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Meet Marcelo Noronha: The brain behind Mr. Turing’s AI business assistant

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Meet Marcelo Noronha: The brain behind Mr. Turing’s AI business assistant

How Mr.Turing’s AI business assistant is saving companies time and money


Meet Marcelo Noronha, the unstoppable force and brain behind Mr. Turing, an AI (artificial intelligence) business assistant revolutionizing how companies work with their data. In an increasingly AI-driven world, Mr. Turing is a true game-changer, providing companies with a powerful tool to unlock the full potential of their internal data to save time, knowledge and money. 

Like Alan Turing, the trailblazing mathematician and computer scientist who laid the foundation for modern computing and artificial intelligence by cracking the German Enigma code during World War II, Noronha is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with AI.

What sets Mr. Turing apart from the competition is its unique ability to manage all of a company’s information in one place. With its innovative Alan technology, Mr. Turing helps companies process, interpret, and manage the knowledge generated from their internal data more effectively than ever before.

So, who is the mastermind behind Mr. Turing, and what inspired him to create it? We sat down with Noronha to discover his inspiration, the unique benefits of their AI-powered business assistant, Alan, and the measures they have put in place to safeguard sensitive information. If you’re interested in the intersection of entrepreneurship and AI, read on to uncover Noronha’s insights and discover the next big thing in business technology. 


What inspired you to build Mr.Turing? 

As a tech entrepreneur for 20+ years, all the companies I worked for used image processing for document management. However, every company had a gap in delivering value to its customers; we would process the documents but only deliver 20% of the value from all the information contained within them. This always bothered me because it was a lot of work for very little delivery. At the time, the technologies weren’t ready to process, interpret, and generate knowledge. When I came across the AI technique of Language Processing, I realized that this was where I could change the game.”


Tell us how your AI-powered business assistant (Alan) works.

Imagine needing information across different types of media: documents, videos, audio, websites, meeting minutes, and other sources. Now, imagine all of this scattered across multiple platforms within a company. How would you access and leverage it to improve your business processes? It would be practically an endless search, wouldn’t you agree?

This is the challenge we addressed with Alan, a tool that can manage and generate knowledge for companies, integrate with any system and process any type of media. After processing, interpreting and integrating where the information is, Alan is ready to respond naturally to the needs of those looking for information. And the best part of all of this is that this knowledge is secure within the company, so they can make informed decisions on how to use it.


How does Alan differ from other data management solutions on the market?

Our differential is the ability to manage all knowledge produced by company teams in a single platform, Alan. We can make connections between meeting videos, emails, projects, dialogues, and communication platforms.


With the increasing focus on data privacy and security, how do you ensure that Alan adheres to data protection standards? What measures have you put in place to safeguard sensitive information?

At Mr. Turing, we place great emphasis on data privacy and security. To ensure that we comply with data protection standards, we have implemented a range of measures to safeguard sensitive information. These include encryption, regular security audits, access controls, and user authentication. We are committed to staying up-to-date with evolving data privacy regulations and continuously improving our security practices to protect our users’ data.


How have you leveraged natural language processing to develop Alan? Can you walk us through your approach to training?

We utilized natural language processing (NLP) techniques and cutting-edge AI models to create Alan. Our methodology for training and refining the model involves several stages:

  • Data collection: We obtain a diverse set of data from multiple sources, including text, audio, and video content, to ensure a comprehensive understanding of a company’s information;
  • Data preprocessing: The collected data is cleaned and preprocessed to eliminate irrelevant or redundant information; 
  • Model training: The preprocessed data is employed to train our NLP models, with a focus on comprehending context, semantics, and relationships between different pieces of information; 
  • Fine-tuning: The trained models are refined using reinforcement learning techniques, which enable Alan to enhance its performance by adapting to the specific needs and preferences of each client; 
  • Evaluation and feedback: Alan’s performance is continually assessed against predefined benchmarks, and any insights gleaned from user feedback are utilized to further improve the model.


With the recent advances in natural language processing and conversational AI, how do you see your assistant evolving? Are there any new features or functionalities you’re excited to roll out?

The recent advancements brought by OpenAI with ChatGPT have given Mr. Turing the missing piece of the puzzle. We expected this to come around mid-2025, and it has been accelerated, which is great news!

We believe that we operate at the process layer of companies, with the capability of integrating, processing, and interpreting all the information that flows within them. With this, we can more precisely control what the conversational part of GPT models can synthesize without attempting to fabricate any information from non-existent data.


How do you balance the need for automation and efficiency with the importance of maintaining human oversight and control over data management processes?

Finding a middle ground between the need for automation and efficiency and the importance of maintaining human oversight and control is crucial. 

This can entail utilizing automation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence to boost the efficiency of data management processes while also keeping a check on human oversight and control to ensure the accuracy and quality of the managed data. 

Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that data management processes are well-documented and that policies and procedures are adhered to consistently to uphold data integrity and regulatory compliance.


Can you discuss future plans or goals, such as expanding into new industries or integrating new technologies?

We plan to expand into new industries such as healthcare, finance, law, and education. To remain at the forefront of AI and NLP technologies, we are enhancing collaboration features, developing advanced personalization features, and incorporating environmentally-friendly strategies into our operations and product offerings.


What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur in the AI space?

No matter the industry, the first step is to assemble a strong team with a common purpose. Then, it’s important to understand that building AI applications requires time, effort, and a great deal of persistence. Success cannot be guaranteed simply by utilizing AI technology, and it’s crucial to be ready to adjust and improve your ideas as you progress, given the rapidly evolving nature of the field.

Ready to save your business time and money with Mr. Turing? Click here to discover more >

Top tech journalists to follow right now

When it comes to staying on top of the latest industry trends, and startup wins, following the right tech journalists can make a world of a difference.


Keeping up with where the tech space is headed, startup raises in the field, acquisitions, government initiatives and thought-provoking commentary will not only keep you informed but allow you to make better business decisions.

Here’s DMZ’s top-ten tech journalists to follow right now:

Sean Silcoff | Technology Reporter, Globe and Mail
Focus: technology and innovation

From startup raises, government initiatives, acquisitions and emerging industry trends, Sean Silcoff is known as one of the GOAT reporters at the Globe.  He is the winner of three national newspaper awards and is the co-author of Losing the Signal: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry, which was released in May 2015.

Looking for in-depth, objective and emerging tech news? Look no further than Sean.

 

Tara Deschamps | Business Reporter, Canadian Press
Focus: business, technology, real estate
 


Tara Deschamps currently writes for  the Canadian Press and is no stranger to major outlets, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the New York Times. Oftentimes bringing in a startup perspective, the bilingual reporter has covered various topics in the business sector, from technology to banking and insurance, retail and food. 
If Tara Deschamps is one thing, it’s versatile.

 

Rebecca Gao | Tech Update, Toronto Star
Focus: technology

Rebecca Gao wears many hats, three of them being a writer, an editor, and a digital content creator. These hats also include being Editor-In-Chief of the Strand and an Associate Editor at Best Health Magazine. She is also the master mind behind your bi-weekly innovation tech updates. 

Explore Rebecca Gao’s technology hat through Toronto Star’s Tech updates.

 

Meagan Simpson | Senior Editor, Betakit
Focus: Canadian technology
 

Meagan Simpon has over 6 years of experience in the journalism and technology industries. Meagan is passionate about helping startups and entrepreneurs reach their goals, and works to share their stories with BetaKit’s readers. Her work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, CBC, Techvibes, and many others.

Turn to Meagan Simpson and take pride in the Canadian tech scene.

 

David Skok | CEO & Editor-In-Chief, The Logic
Focus: innovation economy

David Skok has over 15 years of experience in the media industry, having worked as a reporter, editor, and content strategist. He has an extensive background in media strategy, content creation, and digital publishing. A big name in journalism, he sits on the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and as a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes in journalism. 

High-quality reporting and analysis might as well be David Skok’s middle names.

 

Lance Chung | Editor-In-Chief, The Bay Street Bull
Focus: Canadian entrepreneurship

Recognized as one of the top Canadian financial journalists by Canadian Business Journal, it only makes sense that Lance Chung is the architect and  behind renowned publication Bay Street Bull. His two decades of experience award him expertise in stock markets, currency markets, and macroeconomics.

Looking for reads that perfectly intersect Canadian business, technology, entrepreneurship, lifestyle and culture? Look no further.

 

Temur Durrani | The Globe and Mail
Focus: creator economy, Big Tech, Web3
 

Temur Durrani has reported from five continents, publishing work in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Washington Post. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Newspaper Award, the Michener Award, and the Canadian Journalism Foundation Award.

Objective journalism, informed by his unique perspective as a South Asian-Canadian, is the name of Temur Durrani’s game.

 

Camille Dundas | Co-Founder, Editor-In-Chief, ByBlacks
Focus: racial equity, Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs

ByBlacks provides a platform for Black Canadian voices to be heard and their stories to be shared. The Co-Founder and Editor-In-Chief, this venture led to Camille being named one of Toronto Metropolitan University’s “Media Makers,” an honour given to Journalism grads who have made exceptional achievements in journalism. Before ByBlacks, Camille was the Features Editor at CBC Life and, before that, the Arts Editor at NOW Magazine.

Over the course of a decade, Camille Dundas has built a career focused on creating meaningful content that engages and inspires readers.

 

Stephanie Hughes | Financial reporter, Financial Post
Focus: business news and finance

Stephanie Hughes is a financial reporter for the Financial Post, specializing in coverage of the Canadian economy. She has been covering business and economic trends since 2013, making financial news accessible to the public as an advocate for financial literacy. Her work has been recognized by the Canadian Association of Journalists and the National Newspaper Award.

All founders could use Stephanie Hughes right now as a source of insight into economic uncertainty.

 

Sarah Bartnicka | Head of Content, The Peak
Focus: business and finance, technology, economics

Sarah Bartnicka is a highly sought-after speaker on a variety of topics related to content creation, media, and entrepreneurship. She is committed to helping bring readers quality content that is both timely and engaging as Head of Content at The Peak, a five-minute newsletter on Canadian business, finance, and technology.

Wasting time is impossible with Sarah Bartnicka’s quick yet high-quality picks.

 

Want to hear our top-pick stories too? Sign up for our bi-weekly Tech Talk newsletter here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DMZ’s Year in review: Coffee, capital and community

The stats are in! Let’s take a look at our feats this past year.

After an eventful 2022, the DMZ is taking a step back to appreciate all we’ve accomplished this year alongside our community and supporters — from onboarding startups to launching new programming and international expansion.

Scroll and reminisce with us!
Note: These are stats as of November 1, 2022.

Our coffee machine is one of the most popular amenities at the DMZ! It’s clearly a community favourite, with an estimated 10,438 coffees made in 2022.

Up, up, up, and away — startup fundraising numbers surged to a whopping $258,672,261 this year!


That’s right — six DMZ companies were acquired in 2022 (Sensibill, Gridcure, GrowthGenuis, InkBox, Fortuna, OnCall), and three acquisitions were made by DMZ companies: Singlekey acquired Naborly, Manzil acquired Muslim Will, and Daylight Automation (formerly known as FormHero) acquired Proof Data Technology.

Start spreading the news! In October 2022, The DMZ re-opened in New York City — a tech ecosystem valued at $147 billion — to continue empowering the next generation of global startups.

Let’s network! In 2022, the DMZ brought together over 1500 attendees in 40+ events in the tech ecosystem.

Our community had a ton of media traction over the past year. The DMZ had 2.39K+ features in the media, and our DMZ startups had an enormous media presence with 36k+ highlights.

Startups come and go at the DMZ, but they always leave an imprint in our community. This year, 357 startups graduated from DMZ programs, including Startup Certified (38 students), Basecamp (22 companies), NEP (27 companies), Launchpad (86 students), Incubator (8 companies), AMEX Blueprint (100 companies), Pre-Incubator (45 companies) and BIP Connections (31 companies).

The DMZ stays busy! This year, we ran programming for multiple existing programs: BIP Social Impact Stream fuelled by Unilever Canada, Black Innovation Connections with Dream Legacy Foundation, Launchpad for Entrepreneurs powered by Desjardins and AMEX Blueprint powered by the DMZ.

In addition, we housed the launch of the Newcomer Entrepreneurship Program (NEP) — a virtual ideation program sponsored by the Future Skills Centre and media sponsored by Canadian Business that helps Canadian newcomers develop startup fundamentals. We also partnered with Toronto-based venture capital firm GroundBreak Ventures to launch our PropTech stream as part of our incubator program to help high-potential PropTech startups transform the real estate landscape.

There’s a reason we’re known as a world-leading tech incubator. This year we received over 812 global applications. We’ve still got it.

What a year! Want to take part in 2023’s stats? Discover the DMZ and our programming here. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest tech news, updates, and special offers.

The DMZ’s top ten tech Twitter accounts to follow

Ready to give your Twitter feed a transformation? Want to stay in the loop on events, news, and insider tips and tricks?

The DMZ has created a curated list of people and organizations to keep tabs on, whether you’re looking for bite-sized updates or advice on which market to break into next. After all, success is often about who you know – or in this case, who you follow.

1. Tech Crunch | @TechCrunch

You’ve probably heard of it before, and for good reason. Tech Crunch is one of the leading platforms for technology-related updates catered to founders and startups. Here you can find real-time breaking news and insightful analysis from the best in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Disney strikes a big adtech deal with The Trade Desk as Disney+ expands into ads https://t.co/VmkYeLdqnM by @laurenforristal

— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) July 12, 2022

2. BetaKit | @BetaKit

The only independent tech innovation publication in Canada, BetaKit aims to report on the people involved in building the next generation of Canadian tech companies. Through their account, you can be the first to read new stories and get job opportunities delivered right to your Twitter feed, or email inbox if you’re subscribed to their weekly newsletter.

Small and medium-sized businesses may not have deep pockets but they might be surprised to know that a few basic tools and protocols can successfully mitigate 99 percent of cyber attacks. https://t.co/NhCylQRqFE

— BetaKit (@BetaKit) July 11, 2022

3. Emily Chang | @emilychangtv

Emily Chang is a prominent face in tech journalism. As the anchor and executive producer of Bloomberg Technology, you can find some of the biggest news stories in the tech world on her account, along with snippets of interviews she holds with leading executives, entrepreneurs and investors.

If you watch one thing about the Google/AI/feelings debate, watch this 10 mins with @mmitchell_ai re: Blake Lemoine aka @cajundiscordian

Full convo: https://t.co/wMArRzf16O https://t.co/D8PMsnBT5t

— Emily Chang (@emilychangtv) June 18, 2022

4. Business Insider Tech | @BITech

Popular news outlet Insider has a specific account dedicated just to their articles related to tech. Their slogan “What you wanna know” speaks for itself – with updates on major events and relevant and unique industry trends and analyses that you probably won’t find on other tech media giants.

Bill Gates’ VC fund and Intidex just led a $30 million round into Circ, a startup that slashes emissions from fast fashion. Check out the 11-slide pitch deck it used to raise the funds. https://t.co/ZAPEA8x34P

— Business Insider Tech (@BITech) July 12, 2022

5. The Next Web | @thenextweb

Based in Amsterdam, The Next Web is a tech Twitter staple that has been updating its followers on a variety of sub-sectors within the industry, with news from North America, the EU and so much more. Their occasional job postings and TECH TIP OF THE DAY guarantee that you can use their resources and put them to use.

It’s the ultimate fight between hackers and mathematicians, and the future is at stake https://t.co/SP4BqnbPMD

— TNW (@thenextweb) July 12, 2022

6. Anil Dash | @anildash

Anil Dash is the founder of Glitch, a coder community platform that promotes co-collaboration. Outside his day job, however, is when he adds the top tech stories – and sometimes pop culture – from various outlets to your timeline. You can expect some light-hearted personal anecdotes and interactions with others in the community.

The fundamental flaw of most social platforms is a tech mindset that thinks the hard part is managing content, when the hard part is actually managing discontent.

— Anil (@anildash) July 15, 2022

7. WIRED | @WIRED

Tech veteran WIRED is many people’s go-to for up-and-coming technologies affecting any sector, whether it be culture, politics, or the economy. Get immediate delivery of their newest articles to your feed and read up on your daily commutes or breaks. Chances are someone else in the room is doing the same.

Daylight provides debit cards with your chosen name, no matter what your ID says. (From 2021) https://t.co/bU6xuBQ7J8

— WIRED (@WIRED) July 12, 2022

8. The Verge | @verge

The Verge is a multimedia platform that treats technology as the centrepiece of culture as they report on technologies changing future life in media, transportation, and science. Add The Verge to your daily news check-ups and get interesting updates that you can be the first to know about among friends and co-workers.

What if we could look into the future and see how technology will change everything — from raising pets and houseplants to how we dress, eat, date, and even how we die. Our new docuseries The Future Of is premiering on @Netflix on June 21st pic.twitter.com/h3cAgqo7Tp

— The Verge (@verge) June 13, 2022

9. Arati Sharma | @aratisharma

If you’re looking for first-hand opinions and anecdotes from someone who knows what they’re talking about, give Arati Sharma – ex-Shopify executive’s – account a quick follow. Not only are you signing up for updates from a professional and a founder (Backbone Angels), but you also get some engaging and thought-provoking tweets about BIPOC and women-founded businesses.

“More than half of South Asian women in Canada are planning to leave their jobs, study reveals”… well that’s an alarming stat. https://t.co/TVpdeYTYOp

— Arati Sharma (@aratisharma) April 20, 2022

10. The DMZ | @TheDMZ

Forgive the shameless plug, but our own DMZ Twitter account can help you stay connected to a community of entrepreneurs and stay up to date with new events, programs and news on Toronto’s and the rest of the world’s startup ecosystems. This is where you can start implementing your ideas and connect with experts.

.@FredVanVleet is helping us spread the word that Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses is back! Powered by @theDMZ, the mentorship & grant program designed to support the advancement of BIPOC businesses. Applications close on July 26, 2022. Eligibility criteria & terms apply.

— Amex Canada (@AmexCanada) June 14, 2022

Looking to turn your newfound knowledge into action? Check out our programming and take your first steps to success.

International founders dish their first impressions of Toronto’s tech ecosystem

A group of Lithuanian startup founders get real about their preconceived ideas and first impressions of Canada and Toronto’s startup ecosystem during their week-long visit to the DMZ

Last month, 4 rising tech startups from Lithuania embarked on a one-week soft landing program to Toronto called the Canadian Connection Program. In partnership with Pace Global Advantage and the DMZ, the program supported entrepreneurs and business leaders interested in exploring the North American market and gave participants the opportunity to tap into a wider network of investors, customers, corporates, founders and talent.

The Lithuanian visit to DMZ’s headquarters was productive for the startups – participants took advantage of various workshops and curated one-on-ones with DMZ’s Program Leads, Experts-in-Residence (EiRs) and Alumni-in-Residence (AiRs). The Lithuanian entrepreneurs walked out of the experience with a greater understanding of the North American ecosystem and its players.

Lithuania blog - DMZ team and visitors mingling

On their final day of the program, we had a chance to sit down with the founders and ask them about their thoughts on the program and first impressions of Toronto’s startup ecosystem. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Toronto is very well-positioned in the North American market.

“I have learned a lot about the close connections between the EU and this city’s ecosystem, especially for medical startups. Toronto is well-positioned in the North American market, which is important because we need to reach the largest user base possible. There’s a great support system here for startups and there are great connections to cities like Boston and New York, which are just a short hop away.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“The ecosystem here is booming and attracts people from all around the world to relocate their businesses from other continents.” – Simonas Stankus, Unbalanced

“We are considering North America as our primary market. Through the program, we have realized how little we actually knew about Canada. By being here, we see the ecosystem in Toronto is really vibrant, and a lot of professionals and potential employers are living here. The access to the talent, capital and markets is much higher than you’d expect. It changed my concerns about Canada being the same as the U.S. in terms of work-life balance. It’s much more convenient for entrepreneurs considering relocation here compared to the United States. Being in Toronto was a perception-changing experience because we were too trusting of the assumptions we had developed.” – Vytenis Pakènas, IsLucid

2. There is value in the city’s multiculturalism

“I am very impressed with the diversity and openness that I see in Toronto. I’ve only been here for one week, but I feel like you’re at home almost everywhere you go. The diversity is very inspiring and all-encompassing.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“I was especially taken aback by the fact that I have met other medical doctors like myself who have made successful startups here in Toronto. I’ve met other professionals as well who turned to entrepreneurship. That’s not something you see often. My favourite thing about Canada is that everyone is from everywhere. There’s this feeling of being away from home but also at home at the same time. A real melting pot of people and cultures, which is something that contributes to its unique atmosphere.” – Justinas Balčiūnas

3. The DMZ community provides startups with everything they need to grow.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here at the DMZ. I got in touch with healthcare providers, venture capital funds, and angel investors, and got to know the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Toronto which is booming, energetic and inspiring. Not only am I leaving this program with an excellent portfolio of contacts, but I also leave enriched by hearing other success stories of startups that have entered this environment and have done well. I feel like I’ve learned a lot.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“My experience in this program has been great! I partook in incredibly useful workshops and met such great people. Now, I have a much better understanding of what Canada is and what ecosystem it has.” – Simonas Stankus, Unbalanced

“When you enter a new market, it’s important to have the right support system of people who can tell you the truth. We received the right recommendations and connections within the context we needed to make the experience meaningful and actionable. I was touched because the team wasn’t too focused on revenue and speed, but more on care and guidance/growth. When you’re coming in from overseas, you’re being brought into a desert with people you don’t know. But the DMZ is helping turn that desert into a sweet forest with the right connections and resources needed to succeed.” – Vytenis Pakènas, IsLucid

Lithuania Blog - Founder Simonas Stankus pitching

The cohort of participating companies included:

Lithuania blog - isLucid logo
IsLucid
is a productivity hack that specializes in machine learning through transcription. The service transcribes verbal communication in meetings and automatically assigns tasks to employees, eliminating the need to take meeting minutes and ultimately saving time.

Lithuania blog - Feetsee logo
Feetsee
is a FDA-registered product that uses its advanced algorithmic technology, with 95% accuracy, to monitor and measure changes in diabetes patients’ feet. It stores this information in its mobile and desktop software that relays messages to the patient’s care team and physician via alerts.

Lithuania blog - InBalance logo
InBalance
produces electric vehicle charging stations. Their product focuses on energy efficiency and helps fulfill the increased demand for electric vehicle charging without requiring any changes to the current power grid infrastructure, ensuring the sustainable growth of a community-based public charging network.

Lithuania blog - Ligence logo
Ligence
employs machine learning algorithms and deep-learning technology to determine functional and structural aspects of a person’s heart through ultrasound images. Their current focus is reducing human error in detection and diagnosis and improving their measurement accuracy.

Want to act on the Toronto FOMO and get involved? Founders looking for international expansion support can learn more about DMZ’s global offices at dmz.to/global, and partners interested in developing a soft-landing program in Toronto at the DMZ can reach out at dmz@torontomu.ca.

Big picture thinking: How Worksimply was able to double down on a new market to serve more customers

The secret to business growth? Think 10 steps ahead – always.

Thinking about what the future of work looks like? The founder of Worksimply, Jaime Aoyagi, is your guy.

It goes without saying that the future has changed forever and remote work is here to stay. But what most employers may not realize is that the workplace of tomorrow isn’t just confined to an at-home office or central downtown location.

Aoyagi predicts that the future of work will take place in three main spaces: an at-home office, a central headquarters that’s typically located in a downtown core and an on-demand workspace that’s less than a 10-minute commute from the employee’s home.

Catching a new wave of opportunity and recognizing the transformational shift taking place in office settings, Aoyagi decided to grow Worksimply – a workplace platform – by doubling down in a new market to serve more customers.

We sat down with Aoyagi to learn more about Worksimply, and how he was able to shift markets by thinking bigger.

First, can you tell us more about what exactly is Worksimply?

“Worksimply’s solution is two-fold. For hybrid companies, we offer a workplace platform that makes office space more affordable and increases employees’ freedom. For co-working space operators, we offer software to manage end-to-end guest bookings for co-working spaces.

To put it into perspective, we help small businesses manage their own hybrid workforce by allowing their employees to book desks at their HQ and at co-working spaces all across North America,” said Aoyagi.

A cycle of various workspaces - How Worksimply was able to double down on a new market

What do you think is unique about Worksimply’s value proposition?

“Fostering an engaging work culture is crucial to creating a well-oiled, productive and happy team. At Worksimply, we understand how challenging this has been for remote and hybrid teams and are working to help them better manage their remote culture.

While a lot of companies today are working in a predominantly remote environment, we know that face-to-face interaction is still important. We know that it’s not about a desk, it’s about collaborating with your teammates.

This is exactly why we’ve rolled out features that allow teams to encourage their staff to meet in-person by allowing them to see who is working from where and when. But we didn’t stop there, we also offer services that help employers go above and beyond when it comes to maintaining a great office culture for remote employees – like providing snacks, drinks and workshops.”

This pandemic had a major impact on how Canadians work and use office space. How does Worksimply help companies in today’s current climate of needing flexible hybrid office space?

“The pandemic completely changed the way the world works. Pre-pandemic, the standard was for companies to have one designated desk per employee. Fast forward to today, a lot of companies have gone fully remote while others have embraced a hybrid model.

Now this presents a unique situation. A hybrid model can look very different from company to company, but nonetheless, the office will still play a huge role in how people work.

Moving forward, I think work will take place in three main areas: the home, the central office and finally flexible office spaces close to home,” explained Aoyagi.

This is exactly where Worksimply comes in. Worksimply is helping SMEs not only manage but also support their hybrid workforce by allowing their employees to book office space close to their home or their central office.

Jaime, you saw a new opportunity in the market and decided to double down on it to grow your business. What led you in making this decision?

“The pandemic obviously played a large role in why we decided to double down in a new market. We knew that companies would need on-demand workspace to accommodate their staff with flexible options,” Aoyagi explained.

Thinking 10 steps ahead, Jaime realized that there was a perfect opportunity for him to extend his customer base. “Since we already had space operators and co-working spaces on the Worksimply platform, we quickly recognized we’d be able to serve a new market – SMEs – that would need access to the space operators we were already serving flexible on-demand bookings.

“We sell software-as-a-service to space operators, and today our demand is twofold – on one hand, it’s businesses looking to book space for their employees, and on the other, it’s workspace operators looking for easy-to-use software they can integrate into their operations.”

Groundbreaking ideas are hardly ever lightbulb moments, but rather the result of developing and improving over time. After you made the decision to build in a new direction, what did the process look like?

“Once we realized the toll the pandemic was beginning to take on the world’s workforce and the new wave of opportunity it was creating, we started developing the software for space operators to implement.

As more and more space operators began to use our services, we were simultaneously creating a supply for hybrid-working organizations to choose flexible office space,” explained Aoyagi.

How did the DMZ support you throughout the process?

“Throughout the process, I was able to lean on the DMZ for mentorship and guidance.

As questions came up, I was able to turn to my Program Lead, Mohi Sanisel, who was able to help me navigate through the different challenges that presented themselves.

The DMZ was also able to introduce Worksimply to our first customer leveraging their new model.”

What would you say to other startup founders who are looking to iterate on their core strategy?

“Put your product out there as soon as possible and put your assumptions to test.”

Curious to learn more about what Jaime Aoyagi thinks about the future of work? Check out his recent LinkedIn article here. Looking to provide flexible office space for your time? Head over to Worksimply’s website to learn more.

More than just a buzzword: Taking a “people-centred” approach to business has huge benefits

Having a values-driven mission and people-centred business design can make all the difference for your bottom line – it’s how successful organizations attract great talent and develop iconic products and services.


Just a few short years ago, Sampler’s Founder and CEO, Marie Chevrier Schwartz, was a part of the DMZ where she received mentorship, business support and the connections her sprouting startup needed through what was formerly Ryerson Futures Inc. (now DMZ Ventures). Building on this foundation, Sampler went on to disrupt the traditional product sampling industry and is now recognized as the leading direct-to-consumer sampling platform.

Charlotte Crawford, a former DMZ team member who now works for Sampler, explains what both organizations share in common that make them exceptional places to develop and grow professionally. We sat down with Charlotte, Content Marketing Specialist at Sampler, and Kelly Stewart, VP of Marketing at Sampler, to learn more about Charlotte’s journey at the DMZ, how she launched her career at Sampler and how Sampler prioritizes a values-driven approach to tech and its team.

Could you tell us a little more about your journey to the DMZ?

Charlotte: “I completed my 4-month internship for my Masters in Professional Communication at Toronto Metropolitan University at the DMZ. 

When I started my Masters, I knew very little about the tech and startup space, but had a growing interest in the field. What really solidified my interest in tech was my media relations professor, Dr. Gregory Levey, who is a DMZ alum, previous CEO of Figure 1 and current CEO of Robinson Huntly, Ltd. It was through his class I was able to conceptualize the pivotal role communications professionals play in the technology and startup space. Once I expressed to him that I was interested in tech, he let me know the DMZ was the place to be.

I remember some of my peers asking me why I was putting in so much effort for an internship during the peak of our school work. I knew the right internship could really go a long way for my future – and I was absolutely correct. My time at the DMZ was not only the highlight of my Masters but also the reason I’m now working for one of Canada’s top growing startups (Canadian Business and Globe and Mail).” 

“I’ll never forget walking into the DMZ and seeing ‘equity over everything’ in neon lights above the door. The culture at the DMZ really made me feel valued, supported and challenged.” 

How was your time working at the DMZ?


Charlotte: “Above all else, the DMZ showed me what I deserve from a workplace. I’ll never forget walking into the DMZ and seeing ‘equity over everything’ in neon lights above the door. The culture at the DMZ really made me feel valued, supported and challenged. 

Throughout my time at the DMZ, I got to sit down with and interview founders and members of the DMZ community. It made me see, firsthand, that it was the people behind the tech that made places like the DMZ and Sampler special. 

I learned that stories of innovation are made relatable and exciting not just through a tech product, but rather the vision, missteps and story behind it. This realization gave me a heightened awareness of the importance in taking a people-centred approach to marketing, content and communications. 

I succinctly describe this approach now as, ‘don’t just tell users how great your product is – show them what it’s like to be on your team.’ This has become my north star for my career.”

How did your time at the DMZ launch you into working full time at Sampler? What attracted you to joining the Sampler team?  

Charlotte: “Before my first meeting with Abdullah Snobar, DMZ’s Executive Director, I was reading up on different DMZ startups. In my research, I found a DMZ podcast episode that featured Sampler’s CEO, Marie Chevrier Schwartz. It was apparent to me how strong Sampler’s value proposition was, but what really got me excited was what Marie had to say about her values in leadership, organizational culture and entrepreneurship. 

I specifically remember Marie discussing how she worked every day for no one else but her employees and investors. She was also asked how she felt about Amazon entering the sampling space and she answered with such confidence because of her belief in her team. 

After listening to the podcast, I told myself that if a job ever popped up at Sampler, I would apply. During my first meeting with Abdullah, he asked me what my favourite startup was. I said Sampler based on how Marie had inspired me during the podcast. I then saw a content marketing position open up at Sampler after I had graduated – it all really felt meant to be.”

An entire team fosters its work culture – what do you think is most important in this process?

Charlotte: “The pandemic has shown us the importance of fostering a values-driven work culture. The companies who have taken direct action to support their employees are the ones who will have great success in the next normal. 

To develop a great team culture, you must commit to living your values every day. It goes further than putting values on your website. It’s fostering a collective understanding of how specific values translate into action on a daily basis.

What really showed the DMZ was living their values was the team’s direct support of community members like myself in achieving their goals. 

I truly had a team of DMZ colleagues cheering me on and directly working with me at every stage of my job search, long after my DMZ internship ended. Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, DMZ’s Women Founders Programs Manager, referred me for my current role at Sampler. Nouhaila, along with Ahmed Saleh, Emily Collins, and Rob Macken all helped me make connections, prepare for interviews, review writing assessments, and find the right knowledge resources.  

“To develop a great team culture, you must commit to living your values every day. It goes further than putting values on your website. It’s fostering a collective understanding of how specific values translate into action on a daily basis.”

Could you tell us a little bit more about your role at Sampler? How did your time at the DMZ prepare you for it?

Charlotte: “This is an exciting time to join Sampler as they have seen so much growth this year as the pandemic expedited the shift to digital strategies for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. In my role, I develop organizational storytelling and thought leadership content that positions Sampler as a leader in the product sampling space.

Before I started my Masters, I remember hearing someone in the field say that good communications professionals are the linchpin to organizational success. I understood this idea in theory, but I saw it come to life by watching Natasha Campagna and Ahmed Saleh at the DMZ. They drove organizational alignment, remained so in tune with the broader ecosystem, and were amazing team motivators. Their work highlighted what made the DMZ special.

My time at the DMZ, along with completing my Master’s thesis on Big Tech’s facial recognition technology communications, solidified in me a commitment to take a more innovative approach to communications – an approach that moves beyond standard practice to speak directly to the lived everyday realities of target audiences. These experiences will guide my work at Sampler and beyond.” 

One of Sampler’s proudest achievements is having built a people-centred and values-driven workplace. We know in tech this is not always the industry standard. How do some of Sampler’s values like “ownership, balance, growth and inclusion” translate into daily activities for you and your team?

Kelly: “Weaving our values into everything that we do is truly at the core of our business. To us, you can’t have one without the other. Sampler has a Values Committee that works incredibly hard to ensure we’re living these values both internally and externally, from speaking out on causes that are important to us, to identifying ways that the company can foster work/life balance. They hold the entire business accountable to stay true to who we are, and it’s been such an invaluable piece of who Sampler is.

When it comes to ownership, Sampler has always fostered an entrepreneurial culture around each and every team member’s role. Our staff are experts in their specialties, and we give them the support to grow. Investing in people benefits everyone.

Inclusion is an extremely important value to us and something we continuously work hard to achieve. Recently, Sampler has made the decision to take a step forward in better representing non-binary consumers in the CPG space. Sampler has worked non-binary options into our platform and is actively working with brands to include non-binary consumers into the targeting on all of their sampling programs. 

When it comes to balance, our People Operations team sends out monthly company-wide surveys to get a pulse check on how the team is feeling. It’s created a safe space for everyone in the company to share how they’re feeling. From those results, we’ve launched flex hours, introduced permanent 4.5 day work weeks, and encouraged mid-day breaks. When we get any feedback around stress or burnout we take it extremely seriously and act quickly, which has helped our team trust that their voices are always heard and supported.”

“When you’re able to find talented people who really believe in your mission, the impact on the business is magical.”

Has prioritizing a values-driven workplace translated to your business performance? If so, how? What should early-stage startups think about when building their teams?

Kelly: “Absolutely—without a doubt. When you’re able to find talented people who really believe in your mission, the impact on the business is magical. People can feel how deeply we care for them and their careers, and it shows in the work that they do.

For early-stage startups building their teams, it’s so important to create a safe space to let team members know their voice matters. It’s easy to be too close to the business to really see where you might not be showing up for your team. Step back and see what the day-to-day experience is like for every single person at your company. It can really help to keep your perspective grounded and avoid seeing your culture through rose-coloured glasses. Never ever be afraid of feedback, no matter what stage or level you’re at in your career.”

What is Sampler up to today? 

Sampler has announced their newest tool within their product sampling dashboard, consumer sentiment analysis, which allows brand partners to quickly identify key trends in consumer feedback, effectively segment their audience and plan personalized remarketing campaigns. Check it out here

Want to learn more about the DMZ support that helped pave the way to Sampler’s Success? Click here for more information on our Incubator program.