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From startup founder to founder blues: The growing mental health issues in the tech sector


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From startup founder to founder blues: The growing mental health issues in the tech sector

Almost half of Canadians -49 per cent to be exact- have experienced mental health issues at one point in their life, according to a new national survey by Sun Life Financial Canada.

From work-related stress to living with depression, mental illness has affected a whopping 63 per cent of millennials, 50 per cent of Gen Xers and 41 per cent of “late bloomers” Sun Life says in a news release.

It should come as no surprise that mental health issues affect a broad swath of society. However, the increase of mental illnesses has costed the Canadian economy more than $50 billion every year. For businesses that means a total of $6 billion in lost productivity, which works out to almost $1,500 per employee each year.

Unfortunately, one-quarter of Canadians have never discussed their mental health problems to a professional. And a new generation of startups are stepping up to solve that. These entrepreneurs see the issue as a chance to make a difference and lucrative opportunity to truly innovate an underserved (and oft forgotten) market.

Canadian startups — like Inkblot, WellCalm and Newtopia — are building new solutions that can prevent, diagnose and even treat mental health issues across Canada. Of course, working in the space is no easy feat. For a long time mental health was rarely discussed, often underfunded and a burden placed on our overstretched health system. Today’s health gamechangers are working to solve that.

Making a difference and making money

There’s no cut-and-dry solution to fixing the country’s mental health woes, but technology can help, explains Jeff Ruby, founder of Newtopia — a health and wellness company that raised $10 million in Series A funding to expand its health management and coaching offerings.

It can play a role in connecting people with the tools they need to take charge of their overall health, although it isn’t the ultimate solution most people want it to be, he emphasizes.

“Innovators who are hoping to play a bigger role in the space need to think about solutions pragmatically,” Ruby advises. “I think there’s an important role for technologies to play, but there’s also a caution. Technology alone is not the sole answer. It’s a combination of technology-enabled services that have a human component. Solutions (like wearable devices or apps) aren’t the answer alone.”

WellCalm founder Samira Ramzy couldn’t agree more. Since co-launching her wellness business that offers massages and mental health workshops in 2015 the company has seen a bevy of startups enter the health and wellness space all looking to hit it big.
“It’s not an easy money-making industry to get into,” she says. “We have to work twice as hard to educate consumers and help them understand that mental health support isn’t a weakness and then provide the services that they need. You can’t just start a business and then expect people to line up around the block to access it”

Of course, despite the hurdles Ramzy and other entrepreneurs like her experience, for those that make it there are several opportunities to grow . According to CB Insight [link], health and wellness tech startups saw a record number of investment in 2017.

Some of the biggest deals include a $40 million Series B investment for Quartet Health [link], one of the largest mental health tech deals since 2012 that featured heavyweights like Google Ventures , OAK HC/FT Partners, Polaris Partners, and F-Prime Capital. Not too far behind was a $37 million Series B deal with Headspace [link] and a whopping $35 million deal for Lyra Health.

The entrepreneur effect

72 per cent of entrepreneurs are dealing with mental health concerns, compared to a mere seven per cent of the general public, according to a study from the University of California. This has lead to the term “Founder Blues”.

Between 2011 and 2015 “Founder Blues” have led to several high-profile suicides in the startup world, including the death of Austen Heinz, a biotech entrepreneur and the founder of Cambrian Genomics; Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit; and Jody Sherman, the founder of Ecomom.

“Being an entrepreneur is an emotional enterprise. There’s a lot of unknowns… their companies become their identities,” say Dr. Arash Zohoor, family physician, co-founder and CEO of Inkblot, an online therapy platform. “Their level of anxiety when it comes to running out of money, meeting investor expectations, the reality of marketplace… they all are very difficult.”

So how would an entrepreneur know when it’s time to seek help with their mental health? Are these online mental wellness platforms the answer to the stigma found in the startup ecosystem? And how does Dr. Arash balance the stress of being an entrepreneur while helping treat mental health issues in his patients? Take a listen to Robert Gold, host of BusinessCast, interview Dr. Arash Zohoor, family physician, co-founder and CEO of Inkblot.

Make sure to also visit our official iTunes page.

Why e-commerce stores are going from click to brick

Warby Parker. Alibaba. Frank and Oak.

All three e-businesses are based in different countries and target very different markets yet have one big thing in common: They’re transforming the retail industry one brick-and-mortar store at a time.

For a long time e-commerce was seen as the more attractive option for businesses selling consumer goods. These internet-first companies favoured the internet because it was cheaper than physical spaces that often came with high overhead costs (think: expensive leases, paid on-site staff and more).

But, that’s all changing now. The biggest trend in the tech e-retail space is now offline stores. Big names that cut their teeth online are opening up flagship locations. What started as test pop-up shops lead to an unprecedented surge in physical stores.

For example, in 2017 womenswear e-retailer Everlane launched its first store despite for years vehemently claiming it would never open one. Meanwhile, last year bed-in-a-box startup Casper unveiled its first retail outlet with plans for more to come. More impressively last month Chinese e-giant Alibaba announced a $2.6 billion plan to open a series of brick-and-mortar stores across China.

So why are so many internet-first companies suddenly pursuing offline spaces? Easy: Experts are finding for the few that run physical stores right there’s a lot of money to be made.

The death of (offline) retail has been greatly exaggerated

Amazon first started the offline trend back in 2015 when it opened its first bookstore. Since then the internet juggernaut has made $1.3 billion from its in-person stores. It makes sense considering a majority of retail spending still takes place in brick-and-mortar stores.

A 2017 study by the Retail Council of Canada, Microsoft and research tool WisePlum found that shoppers prefer physical retail store experiences. Why? Offline stores offer instant gratification, the ability to compare prices and inspect products up close all at once.

These facts don’t surprise Jen Koss, co-founder of Brika — a retail store that sells artisan crafts from indie designers. The company launched its first brick-and-mortar store on Queen Street West five years ago and hasn’t looked back.

“I was surprised by how a physical store can have a very deep connection with the customer,” she explains. “[My co-founder and I] have seen how customers will remember the smell of candle, how the store is organized, the people working when they walk in,” she explains about how the little things often to bigger sales and create long-term customers.

Entrepreneurs should also understand is that customer service really matters with physical stores, she says. “A lot of it comes down to investing in the best quality store staff,” the Harvard graduate explains. “It comes down to personal relationships that you create in the store. Focus on who you hire, how you train your ambassadors and how they become part of the brand.”

IRL: Location, location, location

Another critical point to remember is to always choose the right location. Physical spaces can easily be judged based on their surroundings and how accessible it is for customers. If you have the best products, but it’s incredibly hard for the public to get to your store you’re doing your company a disservice.

One popular way for startups to dip their toe in the real-to-touch store market is to experiment with pop-up shops. This allows companies to visit unique locations and get to know their customers before signing anything long-term. This middle-of-the-road approach can also help generate brand awareness, take entrepreneurs to where their customers often work or live and a simple way to reach a whole new demographic. For looking for on-the-ground advice Shopify has created a guide that outlines everything from location to pricing includes everything an entrepreneur needs to know.

Choose your own adventure

Of course, e-stores don’t always need to invest in the physical real estate to stay profitable. Companies like Etsy rely solely on partnering with existing space-focused companies like Hudson’s Bay or Macy’s for short-term leases or “stores within stores.” These special arrangements can end up lowering the financial burden for emerging entrepreneurs while providing a lot of the same retail benefits.

Another unexpected bonus of this approach is that it can easily position an e-commerce company among other quality brands. For retailers looking to emulate an offline store success they should focus on finding one location (i.e. a store) that customers can associate with their brand, but for everyone else complementary company to work with can work just as well.

Ex-500 Startups partner Elizabeth Yin on breaking into the U.S., finding investors and more

Elizabeth Yin has spent years mentoring, managing and meeting with top entrepreneurs from across the globe. Her personal rolodex includes contact details for innovators at today’s biggest companies and since graduating from Stanford University and MIT in the early 2000s she’s helped founders raise millions in venture capital.

Some of her most notable accomplishments include cofounding B2B advertising platform LaunchBit — that was later acquired for an undisclosed amount — joining Google as one of its marketing managers, overseeing 500 Startups’ accelerator program and most recently starting her own pre-seed fund called Hustle Fund.

What are some of the biggest business lessons she’s learned throughout her career? Entrepreneurs should focus on the facts during investment meetings, understand networking is crucial for success and make smart hiring decisions.

Why Canadian entrepreneurs should stay home

For years, Canadian entrepreneurs were told that to grow their company or find investment they had to relocate to the U.S., and in particular Silicon Valley. That’s not technically true anymore says Yin, who credits Canada’s ever-growing reputation on the global stage for the change.

“Before you’d have to trek down to Silicon Valley for one to two months to network, but now VCs are coming up here … take advantage of that to get to know them and network at events.” Elizabeth Yin, cofounder of @hustlefund

“Here’s the dirty secret about staying in Canada,” she explains. “VC schedules are really busy with back-to-back meetings in the Valley. It’s really hard to get a meeting with them there, but when they’re up here their schedule is a lot more open. They’re here to learn about the ecosystem, mingle with startups at places, like the DMZ, and open to spending more time just talking.”

And, that’s not all. The high cost of living in Silicon Valley can be a detriment to bootstrapped startups. Why? Because they’re forced to spend most of their money on day-to-day living costs. A recent report by CNBC backs up this claim. It found startups in the San Francisco area are having a hard time recruiting tech talent because of high living costs.

“The cost of living — compared to San Francisco — is better here [in Canada] … you have access to grants that U.S. citizens don’t have and because more VCs are starting to come up here there’s more potential to network without having to spend money.”

Ask employees the right questions

Regardless of product or company, every founder needs a team of dedicated employees. Of course, onboarding new employees can be one of the most stressful, yet rewarding responsibilities for an entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, that also means hiring new employees can easily go wrong and cost entrepreneurs a lot of time and money. In an industry where startups are expected to scale as fast as possible, one bad egg can set a founder back years. For example, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh estimates bad hires have cost him approximately $100 million.

“Your first couple of hires solidify your company culture, which sets the tone for the rest of your company,” explains Yin in her blog. “And most entrepreneurs tend to look at candidates purely based on skill. But looking at a person based on just one axis is a huge fallacy.”

Hiring the best people means analyzing their personality. For instance, like how they’ll operate under stressful situations or go above what’s expected.

“The people with the best skills for the job can be your worst performers if the environment isn’t a good fit for them.” Elizabeth Yin, cofounder of @hustlefund

A Harvard University paper found that even highly sought after employees who engage in harmful behaviour can hurt a business’s long-term prospects. Bad hires, it states, lower productivity, negatively impact employee morale, and can cost up to $12,000 due to employee turnover.

What entrepreneurs should know to survive in tech

Passing the investor smell test

While at 500 Startups, Yin worked with a variety of tech startups. One thing she noticed during that time was that investors all too often would fund companies that looked great on paper or spoke a certain way. However, those characteristics didn’t necessarily correlate with success. What did matter in the end was execution. This is why at the Hustle Fund, Yin does most of her early investment conversations via email. It helps her focus on a startup’s figures, success and more.

“When I’m doing due diligence I’ll ask a lot about execution and timeline. I want to understand what the velocity of this startup is. Is there some signal these companies are doing something worthwhile and moving fast enough?” So far, Hustle Fund’s innovative process has produced interesting results. In 2017 47 per cent of its portfolio companies had at least one female founder.

She also looks at how fast a startup is scaling. “Are you doing customer development in three days, three months or three years?” Yin adds. “Every business is different. If it’s taking you longer to reach certain metrics than others in the same industry that looks bad.”

“I’ll ask questions about unit economics. Do I think, based on how you’re approaching your business, that the cost to acquire a customer is going to be less than what they’re worth in the end?” Elizabeth Yin, cofounder of @hustlefund

At the end of the day not finding investment isn’t a sign to quit. “If you read TechCrunch it looks like everyone is getting funded, but it’s just not true,” she says. “The good news for [Canadians] is it’s easier to bootstrap here because your costs are lower and you can survive longer to acquire customers and reach a profit without running out of capital.”

Interested in learning more? Check out Robert Gold, host of BusinessCast, interview Michael Gord, the founder of MLG Blockchain about how he grew his business, the power of bitcoin and how he’s changing the tech industry.

Sales-boosting advice to turn your startup into a million-dollar business

Being an entrepreneur is tough. In today’s startup ecosystem where investment can be hard to procure and one bad customer can make or break a company, finding the right kind of client (read: consistent) is crucial for long-term success.

Of course, this isn’t exactly easy. An always-changing tech landscape and 24-hour startup life can make prioritizing sales efforts challenging. While there are programs that can help — such as the DMZ’s sales accelerator –not every startup makes it into the program.

Danielle Brown, chief marketing officer for Hubba, has seen first-hand how fast the sales industry can drastically change and why it’s important to prioritize sales outreach. “Things are really growing and changing at a rapid pace. It’s a really different world … the way we consume information has drastically changed, so the way we market and sell has changed.”

Being social matters

Canadian startup Shopify analyzed social-driven orders to better understand how social sites can drive sales. They found that:

  • Facebook: Eighty-five per cent) of orders originated from the popular site and it accounted for most of its social traffic.
  • Timing: Companies that launch a product during the weekend saw social orders drop 10 to 15 per cent.
  • Video: Companies that incorporated video content saw a 1.9 percent higher conversion rates.

Brown, a marketing and sales guru, knows what she’s talking about having worked for business heavyweights like Universal Music, SiriusXM and e-commerce loyalty firm Points throughout her career. Now at Hubba, one of Canada’s fastest growing companies — she leads the brand’s marketing and sales vision. For entrepreneurs with limited budgets, the right online tools — that range from email tracking software to advertising tools — can help startups grow without bankrupting them, she says.
“Tried and true things, like Facebook, Instagram and those channels are getting so sophisticated about how you target people so staying on top of those platforms can be a cheap way for you to find the people you’re looking for.”

Outreach tips

Marie Chevrier is the founder of Sampler, a startup radically changing how companies get consumers to try their product. She and her team focus on getting samples to the right consumers instead of just merely distributing thousands of products in high traffic areas. In her business knowing how to push sales and garner leads is critical.

Since launching in 2013 her company has worked with more than 200 brands and reached 25 million consumers around the globe. Chevrier says focusing on low-cost tools played an important role in her company’s success.

“I suggest getting your teams on trials and measuring how much they use the technology before implementing. Everyone thinks they need the shiny new thing but implementing its usage can be tough across teams,” she explains. “Our team started by managing leads on Google Sheets before we moved to a CRM system.”

Another tip? Try cold outreach to potential clients or even partner companies you want to work with. It can yield positive benefits but only when done right. Novice businesses often rely on impersonal, template-based messages to save time, but this is bad for business, she says. 

“Remember to try and be useful in the first few seconds of a call and/or the first line of the email. Get to the point quickly,” Chevrier adds. “Remember to add value and where possible introduce your product indirectly. Share case studies from one of their competitors, a blog post on industry news that makes your product useful but skip the ‘At X we do this’ in the first few lines. Leave that to the end or even for the next email.”

Brown couldn’t agree more. Hubba still relies on cold outreach to connect with new customers, but her team makes sure to always customize each interaction

“Cold calling and cold emailing is very effective. We use it at Hubba and personalization is key. Know what you’re doing [and] who you’re targeting. Also text emails work better than designed emails because people respond faster. Entrepreneurs can over engineer things sometimes.” — Danielle Brown, CMO, Hubba.


The personal touch

In the midst of sales talks, it’s easy to overlook how important the human touch is for every interaction. Sometimes unlikely sales can be found through existing customers, former leads and ambassadors.

Ensuring you approach every meeting, interaction with industry peers or even networking event with a smile can be valuable. “I’ve found referrals and advocacy is way more valuable than tooting my own horn. If the messenger is a peer, I’ve found the message carries more importance,” explains serial entrepreneur Ben Baldwin.

The entrepreneur is the creator of The Founder City Project, founder of ClearFit and sits on Toronto’s Innovation Economy Advisory Council. Sometimes networking can provide long-term sales benefits. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting that people (not just tools) are important to your business, he says. “Peers are incredibly powerful teachers, especially when both parties are comfortable enough to be open and vulnerable with one another.”

Brown agrees. Acknowledging the role people play can either help or even hinder or startup depending on how it’s done.

“Regardless you’re always marketing and selling with everything you do,” she explains. “People will talk about their interaction with you — positive or negative. When startups are launching they tend to be more aware of their early interactions with customers and bigger companies might get lost with that stuff.”

Interested in learning more? Check out Robert Gold, host of BusinessCast, interview Michael Gord, the founder of MLG Blockchain about how he grew his business, the power of bitcoin and how he’s changing the tech industry.

Make sure to also visit our official iTunes page for all of our BusinessCast interviews.

Why legal startups are destined to change the world

The technology boom that disrupted key industries — like transportationteaching and the media — has found a new target. Tech-savvy entrepreneurs are creating A.I.-influenced tools that make it easier for both lawyers and the clients they serve to navigate the legal system.

Everything from drafting new contracts to discovery and due diligence is evolving at a record pace. More and more companies are choosing to offload so-called grunt work once performed by interns and junior associates onto sophisticated machines.

Of course, this has huge ramifications for entry-level professionals. New lawyers and paralegals learn the ins and outs of the profession by working on smaller tasks that computers can now do in half the time.

The future is now

It’s not hard to see how influential A.I.-tech has become. In China, officials are using new tech to run the world’s first ‘cyber courts’. These online systems preside over internet-related legal cases, which free up traditional courts to deal with other, arguably more important, issues. 

Meanwhile, last year, CaseCruncher Alpha (a U.K. robot) made headlines when it beat 100 of London’s top lawyers in a timed legal challenge. The now-famous bot was created by law students Jozef Maruscak, Rebecca Agliolo and Ludwig Bull. 

As technology continues its inevitable march forward new digital tools will rise to change how lawyers and those in the field work.

Interested in learning about how Canadian startups are changing the legal world? Listen to  Robert Gold, host of BusinessCast, interview Hersh Perlis, director of Ryerson’s Legal Innovation Zone. Make sure to also visit our official iTunes page.

The ugly truth about how a lack of diversity is hurting tech

Toronto’s growing tech industry can be an isolating place for people of colour. The city, like other  tech hubs across the country, suffers from a lack of diversity.

In fact, a 2018 report by Innovate Inclusion found that some of Toronto’s top tech incubators — institutions tasked with helping new startups thrive — lacked diversity at several levels. A growing problem, the study says, that’s contributing to a “digital divide” in the province.

“We fundamentally believe the solutions we are creating through technologies must reflect the populations they serve.” @jodilynnkovitz, founder of @Move_the_Dial.

For the industry’s Black workers and other underrepresented groups gaining a meaningful foothold in tech might be especially difficult. While Canadian statistics aren’t available — a telling problem in itself — the U.S. offers a glimpse into some of the problems workers likely face.

Black in tech

South of our border, Black tech workers make up only 9.3 per cent of the industry. Alongside Hispanics, they remain underrepresented compared to other private sectors and hold fewer leadership positions. Meanwhile, a survey by the Kapoor Center for Social Impact found two of the most common reasons minorities chose to quit the tech industry was down to discrimination and cultural bias.

Here at home, advocates say Canadian workers face similar problems on the job and more is needed to combat it. Nirvana Champion has seen first-hand how challenging the city’s tech scene can be. Especially, she says, for women of colour who experience discrimination on multiple fronts. Through Move the Dial for Everyone — a subset of the well-known Move The Dial initiative that amplifies women in tech — she’s working to help the industry’s underrepresented groups. 

 “We don’t have the data, because we’re not collecting it yet,” she explains. “Anecdotally we uncover more stories all the time about the experiences of people of colour. When we’re talking about diversity we have to  move beyond just gender and look at intersectionality.”

“Through Move the Dial for Everyone we’re sharing stories and hoping to drive awareness,” adds Dayana Cadet, another volunteer and the group’s co-lead. “We want to show people who may not be familiar with what women of colour [and other underrepresented groups] face to know that there is an issue. [We want to] foster a community of inclusion for those who have previously always felt excluded or unheard.

Why inclusion matters

Aside from the fact that diversity has proven over and over again that it’s good for everyone, it also makes economic sense. Diverse companies are more profitable, period.

U.S. companies with higher racial diversity are more successful. A McKinsey report showed firms that place in the “top quartile for racial or ethnic diversity” are 35 per cent more likely to have higher financial returns.

What’s more, a study by Intel and Dalberg found that the tech industry “could generate an additional $300 to $370 billion each year if the racial/ethnic diversity of tech companies’ workforces reflected that of the talent pool.”

“The data made it abundantly clear that there is a significant gap in gender diversity in Canada [but] we found through our work that for visible minorities and other underrepresented groups those numbers are far worse.” @jodilynnkovitz, founder of @Move_the_Dial.

The same study also found the racial makeup of a company directly correlates to higher performance over time and improved efficiency. “For every 10 per cent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes rise 0.8 per cent.” 

What’s next?

For years, companies spent millions on education campaigns – blaming a talent pipeline for a lack of representation. But that’s just not true anymore. New surveys are finding talent isn’t the only issue preventing diverse workers from joining some of the world’s biggest tech companies. Bias, it seems, plays a big part in preventing both women and minorities from advancing in the industry.

Even when people of colour do graduate with the necessary skills they find it difficult to thrive. Applicants with Black- or Hispanic-sounding names are less likely to receive a callback or be hired. On the other hand, people of colour, regardless of gender, are 3.5 times more likely to leave the tech industry due to harassment. That’s almost double the rate for white women.

Entrepreneurs looking for ways to improve their diversity could look to industry leaders like Pinterest. The photo-sharing platform has increased the number of women and people of colour at its offices. The company went beyond diversity pledges to improve its numbers, which included publicly listing its own poor track record. Microsoft also saw gains when the company enacted a diversity bonus program, which tied compensation to diversity gains.  

Of course, improving diversity takes work and there’s not a clear-cut way to do it. Jodi Kovitz, founder of Move the Dial, and her team aren’t waiting for the problem to fix itself.

Her advice? Take action now to ensure Canada’s growing tech community is more inclusive. Also, work with other groups to start making changes within by seeking out diverse voices. “We won’t make a change unless all voices are represented and really treat advancement of all people as a fundamental strategic component. “

The best startup advice for entrepreneurs in 2018

This week marks the end of January. An innocuous time that represents the so-called ‘quit date’ for almost 80 per cent of the population who made new year’s resolutions. According to U.S. News, it’s the most popular time of the year for people to abandon their goals and to-do lists.

Of course, entrepreneurs — just like everyone else — have a hard time sticking to resolutions. Regardless of whether its boosting time management or just saving money, turning thought into reality can be tough. To help readers stick to their goals we’ve collected some common startup-related questions DMZ companies posed last year and paired them with the perfect advice from today’s top entrepreneurs.

Launch a successful new product

In today’s non-stop world, being first can sometimes feel like the most important thing in the world. However, putting out an inferior product is all it takes to tank a company’s reputation for good. In a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, Elon Musk confesses some of his past mistakes and what he’s learned over the years about what it takes to launch a successful product.

“Better to do something good and be late, than bad and be early.” @ElonMusk, CEO of @Tesla and @SpaceX

Advice: Make sure your product is significantly better than the competition. If it isn’t go back to the drawing board and make those necessary improvements. Tiny incremental upgrades won’t be enough to sway the marketplace. Consumers will usually choose a trusted and well-known brand over a new one. Figure out if your product is ready enough to go to market before wasting time on promoting it.

Always test your product with industry insiders who aren’t friends or family. Sometimes friends will encourage your progress without divulging their critiques. This will only hurt you in the end.

Find the right people for your team

Hiring the right talent to grow your company, especially when you’re just starting out, is hard. Startups don’t have the extended network or expertise that older companies do at their disposal. Steve Jobs, infamous for being fired from the company he once co-founded, found a way to get around this.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Steve Jobs, cofounder of @Apple

Advice: Entrepreneurs should look for smart people who are passionate about their role not just the most experienced in the room. It’s these people who can help further your company’s goals and are likely to put in the extra work needed in the very beginning.

Don’t neglect potential hires because their background and education differ from what the industry expects. Hire based on their ambition, skills and openness to learning on the job. For example, one of Job’s most famous hires was Debi Coleman, a 32-year-old English Lit major from Stanford. She was hired as a controller for the Macintosh project in 1981 and later became the company’s chief financial officer.

Overcome bad press and/or industry coverage

Uber isn’t out of the gates just yet, but it could serve as the perfect case study for future companies on what not to do. The ride-hailing company has been criticized for years over everything from its surge pricing to security mishaps. And even though it still has several issues it needs to address and overcome it’s now working to overturn its image. The company’s new CEO has apologized for the company’s past behaviour and on a mission to change its public image.

“We don’t have a PR problem; We have an ‘us’ problem.” @Dkhos ‏, CEO of @Uber

Advice: When a company makes serious mistakes sometimes the best next step is to acknowledge it and start making amends. Uber did that through its public apology to London users last year. It also pledged to do better and launched a new campaign.

Address the issues that created big mistakes. Uber did this by removing its founder Travis Kalanick and implementing a new board. While firing an entire group of people may seem a little extreme, the lesson here is to make sure the problem never happens again.

4 Toronto startups to watch out for in 2018

Last year saw explosive growth in the Toronto startup scene. Some of the city’s most popular homegrown companies raised million-dollar investments, extended their services across the country and expanded into the U.S.

While it’s never easy to pick which startups to highlight for our must-watch list, the following truly stood out in 2017 and arevexpected to do big things in the coming year.


TopHat is one of the few Canadian startups dominating the education technology (edtech) space. It offers college and university instructors an easy-to-use platform that combines online tests, interactive tools and digital textbooks. In fact, the company’s products have even caught the eye of high-profile schools at home and abroad (Dalhousie University, California State University and Indiana University, just to name a few).

Standout: Last year, the company won ‘Startup of the Year’ at the Canadian Startup Awards for its new learning tools and raised a whopping $30 million. Insiders expect it to do big things in 2018 after taking on international education giants, like Pearson and McGraw.


Ritual’s app isn’t used by everyone in Toronto. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a store in the downtown core that doesn’t feature the company’s logo.

The foodie app lets individuals pre-order food ahead of time for easy pickup and since launching has signed more than 100 businesses across the GTA. Its 2017 wins include a massive Series B round; likely a precursor to more high-profile developments in the coming months.

Standout: Aside from a never-ending list of positive press (everything from features in the Washington Street Journal and Canada’s BetaKit), it also snapped up $43.5 million. The company’s executive team also revealed its 2018 plans to expand into several U.S. major cities.


The words ‘nonprofit’ and ‘startup’ may sound like an oxymoron, but companies like Rumie are proving it’s possible. They’re transforming the for-good sector and bent on changing the world by using new technologies.

The Toronto startup develops and delivers low-cost digital learning tools to underserved communities around the world. Its reach extends to Jordan, Turkey and Syria where it teaches refugee youth basic education. In northern Canada, the company is connecting communities that suffer from unreliable bandwidth with offline learning materials.

Standout: Any startup that wins Google’s ‘nonprofit of the year’ award is likely destined to do great things. This year, Rumie plans to expand its presence in Canada and beef up its Toronto offices to take on even more challenges.


The software company, based in the city’s trendy King St. East area, is no novice in the tech field. The advertising firm counts industry leaders like Google, Banque Libano and Kodak as clients. Most recently it garnered headlines with its #HackDiversity campaign.

The initiative highlights the company’s free app, Unbiasify, which removes names and profile photos of candidates applying through online recruitment platforms.

Standout: Diversity is a well-known problem in the tech community. This startup could help make a real difference with its latest project.

The best tech conferences in North America

If you’re looking for new ways to better your business or boost your startup’s product in the new year you’re in luck. We’ve done all the hard work for you and listed the best startup conferences in North America.

Here’s the best tech conferences taking place in 2018 you won’t want to miss out on.

CES 2018

Las Vegas, Nevada
Jan. 9-12, 2018

CES is one of the top tech conventions in the world. Since launching in 1967, it has served as the testing ground for new innovators and breakthrough technologies. Up-and-coming entrepreneurs have a chance to preview their company’s latest offerings to a bevy of international media, investors and businesses. On top of that, hourly networking, lunch and learns as well as marketing sessions round out the event making it beneficial for both seasoned and new entrepreneurs alike.

TechCrunch Disrupt NYC

New York, New York,
*May 15-17, 2018

TechCrunch Disrupt NYC is often seen as one of the best tech conference on the east coast, and for good reason. It features pitches from up-and-coming startups, world renowned speaker, and onsite demos. For Canadian entrepreneurs who qualify to work out of DMZ’s new office in New York City’s financial district, it’s a great opportunity means you have a dedicated workspace and meeting rooms throughout the week.

Code Conference 2018

Rancho Palos Verdes, California
May 29-31, 2018

The exclusive Code Conference brings together the best tech innovators from across the globe. Some of the biggest names in business — like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Marc Andresson and Sheryl Sandberg, for instance — gather together for in-depth conversations about the current and future impact of digital technology. The event is invite-only, but entrepreneurs can apply to attend the conference starting in January. Bonus: The series offers those lucky enough to attend the chance to hobnob with some of the biggest names in tech over one week.

Forbes Women’s Summit

New York, New York
June 18-19, 2018

There aren’t many tech conferences aimed at women that are bigger than Forbes’ Women Summit. Over the years, the event has featured a roster of the industry’s most successful women entrepreneurs, lifestyle guru Kim Kardashian West, SpaceX president & COO Gwynne Shotwell and Little Lotus Baby founder Jane Chen. The summit is one of the few all-star conferences designed to empower and support women entrepreneurs and influencers. For those lucky enough to attend, it can be a great opportunity to learn from some of the biggest names in the world and network with industry heavyweights.


Toronto, Ontario
Fall 2018

A good conference is about more than just hands-on showcases and displays. A great event will push participants to be better and inspire those in the audience to try new things.

While TEDxToronto isn’t exclusively focused on technology its seminars, presented by local influencers, tackle subjects and ideas that impact every facet of life and often touch on business in some form. These profoundly inspiring talks deal with everything from company leadership to career motivation and entrepreneurship.

Last year’s speakers included Paul Rowan (co-founder of home design store Umbra), Gimmy Chu (co-founder of green technology startup Nano Leaf) and Peter Sloly (partner at Deloitte Canada). Of course, Torontonians who can’t afford a ticket can also watch highlights online in the weeks following the event.
*According to last year’s prices (excludes tax).

Elevate Toronto

Toronto, Ontario
Sept. 25 – 27, 2018

This three-day conference in the heart of Toronto is designed with techpreneurs in mind. Founders from Canada’s top companies are on site doling out advice, guidance and tips to those lucky enough to score a ticket.

Toronto entrepreneurs can also rub shoulders with influential government officials and meet with some of Canada’s top tech CEOs and influencers on their home turf. Last year, those willing to splurge on an all-inclusive weekly pass were also able to tour and meet with employees at some of Toronto’s most innovative tech companies.

Mesh Conference

Toronto, Ontario
Winter 2018

If you consider yourself a professional who works in both marketing and technology, then Mesh Marketing could be the most useful conference you attend all year.

This one-day schmoozefest deep dives into operational issues and discusses strategy-focused topics to help individuals better understand today’s top marketing technologies. Although, some of the best perks are found in its invite-only networking events that take place after the conference where you can meet, chat and engage with marketing leaders face-to-face.

The best coworking spaces around the world

The number of coworking spaces around the world is on the rise. In 2017 approximately 1.2 million people worked out of shared spaces; and that number is expected to only grow in the coming year, according to the Global Work Survey.

It’s not hard to see why these types of new-age offices have spiked in popularity. As the economy shifts, more adults are taking on freelance work or launching their own startups. For those who don’t require the kind of mentorship that an accelerator provides, these are a great alternative. Not to mention, many now offer extravagant features — everything from in-house masseuses, to on-tap prosecco and 20-ft swinning pools.

If you’re a digital nomad looking for a cool office while travelling the globe, or an entrepreneur just in need of workspace, there are a ton of places to choose from. Here’s are list of the top offices around the world. 

Parisoma, Silicon Valley

Parisoma is an outlier in Silicon Valley, because it successfully blurs the line between an accelerator 
and coworking space. Members get more than just a place to work; they get access to business classes related to marketing, web development, freelancing and more. Entrepreneurs can network with the 200-plus other entrepreneurs working out of its space or its extended network at any time. Prices range from $325 per month for its “open spaces” with no assigned desks to $7,000 for closed offices.

Standout features: Free community space, in-house admin support, free wifi, access to technical workshops and classes.

Primary, New York City


If you’re a Canadian entrepreneur heading to the Big Apple save money (and alleviate any stress) by working out of 

The co-working space is located in the heart of the city’s financial district. Tech entrepreneurs can apply to join for free through the DMZ at any time throughout the year. If accepted, startups get unfettered 24/7 access to its suite of offices, as well as snacks, complimentary yoga and other wellness classes. Bonus: Entrepreneurs can also take advantage of the office’s exclusive workshops and learning events.

Standout features: Free for select Canadian entrepreneurs, 24/7 access, located in the heart of financial district, lockers and hot desks.

WeWork, London


WeWork — a tech company that operates shared coworking spaces across the globe — has a whopping 24 offices spread out across London and the greater area. Each one has its own design, but carries the same perks found at each of its international locations. Namely, that means big open spaces, private rooms for meetings and dependable wifi.

Prices vary by location, but range from £400 ($677 CAD) per month to £34 ($57) for an ‘on-demand’ day pass. Of course, working out of any office in England’s biggest city doesn’t come cheap. Thankfully membership comes with a few unique perks: The company’s free app lets users do everything from book conference rooms to network with its other creators across the globe. Users also have the opportunity to work out of the company’s other WeWork spaces located in 67 international cities.

Standout features: Pet-friendly, located in the core of London, 24/7 access, meditation rooms, bookable offices, high-speed internet.

Naked Hub, Beijing

Naked Hub
Beijing’s fast-paced tech scene is growing by leaps and bounds. This year the metropolis (along with Shanghai) made its debut on 
Startup Genome’s top startup cities and companies are taking notice. 

Naked Group may not well known within Asia, but the company’s winning business model in Asia is attracting entrepreneurs (and media attention) from across the country. The luxury resort company opened its first Beijing office, located in a refurbished factory, this spring.  Entrepreneurs who join can connect with other startups working out of its other Chinese offices through its exclusive network and get access to onsite services, like on-demand admin help and wellness services. Digital membership — access to the company’s online community — costs approximately¥300 ($57 CAD). Meanwhile, desk space ranges from ¥1800 ($346) to¥3000 ($577 CAD).

Standout features: On-site dedicated admin staff a.k.a ‘Naked Angels’, hot desks, shared community space and wellness rooms

East Room & Spaces, Toronto

If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, then, you’re in luck. Toronto already has a variety of co-working spaces open in the city more planned for 2018. One of those places is Amsterdam-born Spaces, located at 180 John St., Toronto.

Another go-to office is the city’s East Room. Club members get access to its boardrooms, reception services, wifi and more for $500 per month. The highest level, premium membership, starts at $3,300 per month for enclosed offices.

Standout features: Access to its onsite programs, which includes community events with industry insiders.  


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