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The DMZ has transformed to offer a brand new startup experience

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The DMZ has transformed to offer a brand new startup experience

We’re taking a personalized approach to startup support and delivering a more hands-on, tailored experience for startups  

Many startup incubators that exist today still take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when providing support to startups, meaning founders receive the same programming and services across the board.

At the DMZ, we know how important specialized support is when creating a business; strong foundations are key to building pathways to success. Each startup has a unique set of challenges, and our new model takes a personal approach to support, focusing on one-on-one mentorship to help overcome them. 

With a rising demand for early-stage startup support at the onset of the pandemic and a lack of resources and programming available, the DMZ knew it was time to refocus efforts and fill a pivotal gap for founders in the ecosystem.

The DMZ’s new Incubator model has evolved to take a more customized, hands-on approach in an 18-month program to help founders obtain market validation and gain traction.

So what exactly is different about the DMZ’s new Incubator model? Let’s dive into it, shall we?

The DMZ’s Incubator now offers startups:

  • Smaller and more intimate cohorts of no more than 15 startups
  • 18 months of hands-on support, segmented into three, six-month phases to help founders achieve product-market fit, maximize early sales, and attract investment opportunities
  • A customized approach to addressing a founder’s startup challenges: executing a go-to market strategy, acquiring lighthouse customers, gaining media exposure, exploring global expansion, preparing for the next round of funding, and more
  • 60+ hours of one-on-one time with Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, in-house subject matter experts and additional time with DMZ staff
  • Exclusive perks and discounts from 100+ partners including AWS, Google, Hubspot, and more worth over $600K in business savings
  • More curated workshops and peer-to-peer sessions to share insights, lessons learned, and best practices on a wide range of topics
  • More support with fundraising strategies, pitch coaching, and getting introductions to investors in the DMZ’s VC and angel investor networks within Canada and beyond

Beyond the Incubator program revamp, the DMZ has also launched other programs over the last year, including its Pre-Incubator, to support founders who aren’t eligible for the Incubator yet.

The DMZ’s vision is to support the full entrepreneurial journey of an early-stage founder: from personal founder development, to business ideation, product development, sales growth, and scaling.

Giving a hand to those who need it most.

The DMZ recognizes that underrepresented founders face various barriers when it comes to starting and growing a business, including being subject to systemic racism and inequities that have only been heightened by the pandemic. 

To help create a more equitable and inclusive startup ecosystem, the DMZ has also expanded its programming for Black and women founders, equipping them with an additional stream of tailored resources they can tap into.

Startups with at least one founder who self-identifies as either Black or a woman will have additional peer-to-peer support, intros to funders dedicated to Black and women-led ventures, partnership and pilot opportunities, marketing and PR opportunities, special resources, events and more.

Don’t just take it from us – check out what founders from our inaugural cohort had to say about our revamped model.


“We have seen tremendous growth in our company and in our ability as a team to execute and strategize — the support has been fantastic. The Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) that we have worked with are literally extensions to our team. The other companies in the cohort have been supportive and transparent in sharing their experiences with us, sharing great resources that can benefit everyone.” – Ayodele Pompey, CTO and Co-Founder of SmartTerm 

“Many of the same problems exist for all startups, and by working alongside experienced mentors who have walked the same path, you can accelerate and understand the challenges at hand with greater clarity. The DMZ is truly a fast track to growing your startup.” – Sarah Rennick, Founder of Alli

 

“The DMZ is truly a fast track to growing your startup.” – Sarah Rennick, Founder of Alli 

“Being in DMZ’s Incubator program is like having a GPS for your startup journey, and the Black Innovation Program is the ‘Iron Man’ to DMZ’s ‘Avengers.

By itself, the BIP program is a fantastic offering. When you combine it with DMZ’s Incubator program, it extends the level of support available to someone like myself as a founder of colour. The last 12 months have brought renewed acknowledgement of social issues facing the Black community, which the tech industry is guilty of as well. But rather than looking back, the DMZ is building a tech ecosystem where Black founders are well represented and can access the resources they need to build great products and companies.” – Baba Ajayi, Founder of Andie

“Being in DMZ’s Incubator program is like having a GPS for your startup journey.” – Baba Ajayi, Founder of Andie

“As a part of the Incubator, we have a customized plan that was created for us to grow and dedicated mentors to work with. DMZ’s focus since day one has been on practicality, providing us with real tangible support to grow and succeed.” – Zach Sheng, Co-Founder of Charmy Pet

 

 

 

While our model has evolved significantly, all DMZ programming remains to be driven by the same four founding pillars:

Community: The DMZ allows founders to tap into an unmatched local and global community.  Founders will build relationships, grow their professional network and connect with like-minded peers. 

Coaching: Startups have access to years of experience in the industry with more than 20 of the DMZ’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, specializing in sales, marketing, product, leadership, technology, operations and more.

Customers: The DMZ helps founders power their sales engine, connect with the right customers and fast-track growth. Startups will learn how to drive customer acquisitions.

Capital: Founders will learn how to create fundraising strategies, develop data rooms, get pitching practice and receive valuable introductions to investors.

Think you have what it takes to scale your business?

The DMZ is looking for promising and high-impact tech entrepreneurs who are ready to take their startups to new heights. 

Do you have:

  • A business dedicated to solving a compelling problem using innovative technology
  • At least one full-time founder dedicated to the program
  • A driven, coachable, and collaborative leadership team
  • An in-house technical lead
  • A functional MVP
  • The ability to become a venture backable business in a growing market

Head over to dmz.to/incubatornews to apply for our next Incubator cohort, kicking off this September. Applications are open until July 31, 2021. 

Not quite ready for our Incubator yet? Check out our pre-Incubator program, Pre-Incubator.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @RyersonDMZ to catch our alumni success stories all summer long.  

How to raise capital for your startup

Get advice from tech founders who have closed multi-million dollar investment deals for their startups.


DMZ’s startups and alumni have raised over $1 billion CAD in funding. Curious to learn more about the investment trends, and the startups that helped break $1 billion?
Click here

Let’s face it. If you’re a startup founder, you’ll need to learn how to raise capital at one point or another.

At the DMZ, we appreciate how overwhelming the wild ride of funding a startup can be. Raising capital is, without question, one of the most challenging aspects of growing and scaling a business.  

Luckily, many DMZ alumni founders have been successful in attracting investors and securing funding – but, at one time, they were also in your shoes. In light of DMZ startups and alumni breaking $1 billion in funding, we asked founders for their best advice and lessons learned when it comes to startup fundraising. 

Here’s what they had to say.

“Create a job description for your ideal lead investor/board member. Evaluate everyone you meet through that lens. Helps flip the power dynamic. Are they the right investor for you?” Bryan Gold, Co-Founder and CEO, and Adam Rivietz, Co-Founder and CSO, of #paid

paid

What’s new with #paid?

Co-Founders Bryan Gold and Adam Rivetz were recognized as part of Forbes 30 under 30 marketing and advertising list. Read more about their feature here

“There is plenty of capital out in the market, especially as markets are looking to bounce back from Covid. Founders need to focus on their business and the pain points they are looking to solve first. Get some early adopters and initial traction to prove the product market fit and the capital will follow. Founders often make the mistake of going after capital first to bring the idea to fruition, but with tools and resources these days, getting an MVP out by bootstrapping has become a lot easier.” – Kumar Erramilli, CTO and Co-Founder of ACTO 

What’s new with ACTO?acto

ACTO’s growth was accelerated following an $11.5 million USD funding round last August. Since then, ACTO has made two strategic acquisitions to bolster its mobile learning and patient-facing education capabilities, building on its promise to deliver true omnichannel education for learners within the care industry!

“Many tech founders look to raise capital to fund the development of a product or service, but bootstrapping and getting small loans from friends or family not only serves as a good vetting for your idea, but also can carry you through early development and allow for closing of the first couple of sales. This can go a long way to getting a better evaluation for your capital raise and minimizes costly early dilution.” – Adrian Bulzacki, Founder of ARB Labs

What’s new with ARB Labs? arb labs

ARB Labs launched ChipVue, a new optical based bet recognition™ system that provides real-time slot-like analytics for blackjack, baccarat and other carnival style table games. Learn more about ChipVue here

“Be very mindful of the investors you bring on board and really understand their motivations, expectations and their ability to support and partner with you over the years. Bringing on an investor is analogous to being in a marriage and so focus on building those relationships.” – Nishaant Sanghavi, CEO and Co-Founder of EnergyX 

What’s new with EnergyX?energy x

EnergyX was 1 of 6 tech firms in Toronto chosen by the federal government to receive funding to help support their long term growth. EnergyX is receiving $500,000 to expand its customer base and increase automation!

“Don’t build everything in-house! Many tools out there can create the “Wizard of Oz” effect of your product.” – Karen Lau, Co-Founder and CTO, and Michael Van, Co-Founder and CEO, of Furnishr

What’s new with Furnishr?furnish

Furnishr is growing! They are expanding their operations, sales and development teams. For more information on how to apply click here.

“When looking for investors, don’t be afraid to branch outside of Canadian borders.”– Eropa Stein, CEO and Founder of Hyre

What’s new with Hyre?

hyre

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hyre pivoted and now offers an employee scheduling platform for the healthcare industry, in addition to the hospitality and restaurant industry.

“The right fit with your investor is worth waiting for if you can afford it.” – Karim Ali, CEO of Invision AI

What’s new with Invision AI?invision

Invision AI has joined forces with Thales and Metrolinx to develop advanced autonomous technologies for rail systems with support from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN). Plus, they recently announced they have successfully completed high performance portable roadside vehicle occupancy detection field tests with over 97.5% precision! 

“Invest time in building your network. Create connections with people in the industry well in advance of needing the funding. When you are ready to start raising money, it will come much easier if you have developed the right connections.” – Erifili Morfidis, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, and Charlotte Gummesson, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, of iRestify 

What’s new with iRestify?

With the onset of the global pandemic, iRestify had to make some tough decisions and pivot as most of their clients, which were commercial office tenants, no longer had use for their space. As a result, they shifted their efforts and focused on the multi-residential property management sector. Learn more about their story of determination and growth here

“Fundraising is 70-80% preparation.” – Casey Binkley, Founder and CEO of Movia

What’s new with Movia?

Movia recently partnered with Corus entertainment to help launch two new tv shows, The Equalizer and Clarice. Movia’s truck advertisements offered the chance to bring the big screen feeling to the ads themselves, along with the ability to reach target audiences. Check out the full case study here

“Think long and hard about what you want to accomplish with your business, and what’s most important in your life before you raise a dollar.” – Corey Gross, CEO and Founder of Sensibill

What’s new with Sensibill?

Sensibill announced their new Sensibill Platform, which includes two new solutions, Spend Manager and Spend Insights, which aims to give financial institutions deeper data and insights needed to better serve and nurture financially resilient, loyal customers. They were also awarded with FinTech Breakthrough’s personal finance innovation award!

“Having access to required capital is a critically important aspect of growing a new venture. For new tech founders, surround yourself with trusted advisors who can guide you through the process of the structuring for and raising of capital. Having good advisors to be sounding boards for investor materials and your pitch is important. Treat raising capital like sales: create the right messages ahead of time, build a good funnel of prospects, get active and communicate often, don’t be afraid to hear the word no, listen to the feedback, but be selective on what you choose to refine, celebrate your wins and keep going. Treat your investors well as they can be extremely helpful in finding other investors. Most importantly, be yourself and speak confidently about your venture.” – Brian Deck, CEO of Smooth Commerce

What’s new with Smooth Commerce?

Smooth Commerce has launched great brands including Mary Brown’s, Fresh, Denny’s, Chop Steakhouse, Maker Pizza, Pizzeria Libretto and many more. Plus, Invest in Ontario named Smooth Commerce as one of the top 12 fintechs to watch in 2021 as they continue to elevate ordering and delivery and they were listed as one of Canada’s 2021 Best Workplaces™. 

“The most important part is having product market fit. Have a product that customers want regardless of how ‘beta’ it is. With that comes growth in your key metrics and makes everything a lot easier!’ – Hussein Fazal, CEO and Co-Founder, and Henry Shi, Co-Founder, of Snapcommerce

What’s new with Super (formerly Snapcommerce)?

Super (formerly Snapcommerce) recently secured $107 million CAD in growth funding, signalling confidence from investors in the company’s mission to expand beyond the travel industry! With the new round of funding Snapcommerce is looking to expand in different verticals, hoping to transform the way people shop on their phones. 

“It’s sales. You’re not raising funds. You’re selling shares. So run it as a sales process with a deadline. If you think you can generate anything close to the same amount of cash by spending that energy and effort on customers you’d be much wiser to sell products for cash than equity.” – Brennan McEachran, CEO and Co-Founder of Soapbox

What’s new with Soapbox?

Soapbox released a new Zapier integration, enabling teams to instantly connect Soapbox with over 2,000 apps to automate their work and become more productive. Users can now unlock powerful integrations like Asana, Trello and Microsoft To Do.  

“Take your time to identify VCs with investment portfolios that are aligned with your specific business sector. “ – Laura Bryson, COO and Co-Founder of SWTCH

What’s new with SWTCH?

Earlier this month, the federal government announced a $235,000 investment for SWTCH to install 61 electric vehicle chargers across Ontario and Quebec. By leveraging SWTCH’s solution, the government hopes to encourage the adoption of zero-emission vehicles and provide consumers with more green options to charge and drive their vehicles! 

“Raise money only when it’s absolutely necessary. You want to raise money when you feel like you will get favourable terms. To get favourable terms, you need to show traction and that takes time. So instead of coming up with an idea and thinking “I need to raise money”, try to do as much work to prove out the value of that idea (create a non-functional wireframe, get feedback from potential customers, etc).” – Swish Goswami, CEO and Co-Founder of Trufan 

What’s new with Trufan?

Trufan announced the completion of its $2.3 million CAD seed round this past March, bringing their total funding to $4.1 million CAD. They plan to launch a consolidated platform later this year that will allow any brand to generate, segment, and activate first party data.

“My advice to founders raising for the first time: spend a few weeks preparing all your materials and test out your messaging on a variety of audiences. Once you go out to raise, run a rigorous process and focus on finding the best partner that will support your vision for your business.” – Monika Jaroszonek, CEO and Co-Founder of Ratio.City

What’s new with Ratio.City?

Ratio.City is hiring! Their team is looking for a Lead Product Designer to help them translate user stories into effective and intuitive interfaces. Learn more about the position and apply here

“Every founder should find one or more capital partners as a growth partner in all aspects of business and life, because the two are inseparable. An ideal investor will be a good companion when say, a global pandemic hits and supply chains are just as disrupted as childcare plans, or when a parent gets ill just as you land a major customer. Together you’ll make difficult decisions and find new opportunities.” – Manu Kabahizi, CTO and Co-Founder of Ulula

What’s new with Ulula?

Ulula recently was awarded the 2021 #StopSlaveryAward by the Thomson Reuters Foundation for their innovative Kufatilia mobile-based impact monitoring project, that reports mine accidents, theft, corruption, fraud, child labor, environmental issues, and more in the mining sector.

It took 11 years for DMZ startups and alumni to break $1 billion in funding, but with our current momentum, made possible by our dedicated founders, we are confident we will be able to reach the next billion in a fraction of the time. 

Looking for even more expert advice on how to raise? Be a part of the next billion. Learn more about DMZ programming here.

Event Recap: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Underrepresented communities continue to face systemic barriers and steep challenges when it comes to accessing entrepreneurial opportunities from Canada’s thriving tech ecosystem. As tragic events continue to take place around the world against visible minorities, confronting racial injustice continues to be a necessity and change can only begin with open and honest conversations.

In light of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director of the DMZ, took to LinkedIn to chat with leading executives and startups to discuss how we can collectively create an equitable future for Canada’s tech ecosystem.

Meet our panelists:

With this conversation, we strived to have an open discussion around the importance of diversity in our ecosystem, share lived experiences and underscore the important role we all play in creating an inclusive and equitable tech community.

Let’s dive into it. 


Question 1

Question 2


Question 3

Question 4 


Question 5


Question 6


Question 7


Question 8


For the entire LinkedIn chat conversation, please click here.

At the DMZ, we know that a strong tech ecosystem is one that fosters diverse perspectives and actively removes barriers for those hindered by systemic discrimination. We continue to actively work on leveling the playing field for everyone’s entrepreneurial success. For more information on our Black Innovation Programs, please go to dmz.ryerson.ca/bip/ 

You’re invited! Women Founders: Stories of Resilience

You’re invited to join the DMZ for our annual International Women’s Day event!

On March 8th at 1:00 PM EST, we are bringing together our community once again to highlight stories of resilience after a uniquely challenging year.

Tune in to hear firsthand from inspiring women founders, the hurdles they’ve faced, and how they have thrived through challenging times. Join this hands-on session to engage with fellow entrepreneurs and want to celebrate the achievements of women!

Moderator

Amoye Henry, Co-Founder of Pitch Better

Panelists

We’re thrilled to announce our line-up of trailblazing women:

RSVP here to reserve your spot.

Dream of getting acquired one day? Get first-hand insights from a founder who’s done it

Derek Hopfner, DMZ alum and Co-Founder of Founded, gives an inside scoop on the motivation behind building the startup and getting acquired, along with advice founders should consider to achieve a successful exit someday. 


When Founded launched in 2017, co-founders
Derek Hopfner, Shane Murphy and Travis Houlette were driven by the company’s mission to make the legal side of business an effortless experience for entrepreneurs. 

Within a few short years, thousands of dedicated business users joined Founded. Fast forward to this year: the company made the announcement that they had been acquired by RBC Ventures!
In the coming months, the platform will merge with
Ownr, RBC’s existing platform for small business incorporation – but the whole Founded team is staying intact and moving under the RBC Ventures umbrella, together.

Getting acquired is what many young startups hope and dream for one day, but many overlook the meticulous planning and strategic considerations that need to happen at an early stage. We spoke with Derek Hopfner about the experience of scaling Founded, and what startup founders can do early on to position themselves for a successful exit.

Take a look at our Q&A with Derek to hear what he had to say. 

Founded company logo
What does Founded do?


Founded is an online legal platform with a focus on making entrepreneurship easy. When starting a business, there is an endless number of things that entrepreneurs need to think about early on, so taking away the legal components and making it really simple for them was something that was really important to us. 

An entrepreneur can join Founded (soon to be Ownr) and can use the platform to navigate various legal tasks as their company grows. This includes anything from preparing an employment agreement for a new employee to creating website terms of use and privacy policy. You can even create an employee stock option plan, something that’s gaining popularity from startups.

Founded platformIt sounds like the platform is valuable to companies at all stages of growth, not only young startups looking to get incorporated?


That’s true! Many entrepreneurs start their company on Founded, but we also bring on companies that have incorporated elsewhere and want to benefit from using Founded’s technology for legal work going forward. 

A nice way to think of it: there are a lot of programs in the accounting field, like Quickbooks, that help entrepreneurs with the accounting side of things. Founded is like that, but for the legal side of things.


What was the motivation behind creating Founded? Were you ever an entrepreneur who experienced similar challenges with getting legal support?


I’m a former lawyer, so I actually saw it from the other side where I did a lot of corporate commercial work with businesses. Oftentimes, legal work was expensive for startups or they saw it as complicated. They didn’t want to meet in a lawyer’s office – they wanted to do things electronically, quickly and seamlessly.

Two out of the three of our founders are lawyers: myself and Shane. Travis is our CTO and Head of Product, and he had the experience from an entrepreneur’s standpoint. Shane and I saw the problems through a lawyer’s lens. We’ve got a good combo between the three of us!

Founded team
What was the process of scaling the company? Did you have a funding strategy?


We launched in October 2017, so we were in operation for about three years before getting acquired. 

We were really lean on funding. We had some angels that supported us but never completed an institutional round of venture capital funding. We also had support from the Ontario Centre of Excellence and government programs like IRAP.

We grew our sales and revenue and always reinvested it back into the company. That meant hiring for sales, marketing, developers – but we have always had a lean team. 

Our primary marketing strategy involved using Google Ads, high-quality blog content, and partnering with local entrepreneurship centres like the DMZ, MaRS and Enterprise Toronto. That’s really what allowed us to scale. 

We also had a really strong product, so word of mouth helped a lot. People would use the platform, have a great experience, and go on to encourage their friends to use it.


How did joining the DMZ help Founded?


During our time at the DMZ, the company got to a profitable state, which allowed us to continue growing without having to rely on funding.

There are two big things in particular that come to mind that allowed us to do this: we gained a stronger understanding of how to accelerate our sales processes, and learned how to read and analyze our data to then base our strategy around it.

Everything was super helpful – marketing was great, product was great, the programming was really holistic.Founded acquired by RBC

Many founders’ biggest dream is to get acquired and get that big exit. Was getting acquired a goal you were working towards from the early days?


It wasn’t necessarily the goal. When we started the company, we were really driven to make entrepreneurship easy.

When you decide to take money from funders, you have to realize they’re not doing it purely to support you and your goal to build a company – they do expect some sort of return to the investment that they’re making. I think most entrepreneurs realize there needs to be some thought towards an exit strategy.
We had been working with RBC for two years. It was never our goal to get acquired at this exact time – it was pretty organic. 

I think it’s helpful to start thinking about it early on when starting a company. That being said, if you were to ask me five years ago if the largest bank in Canada were to acquire a legal technology company, I would have never imagined that!


What advice would you give a founder that is interested in getting acquired? What are some important things a founder should consider? 


It’s important to understand, early on, what the implications are if you’re taking funding, especially from VCs. Understand how dilution works. Angels are one form of funding, but once you move to institutional funding, there are strong expectations for returns on their investments – to the tune of 10, 15 or even 20 times the initial investment. You need to find a path to hit those metrics. 

Next, in the early stages of building a company, take a look beforehand at the exit opportunities that may exist in your particular industry. It’s not a bad idea to look at each industry and understand the valuation multiples which exist. In most cases, you’re putting your whole life into your business – likely a lot of financial resources. So, if you have two choices that you’re equally passionate about, why not go with the industry that has a multiple exit of traditionally 15x revenue, versus another that might only be 2x or 3x. 


Now that you’ve gone through most of the acquisition process, do you have any important lessons learned to share with other founders?


Be open to business opportunities as you are growing the company because you don’t know where they’re going to lead. I don’t think it was really on our radar that RBC was going to be our acquirer when we started working with them a couple of years ago, but that turned into something real this year. Where you start with a company is not where you’re going to end up, and I think being open and fluid about that is important. 

If you’re having discussions about an acquisition, it’s going to take a lot of your time – a lot more than you’d think. It’s so important to make sure your team is still focused on delivering value each day with the acknowledgement that this acquisition might not go ahead.

Also, don’t put 100% of your time and efforts into the acquisition, or you’ll leave your business behind. You need to continue to drive value to your customers and keep building a strong business. That’s really the best counterpoint to any negotiation. If things fall through, you can then walk away at any time and continue pursuing your business.

startup team communication
When should a founder communicate with their team that an acquisition could be in the works? 


I think it depends on the team and its size. Because of COVID and everything that was going on in the world, we kept our team focused on building the product and helping customers until the later stages of the acquisition.  That was the right decision because of the uncertain environment the world was in

Communication strategies will differ from one company to the next. Do what’s best for your company, for your team, and for the environment you’re in.


Thanks, Derek! Now, what’s next for you and the Founded team? 


We’re all now RBC Ventures employees! The whole team came over, which I’m super happy about. We get to pursue the exact same thing that we were doing before, but with a much bigger budget and more resources.

I’m as excited as ever to continue to deliver on the same mission to help entrepreneurs all across  Canada, and ideally look to new jurisdictions as well.  We’re lucky in that everything is kind of the same for us, but now we just have more opportunities and resources to deliver!

Congrats to Derek and the entire Founded team on your success, and thank you for your commitment to helping entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey. Keep up with Founded over the coming months as it integrates with RBC Ventures’ Ownr to bring the best business formation and legal tools together under one roof.

Tackling the cybersecurity gender gap: Empowering women to lead the way in tech

Hear from RBC leader, May Sarout, on how we can close the gender gap and encourage more young women to get involved in cybersecurity

 

Don’t miss Women in Cyber, an exclusive panel event hosted by CanHack & Hackergal, coming up on November 18. Keep reading for more details.

The gender gap we see in tech isn’t exactly a novel issue. In the cybersecurity field, women only represent about 20 percent of the workforce. The gap has indeed narrowed in recent years, however, the industry still has quite a long way to go to achieve equitable gender representation.

May Sarout headshotThankfully, organizations like RBC have several initiatives in place to ensure we are closing this gap – from educating young women and launching partnerships like CanHack with the DMZ, to looking inwards at the organization’s hiring practices to ensure there are diverse individuals represented in tech and leadership roles.

As the Senior Director of Cyber Security Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, May Sarout is working hard to increase the representation of women in Canada’s ever-evolving tech sector. May’s passion for advancing gender diversity and empowering young women in tech is clear; her involvement in initiatives like CanHack, participation in tech events and speaking panels and efforts to raise awareness for more women-identified leaders in cybersecurity are collectively making an impact to tackle the diversity gap.

RBC CanHack DMZ event

May shared her insights on the barriers for women in cybersecurity and how young women can get a head start on a successful career in the field. We also asked May what advice she would give tech companies on building diverse teams, and how they can be more intentional about implementing inclusive hiring practices.

Here’s what May had to say.

 

Why does the cybersecurity gender gap exist?

 

In my opinion, there are three major reasons why there are fewer women in cybersecurity than there should be. First, there is a huge misunderstanding and misconception about the cybersecurity field, and this leads women to shy away from it. Second, there is a lack of understanding of the variety of roles within cyber, which I will speak to a little later. Lastly, when reviewing job roles, women are generally less likely than men to apply for jobs where they don’t meet every single qualification on a job description – making the number of women in an applicant pool even smaller.

 

How do we address this gap? What can we do to fix it?

 

I have a few suggestions, and RBC is already working to address all of them. The first thing we can do to address this issue is create programs that are specifically catered to women.

Another thing we can do to address the gap is to invite more successful women role models to share their journeys on speaking panels and events. This allows younger women in the audience to envision themselves in a similar leadership position and reassures them that they too can be successful in the field. Further to that, it’s important the outreach to young women is there so that they are aware of these events and opportunities in the first place.

We need to be sharing more information about the variety of roles in Cybersecurity. The more that women know about available roles, the more likely they may see themselves in a role.

For the young women-identifying innovators who might be interested in exploring a career in cybersecurity but aren’t sure what their options are, what could a career path in this field look like?

 

There are so many different paths to take!

On one hand, some career paths may take a more technical route. But on the other hand, some Cyber roles require no technical skills. Effective cybersecurity is about more than the technology alone. We need people in cybersecurity that have a thorough understanding of human behaviour and can take a psychological approach to reducing cyber risk.

There are also roles that are involved in the marketing, education and awareness around cyber, and these roles may require little to no technical skills. These roles might require some domain knowledge, but it’s more important the individual has a marketing or communications background than cyber.

Finally, many roles fall in the middle of this spectrum, including project management, business analysis, quality assurance – every cyber organization needs these roles, and these skills can be transferable from other fields in tech. As long as you have the passion for cybersecurity space, you will likely find a role that’s right for you!

 

How can young women get involved in cybersecurity early?

 

There are plenty of initiatives that allow youth to have fun as they learn about cybersecurity. CanHack, the initiative we host in partnership with the DMZ, is a great way for young women to get involved early. It’s a fun challenge that helps participants think critically and use problem-solving skills. Hackergal is another great organization that has opportunities designed especially for girls.

There are also lots of business associations catered to women in cyber that you can get involved with, such as Women in Cybersecurity. Leading Cyber Ladies is another one to check out. Take a look at LinkedIn, there are always events going on related to the industry.

The good thing about the days we’re living in now with virtual events is that you’re not restricted to attending events just in your local area. The world has become much more global, and in a way, it’s opened up more doors!

What advice do you have for tech companies that want to adopt more inclusive practices?

 

Study after study shows that diverse and inclusive teams are more successful. When it comes to diversity, we shouldn’t focus solely on gender diversity. We should look at all diverse talent, whether it’s gender-based, culture-based, age-based, or experience-based.

The advice I would give to companies would be to set certain goals related to diversity and inclusion. Be mindful of what you want to achieve. Declare diversity and inclusion in your performance targets and make sure you track it and measure it on a consistent basis. Diversity and inclusion have to be prioritized.

It’s important to have diversity and inclusion measures within your hiring process. For example, at RBC we ensure that there is diversity in all teams and across all levels of the organization. Hiring managers must report on how many diverse candidates they interview and whether their chosen candidate was a diverse hire.

Beyond setting targets, it’s also important to make sure you have a culture that fosters diverse hiring. If you want to hire more Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour, you must include members of those communities in the recruitment process. This will allow job candidates to see that they have a place in your organization and feel more passionate and confident about the selection process.

How does your team at RBC take measures to address the gender gap issue that exists in the cybersecurity field?

The purpose of the Cybersecurity Strategic Partnerships and Innovation team is to be a major catalyst in growing and lifting cybersecurity talent, thought leadership and innovation in Canada. We do this by growing the cybersecurity talent pipeline, training programs, advocating for diversity and increasing diversity of available talent, increasing interest of future generations in cyber.

First, we’re addressing the cybersecurity gender gap through RBC’s internal recruitment processes. This is prioritized for all areas of the organization at the Executive Committee level. Our Senior Vice President of Cyber Security is a woman – Laurie Pezzente (who has won Canada’s Most Powerful Women – Top 100 award, among several other awards). Additionally, two of the four Executives reporting to our SVP are also women.

RBC is constantly being recognized for its diversity and inclusion initiatives. It’s not just cybersecurity, either – RBC is focused on promoting diversity in all fields.

We partner with organizations like Ryerson and the DMZ on initiatives such as the Cybersecure Policy exchange and CanHack. We’ve also built the RBC Women in Cyber stream within the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst.

This year, for CanHack 2021, we set specific targets to increase women’s representation.

Not only will CanHack be offered to Canadian students coast-to-coast, but CanHack 2021 will also be special in that DMZ will run women-only workshops on a number of cybersecurity topics to support women in STEM, and work with organizations like Hackergal to inspire and recruit more female participants to the challenge.

Calling all Canadian high school teachers and community supervisors! Would you like to learn more about CanHack and other cybersecurity opportunities for women?  

Register here to learn more about the 2021 CanHack Challenge.

Join us for the Women in Cyber panel, hosted by CanHack & Hackergal on Wednesday, November 18 at 5:00pm. Register here.

 The panellists will share their experiences as women who are making an impact in the field and address how to collectively create better pathways for women in cybersecurity in Canada.  

Questions related to CanHack? Reach out to Naveed Tagari at naveedtagari@torontomu.ca.

How to pivot with purpose: A Q&A with Hop In’s CEO

Hop In’s CEO and Co-Founder, Erich Ko, proves why adaptability is key to entrepreneurial growth

Hop In is a DMZ Incubator company that provides logistics software services to offer customized corporate shuttle solutions for the daily commute. The startup helps companies retain more talent and access a larger hiring pool while providing employers with a comfortable and efficient commute to work.

Erich Ko is the CEO and Co-Founder of Hop In. What started as a business idea discussed between a few friends has evolved into a startup with a real purpose: to improve economic development issues and make transportation more accessible for workers everywhere.

We asked Erich about what fuelled his interest to become an entrepreneur, his experience in the Startup Certified program, how Hop In was conceptualized and how the company has pivoted its strategy this year.

Here’s what he had to say.

 

Let’s talk about your personal entrepreneurial journey. When did you join Startup Certified? How did you hear about it? 


I was a student working at
Ryerson’s Legal Innovation Zone Law Practice Program in the same building as the DMZ. By working at the front desk, I was introduced to startups, and through that, I was connected to the Sandbox

Natasha, Sandbox’s then-Director, introduced me to the Startup Certified program. It seemed really cool and had a structured approach. I joined in the Fall of 2017 and wanted to learn as much as I could!

I joined a startup called Curexe at the time. They have since been rebranded as Cevnn Payments.

What was your role within the startup? What areas of the business were you working on?


It started as a marketing role, and I worked on content marketing and organic growth. However, there were only three of us at the time, so I did everything and anything and developed my skills that way.

After that placement was complete, I ended up going back to consult with them for a few months. I helped them grow the team and scale up a little bit as well.

What made you interested in pursuing entrepreneurship?


Before that placement, I had been working for the government for six years. I ran into the “red tape” problem – something that you hear about, but don’t believe it until you see it. I figured that there has to be a faster way and a better way for me to have an impact. I turned to startups. It seems to really be the best way to change something in the world.

I’ve also been restless my entire life! I got in a lot of trouble as a kid and I was doing some things I wasn’t supposed to. Entering the entrepreneurial world helps you channel that energy. I know it sounds cliche, but it really does. 

I can work 40-50 hours straight without sleeping and nobody will say anything (besides my mom!) You’re constantly solving problems; it’s challenging. You never know what the day holds for you, so this was the perfect fit for me. 

This, I know, is what I’m going to do with my life.

Let’s talk about Hop In. What was the story behind creating the company?


I actually grew up with my two co-founders! One of them is my best friend, and our CTO was my brother’s best friend growing up. 

One night while drinking at the bar, we were discussing how we had all lived every problem possible when it came to commuting. That’s when we decided we would try to build an app to solve commuting issues.

Fast forward to today, we’ve snowballed into a bigger problem that we didn’t even know was there in the beginning. There’s a huge economic development issue that is the root of these commuting problems. 

There are these gaps left behind by transit in areas that are outside of the Torontos of the world. Workplaces in these areas aren’t always accessible. We provide a last-mile solution to connect them from the transit system to the workplaces. 

We also realized recently that we can help people from marginalized communities and the shelters, so we are actually working on different job programs to help people get access to better opportunities that they normally wouldn’t have. 

Hop In provides more than just transportation – can you explain how Hop In helps employers?


We help companies expand their hiring pools. One of our companies is Maple Lodge Farms in Brampton. We helped them hire their first employee from Scarborough, which is really not a possible transit route if you don’t have a car, right? That’s the value we add to the companies.

We go to a company and do a needs assessment for free. Employees tell us all about their commutes and schedules. Then, we plug that information back into our internal software system and design customized routes and schedules based on the employees’ needs.

If employers have issues with retention, it’s something that Hop In can also help with. The employer usually covers the cost completely. 

We work very closely with recruitment agencies and staffing agencies. We’re members of the Brampton Board of Trade as well and work closely with all the bodies that contribute towards the development of a city, development of commercial properties, and management of all of those work sites. Hop In works with everybody in that spectrum. 

Our operations are primarily based in the York Region, but currently, we are working on programs with 107 municipalities across Ontario! Our main areas are GTA-focused, and now we are getting out to the rural areas and small towns. 

How does the shuttling aspect of Hop In work?


We work with chartered bus companies that normally do events. For them, working with us is a no-brainer. It’s a new stream of revenue for them, especially during COVID as no one is going to events.

With our bus operators, we are constantly looking at data: tracking rides and optimizing routes. For example, if there were a Raptors game or Leafs game or a parade, we can reroute instantly.

The bus companies we work with are also certified to provide accessible transportation for people with disabilities. We just finished up a pilot with Durham Deaf Services to transport their learners to the facilities.

You mentioned that there has been less of a demand for bus services due to COVID-19. How has the pandemic changed how you operate?


For the first couple of months, everyone was just trying to figure out their place in this world now. We took that time to help those in need. We realized we weren’t going to generate revenue for at least a few months, so we figured we might as well do something productive with the time and help out. 

Hop In paired up with restaurants in Vaughan, Markham, and Brampton and we delivered around 100 meals and free rides to work for healthcare workers. We’ve actually now donated over 20,000 disposable masks across Canada!

We also had to shift the focus of our customer demographics. We had been working with tech companies, but they all started to work from home, so we doubled down on the essential factories and manufacturing facilities that had to stay open.

We did pivot, but nothing too big for us. Our core model stayed the same.

What advice would you give other university students or other aspiring entrepreneurs if they want to start a business?


I have three things. The first one is you just got to go for it. It’s going to be tough, things don’t always go as planned. 

If it’s something you really want to do, then there are a lot of opportunities and you can find help from places like the DMZ. The DMZ taught me so much about design thinking – that was the biggest thing for me to understand how to actually validate this thing!

My second piece of advice is to listen to your customers. I really didn’t understand this point until last year. Build what your customer needs – not necessarily what sounds nice.

The last thing? It’s all about perspective. Especially during times like this – with COVID and the economic crisis happening at the same time – there is always a way. The situation that we’re in is creating a host of problems, but the reason why we exist as entrepreneurs is to solve problems.

A lot of people thought we were dead because we are a transportation company, but we pivoted and we became an essential service to a lot of industries. In times like these, take a look from every different angle and make sure you leave no stone unturned.

I’ll be honest… we are not without our freakouts! But it’s been really, really fun because we’ve just been throwing pasta at the wall and seeing what sticks, right? Every day we are throwing something new out there to see what happens. It’s been kind of fun experimenting that way.

 

Want to learn more? Visit Hop In’s website and follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

What’s it like being a “parentpreneur” during the pandemic?

For parent founders working full-time from home, managing a company while raising kids has been one of the more trying aspects of the pandemic.


Between handling screaming children while on conference calls at home and dealing with the stress of sending kids back to school, parents with young children haven’t had it easy this pandemic. Remote working as a result of COVID-19 has greatly affected life at home as we know it, and in some cases, has completely changed family dynamics and parenting styles.

Most entrepreneur parents, or “parentpreneurs”, have the privilege of working from home, even in the absence of a pandemic. That doesn’t mean keeping kids home for remote learning has been easy.

DMZ founders share their experiences while working from home with kids. Inevitability, there have been challenges – but parents have also seen some surprising silver linings come out of it. 

If you’re a parent in a similar situation, you might find comfort in hearing that no family has perfected life during a worldwide pandemic. Hear what these founders are saying!


The switch to distance learning and remote working

Tweepsmap’s Samir Al-Battran, Founder & CEO and Erin Heywood, Manager of Operations, are a parent duo with three school-aged children. As soon as the pandemic hit in March, Tweepsmap had already begun remote work. Samir and Erin felt prepared ahead of their school’s shutdown and, all things considered, were appreciative of their situation as parents.

“We’re lucky. Not everyone has the luxury to work from home or has a business that can continue without much disruption,” explains Erin. She adds that it helps that her children have two tech-savvy parents and enough devices in the home to make distance learning physically possible for three kids in one household.

Zeze Peters, Founder & CEO of Beam.city is also a parent of three: two school-aged children and a newborn. He claims that parenting during the pandemic has been both amazing and tricky – something that many parents can relate to: “Before COVID, my wife and I were complaining that we didn’t have enough time to spend with our kids. Mid-school year, we got our wish – but not on great terms.”

 

Balancing work and family life

Kate Mansouri, Founder & CEO of Pennygem has had her hands full in 2020. For Kate, it’s been a year of firsts – she’s growing her first startup and has become a mother for the first time. Most of the Pennygem team consists of women that have children, so as a leader, Kate has been understanding of parenting struggles during a pandemic. 

“It’s been tough for them. Sometimes parents are sitting in a meeting, their kids walk in and ask a million questions and they have to turn the camera and microphone off to attend to the kids. It can be tough to stay on track and be productive having your kid around,” Kate explains. “I, myself, have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every day. My most productive times are from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., and then in the evening when my baby goes to bed.”

For Samir and Erin, working for the same company has both its benefits and drawbacks. “The challenge is that kids are screaming while you’re trying to have a call with a customer, so it’s been different – and Erin can’t work as much as she could before because she’s taking a lot of the load from our children being at home.”

Zeze’s sentiments are similar, stating that client meetings and managing a team has been a little tricky with the kids home from school. “Sometimes they’ll come in and join my meetings, which actually doesn’t always bother me, but it does break your workflow. There’s a concept in technology called context switching: going from business work to funding work, to team management work, writing technology, to responding to emails and then, of course, dealing with kids. A context switch takes your mind from one mode to another mode. Working from home, my daily productivity went through the floor. As an early-stage startup, every hour matters, especially when I’m leading a team,” Zeze says.

Plans for this school year

In August, provincial governments and school boards across the country began announcing plans to send kids back to the physical classroom this fall for the 2020-2021 school year. The COVID-19 pandemic posed yet another dilemma for parents. While at-home work productivity would surely improve, the potential spread of the virus amongst kids is something parents have to take into consideration.

While Kate has a newborn baby and doesn’t yet have to make a decision on whether to send her child to school, she knows most of the parents on her team have found it difficult balancing family and work life, and will likely be opting to get kids back into a routine. “I think [the parents] would be taking the option of having kids go back to school. It’s been very tough on some of them. Many moms are looking for ways to take their children back to daycare or school, even if it’s part-time,” Kate explains.

Erin and Samir say they’ve made the decision to keep their three kids home for remote learning, at least for the start of the year. Erin mentions that, in continuing remote learning, there will be bumps in the road – but it won’t feel like the same emergency it was in the Spring for her three kids. “The school has a set mandated time for teacher-led learning every day. The kids will have to be in front of a computer, and some people are complaining about screen time – but frankly, this is the choice you’re making for your child if you decide to keep them home.” Erin also says that if class sizes were smaller, they would consider sending their children back to school. But with potentially 25-30 in a classroom, there won’t be much physical distancing.

Samir mentions that the decision to keep kids home will help with the consistency of their learning. “We’re thinking about sustainability. If things get bad again and schools shut down, it would be disruptive to their school year. If we get them online from the beginning, at least they will have more stability in their learning.”

Zeze and his wife have also opted to keep their two school-aged children in the virtual classroom for now. “As good as the intention is to have teachers bear the brunt of the cleanliness for large periods of the day, it’s just hard to be perfect,” Zeze explains. “There are hundreds of kids. With COVID, even though small kids may not have strong symptoms and develop issues, it may not be the same for their parents and grandparents.”

In it for the long haul? Parenting WFH tips and silver linings

As the digital workplace and classroom may very well be our reality for the next while, we asked founders if they have tips to offer other parents for improving work-life balance and family dynamics in the current environment. Parents also explain that amidst the pandemic, they have seen some benefits to keeping the family at home – and have been embracing the silver linings that have come with it.

Erin and Samir are grateful that they even have the ability to work from home and spend more time with the family. In terms of tips for keeping the family happy and productive, Erin adds: “Each case is different, every child is different. You can’t listen to what everyone is telling you. Try to come up with a solution that works for your own kids, your company and your life. It’s important to listen to your kids and what their needs are.” As an example, given the government’s social bubble restrictions, Erin and Samir have been flexible with allowing their daughter to spend more time than usual socializing with friends online. 

A practical solution for Zeze’s family was to establish a consistent daily routine in which his kids finished school work first thing in the morning. “Before they did anything else, they had to get their school work done early in the morning. By about 10:00 a.m., they would be done for the day. My wife and I could get back to being productive with our own work.”

As a founder whose team has been working in a digital format since the company’s inception, Kate doesn’t plan to bring her startup into an office setting post-pandemic – at least not full-time. Her team sees great value in Pennygem’s remote working policy. 


Kate explains that some mothers on her team have appreciated the extra bonding time at home with children. “My hope is to provide them with an opportunity to have meaningful input, but at their own convenient time. It’s working really well for us. We’re very flexible,” Kate adds. “The situation was a big eye-opener for a lot of people. We were required to work from home all of a sudden, and many of us have discovered that it’s working. It’s tough, but you learn to work around it.

Zeze adds that a silver lining to this crisis has been that his family is making special memories that they will cherish forever. “The kids have picked up arts and crafts, they paint now too. We’ve been having barbecues together, we’ve built a farm full of fruits and vegetables which the kids have helped plant and harvest. Every day when they go out to play, it’s cool to look out the window and see them playing in the backyard. It makes us feel happy.”

If you’re a parentpreneur working from home with kids, share your experiences and tips with the DMZ on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn!

Content marketing for startups: How to master your strategy

DMZ guest blog by: Rokham Fard, DMZ EiR

Content marketing: it’s something that almost every company does, but few do it exceptionally well. Regardless, it is a tool that should be a part of every startup’s arsenal.

If your startup has little budget or no online audience, mastering your content marketing via your company website’s blog is a great place to start building your brand awareness and converting your audience into customers. The great news? Your content strategy is something you can learn to master with little to no budget. And – when you do it right – years down the road you will have built promotional assets. 

This article is two-fold: it covers both the creation and promotion of your blog content. Learn how to structure your blog writing, choose an appealing topic, and repurpose your content in your email and social media marketing efforts. Best of all, along the way you’ll get simple hacks you can use to satisfy web algorithms and skyrocket your online engagement.

Your startups’ content strategy can take several attempts of trial and error – but hit that sweet spot start, and you’ll be seeing real return on your efforts. 

Choose a winning blog topic


Picking the right blog topic requires careful consideration. When doing this, you mustn’t improvise and assume the whole world cares about what
you think is top-of-mind for your customers. Selecting a subject matter should be a data-driven process – not hypothesis-driven.

Anchor your topic around a question or problem

Don’t throw all kinds of messages out there and hope one sticks. It’s not about frequency of content. It’s about doing the right one, and then spending a lot more time getting it out there. It’s crucial to vet your topic before you start writing. You need to find out what the external world is asking about the topic you want to write about.

The easiest method to gather information around the world’s questions is to Google it. You’ll want to anchor your blog around a certain phrase or question. Try it: as an example, search “coping with anxiety”. How many people are searching that in a month? In Canada? In the U.S.? If a lot of people are searching for it, you know there is market demand. Your search phrase should have between 1,000 to 10,000 monthly searches for your geographical audience (if your target audience only lives in Canada, try incorporating U.S. searches to reach that 10,000). Another great tool to vet your topic is UberSuggest.

Write the best answer on Google

Once you’ve identified the question you’re going to answer, the magic is to offer a solution to that question or problem that is subjectively better than the first ten results on Google. 

The reality is, almost no one checks the second page of Google. If you are able to be subjectively better than all those ten combined, then your answer will be considered better to the user. Algorithms on Google are fully optimized for that. If you are taking the right steps for SEO, you will eventually rank up. 

Trust is one of the most important aspects required to build a relationship with potential customers and retain existing ones. You build trust by addressing someone’s problem better than they can, then offering them a solution. 

The only way you can do that is if you are a subject matter expert who can offer insights that come from deep knowledge. Companies will oftentimes hire a content writer who is remote and cheap to employ. What happens when you hire someone who doesn’t have expertise in your subject matter? They go to Google, they search your key phrase and regurgitate the same information that the top articles on Google have already written about. Your blog writer should be a subject-matter expert. 

If you can articulate someone’s problem better than they can, that is a great start to building trust and gaining loyal followers.

Re-think the structure of blog writing


If you’d like to write something people are going to read, think of your content as a prescription. We were taught to write using a certain skeleton: the intro and hypothesis, point one, point two, point three and the conclusion. 

These days, and on the web especially, consumers typically don’t have the time to read your essay. They came to your blog to ask a question, to get an answer. 

Adopting a new style of writing by putting the carrot upfront: what will a reader get from this post? Get them on the edge of their seat; give them a promise upfront. Then, move into your solutions: one, two, three. And, at the end, there’s no conclusion per se – it’s a summary. 

The three layers of content within a blog: macro, micro, nano

Young startups often avoid spending the time to produce quality blog content and opt for short-term marketing wins, which will become more expensive in the long run. What many don’t realize is that you can invest more time and resources in creating one blog, and you’ll end up producing content that can be repurposed for various channels over an extended period of time. 

There are three layers of content produced here: the macro, the micro and the nano. Why is it important to distinguish between these three layers? Well, they each provide value to your marketing strategy in different ways. 

The macro is the entire blog post. One of the more frequently asked questions around blog post creation is the length of your posts. Try to write around 2000-2500 words per post. While that may sound like a lot, you must remember how much noise is out there to compete with. Additionally, if you were to cover a topic and only had 500 words to work with, it’s hard to give the subjectively best answer to your reader’s question. I’ll touch on why this is important, and tips for having the subjectively best answer again soon.

Furthermore, a longer blog will also reap benefits from a technical perspective: with richer, denser content, your website’s blog will appeal more to search engines’ machine learning. For example, Google’s semantic analysis is strong enough to understand your content’s focus and will do so more easily with denser content – improving your online search visibility.

Next comes the “micro” layer of content. Your blog post should yield three to five main topics or solutions (which we’ll touch on soon). Each one of those solutions can be thought of as a micro-sized piece of content. Micro content can be leveraged in for your email newsletter, for example. Build a drip campaign using this content where every email covers one of the three to five solutions outlined in your blog post. If you write one article for your blog and have, on average, four solutions in one article, that will equate to four weeks worth of drip campaigns! By the time you have 10 articles, you’ll have 40 weeks of campaigns. 

Finally, the “nano” layer of content consists of the even smaller bits buried within those solutions – they are the bite-sized, action-driven solutions that are derived from each micro. This is the content that will feed your social media. 

Let’s size it up. A macro piece equals three to five micro pieces and about eight to 12 nano pieces. All of a sudden, you have eight to 12 social posts – and for the next month, you have something new every few days for your social channels. 

That’s how you stay top of mind. Re-purpose your content strategically, and you’ll gain the mindshare of your audience.

Promote the hell out of your content


You have a piece of content… now, what do you do with it? 

The general rule of thumb is that 20 percent of your time should go towards creating your content and 80 percent towards promoting. You’ve vetted this idea for your blog and you know there’s demand – now take the time to get your content out there.

With your blog content, you can leverage both long and short term gains. The long term effect is that you’re going to start getting ranked on Google. If you have given the best answer on the internet, you’ll start ranking higher on search engines. The short term gain is that you have content that’s ready to be promoted. Remember, the micro and nano layers within your blog have helped you distinguish this content. You won’t need to think about new topics for your email newsletters, and you won’t need to hire someone to keep your social media alive. Don’t operate in silos – repurpose that content!

Cater to the social platform’s algorithm

Take a look at your LinkedIn feed. You’ll probably notice examples of these nano posts. 

How do you ensure your LinkedIn posts perform well? You have to cater to the platform’s algorithm. LinkedIn’s platform, like many other social platforms, prioritizes 1) relevant content, and 2) engagement. The more your posts play into what the algorithm likes, the more eyes you will get on your social content. If you want more engagement on your posts across social media channels like LinkedIn, here are some hacks to consider.

First, when you create your post based on your nano, never include the link back to the article if you don’t have to. It’s counterintuitive. When someone is scrolling through their LinkedIn feed, do they really want to stop and read a 2000 word article? No. Think about where your audience’s head is at. Your LinkedIn posts should act as nuggets, intriguing them to want to hear more about what you’ve got to say. Second, if you are linking your article within your LinkedIn post, you’re not catering to the platform’s algorithm. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn – each one of these platforms is biased towards keeping the user on the platform. They don’t want a user to leave the platform, they make money by keeping them around. This is another reason to avoid linking out to your website. I’ve seen up to ten times the engagement when I don’t link out to my article. 

If you feel like your post needs a call-to-action, I would suggest signing off with the same hashtag at the tail end of each social media post. This is good for brand awareness, and when someone clicks on your hashtag, they’ll see everything you’ve published. Even more important, the click from the user is a signal to the platform’s algorithm for engagement. 

Something else to consider is that algorithms also have a bias towards posts that use an image. 

Go where your audience already hangs out

If you don’t have a huge audience yet on your brand’s social channels, don’t worry. I don’t recommend trying to build a big audience right off the bat. It can be expensive and you can do it gradually. What I would recommend is for you to go to where your audience already hangs out to promote the hell out of your content. There are two great places to do this for free: Facebook and Reddit.

Facebook

There are Facebook pages on just about every topic out there. Go to Facebook’s search engine. In the search bar, search using your keyword or the topic you’ve written about. Change the filter to search Pages, and you’ll find Pages who are interested in learning about your topic at hand. Find a page that has at least a couple thousand followers. Look at their newsfeed. What type of content is being shared? Do they give love to any third-party content? If they do, you can message the admin and explain why your article would provide value to their audience. Ask them to share it – you’d be surprised how many times they’ll do it. This can drive more traffic to your own Facebook page, and hopefully, your website too.

Reddit

Reddit can be a hit or miss as behaviours can be very inconsistent with the users and admins, but it can be a highly effective way to engage your target audience. There are thousands of subreddits about every topic under the sun. You can use Google to find subreddits. Find some subreddits that are relevant, and post your article in those subreddits – but not as you are promoting it. Why is this important? The moment Reddit sniffs that you are self-promoting, they will remove you from that Subreddit. Post it as if you are an observer – as if you stumbled across this resource on the web that you thought was worth sharing. 

Take these Facebook and Reddit tactics into consideration. Try each platform at least once – find a few gems, and in a couple posts’ time, you can come back to these great audiences! A lot of these audiences might convert to subscribers – and who knows – maybe even customers of your business. 

If done correctly, Facebook and Reddit can help your content take off. 

Conclusion: practice makes perfect


Keep in mind that your blogging strategy is an ongoing cycle. Prioritize quality over quantity. There’s no need to produce a new post every week, it
will become exhausting. The more you can invest in promotion, you will end up finding the right audience.

When it comes to perfecting content writing and promotion, there’s not always a one-size-fits-all solution. It starts with getting confident about vetting the right topic for your blog post and structuring your article in a way that’s easy to consume. Once you have a quality article written, learn how to leverage the micro and nano nuggets of information that come out of each blog post. You’ll start to see success in your analytics and get into the rhythm of things.  

While there’s so much more that can be covered, the truth is that strategies are ever-changing as technology becomes smarter and consumer behaviour shifts.  

If you begin implementing the tactics outlined in this article, you’ll get comfortable working in a way that caters to your consumers’ thinking. Take that with you as the digital environment continues to evolve, and you will have greater success in adapting your content marketing to fit the needs of your business.

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