Start-up,
Technology,
Innovation.

Events to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.

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March 6, 2017 brian prokopowich0

Terminator, Eagle Eye, The Matrix…robots always come back to crush the humans whenever they are given too much intelligence or too much feeling…or at least they make a point to enslave all of humanity.

Where do we draw the line? We’ve begun to see ads for Google Voice and Alexa which champion the fact that AI can do anything for you from scheduling appointments to making purchases online.

With companies already there for ‘home monitoring’ or ‘make everything electronically accessible’, such as locking your door, watching your security cameras or using appliances, how far are we willing to let artificial intelligence and tech giants into our minds and homes?

I’d like to bring up a few points regarding the need for tech in our everyday activities, starting with the most obvious argument, privacy. Hopefully, bringing some things to your attention you haven’t thought of.

Let’s say you want to use Alexa to buy a desk, off of Amazon of course, they made Alexa. It seems harmless, Amazon already has your credit card info online, so what’s the difference? The concern should come from the it’s always listening argument. Phones are already doing this, that strange feeling where you’re talking about something with friends and the next time you go on a device it’s being advertised to you; that’s because Google is listening.

This may come to a shock to you, but this is how it is these days and it is being normalized. A lot of apps ask for access to your microphone for this reason, which is why I don’t have the Facebook app, because frankly I trust them the least.

If you’re okay with your Amazon AI consistently listening to you and your family in your home like Scarlett Johansson then so be it, I’m sure the government would never acquire that information if necessary (*hard wink*). At this point I have many things through Google and I’d rather not add more to the list of companies that know everything about me.

Normalizing Non-Human Consciousness

The other day I saw an ad for a robotic dog that actually woke someone up from their sleep, to ‘play with’ it. At that point I decided that was the worse product of all time. Assuming we aren’t far off from making robot dogs soft, squishy and loveable, do we really want to venture into replacing real, living things with forms of seemingly awesome tech for ease, or to replace a loved one so that we don’t have to miss them?

In case you missed it, we can already map a human consciousness into a machine, no not just like a Johnny Depp movie, but some have already done this. It seems very scary to think we could one time incorporate robots into our everyday life.

Should we rely on it for the most human things like loved ones, pets or day to day interactions…

Should We Rely so Heavily on Tech in our Everyday Lives?

I’m sure most of us are comfortable with forgetting GPS coordinates and phone numbers, leaving that up to our devices. What else should we forego? What does this do to an economy?

These are conversations we need to have. Amazon releases a lineless grocery store and boom! There goes what, 50 potential jobs? How much further are we willing to go in terms of eliminating human contact? Because it’s already causing problems in other parts of the world; Japan basically just released a virtual girlfriend-err-assistant which will send you texts during the day.

Korean women are majority not interested in marriage while half of the Japanese youth aren’t interested in sex or relationships. It’s almost like looking into the future reading those articles, as you begin to see what long term use of technology results in: lack of relationships and human interaction. When you replace sex with porn, social outings with gaming and relationships with virtual assistants, the rate of marriage, children and relationships/sex starts plummeting at rates Generation Tinder seems destined to move towards.

Less human interaction being bad for the economy is a topic not to be ignored.

It’s already happening here; millennials are having the least sex, making the least money and are staying at home longer. Maybe a valid argument can be made that all three are tied by the economy’s state, or you can use any number of social-justice positions pushed forward, but one hand seems to wash the other and perhaps we need to ask (or re-ask) the now recurring question: is technology bringing us closer together or further apart?


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March 4, 2017 brian prokopowich0

People are slowly gravitating away from the most traditional social mediums (traditional? How old am I?) and hopping on board with the new, more fresh places to be cool.

While YouTube has been around for quite some time, it is only getting more popular as users are seemingly growing tired with the censorship of sites like Facebook and Twitter (Minds is a new platform I’m liking) and pushing towards less, how do you say, politically inclined platforms; more on Facebook later.

Snapchat may be looking at a $25 billion valuation “with price guidance now likely to be $1-$2 above the $14-to-$16 estimated price range for shares”.

They have planned to sell 200 million shares at the price listed above, which would raise over $3 billion for the company. This would make it the largest IPO on American soil since Facebook went public with $16 billion in 2012. Comparatively, in 2013 Twitter got $1.8 billion, which all of course look like peanuts next to the $25 billion of Chinese super power Alibaba.

Despite the criticism of Facebook mounting by the month, they recently hit an all-time high in their stock, why?  Instagram, which they own. Instagram has been following the style of Snapchat which is spearheading its success, which begs the question: What can Facebook do to keep up?

With Twitter fading in the rear-view mirror, Facebook is doing what made Instagram popular (and Mark Zuckerberg rich), take others’ ideas and make them better. Facebook is adding new features to compete with the job search platform LinkedIn.

A company spokesman recently told Reuters “Based on behavior we’ve seen on Facebook, where many small businesses post about their job openings on their Page, we’re running a test for Page admins to create job postings and receive applications from candidates,”.

It only makes sense, although this writer would prefer for everything not be filtered through social media. Besides, anyone will tell you that a successful job interview requires going to the company’s website to learn more about them. On the other hand, most (companies) put their heart (content) on their sleeve (Facebook) anyway.

Lastly, YouTube is making giant bounds and attempting to save the cable TV industry on their own. YouTube recently captioned over 1 billion of their videos to help out those with hearing issues.

That is essentially where the nobility stops and business begins, as YouTube star Philip DeFranco announced, the media giant is going to be offering YouTube TV; a subscription-based service for, you guessed it, Cable TV.

No doubt this is because Cable TV subscription numbers are getting really low, and news-media giants are noticing no one is tuning into them anywhere near the rates they are watching Joe Rogan, Alex Jones or the aforementioned Philip DeFranco on YouTube.

A desperate attempt to get money by the networks or a noble attempt to save jobs and content variety by Google? Either way, it seems YouTube comes out on top and has nothing to lose by giving a large audience a chance to see more content.

Let us know what you think in the comments.


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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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February 10, 2017 brian prokopowich1

With Canada’s debt mounting, it is more important than ever for investors (whether angel or not) to put money back into our country to try and create jobs, and 2017 is the best time to do it.

For starters, by way of Google, University of Toronto and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms Canada is poised to be one of the global leaders in the research of artificial intelligence.

According to Sam Sebastian, Managing Director of Google Canada, “large companies, startups, incubators and federal investment coming together to support a shared vision: To make Canada the global leader in AI research.”

Stephen Lake, Co-Founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs is another industry leader and investment seeker who has made predictions for 2017. One of those being wearables, saying “Wearables continued to fight and make traction in 2016, but new form factors will open up new possibilities in 2017.”

After raising $120 million USD in 2016, Lake seems poised to keep pushing this momentum forward, which is good news for Canadians everywhere.

Thalmic Labs was also listed on Betakit’s 11 companies to watch in 2017, which includes businesses that are hot and ripe for further investment. Digital health insurance from League  and online real estate from Zoocasa are just a couple examples.

With so many industries switching to online tech, these are where the investments are really going. Customer service and market evaluation are booming too, like Hopper, an app that analyzes and predicts airfare, which is incredibly handy if you’ve ever become frustrated trying to book a flight.

Once companies like this hit the ground running, it’s a safe bet that duplicates will pop up. Food-delivery apps are popping up out of every corner as fast as applications for Snapchat and Instagram are.

As the Financial Post (via Bloomberg) points out “There have only been two Canadian IPOs in the past 12 months larger than $100 million. In the U.S., several tech companies have been waiting in the wings during the election. Now that markets have stabilized, big-name companies such as Snap Inc., parent of Snapchat, Blue Apron Inc., and MuleSoft Inc. are expected to pursue share sales next year.”

Of course Canada needs more of this, now more than ever. Restrictions, taxes and electricity costs have been a huge hurdle for Ontario businesses to overcome, let alone attract sexy investments into companies which stifle initial public offerings (IPOs) from coming about down the road.

It would be somewhat of a tragedy to have to wait until an election in 2018 for changes to be made to increase business expenditure in Canada. However, as the tech industry often does, it is possible to defy the odds.

One example the aforementioned article is Mississauga’s ‘PointClickCare’, which is poised to be going public in 2017, following the lead of real-estate data company Real Matters Inc.

It is companies like these Canadians need to invest in and support, to continue to develop tech companies in our future.

StartupTechUnleashed aims to support more and more Canadian companies as the months pass, with a lot of high expectations for 2017. Keep checking back, as the Canadian climate keeps building in a positive direction.

Written By: Andrew Chapados


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February 8, 2017 brian prokopowich1

If you haven’t heard, social media is everywhere. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat (do I go on?) there are, believe it or not, some do’s and don’ts for these platforms.

Most of the following can be avoided with careful research, citation and not trying to do ‘what’s cool’. It’s especially paramount for tech companies. Trying to duplicate what’s consider ‘edgy’ or ‘cool’ can come back to bite you and the internet really doesn’t like copy cats.

Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid some bad PR and the headaches that come with it.

Be Careful What You Share

As much of a laughing stock the term ‘fake news’ has become by those who coined it, misleading posts are everywhere. Unfortunately, some people are willing to lie to get clicks/their point across, don’t be one of those people who shares controversial images without knowing their origin.

Whether it’s images meant to look like something they aren’t  or false claims, sharing something without knowing the origins or if it’s true can have devastating implications. If you haven’t read what you are sharing, don’t share it.

Don’t Oversell

Believe it or not social media was designed for being social, not commercialism. But as time goes by every single medium falls into the greedy hands of capitalism and starts doing promotions. There now exists a relationship between users and businesses that mustn’t be taken advantage of, or face the dreaded ‘unfollow’ button.

Do your best not to spam with offers or advertisements on your page. You’ve got to create a relationship with your followers where you are sharing interesting content more often than not, and then slide your promotions in seamlessly.

While promoted posts on social media will appear to those who share the interests, the only way to get people to share/view your stuff is to put interesting or read-worthy content out there.  Otherwise, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have ensured less people will see your content if it isn’t paid for.

Don’t forget free stuff, everyone loves free stuff! Promotions for give-aways of items that most people like across the board usually get a lot of attention. Think along the lines of prizes that are hard to obtain for the common 9 to 5 consumer: sports tickets in sports crazy town, concert tickets for a big-name artist, new tech like phones or headphones or basically anything for which quantities are limited and lines are long.

Don’t Stop, Updating

This is especially true for YouTube and Instagram; daily users of these platforms will really get into a groove and if the content satisfies their needs they will become loyal followers.

Whether you are updating once a day, week or month, make sure to be consistent. If followers get a taste of your content every Monday, and you miss consecutive Mondays, those users will lose faith and likely stop checking back.  While a large amount of followers looks nice, it’s not the number you should be most concerned about. Rather clicks, interactions and viewer retention.

Avoid Political Stances

No matter where you are on the spectrum, ‘keyboard warriors’ are going to poke holes in you faster than you can update your feed. Be professional at all times (especially when responding clients who aren’t tech savvy) and avoid giving opinion on the politics de jour.

This does too include ‘accepted viewpoints’, no one really wants to hear it from non-news organizations, sorry. When you take a stance to support your favourite local business’ rights, whether you deem necessary, it comes at the risk of putting off a lot of potential customers and forever links you to this point of view.

Don’t fall victim to the “gotta get in on the action” mentality, unless it’s a fun, non-political trend, because people see right through that these days.

Don’t Ignore Analytics

Last but certainly not least, social media provides some of the best analytics out there, most of which are free of cost.

YouTube tells you how long people are watching and what they are watching most, while Twitter tells you how many people have seen and/or clicked on a link.

They will all tell you your demographics down to their age, gender, city and more. Use these as much as possible, right down to what time and which day of the week most of your followers view your content, for example.

Pretty handy stuff.

In a world that doesn’t like being advertised to, tread lightly on social media, capitalize on trends without coming across as one-sided or trying to take commercial advantage of bad moments in time. Be consistent and reward loyal followers with content and of course, free stuff.

Article written by: Andrew Chapados

 


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January 27, 2017 brian prokopowich0

A lot of talk is circulating around which companies will get into the virtual reality (VR) game, as well as the ‘augmented-reality’ sphere for 2017.

To jump right into it, it’s no surprise that companies want you to wear their technology now, from Apple Watches to fit bits, to Oculus Rift, more and more devices and apps are popping up to give a POV look of the world around us.

Enter Spectacles by Snap Inc., aka Snapchat for your face. The glasses seek to provide you with text-message updates, mapping and of course taking a photo/video of whatever it is that’s in front of your face. The downside? Once people know you are recording them, they most certainly act different. This has the potential to turn society into a very somber, Eagle Eye-like type world if everyone thinks they are being video-taped.

As Graeme Lawrie of The Telegraph points out, it’s very easy to see VR making its way into classrooms. Imagine not just reading about the battles in the American Civil War or watching video from inside the House of Commons, but putting on a headset and reliving it.

With so many 360-degree driven videos and apps out there, the content is only growing. What an amazing teaching tool this will be for faculty and kids, who will no longer have to simply imagine being there the next time Justin Bieber fights a paparazzo.

You knew it was coming, and you probably know it’s the first thing most people thought of. UploadVR reports that the Adult Video News Awards now has trophies for Best VR Scenes. While it’s true as the article states that “VR’s most important goals for 2017 should not include “the ultimate simulated sexual experience” instead they need to be centered around driving the core technology forward which means better image quality, faster frame rates, better scaling, and improved depth of field.”; it’s pretty much inevitable and we would be fools to try and stop it.

Let’s just hope that being in a VR world doesn’t result in a spiking incline of people being caught in compromising situations.

This Guardian article points out another obvious transition, the world of video games is about to get a lot more intense. Being inside the helmet of an NFL player or driving a tank looks so much more realistic from the inside out.

Expect the biggest brands to spearhead these initiatives: Activision (Call of Duty), EA Sports and more. Of course with this comes risks such as seizures/dizziness, and of course the token “teaching kids to be violent” claims that always come with new generations in gaming. The minority effects will be there, so if you plan on investing in this type of tech, beware of the hate that comes with it.

Vlogging and more social interactions are likely to take the forefront along the lines of how Snapchat is using the technology. YouTube celebs are going to let you see the world from their eyes and your Facebook friends are going to be live-feeding what they are doing ad nauseum (one would expect).

“The world through the eyes of ______” will be just another way everyone shares their day. Mostly cool, somewhat annoying.

For tech businesses it’s important to know all the specs before you get involved with a third party: which technology is being used, which platforms is it being used on and how much content is out there?

Be aware that most major social networks (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook) are going to use the acquired information for marketing purposes, but concurrently will provide the best analytics.

Also don’t start throwing baskets of eggs at these projects just yet, because no investment is secure.

Remember when 3D movies were all the rage two years ago? Be careful.

Article written by: Andrew Chapados


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January 27, 2017 brian prokopowich0

If you haven’t heard, social media is everywhere. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat (do I go on?) there are, believe it or not, some do’s and don’ts for these platforms.

Most of the following can be avoided with careful research, citation and not trying to do ‘what’s cool’. It’s especially paramount for tech companies. Trying to duplicate what’s consider ‘edgy’ or ‘cool’ can come back to bite you and the internet really doesn’t like copy cats.

Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid some bad PR and the headaches that come with it.

Be Careful What You Share

As much of a laughing stock the term ‘fake news’ has become by those who coined it, misleading posts are everywhere. Unfortunately, some people are willing to lie to get clicks/their point across, don’t be one of those people who shares controversial images without knowing their origin.

Whether it’s images meant to look like something they aren’t  or false claims, sharing something without knowing the origins or if it’s true can have devastating implications. If you haven’t read what you are sharing, don’t share it.

Don’t Oversell

Believe it or not social media was designed for being social, not commercialism. But as time goes by every single medium falls into the greedy hands of capitalism and starts doing promotions. There now exists a relationship between users and businesses that mustn’t be taken advantage of, or face the dreaded ‘unfollow’ button.

Do your best not to spam with offers or advertisements on your page. You’ve got to create a relationship with your followers where you are sharing interesting content more often than not, and then slide your promotions in seamlessly.

While promoted posts on social media will appear to those who share the interests, the only way to get people to share/view your stuff is to put interesting or read-worthy content out there.  Otherwise, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have ensured less people will see your content if it isn’t paid for.

Don’t forget free stuff, everyone loves free stuff! Promotions for give-aways of items that most people like across the board usually get a lot of attention. Think along the lines of prizes that are hard to obtain for the common 9 to 5 consumer: sports tickets in sports crazy town, concert tickets for a big-name artist, new tech like phones or headphones or basically anything for which quantities are limited and lines are long.

Don’t Stop, Updating

This is especially true for YouTube and Instagram; daily users of these platforms will really get into a groove and if the content satisfies their needs they will become loyal followers.

Whether you are updating once a day, week or month, make sure to be consistent. If followers get a taste of your content every Monday, and you miss consecutive Mondays, those users will lose faith and likely stop checking back.  While a large amount of followers looks nice, it’s not the number you should be most concerned about. Rather clicks, interactions and viewer retention.

Avoid Political Stances

No matter where you are on the spectrum, ‘keyboard warriors’ are going to poke holes in you faster than you can update your feed. Be professional at all times (especially when responding clients who aren’t tech savvy) and avoid giving opinion on the politics de jour.

This does too include ‘accepted viewpoints’, no one really wants to hear it from non-news organizations, sorry. When you take a stance to support your favourite local business’ rights, whether you deem necessary, it comes at the risk of putting off a lot of potential customers and forever links you to this point of view.

Don’t fall victim to the “gotta get in on the action” mentality, unless it’s a fun, non-political trend, because people see right through that these days.

Don’t Ignore Analytics

Last but certainly not least, social media provides some of the best analytics out there, most of which are free of cost.

YouTube tells you how long people are watching and what they are watching most, while Twitter tells you how many people have seen and/or clicked on a link.

They will all tell you your demographics down to their age, gender, city and more. Use these as much as possible, right down to what time and which day of the week most of your followers view your content, for example.

Pretty handy stuff.

In a world that doesn’t like being advertised to, tread lightly on social media, capitalize on trends without coming across as one-sided or trying to take commercial advantage of bad moments in time. Be consistent and reward loyal followers with content and of course, free stuff.

Article written by: Andrew Chapados

 


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January 18, 2017 Meg Marshall0

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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January 10, 2017 Meg Marshall0

Q: What is Partial?

 

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?

 

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?

 

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?

 

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?

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?

 

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?
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?


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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.