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Hear from the DMZ’s first-ever unicorn founder for his advice on building a billion-dollar company

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Hear from the DMZ’s first-ever unicorn founder for his advice on building a billion-dollar company

Event recap: The DMZ’s Founder Dinner

Co-founder and CEO of brand interaction platform Ada, Mike Murchison, spilled the entrepreneurial tea at the DMZ’s Founder Dinner earlier this month, sharing lessons learned from scaling the first-ever DMZ unicorn company the ground up.

Empowering brands to automate customer interactions, Ada brings a VIP experience to every customer and employee through its platform. Since 2018, Ada has increased its revenue by 764% and in 2021, raised its Series C at a valuation of $1.2B, officially achieving unicorn status.

The first in-person DMZ Founder Dinner since 2019, the events are designed to bring the larger DMZ founder community together for an evening of food, drinks and connections.

We thought we’d share some of Mike’s insights and how he built the first-ever DMZ unicorn company for other founders looking to build the next big thing. Watch his full founder talk below to learn more about Ada and Mike’s journey, or keep reading for a recap of the tips and learnings Mike shared with the audience during his talk.

Entrepreneurship is a deeply personal experience

“We in this room are all united by this shared dream of building something important, big and world-changing. The journey that we’re all on is a very, very unique one, but we’re all unified in that shared ambition.”

The value of improving your rate of learning

“I think the single most important thing I’ve learned over the course of this journey has been a deep inward focus on improving my own rate of learning.

I think that’s one of the things I so admire about the community here at the DMZ, is that we’re all committed to learning. We’re all highly curious people who are eager to learn new things.

I encourage you to ask yourself, ‘What is piquing my curiosity? What problem am I facing that may seem insurmountable that I may be able to learn something new from?'”

Founders have a responsibility to support one another

“We all have a responsibility as founders to support one another in our own growth. I encourage everyone making progress themselves to share it with others.

We’re not competing against one another, we’re supporting one another. We all win when a startup in our ecosystem succeeds.”

Mike Murchison talking with another guest. - DMZ Founder Dinner recap

Sometimes the easiest path IS the right path

“I was dealing with a hard problem and someone asked me, ‘What if it wasn’t hard? What if it was easy?’

I’ve grown up and trained myself into thinking I need to do the hardest things, and what I’ve learned in the course of building Ada is that sometimes the easiest path, where you’re feeling the pull, is actually the right path.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously

“Looking back, something I would’ve done differently is not taking myself so seriously.

I wasted a lot of energy thinking about what the ideal path was meant to look like. I wish – earlier on – I would’ve let go of my perception of the right path and been more excited about the path that was unfolding before me.”

DMZ card that says "Changing entrepreneurs' lives." - DMZ Founder Dinner recap

Want to have a front row seat at the next DMZ Founder Dinner to hear from other founders who have made it? Apply to our upcoming Incubator cohort kicking off this fall at dmz.to/incubator.

Meet 13 up-and-coming tech startups in the DMZ’s Bootcamp

Introducing a new cohort of Bootcamp companies who are hitting above their weight across a diverse range of industries

Our newest Bootcamp cohort is in full swing, and we are thrilled to present the 13 tech companies that we have hand-selected to take their businesses to the next level. For the next six weeks, the DMZ will help these founders validate their business idea, establish a minimum viable product and build a roadmap for implementation to launch their startup.

Our Bootcamp founders get the chance to participate in peer-to-peer sessions, founder roundtables and expert-led workshops, receive 80+ membership benefits valued at $470,000+, have one-on-one support from our DMZ Program Leads and much more. Post-graduation, they will be on track to launch their startup within three months and generate revenue within six, allowing them to kick-start their entrepreneurial journey!

We are delighted to share that our new cohort of startups have a global reach, with startups across Canada, the United States, Brazil, Estonia and Africa.

So, without further ado, please welcome our incoming cohort of cutting-edge companies:

Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups
BestAuction

Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: bestauction

BestAuction is a digital platform designed for individuals and SMBs to manage the procurement process and initiate digital cross-collaboration.

Troop Impact

Woman Founders stream
Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: troopTroop Impact is a social impact tech platform for SMBs that allows businesses to meet the social responsibility demands of employees and customers by voting monthly on where their company’s social impact dollars will be allocated.

TechFusion

Black Innovation Program stream
TechFusion is an accessible digital banking platform for credit unions, cooperatives and savings groups, targeted toward the unbanked and underserved in Africa.

SensaioTech

Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: SensaiotechSensaioTech is an end-to-end fire risk assessment solution that is able to monitor and predict when and where a wildfire will occur using artificial intelligence.

Paysync

Black Innovations Programs stream
PaySync is a financial technology services company developing financial solutions for employee wellbeing and productivity.

Gander

Black Innovation Program stream
Gander is a B2B, subscription-based, AR and 3D modelling API plug-in service designed to allow customers to virtually interact with products on e-commerce sites.

ZewalletZewallet

Zewallet allows customers to scan a QR code to tip, split and pay a bill at the end of their meals, benefitting both customer experiences and merchants in cost and time efficiency and in increased revenue.

ZaNiheza

Woman Founders stream and Black Innovation Programs stream
Newest cohort of DMZ Bootcamp tech startups: Za NihezaZaNiheza is a dual booking software and travel marketplace that empowers verified operators to list and sell quality experiences online to travellers.

Sleekscore

Black Innovation Program stream
Sleekscore is a financial technology company that seeks to assist those who are either unfamiliar with credit or inadequately served by traditional financial products to build and improve their credit scores while getting into the habit of saving money.

Scooli

Black Innovation Program stream
Scooli is a one-stop-shop digital solution for educators that minimizes the time teachers and administrators spend on redundant administrative tasks.

Frenzy Brands

Frenzy Brands

Woman Founders stream
Frenzy Brands extends a child’s understanding of the stock market, business and investing with a focus on learning through play.

LeaderTree

Black Innovation Program stream
LeaderTree is a single integrated platform that enables effective leaders,

teams, collaboration and results through assessments, training, coaching and tools to understand strengths, needs, tendencies and preferences.

DataCalculus

Woman Founders stream
Data CalculusDataCalculus is an automated software that acts like a personal computer but for the purpose of advanced data analytics and machine learning for the mass market.

 

If you are an early-stage tech founder and are interested in joining the DMZ Bootcamp alongside amazing peers like these, check out more about the program and its selection criteria here. Our next cohort kicks off September 2022!

23 up-and-coming tech startups you’ll want to keep an eye on

Meet the DMZ’s newest Bootcamp cohort, 23 companies who are innovating across diverse industries


Our newest
Bootcamp cohort is in full swing. The DMZ is ecstatic to present 23 tech companies that have been hand-selected to join this cohort, from startups that produce smart bedsheets, to platforms that help businesses share data about their carbon footprint. For the next 6 weeks, the DMZ will help these founders validate their business idea, establish a minimum viable product, and build a roadmap for implementation to launch their startup.

Bootcamp founders participate in peer-to-peer sessions, founder roundtables, and expert-led workshops. They receive 80+ membership benefits valued at $470,000+, have one-on-one support from our Program Leads, and much more. Post-graduation, they will be on track to launch their startup within 3 months and generate revenue within 6, allowing them to kick-start their entrepreneurial journey!

The cohort has founders based in Canada, U.S., U.K., and Ukraine.

Keep an eye out for these startups who are making major waves in tech:

lightster image
Lightster
offers a mobile platform for customer interviews on-demand.  They enable Product Managers & Entrepreneurs (Creators) to talk to target customers (Lightsters) in 60 seconds, allowing anyone to earn $60 an hour by being their true self with no investment or skillsets required.

notion patch
Notion Patch is an ed-tech startup offering online XR exams. Identifying the need for online exam security and XR technology positions, Notion Patch offers customers to complete certified & approved exams online in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, or with a Smartphone AR App.

 

crowdparty
Crowd Party Inc.
is the Netflix for workplace games, allowing teams to build joyful connections remotely or in a hybrid working environment.

 

ballstreet image
BallStreet
is building a fractionalized stock market for trading sports cards on the blockchain. They enable card owners to earn royalties and buyers to invest in fractional ownership in the sports world’s most sought-after collectibles.

 

carbongraph
Carbon Graph is a communications platform for businesses to share data about the carbon footprint of their products. It is the first of its kind to enable complex, global supply chains to achieve carbon transparency and associated ROI.

 

carjuggle
Car Juggle
is a platform where users can appraise, buy, sell, or lease a pre-owned vehicle, with the ability to determine fair market value, list or buy, and get instant offers from dealers, including international buyers.

 

swftr image
SWFTR
provides a platform to streamline the process of making critical deliveries with high reliability, transparency, and efficiency. Equipped with a technology-enabled platform and scalable network of delivery professionals, SWFTR offers clients a holistic critical logistics solution, allowing them to focus on their day-to-day operations.

 

dwella image
Dwella
is a prop-tech company aiming to democratize real estate investing. By leveraging the ethereum blockchain, Dwella is making fractional ownership possible and providing liquidity.

 

tailwind
Tailwind is an online guidance counselling platform that helps students make a successful transition into the first year of post-secondary school.

 

litespace image
Litespace
is a modern, hybrid, and remote workplace solution focused on optimizing efficiency and engagement in the workspace. Through AI, Litespaces enables efficient collaboration among employees based on their statuses, teams, roles, and their proximity to each other.

 

noxware
Noxware Ltd.
is a MedTech startup that produces smart bedsheets for remote health monitoring for seniors requiring telehealth services at home. Noxware’s bedsheets can detect different patterns of body movement, perform remote rehabilitation, and monitor cardiovascular abnormalities and sleep disorders.

 

gobazzinga image
GoBazzinga
is a blockchain-powered gamified social media platform that helps creators in developing faster monetization of sustainable revenue streams that allows them to continue doing what they love.

 

quanta vici image
Quanta Vici
is a smart wearable tech startup that was born to expand the spectrum of human senses and abilities through practical day-to-day smart wearable technologies. Their products include Smart Heated Wearables, a product line of gloves and socks that sense and maintain the exact temperature clients personally chose.

oo

Cartoonely is a marketplace that helps customers purchase custom art made by real artists. Cartoonely has sold custom portraits across 14 different countries within a year.

 

round
Round the Block
offers a mobile app that helps students find driving instructors easily. They also organize instructor schedules and handle daily marketing, enabling instructors to focus on teaching.

 

virtue image
Virtue
is a Chrome extension that empowers consumers to make a change by leveraging their buying decisions. Virtue activates when users shop online while seamlessly recommending 300+ Black-owned alternative businesses.

 

baa
Beauty N Brushes
is a social beauty booking web app connecting women and People of Colour to Black beauty professionals. It allows clients to explore the Black beauty looks they love and book the professionals responsible for those looks.

 

arrow
Simplicad
is building a SaaS-enabled marketplace that allows homeowners to order custom ironwork from all around the world.

 

snap write ai
SnapWrite AI
uses product images to generate product features and product descriptions for eCommerce companies. They provide tools for retailers, independent store owners, in-house marketing teams, and copywriters to structure a brand’s catalogue.

 

brainbot
Brainbot is a personalized concussion recovery app that gamifies recovery, focusing on tracking activities and symptoms and providing the clear guidance survivors seek. Their platform connects users virtually with licensed Occupational Therapists for enriched support. Shelley Vaisberg, Brainbot’s founder, is available for private consultation here.

 

granularity​​
Granularity helps businesses decide how much to order and how often with improved accuracy. Granularity infuses demand forecasting with AI and big data, using social media, macroeconomics, and more.

 

visionai
VisionAI Solutions
integrates data from wearables and medical devices and patient EMR (Electronic Medical Record) data to provide real-time data on homecare, retirement home, and long-term care clients.

carbongraph
Vicuna Corp
is an ed-tech startup that houses Scholaebot, a smart engine streamlining the creation, generation, editing, and management of mathematics content with minimal user input. Scholaebot consists of a base repository of mathematics template questions, and analyses and generates similar questions based on those templates.

 

If you are an early-stage tech founder and are interested in joining the DMZ Bootcamp, check out more about the program details and selection criteria here.

 

Introducing Nathaniel Bagnell: Alumni-in-Residence Spotlight

Hear from Nathaniel on why he’s excited to give back to the DMZ community, the experiences of an Indigenous entrepreneur, and how he conceptualized the MVP for LiveGauge


The DMZ is thrilled to introduce Nathaniel Bagnell, the co-founder of
LiveGauge, and our newest alumni to join the DMZ’s Alumni-in-Residence (AiR) program

Nathaniel’s breadth of business expertise will provide founders guidance in accounting, resource planning, hiring, product management and corporate strategy. 

The AiR program brings alumni back to the DMZ to act as mentors to the founders in current DMZ programs. Whether it’s offering sound business advice to new founders or providing guidance on personal development as an entrepreneur, AiRs play a vital role in the success of current startups at the DMZ – they were once in their shoes, and they know exactly what it’s like to be an early-stage founder.

A marketing technology entrepreneur with over 12 years of experience, Nathaniel is an ambitious founder with a strong interest in creating and participating in innovative ideas, projects, and products that impact the world in a positive way.

At the DMZ, we are committed to creating an equitable future for all founders; a prosperous economy is one that fosters diverse perspectives. The underrepresentation of Indigenous founders has been a persistent issue in the startup ecosystem as they are met with a disproportionate number of barriers when trying to break in. 

We sat down with Nathaniel to learn more about his expertise, his entrepreneurial journey, the evolution of LiveGauge, and the challenges and opportunities Indigenous entrepreneurs experience.

 

What are your areas of expertise? What can founders come to you with questions about?

“My core expertise revolves around operational and financial aspects of business. This includes resource planning, hiring, product management, go-to-market strategy, product planning, budgeting, forecasting, and vertical expansion planning. I can also help with managerial accounting and financial accounting from my years of being the sole bookkeeper at LiveGauge.” 

 

What made you decide to come back to the DMZ, now as an AiR?

“I would not be where I am today without the DMZ and the support it has given me. I feel so appreciative of everyone who has helped me get to where I am, and I truly want to help others in the same boat. Being able to support other entrepreneurs through the DMZ is something I couldn’t be happier to do. 

 

Could you tell us a little bit about LiveGauge’s history? What problem were you trying to solve?

LiveGauge is an experiential marketing suite that helps brands and agencies better understand how effective their campaigns are.

“LiveGauge started by combining two ideas from experiences in my career. The concept of tracking people and understanding what led them to buy a product emerged from my time working at Future Shop as a merchandiser. 

Every Thursday, we rearranged the shelf order based on a planogram printed out by the POS system. Some products were positioned based on payments from the brand, but most positioning decisions were made based on historical sales information. 

I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be better to understand how we got to the end result of a purchase versus using end results to generate more end results?’ This is where my desire to understand consumer behaviour came from.

In a later role, I worked in mobile app development. In this job, I learned how it’d be possible to execute on the process of collecting consumer behaviour data. I was researching mobile devices and their technological capabilities and discovered a paper that explained the types of signals that cell phones emit. I used it as the MVP basis to execute on the business concept of LiveGauge.”

 

It has been nearly 9 years since you first launched LiveGauge — how has the company grown and evolved?

“Over the past 9 years, the company has been reborn. Every facet of the business, from the technological foundation, to the customers, to our founding team, has evolved.

Some changes were evolutionary, like adapting components to changing privacy laws and re-developing our algorithms to meet mobile marketplace changes. Others were revolutionary, like completely changing our target customer base, re-structuring our company, and developing new products completely outside of our primary focus. 

There are positives and negatives, of course. Positive growing moments are easy to point out — like moving into our own office space and surpassing revenue goals. Negative ones are hard to recognize as blessings, but they push us outside of our comfort zones. 

One notable example would be the pandemic. We are in the events business, and with in-person gatherings shut down around the globe, we were forced to look into new product developments and other target customers. Now, we are a multi-industry business with revenue streams from different verticals!”

 

What was your experience at the DMZ Incubator back in 2017 like?

“I still remember getting the invitation to be a part of the Incubator — it felt so right for us. We wanted to be part of a community that shared our drive, and understood our struggles and dreams.

Our fellow DMZ startups in the space had an array of experiences and lessons to share, from B2B and B2C companies, loyalty program startups, fintech, to medical training education solutions. Being surrounded by other startups makes you even more hungry as an entrepreneur. Seeing others commit 110% to their business makes you want to commit 150%. It’s a fuel like no other.

The community was exceptionally valuable, not just from the other entrepreneurs, but the DMZ’s advisors and EiRs. Their experience and insights were priceless. Mentorship is one of the best hacks a startup can utilize. A handful of solid sessions with someone who has been in your shoes can save you hours from making their same mistakes.”


“Being surrounded by other startups makes you even more hungry as an entrepreneur. Seeing others commit 110% to their business makes you want to commit 150%. It’s a fuel like no other.”

 

Any insights into your experiences as an Indigenous entrepreneur? What kinds of support can startup incubators, government, etc. provide Indigenous entrepreneurs?

“I often have encounters with individuals who, at no fault of their own, stereotype what an Indigenous founder ‘should’ look like.

When I let someone know I’m Miꞌkmaq they are a bit shocked, which is understandable given the way the media and Hollywood have painted the picture of Indigenous peoples. I think we’ll see that change soon though!

Today, we’re seeing more grants being offered exclusively to Indigenous entrepreneurs and strong business support communities. What I find the most interesting is that there are companies across North America that want to work with businesses that are minority-owned, Indigenous included!

These companies seek minority-owned businesses for a handful of reasons, including government incentives, and preferential selection as a second-tier supplier or vendor if they are listed as working with minority-owned businesses.

The startup ecosystem can always be better, but quite frankly there’s never been a better time for anybody to start following their entrepreneurial dreams, Indigenous peoples included.”

 

Are there any mentors from your early days as an entrepreneur that have made an impact on your personal or professional growth?

“There are three that come to mind. I’ll just refer to them by their first names. The first is James, he taught me how to persevere through tough times and adopt a ‘hustler’ mentality. His lessons have helped me identify when to adapt, when to go all in and fight, or cut my losses and move on. 

The second is Dave. He has changed the way I look at and execute sales. He helped me to understand that the qualitative part of sales is equally as important as your quantitative parts. Focus on the psychology of your sales as much as you do your performance KPIs. Sales is an art and a science, and his mentorship has been invaluable. 

The third would be Sheri. Her guidance and advice are not explicitly business-related, but she  helped me to grow personally, which is critical as a business leader.”

 

Connect with Nathaniel here.

 

To access mentors like Nathaniel, apply to our programs today by visiting dmz.to/incubator.

Meet 25 up-and-coming tech startups in the DMZ’s Bootcamp

Introducing a new cohort of Bootcamp companies who are making waves across diverse industries 

Our newest Bootcamp cohort is in full swing, and we are ecstatic to present the 25 tech companies that we have hand-selected to help grow. For the next 6 weeks, the DMZ will help these founders validate their business idea, establish a minimum viable product and build a roadmap for implementation to launch their startup.

Our Bootcamp founders get the chance to participate in peer-to-peer sessions, founder roundtables and expert-led workshops, receive 80+ membership benefits valued at $470,000+, have one-on-one support from our Program Leads, and much more. Post-graduation, they will be on track to launch their startup within 3 months and generate revenue within 6, allowing them to kick-start their entrepreneurial journey!

We are thrilled to share that our new cohort has a global reach, with startups based across 8 different countries: Canada, Italy, Nigeria, U.S., Iran, Pakistan, Korea, and England. 

What are we waiting for? Meet the 25 startups in our summer Bootcamp cohort:


afrilearn image
Afrilearn is an education technology corporation leveraging seasoned teachers, animators and developers to deliver affordable, world-class education for Africans anywhere.
Glo3DInc

Glo3D offers a simplified mobile and web app for any eCommerce platforms to create, share and embed interactive, multimedia 2D and 3D product photos to their online stores.

 

PaydApp is Canada’s first financial app dedicated to post-secondary education. Payd leverages natural spending habits of current, former, and future students to help them pay off their student debt with ease, limiting financial stress and hardship. 


Websona connects students with campus involvement opportunities and fellow students. It allows users to connect with each other instantly by scanning their digital profile QR Code and filters extra-curricular events for users through tags.

 

Diatron Health is a health tech startup that is revolutionizing how chronic conditions can be prevented, managed and diagnosed by leveraging on the power of behavioural science, mobile computing, artificial intelligence and data science.


Stabl
is the first digital health platform with integration capabilities that enables physiotherapists providing virtual care to track and quantify a patient’s biomechanics using laptop cameras. Physios can diagnose a patient, create treatment plans, and monitor their improvements through reassessments, providing a more effective and transparent approach to virtual physiotherapy.

 

Ationlab is a lifestyle-design company that pursues social missions supporting sustainable, independent life in contemporary society. Their recently launched self-care app, Prickly, provides support to single-person households. They are also working on a portable UVC sterilizer and a mobile dumbbell using EMS technology.


TimeoutIQ Tech is an AI-powered solution that helps parents manage their kids’ recreational screen time and keeps their minds sharp with a personalized interactive K-8 education curriculum focused on Science, Math, Geography, Computer Science and English.

 


Visto is automating the immigration process to help people navigate the immigration journey at a fraction of the price. The immigration process can be extremely expensive, confusing and stressful, and Visto’s software solution was designed to empower  immigrants to go through the process on their own.

 

SCYiBL is a 6 step neuro-scientific process that helps individuals work through trauma. The app guides users to rewire their own brain using an innovative, scientifically-proven process that harnesses brain plasticity to help individuals overcome negative life events and thrive.

 


Lobbea is a private social network for apartment buildings that helps its residents communicate through a shared feed wall, as well as buy, sell, lend, and borrow items, create events, and send messages to their neighbours.

 


Djamgatech Corp builds multilingual and platform independent high tech education and certification mobile applications. Their objective is to have a global reach and help professionals and students prepare for their technical certification directly from their mobile phone.

 

iReal is the first Real-Estate-Data-Platform-as-a-Service with made-to-measure AI and NLP, capturing each organization’s ‘secret sauce’ to help them become the real estate company their clients expect.

Podium Team is a vertically integrated social media platform that connects, engages, and supports the athlete-fan community by empowering users to own and control their content and monetization.

 

PHYSICo is an application for companies to proactively identify and reduce burnout in their employees. Users send physical and custom challenges to each other and earn points for completing challenges. 

IMC Business Architecture has developed a mobile app-based banking solution that helps users build a budget using behavioural economic tools, as well as receive access to small credit for credit repair and savings tools for planning.

 

Curismart is a marketplace platform that allows healthcare professionals to only shop from verified sellers globally. This marketplace offers everything used in a healthcare facility from bin liners, materials, supplies, devices or capital equipment.

 

Pandos is an online platform that enables remote collaboration and teamwork in post-secondary programs. Students can use the platform to form and manage teams, while instructors can create teams based on criteria and assign tasks.

 

Voiceform is an online tool that gives you the ability to create surveys that can be answered with voice. It provides a convenient way to scale your research without losing the important contextual insights you would get from interviews.

 

Hutsy Financial is a Canadian digital bank committed to offering a fee-free prepaid VISA debit card with up to 30% cash back at select retailers, accompanied by an application that enables clients to track their spending and have access to early payroll.

 

Revitalizing Fitness is developing Toronto’s preeminent network of fitness and health spaces, both virtual and brick and mortar, by partnering with community gyms to develop and elevate the customer and trainer experience.

 

Bloc of Estate uses an intuitive gesture-based interface where users can share their home preferences. With that data, machine learning will automatically rank listings inferred from inputs so users waste less time going through listings.

 

Adam Wa Mishmish  is an educational cartoon created for children to learn and love the Arabic language. Catered to children aged 0 to 5, all episodes are music based for Arabic learning. Each episode focuses on a different subject, ranging from alphabets, numbers, musical instruments, animals, and more.

Blox is focused on developing supply chain technology to help clients save costs and increase visibility to their supply chain.

 


Tilaus
 helps small Canadian accounting firms to confidently implement changing professional requirements in a cost-effective, efficient and secure manner.  The cloud-based platform allows partners and sole practitioners in accounting firms to access and store client information in real-time, reducing the need for servers and outdated information.

 

If you are an early-stage tech founder and are interested in joining the DMZ Bootcamp, then check out more about the program details and selection criteria here

Applications are now being accepted for the October 2021 cohort. Apply here today!

How Canadian newcomers can land a new job in tech

DMZ guest blog by: Janey Buzugbe, Head of the Black Innovation Programs and Partnerships


Introducing Janey Buzugbe, the DMZ’s new Head of the Black Innovation Programs and Partnerships


The tech industry across Canada has been booming, and despite challenges presented by the global pandemic, the sector continues to demonstrate immense potential and strong job growth.

As a country that encourages immigration and offers professionals and entrepreneurs various methods to migrate, Canada provides a great pathway for newcomers looking to start a new journey in the sector.

In Canada, tech employment increased by nearly 60,000 positions in 2019, a growth rate of 3.6 per cent over the previous year, and now totals an estimated 1.72 million workers. Being surrounded with great opportunities at innovative companies can help newcomers to Canada find their footing faster and adjust to their new surroundings. 

However, navigating the tech job market as a newcomer in Canada can be overwhelming and is not a straightforward path. As a newcomer myself from Nigeria, I can speak to this firsthand. I hope my career experiences and learnings will be useful to newcomers looking to break into the industry. Here are a few tips on how you can land a new job in tech.

Build your brand and activate it 

Your personal brand is tied to your professional brand, and learning how to activate it is essential to landing a job in tech.

Branding yourself can be just as important as the technical skills and expertise you bring to the table. Employers and recruiters can easily forget about what qualifications you have from a pool of similar candidates, but what they will remember is your energy (some people call these interpersonal skills). Being uplifting, positive and warm will stick in people’s minds. Think about what is unique about your energy, and let it shine.

Not sure what aspects of your personality stand out? Try taking online personality tests, like Myers-Briggs, to provide yourself with empirical evidence on what personality traits you bring to the table and ask people who know you what they notice!

Another great way to activate your personal brand is to write yourself a brag book and always update it! List out all of your accomplishments that speak to the type of employee and person you are. Have you won any special awards? Any notable achievements from your personal or professional life? Has anyone ever pointed out anything nice about you, or what you have done for them?

We can often forget about our wins over time, so starting a running list to remind yourself of the great things you’ve done will allow you to shine during interviews, coffee chats and networking events.

Remember that every interaction you have, whether it be at a formal networking event, dinner with friends or encounters with your neighbour, serves as a networking opportunity. We never know what an interaction can lead to, so it’s important to leave a positive impression. Try to leave any meaningful interaction you have with a call to action. Let any new connection you make know that you’re looking for a job in tech and to let you know if they are aware of any promising opportunities.

This can open more doors than you may think, as many jobs today are fulfilled through internal recommendations and connections! But don’t forget to lend a hand, as the best way to get is to give.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to showcase your side businesses and passion projects. Being involved with volunteer organizations, or working to create an online presence via social media is a part of you that should be front and center. Employers in Canada want to see that you have interests and hobbies outside of work. It speaks to your character, your ability to hustle and you come off as a well-rounded professional, so make sure to include your side activities on your resume and LinkedIn! 

Networking 

As mentioned, a lot of organizations today hire based on internal recommendations. Applying online via company websites can still be effective, but having a connection willing to vouch for you can make a world of a difference.

A really great way of connecting with others and catching wind of opportunities is community support groups and professional networks, such as the Black Professional in Tech Network and ACCES employment. Being able to lean on others in similar boats is a great way to share lessons learned and best practices.

LinkedIn groups are also an excellent way to connect with the community. For instance, there are groups catered for Nigerian IT professionals in Canada. Look for groups that would make sense for your circumstances as a newcomer and professional and use them to your advantage. 

Another great tip when it comes to networking is doing your homework before connecting with someone new. Conversations will be much more effective if you have common ground to speak to. Find a few similarities between the two of you before connecting. Maybe they volunteered at the same organization as you, also immigrated to Canada or share a similar interest. Whatever the connection is, it will allow you to have an unforced conversation that flows naturally. Plus, who doesn’t like to be complimented?! 

Handling Rejection 

Rejection is a part of life and is something that all professionals need to get comfortable with. Do not get discouraged if you are told no. Remember that each no you receive from a potential employer is one response closer to a yes. “No” means you get the chance to look forward to the next opportunity.

Try asking yourself, how many passes does it take before you get a yes? If you gamify it this way, it allows you to not take things personally. There are many different reasons why you could be rejected, some of which may be completely out of your control. Instead of being discouraged, use your learnings for the next opportunity that comes your way.

Canadian nuances 

It’s important to recognize that every country has its own business culture and customs. Brushing up on the norms and nuances in Canadian business culture will ensure you don’t have any blindspots. 

For instance, in Nigeria, having respect for authority figures is of the utmost importance. Oftentimes individuals will not ask questions or question an authority figure because they have fear of retribution. Whereas in Canada, asking questions and rethinking the way things are done is highly praised. Furthermore, in Nigeria, people often tend to keep their head down and focus on simply getting the work done. In Canada, connecting with colleagues, joining special committees or volunteering for a special opportunity is very well regarded. 

The job market in Canada is certainly competitive, but with the right mindset and approach you will be able to land your dream job in the industry. Remember to not give up, and keep trying – something will come up! 

Want to learn more about Janey and her advice to newcomers? Check out her YouTube channel for more lessons, tips and resources to navigate working and living as a professional in Canada. 

For more information on how the DMZ is empowering the next wave of Black entrepreneurs through our Black Innovation Programs, check out our website. 

The best coworking spaces around the world

The number of coworking spaces around the world is on the rise. In 2017 approximately 1.2 million people worked out of shared spaces; and that number is expected to only grow in the coming year, according to the Global Work Survey.

It’s not hard to see why these types of new-age offices have spiked in popularity. As the economy shifts, more adults are taking on freelance work or launching their own startups. For those who don’t require the kind of mentorship that an accelerator provides, these are a great alternative. Not to mention, many now offer extravagant features — everything from in-house masseuses, to on-tap prosecco and 20-ft swinning pools.

If you’re a digital nomad looking for a cool office while travelling the globe, or an entrepreneur just in need of workspace, there are a ton of places to choose from. Here’s are list of the top offices around the world. 

Parisoma, Silicon Valley

parisoma
Parisoma is an outlier in Silicon Valley, because it successfully blurs the line between an accelerator 
and coworking space. Members get more than just a place to work; they get access to business classes related to marketing, web development, freelancing and more. Entrepreneurs can network with the 200-plus other entrepreneurs working out of its space or its extended network at any time. Prices range from $325 per month for its “open spaces” with no assigned desks to $7,000 for closed offices.

Standout features: Free community space, in-house admin support, free wifi, access to technical workshops and classes.

Primary, New York City

primary

If you’re a Canadian entrepreneur heading to the Big Apple save money (and alleviate any stress) by working out of 
Primary.

The co-working space is located in the heart of the city’s financial district. Tech entrepreneurs can apply to join for free through the DMZ at any time throughout the year. If accepted, startups get unfettered 24/7 access to its suite of offices, as well as snacks, complimentary yoga and other wellness classes. Bonus: Entrepreneurs can also take advantage of the office’s exclusive workshops and learning events.

Standout features: Free for select Canadian entrepreneurs, 24/7 access, located in the heart of financial district, lockers and hot desks.

WeWork, London

wework

WeWork — a tech company that operates shared coworking spaces across the globe — has a whopping 24 offices spread out across London and the greater area. Each one has its own design, but carries the same perks found at each of its international locations. Namely, that means big open spaces, private rooms for meetings and dependable wifi.

Prices vary by location, but range from £400 ($677 CAD) per month to £34 ($57) for an ‘on-demand’ day pass. Of course, working out of any office in England’s biggest city doesn’t come cheap. Thankfully membership comes with a few unique perks: The company’s free app lets users do everything from book conference rooms to network with its other creators across the globe. Users also have the opportunity to work out of the company’s other WeWork spaces located in 67 international cities.

Standout features: Pet-friendly, located in the core of London, 24/7 access, meditation rooms, bookable offices, high-speed internet.

Naked Hub, Beijing

Naked Hub
Beijing’s fast-paced tech scene is growing by leaps and bounds. This year the metropolis (along with Shanghai) made its debut on 
Startup Genome’s top startup cities and companies are taking notice. 

Naked Group may not well known within Asia, but the company’s winning business model in Asia is attracting entrepreneurs (and media attention) from across the country. The luxury resort company opened its first Beijing office, located in a refurbished factory, this spring.  Entrepreneurs who join can connect with other startups working out of its other Chinese offices through its exclusive network and get access to onsite services, like on-demand admin help and wellness services. Digital membership — access to the company’s online community — costs approximately¥300 ($57 CAD). Meanwhile, desk space ranges from ¥1800 ($346) to¥3000 ($577 CAD).

Standout features: On-site dedicated admin staff a.k.a ‘Naked Angels’, hot desks, shared community space and wellness rooms

East Room & Spaces, Toronto

eastroom
If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, then, you’re in luck. Toronto already has a variety of co-working spaces open in the city more planned for 2018. One of those places is Amsterdam-born Spaces, located at 180 John St., Toronto.

Another go-to office is the city’s East Room. Club members get access to its boardrooms, reception services, wifi and more for $500 per month. The highest level, premium membership, starts at $3,300 per month for enclosed offices.

Standout features: Access to its onsite programs, which includes community events with industry insiders.  

 

How Canada became a hotspot for artificial intelligence research

Canada’s dominance in the artificial intelligence space is drawing attention from techpreneurs around the world. The country, probably better known in recent years for its pop music exports and human rights record, has become a hotbed for the computer algorithm-powered technology over the last five years.

Toronto’s startups making waves

 
Last summer, Montreal’s Element AI raised an eye-watering $102 million from investors and earlier this year Toronto-based Integrate.ai secured a $5 million seed round. That’s on top of other notable moves being made by some of today’s more entrenched companies, like Royal Bank that will employ AI for its customer operations and DeepMind, a Google-acquired intelligence company, opened an office in Alberta last summer.

Not to be outdone, General Motors said it was going to launch one of its self-driving research hubs in Markham, Ontario. Thomson Reuters last year announced it would open a Toronto center for “cognitive computing” that would create 400 “high-quality” jobs.

How did this happen?

 
So, how did we get here and why now?  It doesn’t hurt that Canada has become famous for its liberal immigration policy. Just recently it opened its doors to tech talent willing to relocate to Canada.

The fast-track visa program offers up permanent residency and is designed to woo talented innovators from around the world. The Canadian government has also committed about $125 million to A.I.

Officials at all three levels are also lending a helping hand. In late 2016, the federal, provincial and municipal governments joined forces to launch the new Toronto-based Vector Institute.

The non-profit is focused on A.I. research and helping startups get funding for ongoing work. It also has backing from tech giants like Google and Air Canada — making it a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile Montreal is home to its own deep learning expertise thanks to Yoshua Bengio (one of the co-fathers of deep learning) and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms.

Future outlook

 
But Canada faces a tough (and unpredictable) road as it battles for AI superiority. Compared to the U.S., Canadian startups receive a fraction of the investment dollars that their counterparts in the U.S. do.

For example, last year $69.1 billion was invested in America found the National Venture Capital Association, while Canadian companies received $3.2 billion. But, things are now on the rise. Last year represented the seventh straight year of growth for VC investment in Canada and the largest since 2001.

While only time will tell how far Canada’s A.I. scene will fare in the future. Although, its current booming outlook signifies that things for the country (and Toronto especially) look bright.

“Toronto’s tech industry is booming right now, so it’s no surprise that it’s also emerged as a hub for AI job opportunities.”

Daniel Culbertson, an economist at job-seeking website Indeed, shared with BetaKit.

What Labour Day means in a tech-friendly world

It’ll soon be Labour Day, which means the world will soon turn its attention to workers and labourers around the globe.

While the tech industry isn’t typically known for its political or labour advocacy work this year has seen it step up. Over the years, it’s intentionally stayed out of politics — and for good reason too. For many tech firms whose products are used by large swaths of people around the world taking “sides” could alienate potential users.

However, in recent years that’s all started to change. The last U.S. election and rising inequalities is pushing tech hubs around the world to grow up.

Making change

 

So why now? Tech startups and the workers they employ are increasingly asking – and in some cases even demanding – more action.

In most cases, corporate action can be traced back to one source: consumers.

It’s the one group that not even the highest executives, founders or shareholders can afford to ignore.

“In an industry that has developed a hardened reputation for avoiding politics it’s not only a sign of growth but an understanding of the greater role tech plays in day-to-day society,” explains Sean Mullin, the executive director at the Brookfield Institute, about the influence consumers are having on tech advocacy.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in 2017’s Uber debacle. The powerful #DeleteUber hashtag first made its way onto Twitter months before it picked up steam on Jan. 27, but once concerned users noticed it they sent it trending.

The outrage stemmed from the ride-hailing company’s decision to suspended its surge pricing after local NYC taxis protested President Trump’s executive order banning people from Muslim-majority countries. Uber’s response was seen by many as a way for it to profit off of the strike; something consumers weren’t happy about and has cost the company dearly.

Since the strike, Uber has lost approximately 200,00 users while its main competitor, Lyft, saw its app downloads peak almost overnight. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Lyft also pledged $1 million to fight discrimination — proof that advocacy can boost a company’s bottom line.

And, that’s not all. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have seen their profile grow since they launched their own foundation in 2015. Meanwhile PayPal, IBM and Microsoft recently pledged to increase pay for their workers and donate money to immigration-related causes after quitting the president’s business advisory council earlier this month.

What’s next?

 

For many experts, a change in the way tech companies advocate for the disenfranchised isn’t surprising and a little overdue.

“The lid is lifting,” Shahid Buttar, the director of grassroots advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the LA Times. “Comfortable people in tech are waking up. It’s easy to be aware when you’re uncomfortable; a lot of people have lost their comfort and their complacency.”

One of the most prominent examples of how startups are even joining forces and working together to enact change can be seen in the 2017 industry-wide protest against new net neutrality laws.

Dozens of companies — both big and small — and advocacy groups like Fight for the Future and Demand Progress campaigned to prevent the FCC from overturning rules that decide what sites the average person can access online.

Closer to home Canadian startups have championed the recently launched Start-up Visa program which gives newcomers an easier path to permanent residency.

 

The best tech conferences left in 2017

Tech conferences are more popular now than ever before. From Toronto’s Elevate to TechCrunch in San Francisco there are a bevy of industry-focused events entrepreneurs and business owners can choose from nowadays.

If you’re interested in diversifying your personal network, learning new skills or trying out the latest gadgets on the market now is the time to do it. Here’s your guide to the top tech conferences in North America

So many tech conferences, so little time:


Elevate Toronto


Dates:
Sept. 12 – Sept. 14, 2017
Location: Toronto
Ticket price: $647 CAD

This three-day conference in the heart of Toronto is designed with techpreneurs in mind. Founders from Canada’s top companies will be on site doling out advice, guidance and tips to those lucky enough to score a ticket.

Early-stage startups can rub elbows with talend developers looking for work and pitch the city’s lawmakers and top on their home turf. Investors like Michelle Scarborough (from BDC) and Bruce Croxon (from Round 13 Capital) will dole out advice. Those willing to splurge on conferences can take a private tour of Toronto’s most innovative tech companies.

Bonus: This year festival organizers will provide 40 free passes to minority and low-income conference goers. To apply make sure to check out their website starting August 25, 2017.

TechCrunch Disrupt SF


Dates:
Sept. 18 – Sept. 20, 2017
Location: San Francisco
Ticket price: Starting at $1,995 USD

If you’re a Canadian entrepreneur looking to meet new clients, drum up some media publicity south of the border or just learn new industry tricks from some of the best and brightest influencers then TechCrunch Disrupt is for you.

Entrepreneurs can take part money-making startup competitions, attend conference showcases presented by well-known investors or attend one of the many networking and skill-based sessions. Tickets for this showcase aren’t cheap – early-bird tickets start at $1,900 US, (link) which doesn’t include airfare, accommodation or food – but for companies looking to build traction in the U.S. it can be worth the cost.

Money2020


Dates:
Oct. 22 – Oct. 25, 2017
Location: Las Vegas
Ticket price: $2,995 USD (discounts available for eligible startups)

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the fast-paced world of fintech then Money2020 — billed as “the world’s largest payments and financial services innovation event” – is the place to go. Last year’s event included attendees from over 85 countries and this year features hour-long sessions on everything from data privacy to new-age mobile banking in developing countries and blockchain technology.

A range of skill-testing startup competitions and hackathons are also on offer for developers hoping to showcase their skills or find new employment opportunities. Regular tickets retail for $2,995 but discounts of up to 50 per cent are available for select retailers and startups (link).

TEDxToronto


Dates:
Oct. 27, 2017
Location: Toronto
Ticket price: $500 – $1,000 CAD

A good conference is about more than just networking and tech demonstrations. A great event will push participants to be better and inspires attendees to try new things.

While TEDxToronto isn’t exclusively focused on technology its seminars, presented by local influencers, tackle subjects and ideas that impact every facet of life and often touch on technology in some form. These profoundly inspiring talks deal with everything from company leadership and career motivation.

This year’s speakers include Paul Rowan (co-founder of home design store Umbra), Gimmy Chu (co-founder of green technology startup Nano Leaf) and Peter Sloly (partner at Deloitte Canada). Torontonians who can’t afford the $1,000 price tag can also watch highlights online in the weeks following the event.

Mesh Marketing


Dates:
Nov. 6, 2017
Location: Toronto
Ticket price: $299 CAD

If you’re a professional who deals with both marketing and technology, then Mesh Marketing might be the most useful for your long-term goals.

This international event deep dives into operational issues and discusses strategy-focused topics to help attendees better understand marketing technologies. Attendees also take part in the invite-only networking events that take place after the conferences and get a front-row seat to other related marketing events the company throws throughout the year.