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Yonge & St. Clair : Innovation + Job News

6 Yonge & St. Clair Articles | Page:

Toronto among the world's leading cities for startups

"While nearly all high growth technology startups have historically emerged from no more than 3-4 startup ecosystems, namely Silicon Valley and Boston, this trend appears to have reached its end. Simultaneous with a global explosion of entrepreneurship has been an explosion in the rise of new startup ecosystems around the world, and a newfound maturity in others."

So begins a new report from the Startup Genome called the Startup Ecosystem Report (available for free online, though registration is required). And among those ecosystems that are currently flourishing: Toronto, which ranks the highest in Canada on the report's index, and eighth in the world. (Vancouver is right behind us in ninth; more surprisingly Waterloo is further behind, at sixteenth.)

All cities in the index are compared to Silicon Valley (which predictably is the benchmark first-place ecoysystem) across a variety of metrics. While we are similar to Silicon Valley in terms of our level of ambition, our technology adoption rates, our sector mix and mentorship support, one key area of difference, according to the report, is that "startups in Toronto receive 71% less funding than SV startups. The capital deficiency exists both before and after product market fit."

While that may sound like grim news, it actually provides a very useful roadmap for future growth. The report goes on to conclude that the current under-investment in Toronto-area startups "presents a large opportunity for investors. Moreover, "policy makers can help closing the funding gap by attracting late-stage venture funds through tax breaks and incentives, and investor-friendly policies."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Startup Ecosystem Report

Public Mobile expands with new music downloading & financial services

Toronto-based Public Mobile launched its cell phone service in May 2010 and by the end of 2011, had approximately 200,000 customers, targeting the cost-conscious end of the mobile voice and data market. The still has those budget-wise customers in mind as this month it announced it would be expanding to provide two new services: music downloading and financial transaction services.

Unveiled last week, Siren Music gives Public Mobile customers unlimited music downloads to their phones for a montly flat rate. (Currently the company offers only Android phones.) Participating music labels include major players Universal Music Canada, Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc. and Warner Music Canada, which will give customers a wide array of songs from which to choose—one million at launch, and about five million later this year.

Public Cash Services, meanwhile, provides financial transactions such as cheque cashing, and also offers a prepaid MasterCard. These services will "give customers the ability to make unlimited bill payments for just $5 per month and money transfers overseas at industry leading rates," stated CEO Alek Krstajic in a news release. These discount services are aimed at those who might not be the best candidates for a credit check, such as students and immigrants who haven't established a financial history in Canada, and are available at 37 locations.

The diversification comes as Public Mobile also prepares to bid in the next wireless spectrum auction, in response to the increasing demand for smartphones and data services among its customers.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Alek Krstajic, CEO, Public Mobile

Toronto-based Innovation Accelerator will give three start-ups a Silicon Valley crash course

Rick Nathan is the managing director of Kensington Capital and co-chair of the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) conference. "What we're trying to do at CIX is strengthen commercialization in the technology sector in Canada," he says of the mandate of the organization behind the annual meeting of Canada's best and brightest technology innovators.

Last week, CIX announced a new program to further that mission, called the Canadian Technology Accelerator. "It can be a challenge, when you're in Toronto, to break into the whole Silicon Valley culture of get noticed. This program is a great chance for an emerging tech company to jump into the heart of Silicon Valley for three months," Nathan says.

The program, run in conjunction with the federal government's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and with the Consulate General in San Francisco, will give three early-stage Canadian tech firms the opportunity to spend three months working, rent free, out of the Plug and Play Tech Centre in California.  Nathan says the companies will have improved access to Silicon Valley venture capital and an opportunity to establish a presence in the Bay Area, the heart of North America's digital sector.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Rick Nathan, co-chair, Canadian Innovation Exchange

Innovative Mackay & Co. program mentors 3 fashion designers per year in communications

Long before he founded the public relations firm Mackay & Co, John Mackay was a fashion journalist -- among other gigs, he was the founding editor of Toronto Life's Fashion magazine. Now, he says, "you reach a certain point in your career where you want to start giving back," and his fondness for the fashion business has suggested a way to do that.

He's running an innovative mentorship program that will help three fashion designers per year -- one at a time, for four months each -- learn how to effectively do their own marketing and public relations. "Originally we thought we could take on a young designer and do their PR for them," he says, "but then we realized that if your doing this business in Canada, you'll probably always have to do your own PR and marketing. So we want to teach them to be the best communications people they can be."

Mackay says he's looking for designers who have a line of clothing up and running -- those who have completed their first collection and are working on their second. Then he and his team will work with them to help them develop their own skills to communicate with buyers and the media.

The first mentorship in Mackay & Co's program is coming to a close, and he's currently looking for the next participant.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: John Mackay, founder, Mackay & Co.

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].

Behind the G20 "fake lake": Toronto-based cultural empire Lord Cultural Resources (hiring 3 now)

Over the past month, there's been much reporting -- and complaining -- about the so-called "fake lake" that was housed in the media centre for last weekend's G20 summit in Toronto. Lost in the outrage over federal government spending was the quiet success story of the Toronto company that was hired to build the media centre to showcase Canadian culture and companies to the international media.

Lord Cultural Resources, who assembled and led a team of companies including Hariri Pontarini Architects, Infinite Stage Design, Astound Group and Nüssli Canada to build and manage what they called "a series of engaging, interactive, technologically-enhanced and story-driven exhibits for the International Media Centre in Toronto for the 2010 Muskoka G-8 Summit and the Toronto G-20 Summit," was founded in Toronto in 1981 by Barry Lord and Gail Dexter Lord. The company, according to its materials, was started "in response to an emerging need for specialized planning services in the museum, cultural and heritage sector."

Since then, they have managed over 1,800 projects in 45 countries, and have opened offices in the US, France, Spain, China and Bahrain, and have become what they call the "world's largest cultural professional practice." In addition to the G20, Lord Cultural Resources was also involved recently with planning and implementing the show-stopping Ontario House pavilion at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

According to their website, they are hiring three staff in Toronto now.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Andrea Ott, Director of Client Relations and Marketing, Lord Cultural Resources

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].

TD brings its "bank branch of the future" downtown as new concept banking innovation hits T.O.

A banking phenomenon sweeping North America over the past few years, known as "relational banking," "boutique banking" or, simply, "new concept" banking, relies on a seemingly simple innovation to the bank-branch experience: the human touch. Featuring open concept designs, more direct and informal contact with employees and better amenities (from coffee to toys to community spaces), the branches are intend to make people's relationships with their large multinational financial institutions a little more homely -- a model of warmth borrowed from retailers such as Starbucks and Chapters/Indigo.

TD Canada Trust introduced the first of its take on the concept with a branch in Brampton last fall, and opened a second in Windsor thereafter. Now what one TD manager calls "the future of retail banking" has arrived in downtown Toronto, with a branch opened June 4 at Yonge and Imperial Streets that features a community boardroom, a "community wall," a children's play area and a customer coffee lounge, among other comforts.

"We've received very positive feedback about the new concept branches we recently opened in Brampton and Windsor and we think they'll love it in Toronto too," branch manager John-David Di Rezze said in a release about the new 5,600-square-foot-location. "Our new open concept space ... tells customers as soon as they enter that this place is all about them."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Tashlin Hirani, TD Canada Trust

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email [email protected].
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