What’s it like being a “parentpreneur” during the pandemic?

Founders

Monthly Archives: September 2020

What’s it like being a “parentpreneur” during the pandemic?

For parent founders working full-time from home, managing a company while raising kids has been one of the more trying aspects of the pandemic.


Between handling screaming children while on conference calls at home and dealing with the stress of sending kids back to school, parents with young children haven’t had it easy this pandemic. Remote working as a result of COVID-19 has greatly affected life at home as we know it, and in some cases, has completely changed family dynamics and parenting styles.

Most entrepreneur parents, or “parentpreneurs”, have the privilege of working from home, even in the absence of a pandemic. That doesn’t mean keeping kids home for remote learning has been easy.

DMZ founders share their experiences while working from home with kids. Inevitability, there have been challenges – but parents have also seen some surprising silver linings come out of it. 

If you’re a parent in a similar situation, you might find comfort in hearing that no family has perfected life during a worldwide pandemic. Hear what these founders are saying!


The switch to distance learning and remote working

Tweepsmap’s Samir Al-Battran, Founder & CEO and Erin Heywood, Manager of Operations, are a parent duo with three school-aged children. As soon as the pandemic hit in March, Tweepsmap had already begun remote work. Samir and Erin felt prepared ahead of their school’s shutdown and, all things considered, were appreciative of their situation as parents.

“We’re lucky. Not everyone has the luxury to work from home or has a business that can continue without much disruption,” explains Erin. She adds that it helps that her children have two tech-savvy parents and enough devices in the home to make distance learning physically possible for three kids in one household.

Zeze Peters, Founder & CEO of Beam.city is also a parent of three: two school-aged children and a newborn. He claims that parenting during the pandemic has been both amazing and tricky – something that many parents can relate to: “Before COVID, my wife and I were complaining that we didn’t have enough time to spend with our kids. Mid-school year, we got our wish – but not on great terms.”

 

Balancing work and family life

Kate Mansouri, Founder & CEO of Pennygem has had her hands full in 2020. For Kate, it’s been a year of firsts – she’s growing her first startup and has become a mother for the first time. Most of the Pennygem team consists of women that have children, so as a leader, Kate has been understanding of parenting struggles during a pandemic. 

“It’s been tough for them. Sometimes parents are sitting in a meeting, their kids walk in and ask a million questions and they have to turn the camera and microphone off to attend to the kids. It can be tough to stay on track and be productive having your kid around,” Kate explains. “I, myself, have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every day. My most productive times are from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., and then in the evening when my baby goes to bed.”

For Samir and Erin, working for the same company has both its benefits and drawbacks. “The challenge is that kids are screaming while you’re trying to have a call with a customer, so it’s been different – and Erin can’t work as much as she could before because she’s taking a lot of the load from our children being at home.”

Zeze’s sentiments are similar, stating that client meetings and managing a team has been a little tricky with the kids home from school. “Sometimes they’ll come in and join my meetings, which actually doesn’t always bother me, but it does break your workflow. There’s a concept in technology called context switching: going from business work to funding work, to team management work, writing technology, to responding to emails and then, of course, dealing with kids. A context switch takes your mind from one mode to another mode. Working from home, my daily productivity went through the floor. As an early-stage startup, every hour matters, especially when I’m leading a team,” Zeze says.

Plans for this school year

In August, provincial governments and school boards across the country began announcing plans to send kids back to the physical classroom this fall for the 2020-2021 school year. The COVID-19 pandemic posed yet another dilemma for parents. While at-home work productivity would surely improve, the potential spread of the virus amongst kids is something parents have to take into consideration.

While Kate has a newborn baby and doesn’t yet have to make a decision on whether to send her child to school, she knows most of the parents on her team have found it difficult balancing family and work life, and will likely be opting to get kids back into a routine. “I think [the parents] would be taking the option of having kids go back to school. It’s been very tough on some of them. Many moms are looking for ways to take their children back to daycare or school, even if it’s part-time,” Kate explains.

Erin and Samir say they’ve made the decision to keep their three kids home for remote learning, at least for the start of the year. Erin mentions that, in continuing remote learning, there will be bumps in the road – but it won’t feel like the same emergency it was in the Spring for her three kids. “The school has a set mandated time for teacher-led learning every day. The kids will have to be in front of a computer, and some people are complaining about screen time – but frankly, this is the choice you’re making for your child if you decide to keep them home.” Erin also says that if class sizes were smaller, they would consider sending their children back to school. But with potentially 25-30 in a classroom, there won’t be much physical distancing.

Samir mentions that the decision to keep kids home will help with the consistency of their learning. “We’re thinking about sustainability. If things get bad again and schools shut down, it would be disruptive to their school year. If we get them online from the beginning, at least they will have more stability in their learning.”

Zeze and his wife have also opted to keep their two school-aged children in the virtual classroom for now. “As good as the intention is to have teachers bear the brunt of the cleanliness for large periods of the day, it’s just hard to be perfect,” Zeze explains. “There are hundreds of kids. With COVID, even though small kids may not have strong symptoms and develop issues, it may not be the same for their parents and grandparents.”

In it for the long haul? Parenting WFH tips and silver linings

As the digital workplace and classroom may very well be our reality for the next while, we asked founders if they have tips to offer other parents for improving work-life balance and family dynamics in the current environment. Parents also explain that amidst the pandemic, they have seen some benefits to keeping the family at home – and have been embracing the silver linings that have come with it.

Erin and Samir are grateful that they even have the ability to work from home and spend more time with the family. In terms of tips for keeping the family happy and productive, Erin adds: “Each case is different, every child is different. You can’t listen to what everyone is telling you. Try to come up with a solution that works for your own kids, your company and your life. It’s important to listen to your kids and what their needs are.” As an example, given the government’s social bubble restrictions, Erin and Samir have been flexible with allowing their daughter to spend more time than usual socializing with friends online. 

A practical solution for Zeze’s family was to establish a consistent daily routine in which his kids finished school work first thing in the morning. “Before they did anything else, they had to get their school work done early in the morning. By about 10:00 a.m., they would be done for the day. My wife and I could get back to being productive with our own work.”

As a founder whose team has been working in a digital format since the company’s inception, Kate doesn’t plan to bring her startup into an office setting post-pandemic – at least not full-time. Her team sees great value in Pennygem’s remote working policy. 


Kate explains that some mothers on her team have appreciated the extra bonding time at home with children. “My hope is to provide them with an opportunity to have meaningful input, but at their own convenient time. It’s working really well for us. We’re very flexible,” Kate adds. “The situation was a big eye-opener for a lot of people. We were required to work from home all of a sudden, and many of us have discovered that it’s working. It’s tough, but you learn to work around it.

Zeze adds that a silver lining to this crisis has been that his family is making special memories that they will cherish forever. “The kids have picked up arts and crafts, they paint now too. We’ve been having barbecues together, we’ve built a farm full of fruits and vegetables which the kids have helped plant and harvest. Every day when they go out to play, it’s cool to look out the window and see them playing in the backyard. It makes us feel happy.”

If you’re a parentpreneur working from home with kids, share your experiences and tips with the DMZ on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn!

The difference a decade can make: DMZ turns 10

 

10 years, 477 startups, 4,142 jobs created, $916.4M raised and counting…

2020 marks a huge milestone for the DMZ. It’s a big anniversary – we’ve officially been around for a decade. We’ve transformed from a small student coworking space to a world-leading incubator-accelerator, and to celebrate this birthday we’re taking a trip down memory lane to reflect on the accomplishments, challenges and victories the DMZ has seen since our inception. Most importantly, we want to highlight the people who have pivotal roles in shaping what the DMZ is today. 


We’re giving away a Nespresso machine + more to celebrate 10 years!

Check out the DMZ Instagram to participate in our trivia and giveaways over the next two weeks. Starting on Wednesday, September 16, we’ll be giving away a brand new Nespresso Vertuo Coffee & Espresso Machine, exclusive DMZ swag and a copy of the #1 Bestselling book Good to Great by Jim Collins. Since you’re already reading this blog, you’ve got a head start – you may just find some trivia questions here! Follow us now to ensure you don’t miss a post.


DMZ’s biggest milestones over the last decade

year 2010 in block letters
The DMZ is born. 

A student founder from Soapbox pitched an idea to Sheldon Levy, Ryerson University’s then-President. The student needed support in developing an idea for a new startup company and couldn’t find the help they needed on campus. Sheldon Levy saw the potential to create an innovative space for students to work on new business ideas, and together with co-founders Valerie Fox and Dr. Hossein Rahnama, the Digital Media Zone was born! 

year 2011 in block letters
Open for business. 

Within one year of opening, the DMZ had already garnered significant interest within the entrepreneur ecosystem. In 2011, the DMZ’s first Executive Director and Co-Founder, Valerie Fox, made a decision that would transform the Digital Media Zone: opening our doors to founders outside of the Ryerson community. As the number of founders joining the DMZ grew, the physical space grew with it and expanded two extra floors to accommodate incoming companies.

DMZ Co-Founder, Dr. Hossein Rahnama was the first to commercialize his research at the DMZ and founded Flybits – a startup that went on to become one of Canada’s top AI companies.

year 2012 in block letters
Royalty arrives at the DMZ. 

It’s true! In 2012, His Royal Highness Prince Charles paid a visit to the DMZ while on a Canadian tour. The Prince made his way through the DMZ’s offices at Yonge-Dundas square and student entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to showcase their companies, drawing the royal member’s attention to the talent and innovation being incubated at the DMZ.

In 2012, Carrie-Ann Bissonnette, Manager, helped build processes and rigger that shaped the foundation of the DMZ in its early days.

year 2013 in block letters
A new investment arm & visit from Justin Trudeau. 

As early-stage DMZ startups began transforming into high-growth companies, Ryerson University launched Ryerson Futures Inc. (RFI), a for-profit investment arm and startup accelerator that could provide companies with seed financing to help them grow to significant value. This year, we announced RFI’s rebrand to DMZ Ventures.

In 2013, the DMZ received yet another high-profile visit. This time, it was Justin Trudeau that stopped by to get a tour of the newly-expanded, five-floor DMZ incubator during his federal Liberal leader election campaign that year.

year 2014 in block letters
Launch Zone opens. 

Now known as DMZ Sandbox, the former Launch Zone opened its doors in Ryerson’s brand new Student Learning Centre as an on-campus space to help students looking to explore the world of entrepreneurship. More than six years later, DMZ Sandbox continues to help the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real businesses.

$63.1M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2014

year 2015 in block letters
New name, new leadership, new global title. 

2015 marked a turning point for the Digital Media Zone. Over five years, the technology being incubated at the DMZ shifted and the majority of startups were no longer considered to be within the digital media field. The Digital Media Zone announced an official rebrand to “DMZ”, signalling it had become sector-agnostic. 

In July 2015, the DMZ saw another big change – Abdullah Snobar took over the role of Executive Director.  From the start, Abdullah invested in rebuilding the DMZ so it offered more functional workspaces, better communal areas to host events and investor meetings, and home-like amenities to build a comfortable environment for founders spending long hours on their startups. Under Abdullah’s leadership, the DMZ began putting dedicated resources into expanding its program team. DMZ’s offerings expanded to include more hands-on coaching, vibrant community events, support with customer acquisition and giving startups better access to capital. Revamping the program structure and creating a “founders first” environment ultimately led the DMZ to earn the title of the top incubator in North America by UBI Global!

$68.2M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2015

year 2016 in block letters
The first Advisory Council. 

As the DMZ continued to evolve its growth strategy, its next big move involved launching the first Advisory Council in 2016. Formed to help build the strongest startup community in the world, the Council members would go on to promote the DMZ in the broader business community and advise the DMZ on matters such as strategic direction, international growth, fundraising, industry trends and more. To this day, our Advisory Council nurtures the DMZ’s connection with the business community.

$77.1M raised by DMZ startups in 2016

year 2017 in block letters
DMZ opens a leading growth accelerator. 

In 2017, the DMZ launched its very first accelerator cohort to help entrepreneurs innovate faster and achieve hypergrowth. Three years and 13 cohorts later, the DMZ’s most competitive program has received world recognition.

That year, DMZ also gave Canadian tech startups a new place to call home south of the border and opened a new office space in the heart of New York City’s financial district, making the DMZ the first Canadian university incubator to open an office in the U.S.

$168.6M raised by DMZ startups in 2017

year 2018 in block letters
#1 in the world. 

In 2018, UBI Global ranked The DMZ as the number one university-based incubator in the world. UBI Global is a leader in performance analysis of business incubators around the world. The Stockholm-based research organization looks at over 20 key performance indicators to determine rankings.

That’s not all for 2018! DMZ was given yet another prestigious title by Waterstone Human Capital and was named as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, affirming the DMZ’s core values as an organization: -‘equity over everything’, ‘founders first’ and ‘be great’.

$197.7M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2018

year 2019 in block letters
Game-changing programs and work culture. 

Last year marked another year with many firsts for the DMZ. In 2019, we launched two brand new programs that both took a customized, founders-first approach. The first, DMZYYZ, launched a two-week soft-landing program that gave elite international entrepreneurs a personalized ticket into the North American market, fueling business integration with other global markets. The second being the Black Innovation Fellowship – a first-of-its-kind initiative in Canada aimed at breaking down barriers Black founders face, helping them scale their companies to the next level.

$189.1M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2019

year 2020 in block letters
10 years, 477 startups, 4,142 jobs created, $916.4M raised in total.

Between a global health crisis and economic downtown, it’s no secret the last six months of this year have brought pain, heartbreak and struggle for many in our community. The business landscape, in many ways, has completely transformed – but as a result, we’ve found some powerful silver linings.

The DMZ community thrives off of building strong in-person connections, but moving to a virtual environment has opened new opportunities for our startups and programs. We’ve been able to connect more extensively with founders, partners, and opportunities around the world. Virtual programming has allowed us to expand our offering to international companies, and we’re now serving (and accepting applications from) startups worldwide.

In the last six months alone, we: transformed our programming to run our Incubator and Accelerator virtually, helped international companies integrate into the North American market through the DMZ YYZ program, launched the #HackTheCurve challenge, hosted government calls advocating for startup COVID-19 support, had several student entrepreneurs go through our Startup Certified and Basecamp programs, provided dedicated programming for Black entrepreneurs (Black Innovation Fellowship Bootcamp) and women-led startups (Women Founders Fast Track pilot), joined industry leaders to establish the Innovation Economy Council, launched DMZ Innisfil to drive innovation in rural Ontario, introduced new international programs (shh… stay tuned!) and announced DMZ Ventures – a move that allows us to offer a full spectrum of startup support at every stage – from business ideation to investment.

That’s just a quick snapshot of what we’ve got going on – it’s been a busy year, but we won’t stop here.

DMZ’s vision is to see a world powered by ambitious entrepreneurs. In these times, we pledge to do whatever it takes to help our tech startups push past barriers to growth and transform into world-class organizations. 

Thank you to everyone who’s helped the DMZ become what it is today – the late Raymond Chang, Valerie Fox, Dr. Hossein Rahnama, Sheldon Levy, and Mohamed Lachemi, current President and Vice-Chancellor of Ryerson University, just to name a few. An immense thank you to all of our incredible startup founders and their teams, all of our coaches, advisors, partners, and staff – cheers to the next decade of building great Canadian tech companies.

We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years hold.

 

Are you a startup founder interested in learning more about DMZ’s programs? Reach out at dmz@ryerson.ca!

 

Content marketing for startups: How to master your strategy

DMZ guest blog by: Rokham Fard, DMZ EiR

Content marketing: it’s something that almost every company does, but few do it exceptionally well. Regardless, it is a tool that should be a part of every startup’s arsenal.

If your startup has little budget or no online audience, mastering your content marketing via your company website’s blog is a great place to start building your brand awareness and converting your audience into customers. The great news? Your content strategy is something you can learn to master with little to no budget. And – when you do it right – years down the road you will have built promotional assets. 

This article is two-fold: it covers both the creation and promotion of your blog content. Learn how to structure your blog writing, choose an appealing topic, and repurpose your content in your email and social media marketing efforts. Best of all, along the way you’ll get simple hacks you can use to satisfy web algorithms and skyrocket your online engagement.

Your startups’ content strategy can take several attempts of trial and error – but hit that sweet spot start, and you’ll be seeing real return on your efforts. 

Choose a winning blog topic


Picking the right blog topic requires careful consideration. When doing this, you mustn’t improvise and assume the whole world cares about what
you think is top-of-mind for your customers. Selecting a subject matter should be a data-driven process – not hypothesis-driven.

Anchor your topic around a question or problem

Don’t throw all kinds of messages out there and hope one sticks. It’s not about frequency of content. It’s about doing the right one, and then spending a lot more time getting it out there. It’s crucial to vet your topic before you start writing. You need to find out what the external world is asking about the topic you want to write about.

The easiest method to gather information around the world’s questions is to Google it. You’ll want to anchor your blog around a certain phrase or question. Try it: as an example, search “coping with anxiety”. How many people are searching that in a month? In Canada? In the U.S.? If a lot of people are searching for it, you know there is market demand. Your search phrase should have between 1,000 to 10,000 monthly searches for your geographical audience (if your target audience only lives in Canada, try incorporating U.S. searches to reach that 10,000). Another great tool to vet your topic is UberSuggest.

Write the best answer on Google

Once you’ve identified the question you’re going to answer, the magic is to offer a solution to that question or problem that is subjectively better than the first ten results on Google. 

The reality is, almost no one checks the second page of Google. If you are able to be subjectively better than all those ten combined, then your answer will be considered better to the user. Algorithms on Google are fully optimized for that. If you are taking the right steps for SEO, you will eventually rank up. 

Trust is one of the most important aspects required to build a relationship with potential customers and retain existing ones. You build trust by addressing someone’s problem better than they can, then offering them a solution. 

The only way you can do that is if you are a subject matter expert who can offer insights that come from deep knowledge. Companies will oftentimes hire a content writer who is remote and cheap to employ. What happens when you hire someone who doesn’t have expertise in your subject matter? They go to Google, they search your key phrase and regurgitate the same information that the top articles on Google have already written about. Your blog writer should be a subject-matter expert. 

If you can articulate someone’s problem better than they can, that is a great start to building trust and gaining loyal followers.

Re-think the structure of blog writing


If you’d like to write something people are going to read, think of your content as a prescription. We were taught to write using a certain skeleton: the intro and hypothesis, point one, point two, point three and the conclusion. 

These days, and on the web especially, consumers typically don’t have the time to read your essay. They came to your blog to ask a question, to get an answer. 

Adopting a new style of writing by putting the carrot upfront: what will a reader get from this post? Get them on the edge of their seat; give them a promise upfront. Then, move into your solutions: one, two, three. And, at the end, there’s no conclusion per se – it’s a summary. 

The three layers of content within a blog: macro, micro, nano

Young startups often avoid spending the time to produce quality blog content and opt for short-term marketing wins, which will become more expensive in the long run. What many don’t realize is that you can invest more time and resources in creating one blog, and you’ll end up producing content that can be repurposed for various channels over an extended period of time. 

There are three layers of content produced here: the macro, the micro and the nano. Why is it important to distinguish between these three layers? Well, they each provide value to your marketing strategy in different ways. 

The macro is the entire blog post. One of the more frequently asked questions around blog post creation is the length of your posts. Try to write around 2000-2500 words per post. While that may sound like a lot, you must remember how much noise is out there to compete with. Additionally, if you were to cover a topic and only had 500 words to work with, it’s hard to give the subjectively best answer to your reader’s question. I’ll touch on why this is important, and tips for having the subjectively best answer again soon.

Furthermore, a longer blog will also reap benefits from a technical perspective: with richer, denser content, your website’s blog will appeal more to search engines’ machine learning. For example, Google’s semantic analysis is strong enough to understand your content’s focus and will do so more easily with denser content – improving your online search visibility.

Next comes the “micro” layer of content. Your blog post should yield three to five main topics or solutions (which we’ll touch on soon). Each one of those solutions can be thought of as a micro-sized piece of content. Micro content can be leveraged in for your email newsletter, for example. Build a drip campaign using this content where every email covers one of the three to five solutions outlined in your blog post. If you write one article for your blog and have, on average, four solutions in one article, that will equate to four weeks worth of drip campaigns! By the time you have 10 articles, you’ll have 40 weeks of campaigns. 

Finally, the “nano” layer of content consists of the even smaller bits buried within those solutions – they are the bite-sized, action-driven solutions that are derived from each micro. This is the content that will feed your social media. 

Let’s size it up. A macro piece equals three to five micro pieces and about eight to 12 nano pieces. All of a sudden, you have eight to 12 social posts – and for the next month, you have something new every few days for your social channels. 

That’s how you stay top of mind. Re-purpose your content strategically, and you’ll gain the mindshare of your audience.

Promote the hell out of your content


You have a piece of content… now, what do you do with it? 

The general rule of thumb is that 20 percent of your time should go towards creating your content and 80 percent towards promoting. You’ve vetted this idea for your blog and you know there’s demand – now take the time to get your content out there.

With your blog content, you can leverage both long and short term gains. The long term effect is that you’re going to start getting ranked on Google. If you have given the best answer on the internet, you’ll start ranking higher on search engines. The short term gain is that you have content that’s ready to be promoted. Remember, the micro and nano layers within your blog have helped you distinguish this content. You won’t need to think about new topics for your email newsletters, and you won’t need to hire someone to keep your social media alive. Don’t operate in silos – repurpose that content!

Cater to the social platform’s algorithm

Take a look at your LinkedIn feed. You’ll probably notice examples of these nano posts. 

How do you ensure your LinkedIn posts perform well? You have to cater to the platform’s algorithm. LinkedIn’s platform, like many other social platforms, prioritizes 1) relevant content, and 2) engagement. The more your posts play into what the algorithm likes, the more eyes you will get on your social content. If you want more engagement on your posts across social media channels like LinkedIn, here are some hacks to consider.

First, when you create your post based on your nano, never include the link back to the article if you don’t have to. It’s counterintuitive. When someone is scrolling through their LinkedIn feed, do they really want to stop and read a 2000 word article? No. Think about where your audience’s head is at. Your LinkedIn posts should act as nuggets, intriguing them to want to hear more about what you’ve got to say. Second, if you are linking your article within your LinkedIn post, you’re not catering to the platform’s algorithm. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn – each one of these platforms is biased towards keeping the user on the platform. They don’t want a user to leave the platform, they make money by keeping them around. This is another reason to avoid linking out to your website. I’ve seen up to ten times the engagement when I don’t link out to my article. 

If you feel like your post needs a call-to-action, I would suggest signing off with the same hashtag at the tail end of each social media post. This is good for brand awareness, and when someone clicks on your hashtag, they’ll see everything you’ve published. Even more important, the click from the user is a signal to the platform’s algorithm for engagement. 

Something else to consider is that algorithms also have a bias towards posts that use an image. 

Go where your audience already hangs out

If you don’t have a huge audience yet on your brand’s social channels, don’t worry. I don’t recommend trying to build a big audience right off the bat. It can be expensive and you can do it gradually. What I would recommend is for you to go to where your audience already hangs out to promote the hell out of your content. There are two great places to do this for free: Facebook and Reddit.

Facebook

There are Facebook pages on just about every topic out there. Go to Facebook’s search engine. In the search bar, search using your keyword or the topic you’ve written about. Change the filter to search Pages, and you’ll find Pages who are interested in learning about your topic at hand. Find a page that has at least a couple thousand followers. Look at their newsfeed. What type of content is being shared? Do they give love to any third-party content? If they do, you can message the admin and explain why your article would provide value to their audience. Ask them to share it – you’d be surprised how many times they’ll do it. This can drive more traffic to your own Facebook page, and hopefully, your website too.

Reddit

Reddit can be a hit or miss as behaviours can be very inconsistent with the users and admins, but it can be a highly effective way to engage your target audience. There are thousands of subreddits about every topic under the sun. You can use Google to find subreddits. Find some subreddits that are relevant, and post your article in those subreddits – but not as you are promoting it. Why is this important? The moment Reddit sniffs that you are self-promoting, they will remove you from that Subreddit. Post it as if you are an observer – as if you stumbled across this resource on the web that you thought was worth sharing. 

Take these Facebook and Reddit tactics into consideration. Try each platform at least once – find a few gems, and in a couple posts’ time, you can come back to these great audiences! A lot of these audiences might convert to subscribers – and who knows – maybe even customers of your business. 

If done correctly, Facebook and Reddit can help your content take off. 

Conclusion: practice makes perfect


Keep in mind that your blogging strategy is an ongoing cycle. Prioritize quality over quantity. There’s no need to produce a new post every week, it
will become exhausting. The more you can invest in promotion, you will end up finding the right audience.

When it comes to perfecting content writing and promotion, there’s not always a one-size-fits-all solution. It starts with getting confident about vetting the right topic for your blog post and structuring your article in a way that’s easy to consume. Once you have a quality article written, learn how to leverage the micro and nano nuggets of information that come out of each blog post. You’ll start to see success in your analytics and get into the rhythm of things.  

While there’s so much more that can be covered, the truth is that strategies are ever-changing as technology becomes smarter and consumer behaviour shifts.  

If you begin implementing the tactics outlined in this article, you’ll get comfortable working in a way that caters to your consumers’ thinking. Take that with you as the digital environment continues to evolve, and you will have greater success in adapting your content marketing to fit the needs of your business.

Basecamp 2020: Hear from the grand prize winners

It’s been yet another successful summer for aspiring student entrepreneurs in Basecamp, DMZ’s eight-week intensive student incubation program helping rising innovators create tech solutions to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. 

It’s also been a summer like never before for Basecamp. This year, due to COVID-19, DMZ transformed the program into a completely virtual format. While Basecamp programming looked a little different than in previous years, the digital structure paved the way for new partnership opportunities with international organizations, allowing the DMZ to host over 40 rising student entrepreneurs from around the globe!

Keep reading to learn more about what made this cohort special, and hear from the winners about their Basecamp experience and what the future holds for their companies.

A 2020 snapshot

Basecamp 2020 received a record-breaking number of applications from high school and university students. Following a competitive application process, 41 student applicants across 26 company teams received acceptance to the program. This year’s cohort represented both high school and university students from several countries around the world – from Canada and the U.S., to Egypt, Syria, and even Japan!

Keeping in line with today’s emerging tech trends, Basecamp companies found themselves exploring a number of diverse and non-traditional industries: medtech, edtech, fintech, cleantech, and more. Teams all shared a common goal: to develop a technology solution that would drive positive impact and address some sort of social, economic or environmental issue that our society is faced with.   

Over eight weeks, teams spent over 160 hours in workshops and with industry mentors to soak in as many new learnings as possible and turn their business idea into a viable startup company. Programming covered everything from problem validation and prototyping, go-to-market strategies, to pitching and storytelling. 

Basecamp finalists

After a jam-packed summer, teams were given the opportunity to present a company pitch to a panel of judges for the chance to take home one of three grand prizes: $5,000 in business grant money and an accounting package from Logan Katz worth up to $13,000. Six finalists were chosen based on having a driven and coachable founding team, a robust business model, a unique market solution, and an effective business presentation, among other determining factors.

The six finalists included: A Friendlier Company, Snowball, ConchShell, Madaki, Project Lightbulb and Anaxa..

Basecamp 2020 grand prize winners

Following the final pitch presentation, the top three companies were selected by a new panel of judges as the Basecamp 2020 winners: ConchShell, A Friendlier Company and Project Lightbulb. Congrats to the winners!

Hear from the winning teams about their Basecamp experience and what the future holds for their companies.

ConchShell
Founders: Jin Schofield and Sarvnaz Alemohammad

ConchShell is a real-time American Sign Language translator that helps the deaf and speech-impaired navigate life independently using a wearable bracelet. The bracelet tracks the user’s actions through sign language and voices a translation out loud for others to hear. 

“ConchShell has developed dramatically since the beginning of the DMZ Basecamp program.  We completed dozens of interviews for customer validation with ASL users, reached out to professionals in the industry, and developed software through DMZ’s various helpful workshops, as well as through connecting with the many amazing and knowledgeable people in DMZ’s Basecamp network. We learned to be bold in our decisions, develop thorough business models and pitches, and make the most of our potential!

In the next year, we intend to complete our first prototype and run, make two iterations of our pilot program, and open limited sales functionality.  We are thankful for the DMZ for all of the guidance and direction we’ve received in the last two months. We could not have done it without the DMZ!” 

– Jin and Sarvnaz, Founders, ConchShell 

A Friendlier Company
Founders: Kayli Dale and Jacqueline Hutchings

A Friendlier Company is creating a smart, centralized reuse system to eliminate single-use food packaging waste. The company gives food service providers reusable takeout containers, and once used, A Friendlier Company handles all reverse logistics, washing, and redistribution for reuse. The containers are lightweight, stackable, and are competitively priced to disposable plastic containers. This zero-waste system generates up to 60% less greenhouse gas emissions than single-use alternatives.

“We’re excited to begin pilots with our reusable takeout system in the Guelph area with prepared meal companies and local restaurants. We have been accepted into Innovation Guelph’s Seeding Our Food Future program which focuses on creating circular economies, like our reuse system. Throughout the fall we will continue expanding and piloting with various food service providers to perfect our reuse system and gain consumer feedback. We are so excited to get started and reduce single-use plastic waste!

Basecamp prepared us to confidently pursue our business full time. The program introduced us to incredible speakers that were experts in fields like marketing, prototyping, personal branding, sales, legal, financing, and pitching. Our biggest takeaway was learning how to tell our story and brand through pitching. We learned that effectively communicating our idea is just as important as the idea itself and is key to our success as a company. The community of young entrepreneurs we worked with was incredibly supportive and inspiring. Thank you DMZ Basecamp!”

– Jacqueline Hutchings and Kayli Dale, Founders, A Friendlier Company

Project Lightbulb
Founder: Colette Benko

Project Lightbulb is a virtual science education that guides students through curriculum outcomes using hands-on experiments that only require paper and materials you will find in the environment. Project Lightbulb believes every child should have access to engaging education that fosters their curiosity and problem-solving skills.

“The next steps for Project Lightbulb will be to continue building our program by developing more experiments so that we are ready to begin piloting in the late fall.

​​​I was very fortunate to meet so many like-minded youth that are working on incredible projects during my time at Basecamp. I am very inspired by my peers and I look forward to working with some in the future. Furthermore, I have learned many important skills and things to take into consideration when building a successful business. Prior to the program, I didn’t realize the importance of having a strong network. Basecamp allowed me to start building that network, learn new skills and continue to grow it as I move forward with Project Lightbulb.”

– Colette Benko, Founder, Project Lightbulb

 

Thank you!


Thank you to our 26 amazing teams who have accomplished so much over a short period of time and who made Basecamp 2020 a huge success. Congratulations on your achievements! We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.