there is no standardization of minimums or accreditation. In her book Writing for Animation, Comics, and Games, author Christy Marx's list of possible titles for writers includes story writer, scenario writer, scriptwriter, dialogue writer, content designer, story designer and narrative designer. This is further complicated when writers take on the role of designers. The guidelines ... are our advice for what's appropriate and we try to keep those up to date, Ashton added.

For students who have a keen interest in writing for games, Sparks suggests a creative writing program might be more suitable than a full-fledged game development program that delves further into the technical aspects of video game. Nonetheless, writers should familiarize themselves with the work of programmers and artists. You will understand what's involved in their jobs and how you can make their jobs easier, or not make it harder, said Sparks, who is learning programing in her spare time.

lso jumping into the growing trend of video game enthusiasts is the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), a union representing professional writers, which has sponsored panels on game writing and organized networking sessions with video game companies.

ack at Vader's desk overlooking Spadina Avenue, he sits quietly in front of his computer, surrounded by his colleague's impressive collection of action figures. Vader describes himself as the laughing stock of the office compared to his technologically shrewd colleagues. Google Docs is as tech-savvy as I get, he jokes. But despite constantly being accused of naively clicking on phishing links and causing office-wide virus infections, Vader sees the benefits of being an on-site writer. It's absolutely crucial to be right there with the team. You'll always know the course of the game, and that informs the writing, he said, adding that his colleagues' opinions and interests often get filtered into his work. During office-wide meetings, Vader said music and low-budget movies would be playing simultaneously in the background, while the team discusses projects over beer. And what happens when writer's block strikes? I switch the album, he said.


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