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2023 federal and provincial budget digests

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2023 federal and provincial budget digests

How the 2023 federal and provincial budgets will impact the startup and innovation economy

 

In March, the federal and provincial governments unveiled their highly-anticipated budgets. With both plans moving from COVID-19-specific funding and focusing on lightening deficits and combatting inflation, we now have glimpse into what the road to a more robust economy looks like.

DMZ has reviewed the Ontario provincial and federal government budgets and identified key commitments that impact the startup and innovation economy.

Here’s what you need to know about both budgets:

Federal budget highlights

The full federal budget can be found here.

Small business support

  • Lowering credit card fees: The federal government has reached an agreement with Visa and MasterCard to reduce credit card fees by up to 27%.
    • This reduction will help small businesses save $1 billion over the next five years.

Innovation

  • Canada Growth Fund: The government intends to introduce legislation to enable the Public Sector Pension Investment Board to manage the assets of the Canada Growth Fund to deliver on the Growth Fund’s mandate of attracting private capital to invest in Canada’s clean economy.
  • Supporting Canada’s leadership in space: The government invested just under $2.8 billion to get Canadians — and Canadian technology — into space, onto the moon and beyond.
  • Canada Innovation Corporation: The government invested $2.6 billion for the new Canada Innovation Corporation, which will support Canadian businesses in investing in research and development.
  • Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive: The Department of Finance will continue to engage with stakeholders on the next steps of the SR&ED program to ensure it is providing adequate support and improving the commercialization of intellectual property.

Transition to the green economy

  • Clean electricity investment tax credit: A 15% refundable credit to support non-emitting generation systems, storage and transmission.
  • Clean technology manufacturing: A 30% tax credit for new machinery and equipment used to manufacture or process key clean technologies and extract key critical minerals.
  • Clean hydrogen: Up to 40% tax credit for projects producing clean hydrogen.
  • Strategic Innovation Fund: A $500 million commitment over 10 years to support the development and application of clean technologies in Canada.
  • Smart Cities Challenge: The government will be launching a new round of the Smart Cities Challenge later this year, which will focus on using connected technologies, data, and innovative approaches to improve climate resiliency.

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Provincial budget highlights

The full provincial budget can be found here.

Innovation

  • Underserved entrepreneurs: Investing an additional $15 million over three years for the Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Entrepreneurs (RAISE) Grant Program that includes support for Indigenous, Black and other racialized people, as well as an additional $3 million in the Black Youth Action Plan
  • Innovation hubs:
    • Providing an additional $1 million per year for three years to Invest Ottawa, starting in 2023–24, to expand into a Regional Innovation Centre hub for Eastern Ontario.
    • Committing an additional $2 million in 2023–24 to Futurpreneur Canada.
    • Providing $4 million in 2023–24 to support the City of Brampton in attracting more entrepreneurs and business investment to help drive economic growth.

Skills development

  • Mitacs: Investing an additional $32.4 million over the next three years to support 6,500 high‐quality research internships through Mitacs.
  • Skills Development Fund: Providing $224 million in 2023–24 for a new capital stream of the Skills Development Fund to leverage private-sector expertise and expand training centres.

International talent

  • Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program: Enhancing the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program with an additional $25 million over three years to attract more skilled workers, including in-demand professionals in the skilled trades, to the province.
  • Ontario Bridge Training Program: Expanding the Ontario Bridge Training Program with an additional $3 million in 2023–24 to help internationally trained immigrants find employment in their fields and get faster access to training and support towards a licence or certificate.

Manufacturing

  • Ontario-made tax credit: A 10% refundable Corporate Income Tax credit to help local manufacturers lower their costs, invest in workers, innovate and become more competitive.

Business savings for Ontario employers

  • Tax relief for small businesses: Improving competitiveness by planning to enable an estimated $8 billion in cost savings and support for some Ontario employers in 2023, with $3.6 billion going to small businesses.
    • This would provide Ontario’s small businesses with additional Ontario income tax relief of $265 million from 2022–23 to 2025–26.

Electric vehicle investments

  • Electric vehicles (EV): Attracting over $16 billion in investments by global automakers and suppliers of EV batteries and battery materials to position Ontario as a global leader in the EV supply chain.

Are you a founder trying to navigate the startup ecosystem? Learn more about programming DMZ offers here.

What contracts do you need for your startup?

This is a DMZ guest blog by Konata Lake and Wendes Keung of Torys LLP.

Building a startup is challenging. You need to balance cash flow control, product development, go-to-market strategies, talent, branding and working in perpetual ‘go’ mode. And then there is the back-end work—the part that you don’t look forward to—financial records, information management systems, documents, policies and procedures, and, of course, contracts. Although a good contract doesn’t feel quite as rewarding as building your product or closing a deal, it’s an essential building block for a successful startup.

The best contracts are always ones that are drafted with your product, business model and consumer base in mind. Early-stage startups can be tempted to use online templates, but templates can leave you vulnerable. Most templates favour one side or are drafted ambiguously in a way that leaves interpretation up for debate.

We thought we would break down a few key contract non-negotiables to always keep in mind.

Your service offering and crown jewels

  • Services: The agreement should clearly describe the services that will be provided and what is included or excluded as part of the project scope. For example, will your service include software licenses, hardware, software, professional services, training, installation/integration, or maintenance and support? The agreement should be clear about allocating responsibilities, development milestones, and milestone deadlines.
  • Intellectual property: Your intellectual property (IP) is your most valuable asset. Investors will closely scrutinize your IP clauses to confirm that you actually own your IP. Here’s what to look out for:
    • Effective license rights if you are licensing your IP to customers via service agreements or if you require the customer’s data to deliver the services. 
    • Ensure your IP clauses in employment agreements and independent contractor agreements are clear about ownership. In Canada, the default for IP ownership developed by an employee is ownership by the company unless the contract says otherwise— however, the opposite is true for contractors and consultants.

Managing data

  • Confidential information: The definition of confidential information typically covers any information disclosed by or on behalf of a party to the other party that is marked as confidential or that reasonably should be understood to be confidential. Confidentiality terms are crucial to ensure that the person you are negotiating with won’t steal your secrets.
  • Customer data: If you are dealing with customer data as a part of your service, be prepared to answer questions on privacy and security. Customers will likely want to know the security requirements you have in place to protect their data. If you will be collecting, accessing, using, or disclosing personal information, consult a privacy expert to ensure that you’re compliant with appropriate privacy laws. Certain jurisdictions, such as the EU, UK, Switzerland and California, have specific requirements that companies must follow if they deal with individuals in those jurisdictions.

Mitigating risk exposure

  • Disclaimers: Disclaimers notify your users that you will not be held responsible for certain damages from their use of your website, products, or services. They need to be carefully structured to have legal effect. One that is too broad may be struck down by a court as ineffective. Well-crafted disclaimers go a long way in protecting a business from liability.
  • Indemnification: Put simply, an indemnification clause requires one party to compensate the other for putting that party in harm’s way. For example, if you are a software developer, your customer may ask you to indemnify them if they receive a copyright infringement claim for using your software. You would be asked to “step in the shoes” of the customer and manage the dispute. If you agree to offer an indemnity, you should limit the categories of claims that you are willing to indemnify for, put caps on the damages and consider purchasing insurance as a way to limit your financial risk and exposure. 
  • Limitation of liability: Limitation of liability clauses allow parties to limit the amounts owed by one party to the other in the face of a claim. The type of damages due or claims brought can be limited. This allows a party to avoid a “bet the business” situation by allocating risk between the parties. There are typically three parts to a limitation of liability clause to look out for: 
    1. Waiver of Indirect Damages: This clause states that a party will not be liable for any indirect damages that arise under the agreement, including any damages for lost revenue, lost savings, or lost profits. 
    2. Cap on Direct Damages: Agreements typically limit the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed as direct damages. This amount is typically tied to the fees paid under the agreement. 
    3. Exclusions: The parties may agree to exclude certain types of damages from the above circumstances. If these types of claims occur, whether directly or indirectly, the party will be exposed to unlimited liability. Parties will typically negotiate excluding claims for gross negligence, willful misconduct or fraud.  
  • Governing law & forum: The agreement should state what substantive law governs the rights and obligations of the parties and which country’s courts will hear disputes. You should consider the most practical and convenient jurisdiction if a dispute arises. If you choose a jurisdiction that is not your home court, make sure you are comfortable with their procedural system and how difficult it may be to enforce a foreign judgment domestically.

How you do business

  • Subcontracting: A contract is between two parties, and typically the rights and obligations under the contract cannot be imposed on a third party. However, third parties can sometimes be brought under a contract. For example, a subcontracting clause can be used to allow a party to assign or outsource parts or all of the obligations under a contract to a third party. You may need to rely on this clause if you have a third party hosting provider or even independent contractors working for you. Take note of language that requires you to obtain the customer’s consent before subcontracting (or to notify the customer in advance). 
  • Non-solicitation: As an early-stage company, almost all of your employees directly impact the bottom line. Non-solicit clauses protect your employees from being poached by a customer. The clause should define the timeframe, be limited to employees related to the services being provided under the agreement, and exclude situations where an employee responds to a general recruitment advertisement. 
  • Assignment: An assignment clause governs whether and when a party can transfer the contract to a third party. While agreements typically limit the ability of a party to transfer the contract without some form of prior consent, startups should ensure there is language that permits it to assign the agreement to a purchaser of its assets or shares without consent.

Many startups offer game-changing products and services to solve inefficiencies in the market, but overcoming the growing pains of launching a startup isn’t easy. A well-thought-out risk management tool often makes the difference between a successful startup and a struggling one. Good contracts are part of your risk management toolbox. A great technology contracting lawyer should be able to leverage sector knowledge and their own experience to advise you on which terms are negotiable and what is market in the industry.

Are you a startup founder with contract questions for Torys? Reach out to Wendes Keung today to get your questions answered.

 

This article appears on Torys’ Startup Legal Playbook: a guide to issues founders face as they grow their company, from ideation to exit. For more actionable insights on operating your startup, raising capital, building a team and going cross-border click here.

Your 2023 Manifestation Guide to Founder Success

This is the sign you’ve been looking for.

If you’re an avid social user — or even an occasional scroller — you’ve likely heard of manifestation. What is believed to have started as a Hinduism practice has now turned into a worldwide phenomenon trickling into the world of business.

So, what is manifestation? Simply put, manifestation is the practice of turning thoughts into reality. It requires you to be intentional with your emotions, beliefs, habits, and of course, actions. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Whether you believe in manifestation or see yourself as more of a goal-setter, there’s no denying the power of positive intent followed by disciplined action. Dreaming is one thing, but the day-to-day grind of a startup can be dark and challenging.

If you’re ready to hustle, keep reading to discover your 2023 manifestation guide to founder success.

Let your mind wander

Ever catch yourself daydreaming about your startup becoming the next big thing? What about securing a million-dollar funding round or landing your next big client? Don’t stop! Exercising your brain to get excited about the future is key to manifesting. Take a few moments each day to sink into your daydreams and discover what truly fuels your passion.

“When you’re passionate about your dreams, it doesn’t feel like work. Organize your life around your passion, turn your passion into your story and use that story to leave a legacy.” — Ahmer Rafiq, CEO, Souqh

Be intentional with your goals

How can you map your aspirations? Goal-setting looks different for everyone — but whether you create a detailed Excel sheet, draw up a mind map, or jot down notes in your journal, being intentional is key. Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) to achieve your desired outcome, and don’t forget to stay disciplined.

Fail quickly, learn fast

As a founder, there’s no question you’re going to fail — we all do! While it may seem like the end of the world, failure truly is the secret ingredient to success. Think of failure as a tool that helps uncover next steps by telling us exactly what’s working and what’s not. After all, Yin doesn’t exist without Yang.

“With every failure, I’m one step closer to success.” — Kelly Emery, Founder & CEO, Troop

Stay positive

Turn “I wish” phrases to “let’s do it” and “what if I fail?” to “when I succeed.” Focusing on the negative is easy, especially as a founder who inevitably hits what feels like every bump in the road. When you catch yourself drifting to that place of negativity, shift your mindset to practice gratitude and confidence. There’s nothing more powerful than believing in yourself and your business.

“Success is not defined by the end result – within every initiative, you will find an opportunity to grow, to learn and to push yourself one step closer to your goals and your success.” — Ahmer Rafiq, CEO, Souqh

Put yourself in the driver’s seat

Be accountable and disciplined. Of course, the most essential practice in manifestation is action. Joining an incubator like the DMZ helps hold founders like you accountable to your goals and provides a playbook to put dreams into action. Take ownership. You got this.

“I meditate daily, allocate time for sales calls, and have regular touch points with advisors who hold me accountable.” — Kelly Emery, Founder & CEO, Troop

 

Can you really manifest your startup dreams? Try it.

If you’re looking for a sign to join the DMZ, this is it. Check out our programs here.

The DMZ’s News Roundup: What went down in May

Canada’s venture deal woes, the country’s latest unicorn company and DMZ’s incoming Pre-Incubator cohort – this is your monthly DMZ news roundup.

Power up with DMZ’s News Roundup: a blog series dedicated to providing you with a quick look back on what went down in the Canadian startup and innovation ecosystem this past month.

We’ve got you covered with the most relevant news and notable wins from the ecosystem, DMZ updates and more.

Here’s a rundown of what went down.

INDUSTRY NEWS

New BDC report reveals a record-breaking 2021 for venture capital and private equity deals, while 2022 is expected to experience turbulence

A new BDC report revealed that 2021 was a shattering year for VC, with Canada breaking records by almost every metric. Canada saw a jump in domestic and international VC investing, with 752 deals made, representing $14.7 billion CAD. However, this past quarter, VC deal counts and the money behind private equity deals took a fall. Despite the forecasted challenges, BDC suspects that the startup economy and Canadian entrepreneurs are well-positioned to take them on.

Check out the full report here.

Neo Financial secures $185 million CAD in Series C funding, becomes the country’s newest Unicorn status company

Calgary-based Neo Financial closed their Theil-led Series C funding round, in which they raised $185 million CAD. This additional funding launched the company’s valuation to more than $1 billion CAD, making them the newest tech company to earn official unicorn status in the country. Neo Financial is an online bank bringing a low-fee alternative to the Canadian financial market, helping users save costs on spending and earn high interest on savings.

Learn more here.

Neo Financial becomes Calgary's latest $1 billion tech 'unicorn' | The Star

STARTUP NEWS

SPM solution provider, Forma.AI, is expanding platform development with $45 million CAD secured in Series B funding

DMZ alumni Forma.AI (Incubator ’18), a sales performance management solution provider, recently closed its Series B funding round. With the $45 million CAD secured in funding, they plan on expanding the marketing and development of their fintech platform.

Read more here.

Fable secured $10 million USD to make online accessibility a reality for disabled users

Fable (Incubator ’20), a Toronto-based startup that helps companies make digital products more usable by people with accessibility challenges, announced a $10.5 million USD round in venture capital funding to support the company’s growth. Alwar Pillai, CEO and Co-Founder of Fable, says the company is focusing on unlocking access to more clients by targeting large corporations’ digital teams to target their users.

Check it out here.

WBI-affiliated technology firm CyborgTech to acquire DMZ FinTech alumni Fortuna.AI

DMZ alumni Fortuna.AI (Incubator ’18) announced its acquisition from WBI-affiliated technology firm CyborgTech, home to robo advisory platform Cy, for an undisclosed amount. Fortuna.AI is an AI-powered platform helping financial services scale digital tools to get new clients in the marketing and advertising sector. Fortuna.AI was the winner of the DMZ-Bank of Montreal Fintech accelerator program.

Learn more here.

DMZ NEWS

Introducing DMZ’s Pre-Incubator Fall 2022 cohort of cutting-edge tech companies

In a new DMZ blog, we welcome 13 up-and-coming tech companies into our new Pre-Incubator cohort. Hailing from across Canada, the United States, Brazil, Estonia and Africa, this new cohort is already hitting above their own weight in a diverse range of industries. Check out all the companies in our new Pre-Incubator cohort here.

Looking for more startup ecosystem news and DMZ updates? Subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter to stay in the know here.

Meet the DMZ’s Spring ‘22 startup cohort

Introducing the DMZ’s newest cohort: 11 tech startups that are disrupting the Canadian tech ecosystem 


DMZ’s Incubator is a market validation and traction program that helps venture-backable pre-seed and seed-stage startups execute their go-to market strategy, acquire lighthouse customers, gain media exposure, explore global expansion, preparing for the next round of funding, and much, much more.

Out of hundreds of the high-calibre startup founders that applied from Canada and around the world, the DMZ hand-picked 11 tech companies to join a new 18-month cohort in the Incubator. 

This cohort has startups joining from Vancouver, Canada to Budapest, Hungary, across diverse industries like logistics, insurtech, fintech, proptech, and more.

Introducing our Spring ‘22 Incubator cohort:

 

AssetFlo is building the next generation of location products to help the supply chain increase visibility with a single device that works everywhere and eliminates costly infrastructure.

Baoba is creating street-smart insurances by combining location intelligence with technologies to create geo-triggered coverages. Baoba’s vision is to become the #1 global ecosystem orchestrator for on-demand insurance needs and the platform for connecting a fragmented market.

Carmodity partners with car dealerships to provide lease-financing to customers in a debt-free and interest-free model.


Cozii Technologies provides sustainable residential and commercial properties management services. Their flagship product Cozii Proptech allows residential landlords to manage their rental properties from anywhere in the world.

Lightster is a mobile platform that enables tech startups to build instant user communities for input and co-creation, and rewards users for their time with exclusive access and cash.

Businesses, governments, and individuals share many important documents every day. myLaminin uses Blockchain to deliver security, convenience, and control to the document issuer, document holder, and third-party document verifiers.

Reyts is a marketplace that allows individuals to swap currencies seamlessly and securely.

SizeWize offers an AI-backed fit recommendations eCommerce app that ensures online shoppers can buy the right size online, providing reduced returns, increased conversion, increased AOV, targeted marketing and optimal supply chains. 



ShiftRide is a car subscription service allowing people to subscribe to cars listed by owners and dealerships in the community. Every subscription comes with maintenance, insurance options, and flexible terms that suit any lifestyle.

VRapeutic is an Ontario-based UNICEF Innovation Fund portfolio software house specializing in developing therapeutic and rehabilitation solutions, with a focus on virtual reality (VR) for learning and developmental challenges.

 

If you are an early-stage tech founder interested in joining DMZ’s Incubator, check out more about the program details and selection criteria here.

Why your startup needs an accountant

It’s easy to understand why early-stage entrepreneurs might see hiring an accountant as unnecessary. Tight profit margins, little-to-no investment and a small working staff mean even the tiniest expense can make or break a company. However, an accountant’s job is about more than just filing taxes and crunching numbers.

A dedicated accountant is like a year-round business partner. It’s a lifeline for entrepreneurs during the bad times and reassuring one during the good ones. Considering almost half of all new businesses fail in their first year, bringing on experienced financial assistance is less of a luxury and more of a necessity.

Avoid scam artists. Pick a professional

 
David Silber, a Senior Tax Manager at Crowe Soberman, has spent the last seven years working with investors, startups and small businesses across Canada. He’s seen how easy it can be for entrepreneurs to mismanage their company into trouble and out of a money.  

“Entrepreneurs are very good at looking at the big picture,” Silber explains. “However, they can lose sight of the fact that there are some financial reporting and obligations that go along with running a business that they can’t afford to ignore.”

Canadians convicted of tax evasion face five years in jail and a 200% fine on owed taxes

Mac Killoran, a partner at Fruitman Kates LLP, agrees. Startups tend to ignore how crucial professional planning is and don’t always understand why it sets them up for success down the road, he says. “I would say entrepreneurs for the most part try to reduce upfront costs and not pay professionals. When they do it on their own, it often results in penalties and larger headaches resolving the issues with CRA.”

Find resources you can afford

 
In a perfect world, every entrepreneur should have enough money set aside to pay a professional bookkeeper. But, since reality rarely works out as planned, a smart backup plan is to consider online accounting tools, like QuickBooks.

This helps businesses stay on top of their financial responsibilities in the interim, so they don’t rely on faulty memory or overworked staff.

If you can’t afford an accountant, online software will help you track expenses and payroll

 

It’s also important to separate personal and business expenses from the very beginning when starting a business. Founders that commingle the two can end up costing themselves money or garnering unwanted attention from the Canada Revenue Agency.

“If you can borrow money from your corporation, even unintentionally, there’s a rule in place that if that debt isn’t repaid within one year the money is added to your income and gets taxed the following year,” he explains. “Just don’t do it.”

Paying yourself a salary

 
Whether or not you should draw a salary during your startup’s early years is a question
that has plagued even the most frugal founders. Should company leaders pay themselves a salary when bootstrapping or focus on reinvesting that money? The answer, like everything in business, is complicated.

According to the experts, it all depends on a company’s future goals and cash flow. For Silber, he suggests entrepreneurs first recognize what their priorities are and then decide whether drawing a salary hurts or helps in the long run. A good compensation plan may be to pay a mix of salary and dividends.

Not taking a salary while bootstrapping your company isn’t always the smartest thing to do

Startups that pay into a dividend benefit in two ways. First: They lower their tax bracket so they pay less tax at the end of the year. Second: Later, when their business is doing well they’re not bumped up to a higher tax range. “What I do is tell entrepreneurs to pay a dividend of $30,000 or $40,000 for their salary, which results in less tax,” explains Killoran.

The future is up to you

 
The world of business is tough.

The hard truth is that every year hundreds of startups across the country shut down and
close up shop. It makes sense for entrepreneurs to use every tool they have at their disposal to tilt the odds in their favour. It might just be that an accountant’s experience and money knowhow may be the one factor that helps
their company thrive and survive in today’s cut-throat economy.

Looking to boost your money knowledge? Check out our previous post about the best money podcasts to listen to online.

How Toronto startup Roofr is using tech to go global

Not too long ago GTA homeowners hoping to repair a faulty roof had very few options available to them. They could either scour online want ads to find contractors or reach out to one of the big pricey construction firms that dominate the industry.

A huge endeavour considering the Ontario roofing industry is projected to reach a whopping $800 million this year. Meanwhile a Mckinsey & Company report found the construction and home renovation industry is one of the few remaining industries lagging when it comes to adopting new technology.

In 2016 all that changed when cofounder Richard Nelson and his two partners, Kevin Redman and Zach Melo, created Roofr. The Toronto-based startup makes it easy for consumers to find local, vetted contractors in as little as 30 seconds.

Fixing the industry’s flaws

 
The startup’s satellite technology gets customers access to cost predictions that analyze everything from man hours needed to materials required on site. This also helps roofers provide the best quotes and takes all the guesswork out of costly renovations. Customers can use the site for free any time, while contractors pay Roofr a nominal fee after each job.

A roofer by trade since he was 12 years old, he saw first hand how the out-of-date the industry was costing consumers money.  

“The problem with the roofing industry… [is] that it was a complete disaster,” Nelson explains. “You have the large roofing companies charging an arm and leg, or companies that weren’t experienced providing inferior services for a lot of money. We get around that by connecting people to the best sellers at the most competitive price.”

Since launching, the team has managed to turn their cost-efficient-roofing startup into a thriving business. Recently it hit $200,000 in gross merchandising volume and now boasts a 50 per cent month over month growth rate.

First Canada, next the world

 
Right now the company’s services are open only to Ontario residents. However Nelson hopes to expand south of the border in the coming weeks. Once the team wraps up their residency at California-based accelerator Y Combinator they’ll drum up business for their American operations. “Within the next five years, we’ll be present in every city in North America. Our first market and primary focus [right now] is California.”

When asked about the company’s recent wins, Nelson is quick to praise the DMZ. The Toronto accelerator prepped the team ahead of their Y combinator interview and introduced them to investors that kept the business afloat in its early years.

“Laith [the DMZ’s investor liaison] introduced me to a bunch of investors and angels with office hours when we were in Toronto,” says Nelson. “They helped us practice leading up to our Y Combinator interview too. So we were really prepared and knew what to expect.”

How one Canadian entrepreneur survived and thrived in NYC

The Bay area — once seen as the only top spot for tech — is no longer the be-all-and-end-all place for innovators. NYC-grown tech scions like Etsy, Blue Apron, ZocDoc and Buzzfeed have proven that building a billion-dollar company in Silicon Alley is not only possible, but slowly becoming the norm.

For those who have the money (and resources) to live in New York, success is within reach. Unfortunately, not all entrepreneurs can easily pack up and move to the Big Apple. Meanwhile, working part-time in New York is often not enough for businesses on the hunt for high-value growth.

Meet the Canadian conquering NYC

 
Canadian entrepreneur Ami Shah knows better than most how difficult it can be to work and network part-time in the city. Not too long ago the cofounder of education software company Peekapak spent weeks flying back and forth between her office in Toronto and NYC for work. Without a dedicated space in the city it meant relegating meetings with U.S. clients to subpar hotel lobbies or crowded coffee shops.

dmznyc-blogmap-1

“It’s not easy when you don’t have an office,” Shah explains. “We didn’t have a homebase so everyday [tasks] like networking or meeting clients were difficult.”

Thankfully things changed for the better in June 2017. That was when Shah and her team were chosen by the DMZ, North America’s number one university-based tech incubator, to work out of its brand new space at Primary. The co-working office, located in the heart of Manhattan, gives select Canadian entrepreneurs, like herself, a place to call home while in the big city and easy access to a host of free amenities, like desks, reception services, conference rooms and wellness classes.

The opportunity has — for all intents and purposes — changed her business in ways that she could never have imagined. “We’re focused on growth in the New York and New Jersey area now and since last year we’ve grown our sales three times,” she explains, while crediting the DMZ with playing a pivotal role in the company’s recent good fortune. “Having an office here signals to our partners that we want to spend more time in the region. We have [the] space to spend that time and, I think, it gives a lot of confidence to our partners.”

New and improved

 
The good news doesn’t stop there either. Since working out of the DMZ’s office in New York her team has moved out of its temporary home at Yonge and Dundas and into their very own office in downtown, Toronto.

The tech accelerator’s NY space has also improved Shah’s overall health and wellness, she says. The U.S. Primary location is now her home away from home where she can work, eat and also relax at the end of a long day.

“Usually when I’m there I’ll pick up a yoga class. In a city like New York where you’re rushing out to meet people it helps that there’s a place called ‘The Studio’ where any member can drop into a relaxation session.” Getting her “zen on,” as she calls it, even if it’s only for a few minutes per day, is helpful for the entrepreneur who regularly pulls 12-hour days.

Right now Shah and her team plan to maintain their presence in NYC well into the future, but don’t plan to give up their Canadian roots any time soon.

“We love being a Canadian company,” she says. “There is so much going on in Toronto in the tech scene and being part of the DMZ community showed me that. Being in NYC was never about not being a Canadian company; it was about taking advantage of this opportunity that we couldn’t have before.”

Is Rewordly the savior content creators have been searching for?

Traditional news publishers are fighting an uphill battle these days.

A 24-hour news cycle, online social media platforms that regurgitate free news and a decline in advertising rates have created a hurricane of hurt for the news industry, but today’s biggest companies refuse to go down without a fight.

Media companies – like Toronto Life and Now Magazine – are looking for new ways to make money and turning to tech startups for a helping hand.

Enter: Rewordly, a Toronto-based tech startup. The company has created an AI-powered product called Readefined that lets publishers better gauge how readers engage with online stories, determine how much content users read in real-time and what multimedia aspects of a story people actually like via behaviour tracking software. These important metrics are the cornerstone for any publisher since it helps not only attract high quality sponsors but new advertising partners.

“We have a vision to truly transform– and help –  the publishing world,” says Mario Vasilescu, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “We’ve won some awards and are in discussions with Canada’s top four publishers and associations from around the world. It’s still early days, having just launched.”

A closer look at Readefined

 

Here’s how the platform works: A user signs up at Readefined and installs the company’s tracking software or downloads the official WordPress plugin.
Afterward the software starts interpreting patterns for every person that visits a publisher’s page and can even make AI-based suggestions about what writers can do to improve their content before they publish future stories.

dropoff

The company is currently in beta and working towards a mid-August launch, but for now publishers with views under 500,000 per month can sign up to use its software for only $19 per month. Companies with more readers are charged on a per view basis.

For Vasilescu, his company’s product is a way for newspapers – and content creators of all kinds – to truly understand what readers want in the digital age. No more guessing and conjecture.

Of course, the startup’s team has never worked for a newspaper, but they understand the difficulties legacy newspapers can face. Adapting to a changing industry is something Rewordly is all too familiar with. The company has undergone several pivots since it launched in 2012.

“We’ve had a winding journey. The initial product took shape while working at a management consulting company in Paris. It was really shaped by seeing how inefficiently content was managed internally and externally,” explains Vasilescu.

“As naive first-time founders, we initially built a single product that – with the benefit of hindsight – we now see was attempting to solve all of the world’s content-related issues in one behemoth of a platform. People got really excited about it, but would be totally overwhelmed using so we went back to the drawing board and created this.”

How are publishers adapting?

 

For most publishers, it’s the company’s machine learning software – which gets smarter over time as it processes different reading behaviour and content – that could provide the most return. Keeping readers online longer, more engaged and even being able to predict what will work best is crucial.

And a focus on superior engagement data couldn’t come at a better time. Online advertising is now under attack. Over $7 billion in click fraud is reported every year. Meanwhile, over 50 per cent of online users are using adblocking software and a little over one-third of traffic is fake, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

“Now is the time,” Vasilescu adds. “We’re ready to change how the publishing world works for the better. We’re excited to see what comes next.”

The startup lessons today’s top shows can teach you

Whether it’s a killer queen bent on reclaiming her ancestral throne or complex villains wrestling with their humanity, there’s a lesson for every entrepreneur in this year’s crop of popular TV shows. These programs are more than just entertaining; they provide inspirational examples (and in some cases cautionary tales) that will make any dealmaker, founder or mogul-in-the-making a better businessperson.

Here’s a look at the best fictional shows on right now and how they can help startups up their game before it’s too late. (Warning this post may contain tv spoilers).

Game of Thrones

Lesson: Find allies with similar goals

via GIPHY

It’s hard to imagine how a show about a medieval (yet magical) world inhabited by dragons and the undead could provide any real value for entrepreneurs at first glance, but the HBO show has a lot to offer.

Exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen, one of the main characters, is on a mission to reclaim her throne, which often pits her (and her army) against assassins, city uprisings and family betrayal. Her closest friends help her navigate dangers at every turn and without them it’s all too clear that this inexperienced warrior would surely have died long ago.

Like Targaryen, entrepreneurs should seek out experienced allies who can help guide, advise and nurture their ambitions. Forging alliances with the right people (and investors) is an important part of turning an idea into a million-dollar product.

Orange is the New Black

Lesson: Do your due diligence

via GIPHY

While betrayal, sleepless nights and poor diets perfectly sum up the day-to-day lives of the fictional characters on this Netflix show it could also easily describe the lifestyle of many early-stage entrepreneurs and acts as an important lesson for new startups hoping to find success.

The award-winning Orange is The New Black tells the story of inmates at Litchfield — a minimum-security, women-only prison — who must deal with everything from food strikes to abusive guards.

The show’s protagonist Piper Chapman is sentenced to jail for criminal conspiracy and money laundering charges early in the series and throughout her sentence learns, the hard way, how important it is to do her due diligence when picking friends and allies in jail. For instance, her failure to properly vet friends resulted in one later stealing her money from a short-lived prison panty business in season four and later time in solitary confinement. Entrepreneurs should look to Piper Chapman when bringing on new talent. It doesn’t hurt to make sure your staff are trustworthy and the people you partner with are worthy of your time.

Glow

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself

via GIPHY

When you’re an entrepreneur and things don’t go your way it’s all too easy to end up wallowing in self-doubt. Failure, at any stage, is a gut-wrenching pill to swallow. Founders in need of inspiration about what to do if their company flounders should look no further than Glow, a fictional series about 1980’s female wrestlers in the U.S.

In the show failed actress Ruth Wilder decides to reinvent her career by taking on a role in a low-budget, traveling wrestling show. While wrestling isn’t exactly what she had in mind when she left her small town it turns out to be her biggest break thus far and finally gives her the success she craves. Like Wilder, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to pivot their business and use the skills they already have in their arsenal to start again.

Silicon Valley

Lesson: Always remain professional

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In an industry that’s consumed with power, prestige, and pride it’s easy to forget that one wrong move can throw an entire company into chaos. HBO’s Emmy-nominated Silicon Valley showcases just how complicated the startup world – and the individuals who work in it — can be. Egos can easily get in the way of success and threaten future opportunities.

The unforgettable Erlich Bachman is the perfect example of someone with an oversized personality that lands himself, and the company he represents, in hot water. His crude remarks and frequent off-the-cuff observations have alienated not just his coworkers at times but potential investors too. It’s too difficult to truly discern how successful Pied Piper — the company he works for — could have been if Bachman had been a little nicer in his dealings with investors and workers, but in a town where who you know is just as important as what you know it’s obvious it couldn’t have hurt the company’s chances either.

Westworld

Lesson: Keep employees happy and engaged

via GIPHY

Employees are the lifeblood of any company and Westworld knows that better than most. For most startups, it would be difficult to create, sell and promote any product without great staff, but for Westworld it would be almost impossible.

In this fantasy show about a futuristic amusement park where wealthy tourists can shoot, kill and otherwise abuse humanoid robots that act out western-influenced situations, employees represent more than just tools. They’re robotic staff who are the main attraction, keepers of the park and entertainment all rolled into one, which is why it came as no surprise to fans that they later revolted and attacked their creators.

When the park’s poorly treated robots go on a murderous rampage at the end of the series it’s an accurate, although unrealistic, representation of how a company call fall apart when its team aren’t treated fairly.

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