| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Innovation + Job News

865 Articles | Page: | Show All

Upverter launches Parts Concierge, a real-time virtual assistant for engineers

In an age of Uber and Airbnb, tech startups everywhere are in the business of disrupting traditional industries that are slow to change, and making them more efficient, faster, and of course, cheaper.

This is exactly what Zak Homuth, founder of Upverter, did with the launch of the company’s Parts Concierge service. Upverter, which already works to make hardware engineers’ lives easier through their cloud-engineering platform, established Parts Concierge as a “virtual assistant for engineers”. With Parts Concierge, hardware engineers can request any part to be built on Upverter and added to the design on their behalf. This process can normally take weeks — as engineers have to wait for unique parts to be built and shipped before continuing with their design — and costly mistakes are only found once the manufacturing is done.

Once a unique part is made using Parts Concierge, it’s added to the library to make it easier for other engineers to access instead of having different engineers constantly request the same parts. “We looked at our stats, and the very first thing everyone did when they tried Upverter was to search for a part,” said Homuth. “If they found the part, there was a pretty good chance they’d stick around. And if they didn’t there was a pretty good chance they’d leave.”  

While Upverter wasn’t originally focused on the parts industry, the stats had Homuth thinking that this is something that his company could tackle. “We couldn’t just build every part in the world, but maybe we could build every part that a user needed fast enough that it would be like it was there in the first place.”

Homuth said that the reason why the hardware industry has been so slow to develop a comparable service is because it is still largely dominated by offline desktop software. The cloud, however, is disrupting this industry. “To provide a service like the parts concierge users would have had to email someone, ask for a part, the service provider would then have to make the part in the right format, and then email the part back. Most engineers would probably wonder why not just do it themselves,” said Homuth. “It just wouldn't work as well without the cloud. It would feel very rough and inefficient.”


Dimitri Nakassis becomes first University of Toronto professor to receive prestigious MacArthur Fell

Dimitri Nakassis, a University of Toronto professor in the department of classics, is the first U of T professor to win the MacArthur Fellowship, colloquially known as a “genius grant”.

The award comes from the John D. and Catherine T.  MacArthur Foundation, an independent foundation dedicated to supporting creative people and institutions. The grant recognizes the potential of people that “show extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits,” according to the Foundation. MacArthur Fellows receive $650,000 through the grant, and they can use the award to advance their expertise, take on new work, or event follow an entirely new career path. However, Nakassis isn’t sure how he’ll use the money just yet. “The grant is both an affirmation that people see value in my work and an invitation to do something new and innovative, so I don't want to rush into anything,” he said. “I will only have one crack at this, so I need to think carefully about the best use of the money, one that will have maximum impact on the study of the ancient Greek world.”

According to the Foundation’s website, Nakassis was recognized for changing long-held views on prehistoric Greek societies. Most notably, Nakassis challenged the long-held view that Late Bronze Age Mycenaean palatial society (1400–1200 BC) was a highly centralized oligarchy, distinct from the democratic city-states of classical Greece. Instead, he proposes that power and resources were more broadly shared, and is currently testing his hypothesis in an archaeological survey. His ideas came from a reinterpretation of Pylos’s administrative and accounting records found on clay tablets written in the early Greek script, Linear B.
Nakassis says that his passion for both classics and archaeology is what made it possible for him to study Linear B in the way he did.  “Classics is a discipline that encourages you to find solutions to the study of the ancient past that aren't necessarily specific to any one discipline. If you wanted to work on the economy of ancient Greece, for example, you couldn't limit yourself only to archaeology, nor could you ignore archaeology altogether,” he said. “So it's a discipline that really encourages interdisciplinarity, even if that's not how every Classicist ends up operating.”
And while the Fellowship celebrates individuals who display creativity in their work, Nakassis just credits his “super-critical eye”. In his work, he always tries to ask others how they know something is 100 percent true to try to probe weak arguments, while also taking into account the criticism of his colleagues. “Anytime someone says that something is ‘clearly’ or ‘obviously’ true, alarm bells go off in my head: these are, to me, props for a weak argument,” he said. “The other thing that helps is talking to other critical people about what you're thinking. Sometimes I can allow myself to settle into an argument that's conventional, and friends and colleagues will usually point out to me that I can push it forward. You need people who are willing to challenge you, too.”

Who's hiring in Toronto? Kids Help Phone, Lighthouse Labs and more...

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

Kids Help Phone is seeking a marketing manager. The person that takes on this role will be expected to lead the organization's marketing efforts, both conceptualizing new projects and tracking their progress and effectiveness. A minimum of five years of experience in a related field is required to be considered for the position. Applications should be submitted by October 21.

Kids Help Phone is also looking for a public relations manager. Much of the role involves creating content for the organization, as well as establishing and maintaining relationships with outside entities. Kids Help Phone is looking for a candidate with a post-secondary degree in journalism, communications or a related field. In addition, anyone applying for the position should have five years of experience in their field, as well as competency in both English and French. The deadline to apply for this position in October 13.

Lighthouse Labs is hiring a mentor to help lead its full-stack development bootcamp. The local coding academy is looking for an individual with two to three years of professional programming experience and knowledge of open source programming languages like Ruby and Python. Teaching and public speaking experience are considered excellent supplementary skills. Resumes should be submitted by October 31.

The Drake Hotel is hiring a digital media coordinator. The bootique hotel’s ideal candidate is someone who will be able to take all the data and content that’s produced by the hotel and turn it into useful information that can help it make sound business decisions. In terms of qualifications, it is looking for someone understands the ins and outs of SEO and platforms like Google Adsense and Analytics.

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

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. 

Ladies Learning Code launches crowdfunding campaign to launch Canada's first coding truck

Ladies Learning Code (LLC), one of the city's leading organizations devoted to helping women and youth learn how to code, is attempting to crowdfund its latest effort to spread digital literacy. 

The group has started an Indiegogo campaign to launch code:mobile, "Canada's first coding truck". Since launching last week, the crowdfunding campaign has already raised over $20,000. With more than a month to go, Ladies Learning Code is attempting to raise $50,000 to make the initiative a reality. 

Should the project get funded, code:mobile will travel across Canada, visiting all 22 cities Ladies Learning Code has expanded to since getting started in Toronto, as well as other communities both large and small. The plan is to stop at local parks, community centres, street festivals, hospitals — basically anywhere the truck can park — and, in the words of Ladies Learning Code, inspire kids to be passionate builders, not just consumers, of technology. 

“The code:mobile is our big bold move to inspire the next generation of technologists,” said Laura Plant, the organization's co-executive director. “Since its inception in 2011, Ladies Learning Code has held over 600 workshops and events and reached over 24,000 learners across the country and we keep wanting to push that impact. In May, we announced a goal to teach 200,000 Canadian women and youth to code by 2020 and the code:mobile will help us make a big dent in our goal.”

Who's hiring in Toronto? Second Harvest, Camp Tech and more...

OCAD University is hiring a new program manager to take stewardship of its Imagination Catalyst startup incubator. Tasked with meeting the needs of the university, funders and, most importantly, the individuals that take part in the program, the person that takes on this role will be tasked with ensuring the sustainability of growth of the Imagination Catalyst. In addition, a lot of the position will involve advising the entrepreneurs that take part in the program — sometimes giving them the advice they don't want to hear. The University is looking for someone with five plus years of entrepreneurial experience to lead the program. The deadline to apply is September 23
Camp Tech, an excellent local organization that provides courses on digital literacy, is hiring an email marketing and MailChimp instructor. For four hours each month, you'll be asked to lead a group of beginners through what it means to run a marketing campaign with MailChimp. As such, a strong level of competence with the platform is required, as is a familiarity with Canada's recently implemented anti-spam legislation. Camp Tech's posting is fairly strict on the first requirement; understanding of other email marketing platforms like Constant Contact and Mad Mimi is fine, but not required or something that can be substituted for experience with MailChimp. Applications are due this Friday, September 18
Lastly, food rescue organization Second Harvest is hiring an events and campaigns coordinator. Much of the role involves helping prepare for Toronto Taste, the annual summer charity event devoted to raising money for Second Harvest. Specific duties related to that event involve putting together the variety of auctions that take place over the Toronto Taste weekend in June, as well as garnering the support of sponsors and the like. The organization is looking that has experience working with charities and has had success putting together events in the past. Application should be submitted by September 25. 
Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!

New Toronto-made app wants to help Canadians decide who to vote for this federal election

Although there are some 30 days still left in the current federal election campaign, you'll have to forgive a lot of Canadians if they've become apathetic to the state of political discourse in this country.  

Even at the best of times, it can feel like there's a dearth of substance to televised debates. It's a shame, since the issues facing Canada have potentially never been more pressing.   

Of course, there's a lot of information that can be found online on each of the major parties and their leaders, helping voters cast a ballot intelligently, but so much of it is disorganized and all over the place. 

Thankfully, a group of Toronto web and app developers have set out to give a helping hand to country's voters. 

Pollenize, a new app available on the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, provides a comprehensive overview of where all the largest parties on stand on the major issues. With each issue, it's also possible to see where Pollenize sourced its information from, so that users of the app can do additional research on their own. Best of all, it's all wrapped in design that is easy on the eyes a pleasure to navigate through. 

If the app itself and the charming leader caricatures that adore it look familiar, it's because this isn't Pollenize's first time around the block. Co-founders Trevor Blades and Miguel Barbosa created the initial version of their website and app during the lead up to the city's municipal election last year. After watching one too many debates where there was a lack of any sort of meaningful discussion, the two decided their had to be a better way.  

"Pollenize is a nonpartisan, apolitical organization seeking to provide voters with the most accurate election information possible," says the organization's website. "We aim to make a positive impact on voter turnout and help spark political discussion in communities around the world."

As mentioned, the Pollenize app is available on Android and iOS smartphones. Alternatively, all the information that's available within the mobile app is also accessible on the organization's website. Check it out

Johnson and Johnson launches medical startup accelerator at MaRS

The MaRS Discovery District, the Government of Ontario and the University of Toronto are partnering with American medical multi-national Johnson & Johnson to launch the first JLABS incubator outside of the United States. 

Announced last week and set to open sometime in the spring of 2016, the 40,000 square foot space will host startups dedicated to developing pharmaceuticals, as well as medical devices and consumer and digital health technologies. 

Compared to more traditional startup accelerators which invest in early stage companies in return for equity, JLABS offers funding as well as mentoring services without asking for a stake in companies. 

“The arrival of JLABS will significantly expand the resources and networks available to the health and life sciences community at MaRS and in the region,” said Dr. Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS Discovery District. “The timing is perfect. Our research pipeline is strong and we now have a critical mass of high calibre young companies that are ready to take their transformative technologies and health solutions to global markets. They need access to talent, partners, customers and capital. Toronto’s time is now.”

Several local medical institutions, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai will also be joining the space. 

Who's hiring in Toronto? Google, Medieval Times and more...

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

Medieval Times is holding auditions to find a new king, lord chancellor and princess for its long running jousting and dinner show. The Exhibition Place venue wants capable actors in fit physical condition, and who can successfully improvise a scene should the situation call for it. All actors also need to be able to affect a believable British accent. Likewise, experience with horseback riding is a definite asset, though not required; Medieval Times will train capable candidates. Applications are due September 13, with auditions being held shortly thereafter.

Google Canada is adding an additional ad solutions engineer to its Toronto office. Working with the gTech Ads team, the person who takes on this role will be responsible for assisting a small group of advertising clients with their technical needs, as well as advising them on best practices when it comes to the Google ad platform. Minimum qualifications include a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or related technical field, and three years of programing experience. Candidates with experience writing Java, Python or PHP will be prefered.

The Writers Guild of Canada is hiring an administrative assistant. The position involves helping the WGC’s executive director and executive assistant as needed, as well as overseeing other administrative duties like scheduling meetings and maintaining clear and thorough records. The organization is looking for someone with three years of administrative experience and the usual collection assortment of excellent writing and oral skills. The deadline to apply is this Friday, September 4.

Lastly, the MasterCard Foundation is hiring a research, evaluation and learning coordinator. Reporting to the organization’s director and deputy director, the individual that takes on this role will be relied upon to complete a variety of administrative duties, including answering calls and emails, coordinating travel arrangements and schedule meetings. MasterCard is looking for someone with two years of administrative experience, a proactive, positive attitude and an excellent sense for the details. Resumes should be submitted by September 25.

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

Female Funders challenges 1,000 women to become angel investors

A lot of people have tried to address tech's gender gap, but few have come at it in the way that Katherine Hague, founder of Toronto-based Shoplocket, has. 

After selling her company last year to PCH International, an Irish multi-national that assists companies with custom manufacturing, Hague decided to use the windfall from the sale to invest in early stage startups—an angel investor, in the parlance of the industry. 

One of the first startups she put money into was CareGuide, another local startup. 

"At the time there were 70 investors in the company’s latest round and before we (Hague and her longtime friend and Ladies Learning Code founder Heather Payne) invested in them only one investor was a woman," says Hague. "We looked at those numbers and thought it was absolutely crazy. I started talking to a number of woman who had expressed interest in angel investing and I tried to get at the reasons why they hadn’t done it." 

"It turns out that there a lot of misconceptions," she adds. "Either around the types of people that should invest, or how expensive and hard it is."  

To that end, she and several of her colleagues from PCH have launched Female Funders, a new initiative that aims to lay out exactly what's involved in angel investing. For instance, according to the group's website, investments in early-stage companies typically range from $10,000 to $50,000, but can often be as little as $1,000. It is, as the site says, often less than the cost of a vacation for most people.

It's Hague's belief that more female investors will lead to more female-led companies being funded. To start, she wants to get 1,000 woman to commit to funding their first company this year. 

Since launching last Thursday, more than 500 woman have already said they'll answer that call. Now Hague and her team are busy preparing to send out a getting started guide to help them on that road. 

"It will help change the ratio in all aspects of venture, and that’s really what I’m excited about," she says. "This is the way that we’re trying to spark that change, but I think it has waves of impact across all aspects of the industry."

UofT researchers create microchip that will reduce lung transplant deaths

At the University of Toronto a group of researchers have developed a microchip that will help doctors better assess the quality of a potential lung transplant. 

According to Professor Shana Kelly, one of the scientists who lead the team that developed the technology, doctors usually only have several hours to decide if they're going to go through with a lung transplant operation. 

As a result, 10 to 25 per cent of lung transplant patients begin to suffer from a condition called primary graft dysfunction. While doctors conduct a variety of tests to ensure that a lung is suitable for transplant, these tests do not have the ability to currently catch subtle tissue damage. 

In many other fields of medicine, doctors use a technique called "biomarker profiling" to catch the smallest degree of tissue damage. Unfortunately, until now that technique has been too time consuming to conduct in the time doctors had to make a decision on whether to operate.

"This [breakthrough] could help eliminate the leading cause for post-operation death," she says.  

Using the data collected from the microchip and with the help of a algorithm Professor Kelly and her team developed, this new technology is able to generate a risk rating for a lung. It's also able to provide this assessment in 20 minutes. 

"We hope that this will lead to improved utilization rates for donated organs," says Professor Kelly. 

Like most medical breakthroughs, additional testing is required before this technology makes it way to hospital operating rooms. 

"We will be running a larger scale validation study to prove out the accuracy of our method, and also building automated instrumentation that will allow the technology to be used anywhere that transplant-related decisions are being made," she says.

Who's hiring in Toronto? Canadian Art Foundation, Twenty One Toys and more...

Studio Y, MaRS’s innovative youth fellowship program, is hiring an associate. This individual will work with the rest of the Studio Y team to support and mentor the youth that take part in the program. In terms of qualifications, MaRS’s posting is a bit short on specifics, but essentially the organization would like someone with an inclination towards entrepreneurship and design thinking. Additionally, strong interpersonal skills are a must, as is the ability to give and receive constructive feedback. Applications should be submitted by September 1.

Twenty One Toys, a Toronto-based startup that is responsible for creating a variety of unique toys that help teach skills like empathy and collaboration, is adding a community manager to its team. Twenty One Toys is looking for someone with excellent writing and public speaking skills—part of the application process includes submitting three pieces of writing—and a passion for education. The deadline to apply is August 31.

The Canadian Art Foundation is hiring front-end web developer. Much of the role will involve building and maintaining the CAF’s website. In terms of technical requirements, the posting says the organization’s ideal candidate is an individual with extensive experience with WordPress and InDesign. Additionally, anyone that applies should be well-versed in programs like Photoshop, Google Analytics and Campaign Monitor. A specific date by which applications must be submitted is not listed in the CAF’s posting.  

Lastly, CatalystsX, an organization that invests in innovators and social entrepreneurs, is conducting a CEO search. CX is looking for someone that will, over the next two years, secure the organization’s future by building the community around it, continuing to develop its structure and by ensuring that it has financial stability. The ideal candidate is someone with vision and a flair for strategic thinking. Check out the CX’s website for the full posting. Catalysts is accepting applications until September 15.

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

Interac joins MaRS's fintech cluster to further financial technology innovation

Six months after the launch of the country’s first fintech cluster, MaRS announced on August 18 that Interac has become the latest major player to join its collaborative network for startups and already-established companies working on developing new financial technologies.

As a part of the agreement, the Interac Association and Acxsys Corporation, the two organizations behind Interac, the payment system that powers almost all the debit cards in Canada, will join MaRS’s financial technology cluster. According to Adam Nanjee, the head of cluster, Interac will work with startups that are based in MaRS’s College and University campus to collaborate on new technologies like crypto-currencies.   

“This partnership indicates that there’s strong interest from Canadian financial services providers to help facilitate innovation,” said Nanjee when asked to touch on the significance of partnership. “For our cluster this engagement is critical — building a global fintech hub requires players in all sectors of financial services – from the banks to the payment networks.”

For Torontonians not immersed in the city’s startup community, Nanjee says it’s partnerships like this that will help continue build Toronto’s reputation as an important financial hub.

“This type of collaboration positions our city to become a global leader in financial services innovation on par with international fintech hubs like New York, London and Hong Kong. Creative new products, digital channels and experiences are developing here at MaRS where financial institutions are working alongside startups and this is something we should be proud of”

Previously, other financial institutions and companies, including CIBC, PayPal, Moneris and UGO, have partnered with MaRS to join the FinTech cluster.

The initiative, which is one of  its kind in Canada, provides local area startups with access to the regional innovation centre’s suite of resources, as well as facilitates access to startup capital and the centre’s already established partner and customer networks.

MaRS also has two other clusters located within its building. One is devoted to legal technology; the other is focused on retail and digital commerce technology. They provide many of the same services and resources.

Toronto-based OTI Lumionics launches its super thin Aerelight desk lamp

At the end of last year, Yonge Street Media featured five Toronto startups we thought would make a big splash in 2015. More than half a year after that piece was originally published, one of the companies included in that list, OTI Lumonics, has finally shipped its first product.

OTI’s Aerelight A1 OLED desk lamp can now be purchased for $299 CAD from the company’s website.

Besides being able to claim that it is the world’s first OLED desk lamp, the A1 includes a couple of nifty features not usually present in your everyday lamp. For one, the entirety of its aluminum frame is touch-sensitive; instead of turning the lamp on and off, adjusting the panel’s brightness is done by simply touching the frame. It also supports both the Qi and PMA charging standards, meaning that those that have an Android smartphone can charge it by placing it on the lamp’s base (Apple, unfortunately, does not currently support either of those standards with the iPhone).

Initially envisioned as a way to help the average person understand the organic light-emitting diode technology the company has been working on, Albert Lam, a product manager at OTI Lumonics, says the launch of the Aerelight is a big milestone for him and his colleagues. “We’re really proud to have an product that almost anyone can buy,” he says. “The other thing that’s exciting is that this marks the beginning of many more OLED-enabled products, and we’re excited to be leading that.”

At first blush, the cost of the Aerelight appears expensive, but Lam argues that there’s a lot of value to the product. “Even if you go to Crate & Barrel, a desk lamp there can easily cost you $300, and still all you’re getting is a regular bulb,” he says.

More so than the lamp itself, what’s exciting about this launch is the technology OTI has developed to enable. As mentioned before, the Aerelight is the world’s first OLED lamp. OLEDs are ubiquitous in smartphones and HDTVs. However, they’re just making their way into lighting technology, and the have the potential to completely change every aspect of the field.

“Organic LED is an exciting technology because it is made completely out of carbon-based molecules, which are easily degradable and disposable. We’re using simple dyes that are in everyday clothes and cosmetics,” says Lam. The philosophy of our lighting and designs moving forward, because OLED is such a thin form and it can be any shape and flexible, it’s going to enable designs that weren’t possible before. We’re going to be able to do sculptural designs that weren’t possible before and even redefine what we even consider lighting.”

University of Toronto answers President Obama's call to increase gender diversity in engineering

On the same day that President Barack Obama hosted the White House's first ever startup demo day, the world's most powerful political leader also announced the start of new initiative aimed at increasing diversity within the field of engineering. 

Over 90 North American universities, including two Canadian schools—the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo—have agreed to work toward recruiting more women and underrepresented minorities into their engineering programs. 

Each of the 92 schools taking part in the initiative has agreed to a four part action plan that, among other things, calls for the participants to work closer with schools that work with underrepresented populations. 

"Engineers are working hard to find solutions to some of the most critical challenges of our time, including environmental degradation, urban issues, health care and more. We know that including diverse perspectives in the field increases creativity, which in turns drives better, more innovative ideas and approaches for the future," says Michelle Beaton, the associate director of the University of Toronto's Engineering Student Recruitment and Retention Office. 

"U of T is a trailblazer in fostering diversity within the engineering field, and under the leadership of our dean Cristina Amon, we continually seek opportunities nationally and internationally to ensure women and underrepresented minorities are attracted to and thrive in the profession."

According to Beaton, the University of Toronto is well on its way to answering President Obama's call for greater gender diversity. In 2014, 30.6 per cent of the students starting first year classes at the university's Faculty of Engineering were women. Beaton says this the best ratio among engineering schools in Canada.  
865 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts