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Spacefy wants to help Toronto's creatives find spaces for their projects

A new Toronto startup wants to help the city's local artists create their art. 

Describing itself as "an Airbnb for the creative industry," Spacefy gives creatives from musicians to photographers an online platform to find spaces for their creative endeavours. 

If the concept behind Spacefy sounds familiar, it's because a similar service called SpaceFinder Toronto launched earlier in the year. The crucial difference here is that Spacefy was started by a group of three Canadians: Judeh Siwady, Alyas Ali and Moya Semaan.  

As of its recent launch, the company's website already includes hundreds of creative spaces across the city, including some well-known ones like the Phase One recording studio and Cube Nightclub near Queen and Spadina. That said, like the service that inspired it, Spacefy was designed to help creators from across disciplines. So, while it's possible to rent a $10,000 per-day venue through the site, many of the spaces found on Spacefy start at a far more reasonable $25 per hour. 

Spacefy plans to expand to Vancouver in the near future. 

Province makes a giant leap forward in stem cell research

In the 1960s, a pair of researchers from the University of Toronto discovered the existence of stem cells.

In a way, Ontario has been a hotbed for this type of research since then; various provincial governments have invested more than $150-million towards helping unlock the powerful medicinal qualities of stem cells. Diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Crohn's and cancer are just some of the diseases where regenerative cell therapy may present treatments that are far more effective than what we have access to today.

Last week, the provincial government announced that it was reaffirming its commitment to stem cell research by investing $3-million in the creation of the so-called Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a joint partnership between the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI) and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM). The two organizations will towards developing new treatments and finding ways to monetize the treatments they create.

According to the province, the commercialization of regenerative medicine represents a major potential source of revenue for Ontario. In 2011, the global market for regenerative tissue therapy reached $10-billion. By the end of 2015, that figure is expected to reach $19.4-billion.

In a press release that accompanied the announcement, Reza Moridi, Ontario's then-minister of research and innovation, said, “Ontario is thrilled to support this collaborative initiative, which holds the promise to help treat, manage and cure some of the world's most devastating diseases while offering significant economic benefits.”


Social Venture Connexion links Toronto and California startups

California has long been seen the centre of the tech world. With companies like Apple, Facebook and Google all calling the relatively small confines of Silicon Valley home, many aspiring to helm their own tech juggernauts move to the Golden State to launch a startup.  

For decades, this has meant that a wealth of talent and capital has flowed to the state at expense of other North American territories. 

Now, that flow is set to become a bit more reciprocal. 

On November 6, the Province of Ontario and State of California announced a new co-investing and collaboration partnership.
The agreement will see the two jurisdictions work together to foster job creation, increase access to capital and attempt to create positive social and environmental change. It will also see Ontario’s Social Venture Connexion, a platform that connects investors with high impact social ventures, expand into California, marking the first time a Canadian platform of this like has scaled to a place outside of the country. 

Toronto will see wealth of benefits from the partnership, says Adam Spence, the associate director at MaRS’s Centre for Impact Investing.  

“If we’re looking at the impact, one is an better access to markets outside of Canada for Toronto-based entrepreneurs,” says Spence,
"An additional impact is a strong demonstration of leadership. We’re showing that we can build and share a platform that’s made in Ontario. We’ve successfully deployed the SVX platform south of the border, and that’s an indication that we have a strong, vibrant and leading impact investing space.” 

Source: MaRS

New venture capital firm launches in Toronto

The city has a new venture capital firm to call all its own.

On Monday morning, news came out that Information Venture Partners had been formed in Toronto.

The firm was created in early October when co-founders Robert Antoniades and David Unsworth completed a management buyout of their former firm, RBC Venture Partners.

Several co-investors, both inside and outside of Canada, assisted in the buyout, and those same investors are helping the firm set up a new $100-million fund. Antoniades and Unsworth say they hope to have the fund up and running by mid-2015. Once it is ready, the firm will invest in early stage startups that are seeking funds at the Series A and B levels. That is, they plan to fund startups that at the stage where they've successfully gotten off the ground and have found a potential market fit for their product or idea.

The firm revealed that it will specialize on funding startups that create enterprise software.

In an interview with Reuters, Antoniades told the publication's Kirk Falconer: “Whether it is enterprise software or fintech, we are interested in North American companies that can sell into SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) or large corporate buyers.”

Given that statement, it remains to be seen what kind of effect the firm will have on Toronto ecosystem.

The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. 

Source: Reuters

Who's Hiring in Toronto? SickKids Foundation, Canada's National Ballet School and more

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, a non-profit devoted to preserving Ontario's Greenbelt, an area surrounding the Golden Horseshoe, is hiring a research and policy analyst. As the title suggests, the role involves significant amounts of research, though there's a major outreach component as well. Specific requirements include engaging with a variety of government and non-government organizations.

The SickKids Foundation has two new openings this week.

First, they're seeking an associate graphic designer. The position requires three to five years of experience in digital marketing or communications, and will see that the person that takes on this position help the non-profit with its fund raising initiatives on behalf of Sick Kids Hospital.

The foundation is also seeking to hire an associate events director. The role has a significant emphasis on building and mentoring a team, as well as building new and existing events. This position requires five to seven years in a related leadership role.

On the culture side, Canada's National Ballet School is hiring a digital media co-ordinator. The role involves creating audiovisual material that will help with the school's promotional, marketing and educational needs. Three-plus years of related media experience is a requirement of this position, as well as expertise with programs such as Sony Vegas and DVD Architect.

Finally, the National Reading Campaign is looking for someone to join its board of directors as an executive director. Much of the role involves working with a volunteer board, and managing the campaign's initiatives. Candidates living in Toronto are preferred, though those living outside of the city with an exceptional skill sets will also be considered.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!  

Municipal Election 2014: Doug Ford's economic development platform

As Toronto's municipal election enters its final weeks, we're looking at each of the major mayoral candidates, and, specifically, at their economic development and job-creation platforms.

We've already looked at John Tory and Olivia Chow's respective platforms. This week: Ward 2 councillor Doug Ford, who stepped in to run for his brother at the last minute after the mayor announced he'd been diagnosed with cancer.

Doug Ford is so far running primarily on his brother's track record; he hasn't (yet) released a full platform or series of economic development initiatives, nor has he given any major speeches addressing economic issues.

In 2013, the City of Toronto under mayor Rob Ford passed an economic development strategy called Collaborating for Competitiveness. As we wrote at the time, that plan's focus is on fine-grained details that can streamline business operations, like reducing the time it takes the City to review development applications for employment uses.

Additional details are scant. Ford's campaign website emphasizes the importance of creating a business-friendly environment by keeping taxes low: "The Taxpayers First Plan will help make life a little easier for Toronto businesses and residents. By running a more efficient City Government, we will continue lowering the tax burden on the middle class, while creating jobs and stimulating economic development." Specifics of any job-creation or economic development plan have not been released to date.

Toronto's municipal election will be held on October 27, 2014.

Source: Doug Ford for Mayor
Writer: Hamutal Dotan

Municipal Election 2014: Olivia Chow's economic development platform

As Toronto's municipal election enters its final weeks, we're looking at each of the major mayoral candidates, and, specifically, at their economic development and job-creation platforms.

Last week we looked at John Tory’s approach to these issues. This week: Olivia Chow.
  • On the vexed subject of youth unemployment (which is at roughly 20 per cent) and in keeping with her overall positioning as someone who wants to maintain government's role in decision-making, Chow wants to leverage the City's power as a major purchaser of goods and services by requiring "that companies with big city contracts hire and train young people," and also hiring youth for municipal after-school recreation and tree-planting programs. Her platform estimates that these initiatives will create "5,000 new apprenticeships and jobs for young people over four years."
  • When it comes to small business, Chow wants to extend small business tax cuts that are currently slated to expire in 2015, and extend them to 2020. She also pointed out, at a Board of Trade speech earlier this year, that many small businesses are run by immigrants. Taking cues from Vancouver, she wants to implement a "program that matches existing businesses with immigrant entrepreneurs. The new business gets help setting up and getting going. The existing business gets help and knowledge to help them export." Like Tory, Chow also plans to put many business licensing services online, to improve efficiency.
  • Also in keeping with her progressive focus on services, Chow wants the municipal government to increase its funding to the arts sector, from $22.50 per capita to $25 per capita. She also wants to use $500,000 a year out of the money generated by Toronto's tax on billboards to create a music office, similar to the recently created film office. Though her platform does not specific what the economic spin-off effects would be, a City-commissioned report issued in 2011 estimated that for each dollar spent on the arts "cultural organizations were able to leverage a total of $17.75" in funding from other sources and earned revenue.
  • Finally, when it comes to branding Toronto as a home for business, Chow, like Tory, wants to raise the city's profile by a new central organization—Global Toronto—to replace Invest Toronto, and integrate related services provided by other departments in the city. As its name suggests, the program would have an international focus and "will operate in global business languages including Chinese, French, Portuguese and Urdu with an outreach strategy to compete with cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles London and Sydney."
Toronto's election will be held on October 27, 2014.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Olivia Chow's election platformspeech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade (April 29, 2014)

Municipal Election 2014: John Tory's economic development platform

As Toronto's municipal election enters its final weeks, we're looking at each of the major mayoral candidates, and, specifically, at their economic development and job-creation platforms. First up: John Tory.

Tory's platform in general focuses on streamlining services to businesses, and improving Toronto's branding and status internationally.

"Can you imagine how much better off we would be if we could trade in even a small fraction of the recent attention we received on the world stage, trade that for a few articles touting Toronto as a great place do business," he said at a recent speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

He promises to act as an ambassador for the city, which he believes is key in building confidence among potential investors.

A few items in particular that he hopes to focus on if elected:
  • Develop a new business hub in Toronto, modeled on London's Canary Wharf. It would be located in the East Don Lands, and require "a reorientation of the Gardiner’s eastern section and new transit connections in this area." The proposal calls for 15 million square feet of development (a mix of commercial and residential), and Tory believes it could lead to the creation of 70,000 jobs if populated at full capacity.
  • Focusing on the development of Scarborough, and specifically of opportunities along the planned Scarborough subway route, "by temporarily lowering property taxes for 10 years in order to encourage businesses to locate along the transit corridor." Though details are scant, he calls this an "innovation hub" and promises to work with City staff to streamline zoning and application requests along that corridor.
  • Streamlining business services in general. "As your mayor, I will create a single touchpoint for business permit applications and other business services sought by those seeking to invest in our city," Tory told the Board of Trade. "We want to find a way to say yes to people who want to invest in Toronto."
  • Tory also wants to "clean up the jumble of organizations trying to attract business to Toronto. Invest Toronto, the City economic development department, and the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance...are all trying to do the same thing, but a little bit differently. But they have a common objective: bringing jobs to Toronto... I will unify and streamline the way these three organizations and others work, and this will mean a better outcome on jobs and lower costs."
  • Helping combat youth unemployment (which currently stands at 20 per cent) by doubling the number of companies in the Partnership to Advance Youth Employment, by expanding that program to small- and medium-sized businesses.
Toronto's election will be held on October 27, 2014.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: John Tory election platform speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade (September 18, 2014)

Escalating our approach to youth unemployment

It’s a vicious cycle familiar to many young people trying to enter the workforce: you can’t get experience without a job, and you can’t get a job without experience. Hoping to help Toronto’s youth—who face about 20 per cent unemployment rates—is a suite of new projects being launched by CivicAction, in conjunction with several private sector partners. Together, the initiative is called Escalator.

The first element of Escalator, explains CivicAction’s CEO Sevaun Palvetzian, is a mentoring piece. Of the 83,000 young people in the GTA who don’t have jobs, many struggle with a lack of networks and role models that can help open that vital door to a first shot at employment. Escalator will aim to provide a centralized, organized way to access mentoring opportunities in the region, while also recruiting employers who can serve as mentors and linking community agencies with mentors more effectively.

The second pice is a collaboration with LinkedIn. “For many years the way people found jobs was by knocking on doors and walking into stores, “ Palvetzian points out. But now, “there's a new 21st century way of finding work.”

CivicAction is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from LinkedIn, and will also have access to some staff resources. The goal of this part of the project is to enable small- and medium-sized businesses post entry level jobs, as well as internship and apprenticeship opportunities, on the job platform for free, while simultaneously training youth in how to use that platform.

The third element of Escalator is another partnership, with technology services company NPower. “One third of the tech jobs in North America are in this region,” Palvetzian says, but often companies can’t find the trained, skilled workers that they need to keep growing. This part of the initiative will take youth from at-risk neighbourhoods and bring them to employer-led, employer-driven training. Ryerson is donating space to facilitate the project, which will include 15 weeks training by employers, followed by seven-week long internships. (Among the private sector partners that have signed on to participate are Cisco, TD Bank, and RBC.)

Palvetzian frames Escalator as a way of trying to fill in gaps in our current system. “A lot of current programs currently exist to help young people to do things like build resumes,” she points out—how to proceed once they’ve done that is often less clear.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO, CivicAction

Biotech firm Xagenic closes $25.5M in new funding

Xagenic (pronounced ex-a-GEN-ic) is a medical startup dedicated to making diagnoses faster and easier for both patients and clinicians. Founded by Shana Kelley, a University of Toronto biochemistry professor, the premise is simple: allow medical professionals to diagnose of a range of illnesses on-site, wherever patients are, without needing to wait for a lab to process test results.

The product Xagenic currently has under development—described as a “molecular diagnostic platform”—can provide test results in 20 minutes.

It is promising enough that Xagenic recently announced a second closing of its Series B financing: $25.5 million, to be precise.

Among Xagenic’s investors are the Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund and BDC Capital, a subsidiary of the Business Development Bank of Canada. Clinical and analytic studies of the new platform are planned to start later this year, and the company aims to launch its product in 2015 or 2016.

Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan awarded Xagenic its 2014 award for New Product Innovation Leadership. In its announcement of the award, Forst & Sullivan said that "it is unique as a low-cost, simple, rapid sample-to-answer desktop instrument, requiring no manual sample processing or cold storage… For its portfolio of cartridge-based tests, Xagenic focuses on infectious diseases (HSV 1+2, Flu A+B, CT/NG, strep A, group B strep, trichomoniasis, HCV and upper respiratory infections) that will benefit the most from rapid on-site testing. The company also intends to apply the platform to counter a critical public health threat—antimicrobial resistance.”

In short: it’s the medical equivalent of cutting out the middleman, allowing clinicians to know right away if a patient has a certain illness and begin treatment right away. If the product’s development continues successfully, it has the potentially to significantly streamline the diagnostic process, reducing health care costs, saving clinicians time, and minimizing stress for patients waiting to hear about their test results.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Xagenic

CivicAction recruiting for next cohort of DiverseCity fellows

In a city like Toronto—one which prides itself, defines itself—in terms of its diverse population, what does diversity actually mean, and how deep does it actually run?

"We have one of, if not the most, diverse cities on the planet," says Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction, the non-partisan community engagement organization. But that diversity doesn't necessarily extend to all sectors, and to all levels of leadership. True diversity, she says, would mean that leadership "looks like the city that we are."

That's why CivicAction (in collaboration with the Maytree Foundation) created a program called DiverseCity Fellows six years ago. It's a leadership training program for up-and-coming civic leaders that includes 100 hours of programming over the course of a year. Right now, CivicAction is recruiting for its next cohort of DiverseCity fellows.

Previous fellows reflect diversity of sector, diversity of gender, diversity of age (ranging from 27 to 56), and three-quarters have identified as visible minorities—"an important reason we run this program," Palvetzian says.

The program isn't meant to be a cure-all: for all that we do identify as a diverse city, we have a long way to go on many fronts before that is truly reflected everywhere. Leadership capacity is just one piece of a much larger puzzle, she goes on to say.

"Leadership development can target our challenges," especially by developing capacity in younger generations, and by serving as role models.

What they are looking for most in an applicant is someone who is "passionate and results-oriented, someone who has a clear understanding of what they want to do"—a project in the pipeline, and some mentors already who can help them achieve their goals.

The DiverseCity program is designed to help those people, with 5-15 years of experience already, take their ideas and give them the skills, networks, and other resources to realize those ideas, to "pack these folks with experience and access" that can help them champion a real project.

Applicants are being accepted until July 8, 2014.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO, CivicAction

Photo: CivicAction

Finalists announced for 2013 Canadian Startup Awards

For the third year, technology publication Techvibes is giving out awards to acknowledge the country's top new ventures and enterprises. The finalists for the 2013 Canadian Startup Awards were recently announced, and now it's up to you: the winners will be selected by the public, via an online vote. You can cast your ballot until midnight on January 19; the winners will be announced on January 20.

As usual, Toronto is well-represented among the finalists. Among the local ventures vying for awards are:

  • InteraXon: a technology company that creates products based on tools that read a person's brainwaves.
  • Music-messaging platform Rithm
  • Business-to-business marketing company Influitive, which closed a major round of funding this time last year
All of those were nominated for the most prominent award: overall startup of the year. Toronto's well-represented in other categories. Two local startups are also nominated for accelerator graduate of the year. Bionym, which came through Creative Destruction Lab and The Next 36, provides unique user identification tools based on a person's signature heartbeat. And ShopLocket, which graduated from Extreme Startups, provides easy-to-use tools to help retailers set up online stores.

Techvibes received over 2,500 nominations; editors whittled down to the list of finalists with public input as well. Launched in conjunction with KPMG, the Canadian Startup Awards are given out in six categories. Last year nearly 18,000 votes were cast. Wattpad won for best overall startup in 2011, and Indochino in 2012.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan

Shedding light on the gender gap for Canada's MBA graduates

Women have made significant strides in the workplace in recent decades, of course; just how far we still have to go as a culture in closing the gender gap isn't always as clear. A new study out of non-profit Catalyst sheds light on one aspect of that gender gap: what happens to Canada's MBA graduates. The news is concerning.

"Across job settings, women in Canada fare worse than men from the start. Women working in Canada each made $8,167 less than men in their first post-MBA job," the report finds. Moreover, "at 72 per cent, the majority of women started out in an entry level position, compared to just 58 per cent of men."

That gap persists among MBA graduates who are assessed to have high potential. Catalyst research also examined the drivers that lead to post-MBA success—who advances rapidly, and attains the most senior positions. Among the factors that lead to this success are being given critical work early on (generally understood as work with direct profit and loss impacts) or international travel opportunities. On both counts, male MBA graduates are given more opportunities than their female counterparts. For instance, of this so-called "high potential" cohort, 29 per cent of men and 19 per cent of women were given an international assignment.

One consequence of this: "women in Canada were more than twice as likely as men to choose a non-corporate employer following completion of their MBA." The report finds that "corporate Canada is experiencing a talent drain, especially among women, into non-corporate firms at rates higher than in other regions around the world."

Which is why, also, the report concludes with this: "These findings profile a wake-up call for Canadian organizations: the time to act is now."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: High Potential Employees in the Pipeline: Maximing the Talent Pool in Canadian Organizations

PayPal piloting mobile payment system

About a year ago, Rogers Communications began pilot testing of a mobile payment system, one that would allow customers to pay bills with a tap-and-go smartphone service. Joining the race to get Canadians to make purchases without opening their wallets: PayPal, which launched a pilot of its own last month in Toronto.

PayPal's partner is TouchBistro, an iPad based point-of-sale system used by many food trucks, cafes, and restaurants. Customers who check in with the new service can pay their restaurant bills from their PayPal accounts via an app on their mobile phones.

Jimmy's Coffee is one of the venues that has been participating in the pilot. Manager Penny Vine says that so far the experiment has been going relatively well—right now about $100 a day are processed through the PayPal/TouchBistro system.

PayPal makes money on the system by collecting a small percent of each bill that is processed, which means that the lower price point of cafe sales isn't as lucrative for them as full-fledged restaurants. TouchBistro approached Jimmy's and asked them to participate in the pilot, however, simply because their more frequent sales—nearly 400 transactions a day—gives them a bigger sample size to learn from.

From Jimmy's perspective, explains Vine, the pilot was appealing because the cafe doesn't have the capacity to process credit card transactions, and this gives them an alternative electronic option for customers without cash. The mobile payment system, Vine says, "is great because at the actual point-of-sale it's really fast. It's easy…and it's cheaper than taking credit cards."

This, however, only works if customers check in before they arrive at the counter—if they aren't ready the payment process can take a bit of time. It's mostly a question of visibility, Vine thinks, pointing out that "people don't really know much about it yet." She also notes that the system only works if the technologies that support it do: if the app goes down, or a customer's phone network is on the fritz, mobile payments won't work.

Jimmy's is so far seeing more advantages than downsides: Vine says they would definitely be interested in keeping the system once the pilot is over.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Penny Vine, Manager, Jimmy's Coffee

New platform connects investors with social and environmental ventures

With the emergence of social enterprise, and the increasing visibility of many social, and especially environmental, issues, many more investors are becoming interested in using private capital to not only generate revenue, but also tackle some of our greatest problems. Helping to match investors with the enterprises that might achieve these goals: Social Venture Connection (SVX), an online platform that's just been launched by MaRS with the help of the Province and several private partners.

Billed by the Ontario government as the first such system in North America, SVX is a registered dealer with the Ontario Securities Commission. At launch, 12 ventures (including both non-profit and for-profit enterprises) were registered, ranging from an organic farm supply company to ZooShare, which is piloting a biogas plant at the Toronto Zoo. Their goal is to attract what are dubbed "impact investors," ones who have "a focus on achieving positive social and/or environmental outcomes and modest to market-rate financial returns," according to SVX's website. 

It's the first step towards a larger goal of creating a full-fledged regulated market, one that functions much like any mainstream exchange but with an explicit focus on social impacts.

Because SVX vets the enterprises that apply to be listed, and also provides some support services to the ones that make the cut, the idea—or at least the hope—is that those enterprises that do get selected will have an easier time attracting investors. SVX is also actively working to identity potential investors, ones who are known to have an interest in the social implications of the ventures they support.

To be eligible for consideration, ventures must have been incorporated in Ontario for at least two years, and have revenues between $50,000 and $25 million a year.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
141 Financial District Articles | Page: | Show All
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