Start-up,
Technology,
Innovation.

Events to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.

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April 17, 2017 Meg Marshall0

Twitter was one of the first social media platforms that took the world by storm. Created in March 2006, it now boasts 319 million users worldwide according to staista.com. From churches and not-for-profits to celebrities, up and coming companies and big national brands, Twitter has created a way for people to connect and do business with one another. The creation of Twitter parties or Twitter chats help create a virtual meeting spot for like-minded individuals to come together to discuss and collaborate. Here at Startup Tech Unleashed, we hope to bring people together and host monthly Twitter chats, usually in a question and answer format.

How Does it Work?

  1. To begin, a host and/or moderator will predetermine a date, time and topic. Be sure to know the correct timezone that it is being held in!
  2. Know the hashtag for the chat. This is important because it allows users to find and be found during the chat throughout the Twitterverse. Be sure to include the hashtag in all responses. And if enough users are participating, maybe the hashtag will become a trending topic (this refers to the column found on the left hand side on a desktop view, noting the top 10 hashtags in a given area). 

  3. Upon the start of a chat, introductions are made. If users also state their location, it is fun  to be able to reflect back and see what the reach of the chat was. Was it locally, provincially, nationally or even internationally?
  4. It is crucial to adhere to the syntax of questions and answers so that moderators and other users understand what comments/answers belong to which questions. Here is a sample of how things will appear: (insert diagram). As participants see other responses and want to respond to questions earlier in the chat, they simply need to just use “A1 – xxx” or “A3 – xxx”. Again, this just ensures easier organization and logistics for everyone. 

  5. Be an active participant! A chat in only as effective as the participation. Add insightful thoughts and recognition. Favourite and like other participants’ responses and also show support by retweeting. Not everyone is going to agree on everything. And that is ok, however it is important to be clean, play nice and treat others with respect. Providing constructive criticism can be done in a positive manner. What is awesome is when everyone shares resources, suggestions and give kudos to others who provide great insight.
  6. Continually check the hosts’ account for the most recent questions asked. Also, enter the chat hashtag into the Twitter search bar. Select the tab titled “Latest” to see the comments being left. If “Top” is selected, only the most active comments are shown i.e. the posts with the most “likes” or “retweets”. 

  7. Have fun! This is key! Make some new connections and friends. 
  8. Should any questions or concerns arise, be sure to flag them to the host and/or moderator by sending them a direct message or tagging them in a comment.

We look forward to meeting and chatting with everyone soon. Check the events section of Startup Tech Unleashed to determine when the Twitter chats will be held.

 


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March 6, 2017 Meg Marshall0

Welcome to the Toronto Waterloo Corridor. And guess what? Startup Tech Unleashed is certainly right smack in the middle of it. Both of our current Ontario monthly meetups are a part of this integral concept.

What is the TOWR Corridor?

It is a geographical segment of Ontario that stretches from Toronto and surrounding area to the Waterloo and surrounding area. According to Google Maps, the distance is 114 kilometers from city centre to city centre. Driving by car, it is a reasonable 90 minute trek down the 401.

It has been adopted by mayors of all cities, which include John Tory of Toronto, Berry Vrbanovic of Kitchener, and Dave Jaworsky of Waterloo. In fact, all 3 mayors visited Silicon Valley in April 2016 to entice American companies to expand operations in the Toronto Waterloo Corridor. The Toronto Star reported that Tory talked up, “…maternity leave, healthcare and Toronto being a safe city with mention of the diverse politics currently embroiling the US contrasted to Canada’s barrier-breaking and down to earth political leaders”.

What to Expect?

Innovation lives here in the Toronto Waterloo Corridor with 16 colleges and universities producing top talent.

All cities involved have created many programs and resources for startups and small businesses. In Toronto, the City has launched Enterprise Toronto and Startup Here Toronto. In Waterloo, hubs called Velocity and Communitech exist embracing talent and innovation.

The talent pool is enormous, diverse, and extremely well educated. Thecorridor.ca notes that 6 million people make up this talent pool. With a total of 16 colleges and universities in the Toronto and Waterloo cities, the studies and programs of graduates is quite broad yet also very specialized. Many companies introduce themselves to schools and student before graduation to scoop up some amazing graduates. Alternatively, many people with fantastic work experience also reside in these areas.

Join in the movement like that of big organizations like Google, Facebook, Shopify, Amazon, Sales Force or begin the journey of building a startup here. This is where you want to be!


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March 3, 2017 Meg Marshall0

Numbers have stood the test of time and should not be overlooked. We live in a world where numbers help us make important decisions from profit and loss to predicting growth and sustainability. With so many numbers coming every which way, they collect and create large pools of data. Luckily, there are organizations that can help us navigate these for those that may become overwhelmed by so many numbers.

We got the chance to meet up with Lewis from the Liberty Village based startup called ThinkData. They are “…changing the way we interact with external data”. He answers some questions on why he loves the startup world.

Q: What have some of the challenges been as a startup?

A: One of ThinkData’s cofounders, Bryan Smith, reminded me recently that the definition of a startup is, to him, a group of people who are trying to solve a problem with limited resources. For us, making external data available to businesses is a constantly evolving problem, but if it was easy someone would have done it by now. One of the challenges is not only developing an infrastructure that supports external data but also educating people on how valuable the resource actually is.

Q: What are some of the successes been as a startup?

The great people of ThinkData taking a break from data analysis and enjoying the company of one another. Photo courtesy of ThinkData.

A: Measuring success as a startup can be difficult, but I’m personally very proud of ThinkData’s platform, Namara, which is solving the problem of external data access. Breaking down the silos that separate data sources, standardizing tons of data, and just generally making it easy to use is no small feat. We were also fortunate enough to have been selected by the C100 as one of 20 companies that participated in their 48 hours in the Valley program, and in 2015 we were recognized by the Canadian Innovation Exchange as one of that years hottest companies. But really any startup that’s been around for a couple of years and has clients who are happy should consider themselves incredibly successful.      

Q: Name some of the most useful resources that any startup should tap into?

A: Toronto has become a really fertile breeding ground for startups. There are a few reasons for that, but I think that there’s been a really important focus on tech development in recent years and without them things would be a lot more difficult. We work very closely with MaRS and they’re doing great work. It’s also important to introduce yourself to other businesses in your community through a BIA network. Having a beer with someone sometimes turns into an amazing partnership opportunity.

Q: How could a startup of any size use data in their business development?

A: I don’t come from a data background, so I’m very sympathetic to the reality that when a lot of people hear “data” their eyes start to glaze over. Most businesses are already using data in their decisions, even if they’re not really aware that they’re doing so. But if you’re only using your own data, you’re really only seeing one piece of a much larger picture. Increasingly, external sources of data are the secret sauce that any company of any size can use to vault themselves to the next level of development. It’s really just a matter of starting with something small and seeing how it works for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all data, but there’s definitely data for everyone.  

For the curious minds out there – Statistics Canada is releasing the 2016 Census data in phases throughout the year. ThinkData can certainly help your startup or organization mine the numbers that are meaningful to your business. See below for the release dates of data as per the Statistics Canada website:

  • February 8th, 2017 – Population and dwelling counts
  • May 3rd, 2017 – Age and sex, Type of dwelling
  • August 2nd, 2017 – Families, households and marital status, Language
  • September 13th, 2017 – Income
  • October 25th, 2017 – Immigration and ethnocultural diversity, Housing, Aboriginal peoples
  • November 29th – Education, Labour, Journey to work, Language of work, Mobility and migration

To learn more about ThinkData, visit them online or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


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January 18, 2017 Meg Marshall1

2017 is well under way. Treat your home or office to some new life with some art from Partial Gallery. Online magazine called The Guardian reports on how some big international companies how by having art in the office boosts staff productivity.

“…being distracted at work is not always a bad thing. If the object of your distraction is a work of art, it can actually boost productivity, lower stress and increase wellbeing.” The Guardian

Partial Gallery, a Toronto based startup, is making artwork more accessible to everyone, and it doesn’t have to come at an extremely high price point either. We got the chance to chat with one of the co-founders, Tammy Yiu, to discuss this unique concept.

Q: What is Partial?

A: Partial is an art rental platform for local artists to connect with creative thinkers who want to bring original artwork into their homes or workspaces. Users can browse the catalogue and choose to rent-to-own or rent-and-rotate original artwork on their walls.

Q: When was the business started and why?

A: The idea came to me in 2013 when I lent a piece of art I had in storage to a friend. She had just moved to a condo, and while she was creative and independent, she just didn’t have access to the art she wanted. This got me thinking.

After many months of mulling over the idea, and eventually, doing some research into it led me to realize that there was a void in the art marketplace for people seeking quality original artwork for their spaces, but also minimal outlets for artists to share their work. The art market model was, for the most part, still very traditional.

We took the leap, and Partial was established in 2016.

Q: How many artists are represented at Partial and what types of art?

This piece of artwork is called “Pick Up Your Brush” by Carolanne Maclean. Photo is courtesy of Partial Gallery.

A: There are currently about 35 contemporary artists with work on Partial – some or more established on the Canadian art scene, while others are emerging talents. Their work spans across some different mediums including painting (naturally), wood, collage, and photography.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced with a startup?

A: Aside from the obvious ones (there never being enough time, or trying to move mountains on a budget), an unforeseen challenge has been trying to stay true to the original intent of Partial while still being open to outside feedback. It can be tempting to pivot for the purpose of more immediate revenue, and it can be difficult to opt to stick it out for a longer-term goal.

Another challenge that we were anticipating, but hadn’t anticipated to be such a journey, has been converting enthusiasm and interest into actual transactions. Spending money on art, and understanding art’s value, is one of the oldest concepts, yet is still a foreign concept for most of our market. Over time, it has been engrained in our minds that art is unaffordable and a luxury item, and we’re trying to change that thinking.

Q: What have some the successes been?

A: Some early successes have been the enthusiasm and active participation from the artist community. It is invigorating seeing how well-received the idea is by the local arts community, and it confirms our belief of Partial being a need for artists. Our recent partnership with Akin Collective, a collective of artists, further reinforced this.

As well, the positive response from people who first hear about the idea has been encouraging – it shows that there is the interest, and we just have to figure out how to tap into it.

Q: What resources or tools help you Partial succeed?

Sandra Brewster is the artist of the piece featured on this wall called “Dancing Girl”. Photo courtesy of Partial Gallery.

A: My co-founder Chris and I use Asana and Bootstrap, and we’ve found that the support of a few good mentors in both the startup and art world has also been very helpful. In the early months, I also sought out a couple of books and series on YouTube on the subject of startups.

Q: Why does art play such a large role in your life?

A: As a graphic designer by trade, I’ve always been interested in art and the opportunities around how to share that with people. Any form of self-expression – be it fashion, the food we choose to eat, and naturally, the art we’re partial to – is intriguing to me. As a child I enjoyed art, and now as an adult, am amazed by the courage and self-awareness it takes in artists to pursue their craft. If there is a way for to offer them a tool to share it with their community, and open up the world of art to more people, who knows how it might grow?

Spice up the office or home the next time a moment of inspiration is needed and turn to Partial and give the gift of art. And if the piece is meant to stay permanently, then the option to own it is there. Follow Partial on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see what great pieces are available.

Featured Image is courtesy of Partial Gallery. The photo features a piece of artwork by artist Carolanne Maclean. 

 


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December 30, 2016 Meg Marshall0

Startups come in the form of many ideas, industries, and innovations. Many of the common types of startups include fintech, apps, healthcare, and tech. The Post Office Sound, located in Liberty Village, doesn’t exactly fall under any of the standard categories. They are making their mark (or in this case sound) in the music production business. We caught up with Chris Martin, owner, founder and executive producer of The Post Office Sound. It is a good thing the word “Sound” is in their company name as they have been mistaken for a mail depot many times.

Chris provided some very profound, personal and encouraging words.

Q: What was the inspiration for The Post Office Inc.?

Meet Chris Martin. Owner, founder and executive producer at The Post Office Sound.

A: From the moment I was introduced to it in grade 10 tech, I fell in love with creating music with computers. As a hobby, I found it extremely cathartic.

Eventually, through some friends, I found a way to make money doing it, composing music for TV commercials. After some time freelancing for other companies, and some success, I realized I wanted to leave my 9-5 and pursue it more aggressively. I also saw a way to do things a bit differently than I had experienced them being done, working for other traditional agencies, and this first thing I realized after deciding all this, was that I needed a home for the community I was planning on building and I needed clients to take me seriously. So with a lot of help and effort, and the same amount of luck, I was able build out The Post Office in Liberty Village.

Q: What were some of the challenges that you have been faced with?

Long hours are spent in the studio, creating many different projects at Post Office Sound.

A: I’ve faced a lot with my team in getting here. When you start out and put everything you have into establishing something, it leaves you pretty vulnerable and a bit on the edge. Any missteps, and everything can come crashing down.

When first setting up, I leased and started building out a facility in a space on Spadina, in Chinatown, that was sold out from under me shortly after. I was told to leave as a result of this outside transaction, and ended up having to fight for proper compensation in a lease agreement lawsuit that held up my start-up funds and the start date of my shop by 6 months. In the end, we won, but it was a huge setback.

We’ve had delinquent clients who don’t pay for months, which, when you’re starting out and your bills are monthly, can really put you in a bad place.

Also, our 3rd year in, when we were just starting to become comfortably profitable, the property tax in our neighbourhood went up considerably, and my building passed it down to us through our TMI’s, hiking our rent up by close to $2,000 more per month, and setting us back quite a bit of progression. I’ve had equipment malfunction weeks after the warranty expired… all kinds of stuff.

You just have to be resourceful, keep your eyes on the target, and keep chugging along.

Q: What resources have helped you succeed that any startup should consider?

A: Savings, family, credit cards, determination, and faith.

At the start, there’s a lot going on, and you can dig a bit of a hole trying to get things going. The initial investment of building a proper recording and mixing facility is a costly one, and in my case, I really didn’t have a lot to work with. So, I had to stay mindful to be as resourceful as I could, so I didn’t dig a hole I couldn’t get myself out of.

I did things like hire the best studio designer and contractor around, but then didn’t hire their staff, and did the labour, under them, myself with my friends.

The banks aren’t generally interested in giving a young guy a substantial business loan to build a recording studio lol, and I didn’t seem to qualify for any grants for one reason or another. So the resources that enabled all of this have always come from within my direct community. Without my family and friends, and a lot of resourcefulness and hard work, this place simply would not be… that and Visa.

Q: How do you keep yourself and your team motivated?

Even with all of the amazing technology in the studio, sometimes playing on a classic piece is what is needed.

A: That’s one thing we don’t seem to have much trouble with. Everyone on the team, is here because they love what they do, and because they’re extremely good at what they do. We also engage heavily with our creative community. There’s a lot of give and take between the creatives we employ and the independent creatives in the music industry here. We established a symbiotic system where we have somehow meshed artists, brands, post production, and immersive technology research and development into a mutually beneficial upward spiral of content development.

That coupled with the fact that we are boutique, means we can be really selective with the projects and partners we take on. The entire team has a hand in choosing the culture of the company, the clients we engage with, the jobs we engage on, and how we approach it all, so the team as a whole, are excited and interested about everything we put our time into. In the last few years we’ve hit a great stride within VR audio space, and the team have had the opportunity to continually dive deep into cutting edge sound design work, which we are all really passionate about. That is what keeps us all engaged… pushing the frontier.

…be resourceful, keep your eyes on the target, and keep chugging along. -Chris Martin

Q: Name some of your great accomplishments?

A: We have had some great wins as a team. Starting out, breaking into a new industry, packed with existing and long-standing relationships, trying to sway clients over to your service is a tough grind. We’ve been underdogs on more job pitches than I can count, and a lot of them have went our way due to the strength of the community that call our place home. I’d say that that’s one of the biggest accomplishments here. Just the fact we are here based on cultivating a thriving community of busy creative and technical explorers. That’s a pretty great feeling.

This pioneering has allowed us to collaborate with some huge brands and artists that we really are proud to have worked with, such as; Chance the Rapper, David Cronenberg, VICE, The Toronto Raptors, JRDN, Nike, Samsung and tons more.

I’m extremely proud of the developments we’ve made within VR audio, and the jobs and clients we’ve been lucky enough to work with in that space.

We’ve also helped catapult talented artists careers through our work with Team Back Pack, such as John River. And we’ve developed a number of acts for Universal and so on… I dunno, it’s mainly just the community.

Q: If you didn’t open The Post Office Sound, what do you think you would be doing?

A: Before this, I was working PR at a few life style brand agencies. If I hadn’t done this, I’d probably be working at an advertising or marketing agency, or for a creative house, somewhere in the art direction realm. That’s always something I’ve been deeply interested in, and as of recent, a few part time/consultant type opportunities have been present, and I’m mulling them over… so who knows.

Q: What is some of the best advice you have ever been given? And what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and startups?

Looking out from the sound proof studio.

Keep Going – Chris Martin

That’s the biggest thing. You can’t give up on your dream. Once you start this path, if you want to see success, you have to keep going. Keep refining, keep growing, and advancing. One day you’ll look back and be shocked at how far you come and how much things have evolved.


A big thank you to Chris Martin. To learn more about their incredible work, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or visit their website.


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December 23, 2016 Meg Marshall0
We are getting closer and closer, day by day, minute by minute to Christmas. If you haven’t found a gift for that entrepreneur, go-go-go person on your list, we have a few suggestions.
Extra Charging Cable
7 different cellphone charging plugs adapter from USB isolated on white background
This is one of those things that we all hate to buy. But when we lose, break, or forget the magic source of power, it can be critical. Give the gifts security and convenience with an extra charging cable. Just be sure to know what device the recipient uses. Buying an iPhone charger for an Android might be problematic!

Plants and Greenery

A simple mini plant to help spruce up a work space. Photo taken by Meg Marshall.
Sometimes when we work too much indoors at our work spaces, we forget what the outdoors looks like. Plants or little succulents can add warmth, inspiration, and cheer. Have fun with the type of plant (or even flowers) but know how responsible the individual will be who is receiving it. Something low maintenance like a cactus is always an easy gift.

Coffee Gift Cards

Gift cards are always a good fit and a great choice. Photo by Meg Marshall.
Coffee and tea are often the fuel that many people need to get through the day or for a nice pick me up. It is good to have a gift card handy to easily order and enjoy whatever is desired. No need to worry about taste preferences since many coffee shops and cafes can custom make orders. This is an easy win of a gift (to both give and receive)!

Artwork

Just one of the many pieces of artwork available for rent or rent to own options through Partial Gallery. This piece is by Julie Gladstone.
Give the gift of art. It is easy to get lost into our space and execute the same routine day in and day out monotonously. Similar to the idea of giving greenery as noted above, adding art can liven up a workspace. Simple pieces of art can be found at local galleries. For larger pieces or the option to change it up more often, consider a service like startup company Partial Gallery.
Whatever is celebrated, we wish everyone a happy and safe Holiday season! We look forward to great initiatives, reconnecting with all of you and many successes in 2017!

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December 9, 2016 Meg Marshall0

So what is a startup exactly? The term is used very loosely and to describe anything from someone with an entrepreneurial idea to a group of people trying to create a solution to a problem to even a specific type of culture. When the question is posed to many individuals or organizations, their answers are slightly different yet all have similar elements. We have compiled a list of few different definitions from media and government organizations to piece together themes.

Investopia

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As a global source for finance news, tips and strategies, we thought this would be a great definition to lead off the comparison with.

“A startup is a company that is in the first stage of its operations. These companies are often initially bankrolled by their entrepreneurial founders as they attempt to capitalize on developing a product or service for which they believe there is a demand.” – Investopia

Government of Canada

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Found embedded within the Canadian Startup-Visa Application, the Government of Canada describes a startup as:

“…innovative entrepreneurs who have the potential to build dynamic companies that can compete on a global scale” – Government of Canada

Canada is the first company in the world to offer this unique yet modern type of opportunity called The Start-up Visa Program. It is an attempt to allow immigrant entrepreneurs a chance to contribute to the Canadian economy by way of job creation and to learn about the Canadian business market.

City of Toronto

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“A startup is defined as an “organization formed to search for a repeatable
and scalable business model”. – City of Toronto

The City of of Toronto has committed itself to making a Startup Ecosystem with an extensive 5 year plan that can be viewed here. It identifies digital media, technology, advanced manufacturing and life sciences as key areas that startups are involved with.

Startup Here TO 

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“…a newly established business or team project. Especially in the tech industry.” – Startup Here Toronto

Startup Here Toronto is a great platform that is really trying to draw the attention of others both in and out of Toronto as a destination hot spot for startups to consider setting up shop. They also support existing startups by featuring their story and promoting workshops and seminars throughout the city.

Urban Dictionary

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We had to throw this source’s definition in for good measure and a chuckle. For those that don’t know what Urban Dictionary is, it is a resource to learn what various slang words mean, populated by the general public and often with obnoxious explanations.

“A recently formed company. In modern terminology, it has come to describe a company formed with a business model relying on the internet.” – Urban Dictionary

Common Elements from All Definitions

  • Ability to grow and expand, especially with employment
  • Technology based
  • Early to moderate stages of the business cycle

While none of these three out of four truly credible sources provide quantitative metrics or time frames, the definition will probably always remain very vague, and open to interpretation. Here at Startup Tech Unleashed, we embrace all entrepreneurs and creative innovative spirits.


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December 9, 2016 Meg Marshall0

We’ve all been there. Under the gun to get that project done for a tight deadline. Client meetings and presentations are looming ahead but there is still so much to get done. We have rounded up 5 keys tips to help ease the pain, burden and frustration to get the job done. These are all tried, tested and true too!

Fiverr

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Many people may already know about this key resource called Fiverr. But for those that don’t, this will be a life saviour. In essence, it is a marketplace of freelancers who have varying skill sets from SEO to web development to graphic work. In many cases, work can be completed within 24 hours for a very inexpensive fee.

 Join the Local Neighborhood Association

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Community or resident associations exist in many neighborhoods, The LVRA (Liberty Village Residents Association) is the biggest one in Canada, and possibly North America. Post what job is needed. Many times, local yet talented neighbors can lend a hand and often immediately. There could be so many hidden resources just a few hundred feet away from needing help putting a shelf, to graphic design and development work to accounting advice!

 

Know Where the Local Internet Cafes Are

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A neighborhood internet cafe. Photo courtesy of Meg Marshall.

It may be 2016 (almost 2017) but these hole in the wall establishments, known as Internet or Cyber cafes still exist. They are often open late and have printing services available. So when the internet stops working after hours in the office or at home, make a mad dash to an Internet cafe. Printer ran out of ink? Head on over to the Internet cafe to help meet the deadline.

Join Zipcar

 

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There is a crucial document for the project all the way on the other side of the city. The delivery person just called to say he is no longer available and the proposal is due in the hands of the prospective client in an hour. Get around the city stress free and when you need to with the ease of Zipcar. With over 800 vehicles throughout Toronto and beyond, there is a vehicle near you. Drive by the hour or by the day with gas and insurance all included. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Zipcar has a great offer for Startup Tech Unleashed members and readers. Use code ZIPTECH20 to receive $20 in free driving credit and receive a special annual membership rate of $35. Click here to get started!

Never Underestimate Coffee

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Coffee helps many of us start the day with it’s caffeine properties. Whether there is an old standby shop that brings comfort and familiarity or the nearest Starbucks will suffice, coffee helps us get the job done. The Coffee Association of Canada stat that 2/3rds of Canadians consume 3.2 cups/day. And even more when there is a deadline in sigh. Never underestimate the power of coffee!

Did we miss any tips? Comment below and share!


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November 23, 2016 Meg Marshall0

T-A-X-E-S. This word can often make people cringe. Whether you have begun the journey of creating a startup business or are involved in an established business, taxes are something that legally and legitimately can not be avoided. Many individuals are not comfortable doing their personal taxes so business taxes can become a whole different ball game. We are here to hopefully make things a little less scary and provide some tips and suggestions to help make taxes a little less of a chore.

We got the chance to sit down with Erik Douglas. Erik is a tax accountant who focuses on helping small business and start-ups with their tax and accounting needs. He owns and operates a tax practice located in Liberty Village.

Q: When should individuals or businesses start planning for their taxes?

Photo of watch.
There is no time like now to start preparing and organizing your taxes. Photo taken by Meg Marshall.

A: When it comes to tax planning I really don’t think there is any better time than now. Even if you’re in the start-up phase it’s still important to start thinking about the future. I also believe that if you reach out to an accountant and give him some re-assurance that you’re not shopping around for opinions, they will most likely help you get started free of charge.

Q: What are some ongoing things that individuals and businesses can do throughout the year to make taxes less stressful and chaotic?

A: For those individuals who don’t enjoy filing and taxes I would say the smallest thing that will go a long way is keeping your documents centralized and organized by category. Don’t be overly concerned about the categories, just something that makes sense. The reason I say this is that if you bring a box of receipts to your accountant that is incomplete and disorganized you will end up paying for it. It will end up costing you by increased billings due to the extra time, or increased taxes due to something missing that your accountant doesn’t know exists. After all, we are only human.

Q: Are there any credentials that should be considered when choosing a company or organization to do taxes?

A: I think the logical answer here is you want to find a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). This is because CPAs have to follow a strict code of ethics (there is a 193 page manual of dos and don’ts!) and have an annual responsibility for continued education. It’s not to say an accountant who doesn’t have a CPA isn’t able to provide the services, it’s more of a safer bet when choosing a CPA.

The thing is there are a lot of accountants who are CPAs so that might not help narrow the search. Instead I think generally the best bet is to find someone that you fit with. You really should feel comfortable talking to your accountant so you really want someone you trust and are not afraid to go to when you need help. It may be a bad generalization but I really think that most accountants will do a good job with your taxes, accountants don’t get into tax to do a bad job. What I am trying to say is choose the accountant that feels right. Focus less on the qualifications, and focus more on the personality match.

Q: What are some of the common expenses that can be “written off” that people often overlook?

A: Every time I see the phrase write off I can’t help but think about Kramer explaining write offs to Jerry.

The infamous Seinfeld episode where Jerry tries to explain taxes to Kramer.
The infamous Seinfeld episode where Kramer tries to explain tax write-offs Jerry. Photo courtesy of Seinfeld.com.

Seinfeld aside, 3 of my favorite business expenses that are overlooked are:

  • Home-use-of-office expense. This allows you to deduct rent, utilities, mortgage interest, etc. as a % of business use (to a reasonable limit!).
  • Vehicle Expenses. There are a few ways to handle vehicles, usually choosing the calculation that brings the most benefit.
  • Business losses! If you’re in start-up phase and working at the same time it’s possible the costs of your side gig can reduce your taxable income from your employer potentially generating a refund (sole proprietor only)

Although those expenses are great the big overlooked way to save on taxes is income to partners, spouses, and adult children. If you’re making money and starting to think about taking a salary there are ways to distribute the income that could potentially save you a lot on taxes.

Q: Is there an optimal amount a company should donate to charity that will give a tax advantage?

A: Honestly tax shouldn’t impact your decision to give to charity, but the things that you should know is that you can only donate to charity up to 75% of your profit. In a business any donations over this limit can be carried forward.

What I would say though is that you should ensure that the charity you are giving to is registered and in good standing. You can search all registered charities, and even charities that have been terminated or suspended by CRA here: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html. Find one that fits your cause and don’t let tax affect your decision to donate.

Q: What are some common mistakes that individuals make that can be avoided?

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Stay organized for your taxes. This will help save you time and money. Photo taken by Meg Marshall.

A: This is a perfect ending question as it allows me to really try my best to help those who are starting a new business.

The biggest mistake made, which causes all the other common mistakes, is not contacting an accountant early on. I see too often clients coming to me that have really missed out on things in the past because they got advice from their friend or was referred to “their guy/girl”.

Just last month I was talking to a friend of mine and brought up the topic of HST (as I write this I realize it sounds pretty lame talking about tax with friends). Regardless, I asked if he was using the quick method for HST. He wasn’t! I couldn’t believe it as it really is easy money for freelancers in the tech scene. We were lucky but we had to file the return that night to be eligible. However the problem was he was getting advice from another tech friend up until that night.

What I am trying to say is. As an accountant who does a lot of start-up networking and works with a lot of tech companies I see all too often people getting advice from the wrong source. Take the time to find an accountant who works for you when you’re starting a business. Even if you’re your still in the planning stage it could still be worth a small fee (if they charge you) to have peace of mind knowing the information is more likely correct.

There you have it! Some great tips and suggestions to help make the daunting task of taxes less intimidating.

Photo of Erik Douglas
Erik Douglas – The friendly and extremely helpful accountant.

A big thank you to Erik Douglas for providing answers and insight to the questions. If you want to connect with him, visit his website, follow him on Twitter and Facebook or check out his blog.


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July 15, 2016 brian prokopowich0

When your tech startup is ready to expand, competing with larger, established companies can be a challenge. As much a risk hiring a college grad is, such as a developer with a lot more enthusiasm than experience is to your business, the graduate is taking risks as well. Same goes for candidates with years of experience under their belt.

Competing with other startups and established companies might seem daunting, but applying these four strategies can help you compete for, and contract top talent for your startup.

1.    Build Cool Tech Which Will Make a Difference

There are many startups out there building apps to make money, chase after the same customers which are already being served by established players, and generally not delivering much value to anyone. Addressing a defined business or personal need, and creating strategic value will attract more talent.

As much as your business wants the recognition of introducing the next “killer app” to the market, or address a problem which other tech companies have struggled with for years, new graduates want to kick start their career with a project they can showcase on their resume. Landing, and keeping top talent requires investment, commitment to innovate, and strategic value.

2.    Loyalty and Commitment to Team

If your company gets a reputation of firing employees who make mistakes early on, word travels fast. Your earliest n of a revolving door.  who have experience with empowering teams to success, and have them play an active role in the hiring process.

The last thing a startup needs is a reputation of letting new hires go at the first sign of trouble. Coach, empower and support your teams to succeed, and workplace morale will benefit. The cost of searching for, recruiting and contracting new staff exceeds coaching and empowering people who are already working for you.

3.    Communicate Frequently, Set Common Goals

Once you hire staff of any age, ensure you keep to your playbook as far as:

  • Your strategic differentiators and unique selling proposition
  • Your company goals
  • The timelines you have established to meet your growth targets

Millennials often get a bad rap in terms of their career objectives and work ethic. But with effective career guidance, some flexibility with work environment or work hours, and prioritizing deliverables over rules, millennials can be top contributors to your company. 9-5 hours don’t necessarily produce the best results, so consider flex hours, or telecommuting/home office flexibility for tenured employees.

4.    Community Engagement and Intrapreneurship

Just because your company is a startup, doesn’t mean you can’t play a role in your local community. Community groups and causes can be a great source of energy, ideas and strategic partnerships:

 

  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Startup Canada
  • Startup Tech Unleashed
  • Startup Drinks/Startup Grind
  • Local maker spaces, innovation hubs and accelerator events

Don’t just send your founders to these events, have your whole team go to network with like-minded technologists, designers and developers. Keep an eye out for new partnerships, contractors for upcoming projects, and talent that might be looking for a new opportunity to contribute to a winning team.

If your startup technology company is seeking talented leaders, creative staff or technical bench strength, consider these opportunities to:

  • Connect with your local and industry community groups
  • Empower your team to attract their extended network
  • Reinforce your goals, and define the value you deliver to customers
  • Communicate with your team to create a supportive, transparent work environment

If you are looking for other ways to grow your startup technology firm, connect with Startup Tech Unleashed and join us at an upcoming event.

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