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Innovation + Job News

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460 King Street West to become Toronto's newest Innovation Hub

460 King Street West will not be the address for Toronto's newest condo complex. 

Once home to Global Village Backpackers, the building stood empty for several months after the hostel's closure in 2014. That is until two weeks ago when the Konrad Group, a Toronto-based digital consultancy firm, announced that it had acquired the building and unveiled a plan to turn the historic corner into Canada's newest innovation hub. 

According to co-CEO Geordie Konrad, the company has a multifaceted plan for the space. First and foremost, 460 King Street West will be the new home of BrainStation, the coding academy Konrad Group purchased last winter

Secondly, part of the building will also serve as a new co-working and event space called BrainStation Spaces. 

Lastly, a new coffee shop called Quantum Coffee will call the building home once renovations are completed. Like everything else associated with this project, Quantum Coffee will have a technology bent. For instance, instead of waiting on a barista to serve their coffee, customers will be able to use their smartphone to take advantage of Canada's first app-enabled pour over machine. 

Konrad says it was important for him and his colleagues that the whole building have a unique identity. 

"I think had we put a different, more corporate coffee chain there, the impact of the building would be completely different," he says. "By operating our own coffee shop, we're able to create a product that people in the King West technology sector are interested in." 

"For us, we want this building to be an asset to the community," says Konrad. "We want this to be a place where people can come to take part in events, workshops and get connected with one another. We're a part of this community too, so we want to make sure that what ends up on the corner of King and Spadina is something that we're all proud of."

Who's hiring in Toronto? Me to We, Deep Genomics and more...

Me to We and Free the Children, the local children's non-profit founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, are hiring a travel director. In terms of qualifications, Me to We is hoping to hire a person with seven to 10 years of marketing and travel sales experience. Another five years managing and leading a sales team is also required. To be considered for the position, applications must be submitted by August 15.

Deep Genomics, a University of Toronto-based startup that is developing a machine learning approach to analyzing DNA, is adding a software developer to its team. The person that takes on this role will be responsible for designing and developing the company's main web services API. In terms of qualifications, Deep Genomics is looking for an individual with five plus years of programming experience. Additionally, applicants must be knowledgeable in Python, and administrative platforms like Nginx and AWS. The deadline to apply is this Friday, July 31.

Lastly, Adventure Palace, a family and child support centre located in North York, is hiring a part-time speech-language pathologist. The centre is looking for someone with a Master's degree in Speech Language Pathology and two years of experience. Moreover, as with any position that involves with working with children, it's important to be able to reassure parents and talk to them in a way that's intelligent and respectful. Applications should be submitted by August 31.

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

Facebook Canada is set to move into the MaRS West Tower

On July 22, Facebook Canada announced that it's set to become a tenant of MaRS's West Tower. 

The move is scheduled to happen sometime in 2016, and, according to Tim Jackson, the vice president of corporate and community development at MaRS, the company has told the innovation hub that it plans to double its headcount in the near future.  

After being completed in early 2014, the 20 storey West Tower stood nearly empty for several months. This led to a slew of bad press for the innovation hub, and a $309-million buyout from the provincial government. Since then, the fortunes of the building have started to reverse with marquee names like San Francisco-based Airbnb and Toronto-based Figure 1 becoming tenants. 

According to Jackson, with Facebook in tow the majority of the tower is now spoken for, and the challenge has become finding space for everyone. 

"It's a bit like playing Tetris with all the tenants," he says. 

"We're tying to fit everyone where we can, but effectively the building is fully spoken for with companies that have either a signed lease, are in the process of negotiating one or have expressed interest," he adds. "We’re very comfortable that we will have the building leased up by the timeline that was laid out to us by the province."

Jackson ends by saying that he and his colleagues at MaRS expect to have more exciting announcements about future tenants toward the end of the summer. 

City Hall gets high-tech screens to help visitors get around

Anyone that has visited City Hall recently might have a noticed several new high-tech informations kiosks placed throughout the building. They're about the height of a person, feature a touchscreen interface and are able to provide a wealth of information about the building and its services.   

The City enlisted the help of two tech firms—Calgary-based YouRhere and Transit Screen, a company that operates out of the United States—to assist with the project. The former created the transit screen that's located close to the building's entrance. The unit provide real-time information on transit services like the TTC, Go Transit and Bike Share Toronto. 

Each kiosk also has a variety of accessibility features built-in—the electronic directory, for instance, is able to lower its menu when someone in a wheelchair attempts to operate it—and both support a variety of languages, including English, French and Spanish. 

"The City has been focusing on enhancing customer service and providing smart transportation information to residents and businesses for some time," says Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins, a spokesperson for the City of Toronto. "The introduction of the Interactive Electronic Directory and Transit Screen technology pilots at City Hall is a key component of that work."

According to Fitzsimminis, the City plans to test each of the kiosks over the course of the next year. During this time, it will look for ways to refine the information that each unit provides and solicit feedback from  the general public. Once that process is done, it will hold a competitive bid process to find a company that will the necessary transit data and units. 

Who's hiring in Toronto? Artscape, Covenant House, Tucows and more...

The youth homeless shelter Covenant House is hiring a writer. This person will be expected to craft compelling copy for the variety of newsletters and articles the organization publishes on a regular basis. A minimum five years of experience, as well as a degree in public relations, communications or journalism, is required to be considered for this position. The deadline to apply is July 20th.

Tucows, one of Toronto's older publicly traded Internet companies, is adding developers to its team. According to Tucows' job posting, the majority of the position involves the design and development of backend applications. Given that, knowledge of coding languages like PHP, Perl and Python is considered an asset. Check out the company's posting on the Ladies Learning Code job board (linked above) for more information. The company is also hiring a senior user experience designer.

On the culture front, Artscape is hiring multiple supervisors to oversee its Wychwood Barns venue. As with other positions of this type, much of the role involves ensuring the safe and orderly operation of the building in question. In terms of experience, the well-regarded organization is looking for someone that has extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry, knows a thing or two about food safety and has excellent an excellent set of interpersonal skills. Applications should be submitted by July 23rd.

Lastly, the Gardiner Museum—that's the museum that is devoted to ceramics across from the ROM—is hiring a senior manager of marketing. The person that takes on this role will be required to manage the museum's print, online and social media presence. A minimum of five years of experience  in past marketing and communications roles in the arts or non-profit space is required to be considered for this position. July 29th is the last day applications will be accepted.

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

Peel Region teens launch coding school for high school students

"My first experience with creating technologies was when I was 13," says Jevin Sidhu, the 15 year old co-founder of Project Cipher, a recently-launched coding school in Peel Region. "I coded my first website using HTML and CSS and it was incredibly [rudimentary], but it was my piece of the Internet and it was breathtaking to conceptualize that anyone with Internet could access my amateur creation."

Project Cipher started as a way for Sidhu to help his friends learn how to code. His co-founders wanted to learn how to code, but found that coding bootcamps and online courses weren't practical for high school students. 

"We thought about what these resources didn’t execute correctly and realized they didn’t provide an engaging environment, which was something school did really well," says Sidhu.

"Students are constantly helping each other out, whether that means studying for tests, completing projects and finishing off homework. We found in-person, working alongside others towards a similar goal is the most effective way of learning."

The initiative has a couple of features that distinguish it from other coding programs, says Sidhu. The main one is that the goal of the group's initial workshop is not provide high school students with an exhaustive coding education; instead, it's to give them a taste of what it's like to create something with a couple lines of code. 

To that end, the group is hosting a conference on August 20th that will give students an opportunity to see what the program is all about.  

Set to be held at Brampton City Hall, the one day conference will feature speakers from various startups and established companies, as well as freelancers. According to Sidhu, more than 500 students have expressed 

He goes on to say that the goal of the conference is to "promote and provide exposure for computer science through engaging talks and activities." On the same day, he and his co-founders plan to launch their Circles program. 

In the meantime, Project Cipher is attempting to find funding partners and more student leaders. 

High school students and parents can find out more about Project Cipher and the at its website

Who's hiring in Toronto? Studio Y, Convenant House and more

Innovation incubator MaRS is hiring a new director to take over its Studio Y program. This is an exceptional opportunity to take lead on an innovative and high-impact program that helps youth develop skills that will help them for the rest of their lives. Requirements are high for this role: only those with 10 years of experience and an exceptional resume will be considered. Moreover, well-developed relationships with various levels of government and organization are a must. The deadline to apply is next Monday, July 13th, so get those resumes in soon.

Youth homeless shelter Covenant House is adding a senior development officer to its team. The majority of this role involves seeking out and securing charitable donations from individuals, companies and foundations. As such, much of the job involves developing and writing funding proposals, as well as reaching out to donors. Knowledge in Microsoft Office and Raiser’s Edge are a must, with excellent interpersonal skills and an ability to reach lofty fundraising goals also implicit. Resumes should be submitted by July 13.

On the tech side of things, Junction Triangle-based FreshBooks is adding a new product manager to its team. The role involves helping the accounting firm ship products, of course, but FreshBooks mostly wants someone who's great at talking and listening to customers. A history of successful product launches is a undoubtedly a significant asset. No specific deadline to submit applications is listed.

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

Provincial government launches new $55-million fund to help Toronto youth

Over the next three years, the provincial government will invest $55-million into supporting at-risk youth through its recently announced Enhanced Youth Action Plan

The centrepiece of the recently released plan is the newly revamped Youth Opportunities Fund. Over the past couple of years, the Ontario Trillium Foundation has used $5-million a year to fund various youth focused programs in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Starting in 2016, it will be provided with an additional $1.45-million a year to allocate to initiatives in the city. 

According to Anne Machowski-Smith, a spokesperson for the province's Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the fund will start supporting communities throughout the province through a $6.495 investment. 

Machowski says that initiatives like the Enhanced Youth Action Plan and its predecessor, which was released in 2012, have had a significant impact on both the city and province. 

According to its statistics, the provincial government estimates that incidents of violent youth crime in Ontario declined by 30 per cent between 2003 and 2013. In that same time frame, the city saw a 44 per cent drop.

That said, both Machowski and her colleagues believe that there's a lot more work that can be done. 

"We cannot do it alone. We need to work through partnerships with our federal and municipal partners, businesses, youth leaders and service agencies. They are key players and can provide valuable insight and support," she says. "Only by working together will we be able to strengthen our communities and create safe neighbourhoods where our children have a better future."

University of Toronto steps up its city-planning game

While most Canadians were enjoying Canada Day off, Professor Shauna Brail, a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto's Geography and Planning department, was preparing to start her new role as a special advisor to UofT President Meric Gentler. 

She and John Brodhead, the executive director of Evergreen CityWorks, were appointed in June to advise President Gentler on city-building. Part of their mandate is to help better facilitate the sharing of city-building knowledge between different researchers at University of Toronto and with other communities in Toronto. 

"We have strengths in so many fields at UofT—architecture, engineering, geography and planning—and we’re starting to really understand the impact that all of these fields play on the way our cities develop and the way decisions are made," says Professor Brail. "If we can work together even better collectively, then we can have an even greater impact on the result and possible outcomes both for creating new policy, thinking about new problems in different ways, developing innovative ideas and further promoting student learning." 

Professor Brail and her colleagues will look at how issues like economic development and urban land use affect prosperity and economic inequality in cities. 

As for how the university will measure the success of the initiative, Professor Brail is honest enough to admit that she's not sure yet. 

"I do think the answer is a bit tricky, and I don’t know that I have a fully fleshed out answer, but I hope to do soon," she says. But, she has high hopes for what can come from these new advisory roles. 

"If as a result of these roles we can help to share data in a more effective way, and if we can better leverage our own research funding to better support communities,  policy development that help make life better for many people better within the city, then that’s a real strength and something that we can specifically point to," she says. 

At the very least, Professor Brail sees this an opportunity to become even more involved in the community she's been engaged in throughout her career. 

"Academics typically have had the luxury of retreating back into academia when people disagree with their finding," she says. "Even though that’s a luxury, it’s probably something we should not take advantage of; in fact, it’s something we need to rally against."

Youth entrepreneurship program Future Design School comes to the the North York Region

After a successful launch in Toronto, Future Design School (FDS) is expanding to other parts of South Western Ontario.   

Last week, the school announced a partnership with ventureLAB—a regional innovation centre that supports entrepreneurs in the York Region, Simcoe County and Muskoka District communities—and Southlake Regional Health Centre. 

The three organizations will work together to host a one week summer camp that will provide students entering grades six to eight an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship. Starting on August 17, Sarah Prevette, the founder of FDS, says the aim of the program is to help youth unlock their inner creativity. 

"Our summer program is really about getting kids involved in exploring what they’re interested in, what they’re passionate about and what they’re good at," she says.  

Since the last time Yonge Street spoke with Prevette, the program she and her colleagues started at MaRS has quickly expanded to offer not just workshops for youth but programming for teachers, as well. It's all part of her plan to help Canada's youth become independent self-starters. 

"I think the program enables kids to see themselves as capable entrepreneurs. They’re able to look at the world and see all the opportunities around them," says Prevette. "I think that’s an important cultural shift we need to be making. The more we can enable kids to see themselves as empowered problem solvers, the better off we’re going to be as a society." 

Interested parents can learn more about this particular program and all the initiatives Future Design School run on its website

Who's hiring in Toronto? CivicAction, Fan Expo and more...

CivicAction is hiring an office manager and executive assistant to its CEO (to be clear, that’s one position). On the office manager side of things, duties involve maintaining the organization’s records and completing regular financial tasks like billing and invoicing. Other duties include providing support with HR-related tasks.

When it comes the executive assistant side of the coin, the most important duty involves managing the CEO’s calendar and deciding what appointments to schedule and prioritize. Civic action says it’s looking for someone with excellent project and time management. Strong written and oral skills are a must, too. The deadline to apply is this Friday, June 19. If you’re passionate about the city and have the skillset CivicAction is looking for, make sure to submit a resume.

Fan Expo, one of Canada’s largest conventions devoted to comics, gaming and anime, is hiring a graphic designer. The person that takes on this role will be responsible for creating the look and feel of all the convention’s promotional material—that is, things like flyers, show guides and so on. Beyond that, helping create a coherent visual aesthetic for the convention’s branding is a major part of the role. Five-plus years of experience in the design field is a must, as is fluency with programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. No specific deadline to submit resumes for this one. Fan Expo, by the way, takes place this September 3rd to 6th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Lastly, the Home Depot is looking to add an environmental project manager to its team. This role involves creating and implementing initiatives that help the company grow its revenue while also increasing its profile as a sustainable company. In terms of job requirements, the Home Depot is looking for someone with four-plus years in a related field. A strong understanding of different sustainability practices is also required. The deadline to apply is June 21st.  

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

Ontario invests $89-million in research projects across the city

On Tuesday, the Government of Ontario announced a new round of research funding. 

All told, the province is investing $209-million into more than 200 research projects across the province. 

Of those 200 projects, 105 are being conducted right here in the city. In monetary terms, about $89-million is being invested in the city. 

The researchers the province is funding come from a wide variety of fields, including the health sciences and the clean tech spaces. 

For instance, a group of researchers the University of Toronto received funding to continue work on a more efficient and environmentally friendly airplane gas turbine. According to Belinda Bein, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Research and Innovation, the turbine these scientists are developing is far more efficient than current models, and is significantly easier to maintain.

Another project, this time from Sick Kids Hospital, is studying how chemotherapy affects the brains of children that receive treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer. 

"Investment in research and development (R&D) by business and government is essential for a successful knowledge-based economy," says Bein. "Investments in education and training, and creating the right environment for new industries are key drivers of long-term competitiveness."

She adds that since 2003 the province's funding programs have helped give $2.9-billion to Ontario's researchers, creating 86,000 training opportunities in the process.  Additionally, since 2005, 822 Early Researcher Awards have been given out, which she says have been vitally important to attracting top talent to the province. 

"We also see the benefits of investing in research with the breakthrough discoveries, game-changing technologies, and scientific progress in cancer research, genomics, genetics and regenerative medicine, renewable energies and more, that are happening right here in Ontario." 

Provincial government invests 23.5 million into new centre for senior health

By 2030, the youngest members of the baby boomers generation will turn 65. According to a recent report by Statistics Canada, 23.6 per cent, or almost one-quarter, of this country's population will be over the age of 65 by the time the calendar hits that year. In Ontario alone, 4.2 million members of the population will be seniors. 

It's a demographic shift that is expected to have a profound effect on Canadian society. In particular, the cost of healthcare is expected to skyrocket with so much of the population reaching a critical age. The time to prepare for this shift is now. 

On Friday, the Government of Ontario announced a new five year, $23.5-million investment in to the Baycrest Health Sciences facility at Bathurst and Baycrest. The $23.5-million will go towards the creation of the new Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation.    

With this investment, the provincial government says it hopes to create a new national hub for the development of technologies, products and resources that help people maintain their cognitive, emotional and physical well-being well in to their twilight years. 

In a statement issued to Yonge Street, Premier Kathleen Wynne, said of the centre, "our investment in this centre will allow new advances in brain research and care, cementing Ontario's position as an innovation leader and ensuring that people can continue to lead healthy lives as they age." 

Who's hiring in Toronto? The Working Group, Nascent Digital and more...

The Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is hiring a writer to help with its outbound communications. The person that that takes on this role will be responsible for creating a variety of written content for the hospital, including newsletters, speaking notes and marketing appeals. The hospital would like someone with five-plus years of experience in journalism, marketing or a related field where creative writing is an important facet of the job. No deadline to apply is listed.

One of Toronto’s leading software development houses, The Working Group, is hiring multiple senior software engineers. The company is looking for someone with five years of experience in the web and mobile app development space. Specifically, TWG would like someone that is knowledgeable in Ruby on Rails, Node.js, PHP, Java, Python, MySQL, Postgres, Git and Continuous Integration. As with the previous position, there’s no deadline to apply for this one.

Another digital agency looking for help is Nascent Digital. Some might recall that the company went on a hiring spree a couple of months back. Now they're at it again, hiring a senior UX designer, a senior app engineer, a full stack developer, and a delivery manager. For the last position, the company is looking for someone with five years of experience, a computer science degree and someone that understands that “you get that good isn’t great.” Check out each link for more information on the other positions.    

Lastly, the Ontario Trillium Foundation is looking for a communications officer to join its organization. Much of the role involves interacting with the media to help to keep them apprised of what the OTF is doing. Only applicants with a five years of experience and a degree in journalism, public relations or corporate communications will be considered. The deadline to apply is June 22.

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

UofT professor helps launch the first open data standard

From issues like youth employment to social justice, open data is increasingly being seen as the panacea to a variety of city-related problems. The problem is that different cities use different metrics and methodologies to measure a variety factors. There is no agreed upon standard by which different cities can compare and contrast one another. 
That is until now. 
A new initiative called the Open City Data Portal aims to correct that problem by creating a standardized set of metrics, and has its roots in Toronto.  
The project was started by Patricia McCarney, a professor at the University of Toronto. Starting in 2008 as the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF), the professor and her colleagues asked nine cities from around the world to submit data sets. When all was said and done, the nine cities sent over data sets that used a 1000 different indicators to measure a variety of factors affecting urban environments.
Everyone at the GCIF realized that they needed to create a universal standard, which is how the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 37120 and the World Council on City Data was born. The publication of ISO 37120 marks the first time that there's been an international standard on city services and quality of life.   
"ISO 37120 and the WCCD Open City Data Portal will allow cities, for the first time, to have standardized data so they can speak to each other and learn from each other, to measure themselves against peer cities from around the world and to analyze, benchmark and compare," says Professor McCarney. "Data is an extremely important commodity for city planning in the face of climate change and aging infrastructure. Toronto, and cities around the world, will be able to learn from each other and to prepare for everything from demographic shifts to increasing demands for increased infrastructure spending on education or healthcare."
Besides Toronto, cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, London, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam and Shanghai are participating in the initiative. Of the cities listed above, Toronto has the highest ratio of residents with post secondary degrees, and a city like Barcelona has the highest life expectancy. However, Professor McCarney wants that the database isn't about comparing cities. 
"What makes ISO 37120 and the WCCD unique is that neither are about 'ranking' cities in the traditional sense," she says. "This isn’t about 'What city is best?', rather it’s about 'How can a city become the best version of itself for its citizens?'”
By the end of the 2016, the World Council on City Data will hundreds of more cities to its database, though Toronto residents can take a look at it right now. 
"Open data allows citizens direct access to information that was formerly only accessible through a tedious bureaucratic process, if at all available for public consumption," says the professor. "Today’s modern city dwellers want, require and deserve an understanding as to how their city functions." 
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