Start-up,
Technology,
Innovation.

Events to foster the entrepreneurial spirit.

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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.


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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 17, 2016 Meg Marshall0

No idea is too far fetched or cray, as seen with one company. Airvinci, founded by Tarek Ibrahim, is on a mission to building a personal helicopter. Many other startups have great ideas like creating health care apps or a revolutionary fintech solution, but to build a flying machine is pretty incredible.

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Soaring above gridlock traffic with an Airvinci personal helicopter. Image courtesy of Airvinci.com. 

Flying High

So we have all been stuck in gridlock traffic in some shape or form. Driving from work, stuck on a bus across trying to get across the city or in an Uber trying to make it on time for a romantic date. Ibrahim got frustrated one day and thought to himself that there has got to be a better and faster way to get from point A to point B. Until cities completely revamp highway infrastructure by adding in double or triple the amount of traffic lanes, any sort of automobile invention would not solve this problem. It then dawned on Ibrahim that if he could fly in a personal helicopter, then it would create an alternative option for commuters.

Personal Helicopters for the Masses

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The Airvinci will be classified an Ultralight Aircraft. Photo courtesy of Airvinci.com. 

Of course we know that private jets exist, and my hobbyist pilots fly for fun on the weekends. A runway is needed for these aircrafts. The key element in the creation of the Airvinci machine is that it would be utilizing vertical take off and landing so that the need for a runway would be eliminated. A pilot’s license would not be required to operate an Airvinci aircraft, although some basic training would be prudent to safely fly it. The initial cost of the first couple of versions will be high, but as more and more are manufactured, the price would drop. The hope is that one day, the Airivinci would  be comparable in cost to a Honda Civic.

Design Specifics

A flying machine is a pretty amazing thing, but it has to be meticulously designed and no detail left unnoticed. The aircraft will be 9 feet tall and weigh less than 254 lbs so it can be classified as an Ultralight Aircraft. It will be able to carry up to 260 lbs and have a flight time of up to 10000 feet. Ducted fans will be used to reduce the risk factor. Two engines will power the aircraft, so if one fails, the security of the second one will kick in. To learn more technical details, click here.

Calling Toronto Home

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Tarek Ibrahim is a creative mastermind, and one thing to note about him, he is always full of amazing energy and laughs. Photo taken by Meg Marshall. 

Toronto holds a special place in the heart of Ibrahim. Moving to Toronto in his teen years, he has experienced many great things here. He is a graduate from the University of Toronto with a degree in Architecture. Back in fall of 2015, he also had the amazing opportunity to be a guest speaker at the TedEx Toronto event. Toronto lends itself to being a fantastic central location to gain access to many resources whether it be finding someone with a particular skill set to help with a certain element of his project or just embracing the diversity of the city.

Stay tuned to see what is next for Airvinci and when they are ready to take over the skies. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 


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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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