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Toronto startup leads search for ebola treatments

Since its resurgence at the end of last year, ebola has claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 people in West Africa. Its return has sparked panic throughout the world and left researchers and officials scrambling to find a cure. 

Enter a Toronto-based startup called Chematria. The company may hold the key to stopping the disease before it spreads any further. 

Chematria has developed software that allows a supercomputer to analyze how thousands of different drugs might affect a disease like ebola. What’s game changing about the software is that allows researchers to skip the time consuming step of physically synthesizing and testing drugs. 

“We are going to explore the possible effectiveness of millions of drugs, something that used to take decades of physical research and tens of millions of dollars, in mere days with our technology,” says Dr Abraham Heifets, one of Chematria’s co-founders and its CEO. 

The company’s research is possible because it has access to IBM’s Blue Gene/Q, one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Chematria, which is based at the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre, has access to the supercomputer through the Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Partnership (SOSCIP), an agreement that grants 11 Ontario universities and their host of researchers access to IBM’s suite of supercomputers.

Although clinical trials will likely remain an important part of drug testing, Chematria’s research has the ability to dramatically reduce the time it takes to hone in on the drugs that have the best chance at treating a disease or illness. If the company is successful, the face of medicine could be changed forever. 

Source: Chematria

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

Canada's top 100 corporate research and development spenders

On Friday, Research Infosource Inc. released its annual list of Canada's top 100 corporate research and development spenders.

According to the report, Canadian corporate R&D spending increased by 4.1 per cent in 2013 from $12-billion to $12.5 billion.

“4.1 per cent year over year growth is pretty reasonable. Having said that, we’ve seen stronger growth in previous years," says Ron Freedman, the CEO of the company that compiled the report.

Freedman adds that 57 of the list's top 100 companies managed to increase their R&D spending, while 41 companies decided to decrease their R&D spending. Compared to previous years, this represents a slightly worse performance by Canada's corporations.

Indeed, the report's findings will likely reinforce the commonly held opinion that Canadian companies do not spend enough on research. However, Freedman is quick to point out that more, in this case, is not always better.

"Bombardier’s R&D spending went up this year, but the fact is that a large portion of that spending was bad spending. It was spending that was put toward correcting mistakes in the design of their new aircraft. It’s money that they should not have had to spend."

Check out the full list of Canada's top 100 R&D spenders on Research Infosource's website.

Source: Research Infosource Inc. 

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Top Hat, City of Toronto, Metro News and more

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

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is looking for a community operations coordinator. This multifaceted role involves a variety of responsibilities, including providing the foundation with data management support, business management support, as well as helping with the onboarding and management of volunteers. Despite the the long list of responsibilities, only a minimum of one to two years in a related field is required to apply.

Top Hat, a Toronto-based startup that creates interactive learning software for classrooms around the world, is looking to fill a variety of positions. Those with a background in software development should check out the company's postings for a full stack developer and a senior quality assurance and test engineer. Those with more of marketing background should look into the company's marketing operations manager posting. Check out Top Hat's website for a full list of positions they're looking to fill.

Journalists looking for a new job should navigate over to Metro's website. Like Top Hat, Canada's second largest daily newspaper is in the process of filling a variety of positions. In Toronto, Metro is seeking two reporters/photographers and a single digital campaign specialist. Those living outside of Toronto are also in luck; Metro is hiring in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Ottawa, as well. For the reporter position, Metro is looking for candidates that have at least four years of experience in the newspaper industry, are well versed in CP style and have familiarity with web content management systems.

Finally, the City of Toronto is looking for someone to take over as the manager of events at Yonge-Dundas Square. The person that takes on this role will be expected to oversee all aspects of the square's yearly events schedule. Major responsibilities include and hiring and managing event coordinators and responding to public protests with "tact and respect towards participants".

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

NXNE announces it's moving its festival headquarters to MaRS

After more than a decade at the Hyatt Regency hotel, the North by Northeast music and arts festival (NXNE) is moving its festival headquarters to MaRS.

NXNE announced the partnership last week, as well as the fact that Pitchfork Media would be taking part in the festival in 2015. The partnership will see the MaRS complex, located at 101 College St, host several of NXNE's most important functions, including its delegate registration, keynote address and all of its interactive panels.

The decision to leave the Hyatt Regency comes after NXNE saw its 2014 interactive panels draw greater crowds and a more varied and accomplished list of speakers.

"Last year we realized that we needed a space that better reflected the level of talent we were bringing in," says Christopher Roberts, NXNE's festival director. "We wanted something that made more of a statement, and something that reflected the mandate of what our conference wanted to do and achieve. Looking through that lens at Toronto's landscape, there really were no other options: MaRS was the perfect marriage of our mandate and what we wanted the conference to be."

As for how the change of locale will affect the festival, Roberts says he hopes attendees feel a new energy when they visit the complex in June.

"I think because its venue where there’s already a culture of people trying to create, rethink and retool ideas, that that energy will permeate to the rest of the conference. You will see a band playing in one corner and someone will be discussing their startup in another. That’s the energy and buzz I want to create, and I think that MaRS already has a great ecosystem to help foster that kind of environment."

NXNE 2015 takes place June 17 through 21. 

Source: Christopher Roberts

Ryerson University launches new study of the analytics talent gap

You've likely heard of the gender gap in tech. It's something that, if allowed to continue, will have a significant effect on the North American economy.

But what about the talent gap that exists when it comes to advanced analytics and big data?

According to recent studies, companies and organizations in both the United States and Canada are finding it extremely difficult to fill positions that require a deep analytical skill set. Should those positions go unfilled in the long term, Canada may find it difficult to compete with rising superpowers like India and China.

On October 31, Ryerson University, in partnership with several other universities across Canada, launched a new study to find out the extent of the analytics talent gap in Canada and to see what the country could do to alleviate it.

The study involves two distinct parts.

During the first part of the project, the university is surveying Canadian organizations on whether they believe an analytics talent gap exists in Canada. In an effort to be as comprehensive as possible, Ryerson is asking that all organizations take part in the study.

Once the information from that survey is collected and examined, the university is planning to hold a summit that will gather some of the best minds on the subject. Their stated goal is to create a set of recommendations that organizations across the country can implement, which will be published in a white paper after the event.

Big data and its effect on Toronto is something that Yonge Street has written about extensively in the past.

Source: Ryerson University

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!  

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Mealshare, Toronto International Film Festival and Luminato Festival

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

Mealshare, the Vancouver-based non-profit which arrived in Toronto this past week, is looking for an individual to spearhead its operations in Ontario. The role involves fostering new partnerships with local restaurants, as well as finding charities for the organization to partner and work with. Additionally, community outreach is a significant part of this role.

Several organizations are looking for candidates with social media and communications expertise.

First, is the Linden School, a non-profit organization devoted to meeting the learning needs of young girls. The school is looking for a well-rounded communications coordinator to manage its social media channels—including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—as well as its WordPress website. Those considering applying for this position should be aware that the school is looking for someone with design skills. Whoever takes on this role will be expected to take photos of the school's staff and students, as well as create visual ads in Adobe Illustrator.

Second, the Luminato Festival is hiring a director of communications to manage all of the organization's internal and external messaging. The festival is looking for a candidate that has at least eight years of experience working at a public relations firm, company or non-profit organization. Additionally, they would like to hire someone that already has contacts within Toronto's major publications; those who have connections to national and international media outlets are preferred.

Speaking of Luminato, the festival is also in the process of searching for a new director of marketing. This role involves creating sales and marketing materials that will help raise awareness of the festival both domestically and internationally. Those intending to apply for this position should have five years of experience working in the not-for-profit sector.

Another venerable local festival looking for help is the Toronto International Film Festival. They're seeking a director of visitor experience. The person that takes on this role will be expected to oversee the organization's ticketing, retail and concessions services. The role also involves significant training and mentoring.

Finally, Arts Starts (an organization that pairs professional artists with local residents in an attempt to inspire community building projects) is hiring a part-time administrative manager

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

Ryerson announces major Church Street development

Ryerson University unveiled a major and exciting new property development last week.

The as-of-yet unnamed building will replace a parking lot that sits on Church Street, north of Dundas. For the time being, however, the university is referring to the project as the Church Street Development—or, CSD.

Once completed, the 166,000 square-foot facility will host the university's Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, the School of Nutrition and the School of Occupational and Public Health, Communications, Government and Community Engagement. Additionally, it will house a variety of administrative offices, as well as offer space for students and retail ventures.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the building is its Fabrication Zone. This cutting-edge centre will offer a suite of 3D printers, robotic arms and laser cutters aimed at creating a space for rapid prototyping.

Ground has yet to be broken on the development. However, the university expects construction to be completed in the spring of 2018, with the facility to be opened to faculty and students in the following fall semester.

This announcement comes as the university nears completion of its new student centre at Yonge and Gould.

Source: Ryerson University

Airbnb takes up residence in Toronto

A major outside player has joined the Toronto startup ecosystem. 

On Friday, Airbnb, the San Francisco-based, peer-to-peer marketplace for rental spaces, officially became a resident at MaRS Discovery District after opening a new office at the Toronto-based Regional Innovation Centre. This new home base will house three of the company's Canadian employees. 

Aaron Zifkin, who was brought on as the company's Canadian manager this past September, said at the time: "Our goal in Canada is to create and support a thriving community for hosts and guests, enabling unique and meaningful travel experiences like never before. The Canadian Airbnb community is already one of the largest and most passionate in the world and we believe there are ample opportunities to help it continue to grow as the favourite option for domestic and international travellers."

Since being founded in August of 2008, Airbnb has raised almost $800-million in venture capital. The company is currently valued at over $13-billion. Representatives from Airbnb say the company is "experiencing hyper growth in Canada," with more than 18,000 Canadian listings on its website at any given time. 

According to its most recently publicly released statistics, Airbnb has more than 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities across 192 counties. 

Source: MaRS

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Toronto Community Housing, the Royal Conservatory, and more

The most interesting of the opportunities we've seen this week:

In the sustainable energy sector, Solar Brokers Canada, a brokerage firm that specializes in solar photovoltaic systems, has two positions open right now. First is a graphics and web designer to create campaigns both for print and online, and second is a lead generation specialist, for help with client outreach.

A couple positions of note have come up in media recently. Global Toronto is looking for a news director to oversee day-to-day newsroom operations; candidates should have a minimum of five years of tv news experience. And Elle Canada is looking for a fashion features editor to create and commission style-related content on all platforms.

There are also a number of opportunities right now for those with an interest in the arts. The Juno Awards is seeking an entry level communications coordinator who will focus specifically on social media engagement. The Royal Conservatory is on the hunt for an instructional designer to develop strategy and content for engaging long-distance learners; at least five years of experience in distance education is required. Non-profit Women in Film & Television is looking for a membership manager to develop and implement that organization's outreach plan. And Inside Out—which runs the Toronto and Ottawa LGBT film festivals—is looking for a programming coordinator to help with year-round events and screenings.

Finally, in senior roles, Toronto Community Housing is looking for a new director of revitalization and renewal communities. The successful candidate will be responsible for resident engagement programs in all TCH revitalization projects across the city.

Do you know of an innovative job opportunity in Toronto? 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

Cisco Partners with the Science Centre to create interactive museum experience

For many of us, the Science Centre is a nostalgic place, evoking memories of grade school field trips and old-fashioned dioramas. Now the Science Centre is partnering with Cisco to create an entirely new kind of experience—one that is digital,interactive, and much more modern. Billed as a "connected museum," the two organizations announced the partnership last week.

Citing the need for Canada to improve its economic competitiveness, in a joint statement Cisco and the Science Centre spoke of the importance of fostering a culture of scientific literacy and engagement. If you can spark interest in science and technology in young people early on, the theory goes, you're more likely to eventually cultivate a workforce that has the skill sets certain economic sectors require.

"Cisco’s vision to enable innovation, particularly in education, is closely aligned with our own, and is one of the reasons this is an excellent relationship,” Dr. Maurice Bitran, CEO of the Science Centre, explained. "We hope to offer our visitors unparalleled learning experiences that will inspire the next generation of innovators.”

As part of the collaboration, Cisco is also sponsoring its first museum-based fellowship. The goal of the Cisco Science Fellow for Innovative Learning Technologies is "to improve science engagement and literacy through the use of integrated technologies."

The Science Centre's Sabrina Greupner, manager of their Weston Family Innovation Centre, is the first person to receive the fellowship. "My goal is to bring together external collaborators with our researchers, programmers, teachers and science experts to create innovative learning experiences and encourage the sharing of best practices,” she explained.

Hopefully visitors to the Science Centre—both in person and using new digital platforms—will be able to make the most of those experiences soon: one key goal of the partnership is to have the Science Centre linked up with Cisco's new new Internet of Everything Innovation Centre, set to open in downtown Toronto in 2015.

Source: Ontario Science Centre
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)
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