TechTalk Blog
Tech News: Canadian Startups Limit Their Own Potential by Dreaming Small. Let’s Change That, Shall We?

As seen on
View the original article here
Written by Mike Katchen

Canadian Startups Limit Their Own Potential by Dreaming Small. Let’s Change That, Shall We?

One of my favourite books is “Why Mexicans Don’t Drink Molson” by Campbell Mandel.

The premise is simple: Canada has all the makings of a global leader, yet chooses to be a loser. For example, why is it that Mexico, a country with very little fresh water or barley relative to Canada, produces four times as much beer?

The book brilliantly walks through several industries where Canada should be a global powerhouse (e.g., lumber, steel, dairy) yet falls short.  Mandel suggests that one major reason is small dreams.

As the founder of Wealthsimple, Canada’s fastest-growing online investment manager, I watched as our US counterparts raised $114 million in fresh venture capital funding this past week and industry giant Charles Schwab entered the space. My reaction was: Canadians need to dream bigger.

Before moving back to Canada in late 2013, I spent three years in San Francisco building 1000memories (Y Combinator S’10, acquired by in 2012). I’ve seen the differences between the two startup ecosystems first hand.

When we raised a $2 million seed round in May, we were often told that our vision to transform the $1.5-trillion investment management industry was naive. Despite the exciting traction of similar US companies, many prospective investors defaulted to the “Canada is different” excuse, saying it will be too difficult to build an alternative to the big banks. We knew they were wrong and managed to find the right investors to help us move forward.

Juxtapose our experience with the US. In the past week, US-based online investment managers raised $114 million in fresh VC funding and Charles Schwab announced its entry into the market. Adam Nash, CEO of Wealthfront (the largest online investment manager in the US), is explicit in his goal to service the $7-trillion market for millennials over the next five years.

The reality is that the same problems with investment management and many other industries persist in Canada (in fact, they are even worse—Canadians pay the highest investment management fees of any country in the developed world). However, too few Canadian companies are willing to boldly tackle these issues head on. Those that are willing are often too timid in their vision, seeking to service only the Canadian market.

I believe Canada’s tech sector sits at an inflection point. We will either step up and play a major role in the global technology landscape or, as in so many other industries, fall somewhere into the middle of the pack.

If we can do it in financial services, a highly regulated industry with an entrenched oligopoly and massive consumer trust barrier, then you can do it to. I moved back to Canada to help put Canada’s tech community on the global map. I invite you to join us in our quest.

View the original article HERE!

Chatter High Moves In!

Chatter High Logo







We would like to officially welcome Chatter High to VITP, the latest tenant to move into Victoria’s technology hub! Chatter High has set up their office in the Innov8 Hub –  click here for contact details! is a site that provides quizzes, competitions and a discussion forum designed to help students, parents and teachers discover post-secondary and career opportunities.

Institutions and organizations allowed to directly engage students in schools may use ChatterHigh to do this in an effective, measurable way.  The experience for the user is gamified and successfully drives students to explore the information these organizations need the students to learn about.

For more details on what Chatter High does, click here. We are excited to have another tenant move into the Innov8 Hub and look forward to hearing lots of exciting things from them in the future!


Picture Progress Report!

If you are interested in seeing what VITP tenant Picture has been up to – check out their progress report video!

Also, view their website for updates and new information. Lots of exciting things to come from Picture!

Tech News: The New Rules of Engagement: How Tech is Energizing Employee Communication

A great article posted on TechVibes about how technology is changing communication within the workplace!

View the original article here
Posted by Caitlin Carpenter

The New Rules of Engagement: How Tech is Energizing Employee Communication

Millennials—and their technology—are changing the workplace in fundamental ways. This coming generation is re-shaping the workforce and the workplace—and it is clear that business management must adapt.

Millennials expect to work for organizations that provide work and working conditions that reflect the generation’s interest in community and personal wellbeing. They also expect employees and management to engage in genuine, two-way dialogue. Too many organizations are still giving lip service to their role in improving social or environmental conditions or workplace health. Employers who are broadcasting generic messages through email, posters in the lunchroom, and productivity-draining meetings are missing the point.

There are, however, both messages and tools that can help private and public employers get with a program more suited to attract and retain their employees’ energy and talents.

One of the most promising technologies for revamping employee communication is mobile. Check out the numbers: only 13% of employees interact with their company intranet daily, and employees send and receive a mind-numbing 121 emails a day, many of which (particularly ones relating to corporate programs) go unread and without response. Conversely, text messages are read 90% of text messages are readwithin three minutes of receipt.

As more companies adopt mobile for engaging employees in their corporate programs, some of the “new rules of engagement” for mobile communication have emerged:


Short and sweet is the key for reaching the modern worker, raised on to-the-point social media messages.

Mobile messages should be one or two sentences (say, 140 characters) designed to get the reader’s attention and understanding at a glance.


No one wants to be talked at. Employers need to approve themselves comfortable with a two-way dialogue? While few employees will respond (or even read) a long all-hands email blast, mobile allows employees to quickly stay up to date with company programs, and often share their feedback/opinions with management. This can take the form of a multiple choice quiz question to evaluate understanding or a poll of how many employees would be interested in a volunteer opportunity or wellness offering. With the simple touch of the screen, employees feel they’ve had a say and managers’ decisions are empowered by having the pulse of the organization.

Gamification – another form of active engagement and two-way communication – can yield impressive improvements in corporate program uptake. Deloitte achieved a 30% increase in regular weekly users of its training platform through the use of an gamified incentive program and public leaderboards.


Unlike traditional methods of communication that blanket all employees at random times, mobile allows for message and delivery time customization. With mobile, specific messages can be sent at the exact time employees need to see them.

For example, for a group of workers who start their shift at 9 am, sending a mobile message regarding mission critical safety information five minutes before the start of a shift exponentially increases knowledge rates around a particular activity.


Successful enterprise app developers take a page from popular consumer loyalty rewards programs, which strive to uncover a user profile, and then send subsequent target messages that are particularly relevant to the consumer. Similarly, mobile can be used to easily target staff by demographics or corporate divisions and deliver customized messages.

For example, if the warehouse division of a company continues to not engage with a certain message (as identified by poor scores on quiz questions or a lack of response to a request for feedback), that message can be altered to achieve better understanding, engagement, and participation. This real-time feedback and analytics can ensure programs can be evaluated and modified on the fly to achieve success.

Mobile can also intelligently segment messaging for employees and direct opportunities to those that have expressed interest in a particular type of message or program (e.g., volunteering for a tree planting outing).


Selecting the right tool to educate and engage employees (and through a channel that allows for quantifiable metrics to prove engagement) is a challenge many companies face. Looking at today’s trends in workplace culture and communication provides some direction. For example, a survey of 300 heads of employee engagement from major companies identified several trends that are transforming the workplace environment, such as individualism, digitization, technological convergence, demographic change.

With the almost universal penetration of mobile devices amongst Millennials, mobile may soon be an essential technology in developing a one-on-one, firm-to-employee relationship. And, as most managers know, this relationship is the key to employee productivity, retention, happiness, and engagement. Not bad for something that fits in the palm of your hand.


Tech News: Google And Actua Dedicate $1.5 Million to Engage Canada’s Youth in Computer Science

As seen on
View the original article here
Posted by Knowlton Thomas

Google And Actua Dedicate $1.5 Million to Engage Canada’s Youth in Computer Science

Google Canada and Actua are teaming up to launch Codemakers, a three-year, $1.5 million project that aims to change the way Canada’s youth think about computer science and technology.

Eric Schmidt of Google and Actua’s CEO Jennifer Flanagan announced the project this week at Google’s Toronto office, where 20 students were on hand printing three-dimensional “selfies” with 3D printers and learning to design rudimentary motion-controlled video games.

“This project will change the way youth view computer science by engaging them in projects that move them from being consumers of technology to producers of technology,” said Flanagan. “This investment from Google, which includes both funding and access to top Google innovators, will leverage the power of technology to inspire the next generation of innovators.”

Codemakers will engage 100,000 young Canadians in computer science programming over the next three years, representing one million direct, face-to-face hours of programming.

“This is the largest single investment Google has made in Canada to support learning about computer science,” said Steven Woods, Google Canada’s Director of Engineering. “Computer science is not a language of ones and zeros. It’s the language of creativity, of entrepreneurship and potential. Canadian youth need to learn not just how to use technology, but how to design it and build it too.”

The project begins this autumn with experts designing computer science focused educational programming.

Actua is a national charity that provides transformational experiences to youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Tech News: Privacy not a priority for most tech startups

An interesting article posted in the Globe and Mail recently describes how privacy and the many issues surrounding it are not a priority for tech startups, when they should be.

View the original article here.
Written by Matthew Braga.

Privacy not a priority for most tech startups

What is it like to be a startup in a post-Edward Snowden world, I often wonder? The safety and security of users and their data feels more precarious than ever before. And when intelligence agencies can tap into Internet cables and private corporate servers, seemingly at will, how do you possibly defend against that? According to many in the field, you don’t. Not until you have to. Despite the revelations, little has changed within the startup community in the last year when it comes to crafting privacy policies, anticipating government and law enforcement requests, or adjusting to the reality of mass surveillance.

“It is in my experience very rare that an entrepreneur leads [with] or even has much of a concept as to what privacy is all about,” says Jonathan Latsky, the founder, CEO, and chief privacy officer for Envirolytic Insights Inc., and volunteer advisor with MaRS Discovery District’s venture services. “What they’re coming to MaRS for, typically, is connections to capital, customers, employees and peer networks. […] But I think it’s very rare that there are upfront requests as to how privacy – the handling of user information – how that plays into it.”

At the very least, privacy and security are not as fundamental concerns in the early stages of a founding a company, especially as compared to acquiring funding, patents and developing minimal viable products. And so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the immensity of Snowden’s revelations have failed to convince many founders and developers that smart approaches to privacy and surveillance matter, when they weren’t top of mind before.

A spokesperson for the Waterloo, Ont.-based accelerator Communitech said that privacy issues are not yet part of the program’s curriculum. And Marcus Daniels, managing director for Extreme Startups in Toronto, said that issues relating to privacy, surveillance and law enforcement requests aren’t typically an area of focus for companies of his accelerator’s size.

“I think one of the challenges [for] most accelerator or incubator-stage companies is just getting basic awareness that the company is even alive or even exists,” said Daniels in an interview. “When you get to a certain scale and you have a lot more data, then this becomes a bigger concern. You’re definitely more on the radar of government bodies and other authorities, specifically if there’s potential risk factors of violations.”

Years of prizing growth over privacy seems to have lead to a complacency that is too systemic for the weight of past months’ revelations to spur change. Many startups and young technology companies have been caught playing fast and loose with the privacy and security of their users’ data. In 2010, a Foursquare loophole allowed one well-intentioned hacker to capture a whopping 875,000 instances of user locations, or check-ins – including the check-ins of those who had chosen to keep their location history private.

The mobile-only social network Path was fined a paltry $800,000 by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in early 2013 after it was discovered the company had “illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent,” according to the FTC, and also required to conduct privacy assessments every other year until 2033 for uploading entire copies of users phone books to Path’s servers, unencrypted and without permission.

And perhaps the most egregious example in recent years was a 2010 era browser extension called Firesheep that enabled other users on the same wireless network to snoop on your online activity – and only because services such as Facebook and Twitter didn’t enable a protocol called SLL, which ensures login credentials are transmitted securely, by default.

“If you’re a Facebook or a Google, this is when you get the police knocking on your door because there’s a big volume of information available. People are using your product,” suggests Éloïse Gratton, partner and national co-chair of law firm McMillan LLP’s privacy practice group. “For startups, when you talk about police knocking on their door to have the identity behind an IP address or a customer ID number or user name, it doesn’t affect them as much because they’re not necessarily at the stage where they’re commercializing their product.”

Even for established companies, the development of good policies doesn’t happen overnight. Ben Uretsky, CEO of Digital Ocean, an increasingly popular web hosting company, said in an email that his company’s “official policy took shape over time, to ensure it was as specific to our users as possible.” Uretsky’s company, which graduated from the U.S.-based TechStars accelerator program in 2012, “formalized this policy around Q2 of last year.” (Full disclosure: I host my personal website with Digital Ocean.)

But whether such accelerator programs as TechStars play a role in educating participants on issues relating to privacy, as well as government and law enforcement requests, is unclear. David Cohen, founder and managing partner of TechStars had initially agreed to speak with The Globe and Mail, but ultimately declined to comment.

Ann Cavoukian – Ontario’s former Information and Privacy Commissioner and now a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University – argues that proper privacy practices are a business issue deserving of early-stage attention, and not merely a regulatory headache to dealt with later. However, she admits that she doesn’t yet know how best to educate founders or integrate strategies such as Privacy By Design into startup curriculum.

“It’s not that startups don’t care about privacy – they don’t know how to do it, how you embed this stuff into the design,” she said in an interview. “People have to talk to them and show them that this isn’t that complicated and this is what you can do and things of that nature.”

The question, then, is how to impress upon young founders and entrepreneurs that these are issues that are important to consider earlier in the development process – an especially hard task if the founders themselves aren’t motivated, and the people in charge of incubators, and accelerators prefer a more laissez-faire style of curriculum with informal office hours and meetings that might not place these issues front and centre.

“Compared to the cost of a data breach,” Cavoukian warns, “the potential loss to your reputation, to your brand – the cost of embedding this at the start is minuscule to what you’ll invariably have to address after the fact.”

Back at MaRS, Latsky says that motivating entrepreneurs to do things that will avoid potential fines isn’t easy.

“Convincing them that invoking best privacy practices will be good for business is really, truly what I’m trying to do.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the offense responsible for a fine that the Path social network paid to the U.S. FTC.

GenoLogics Press Release!

VITP tenant GenoLogics has been chosen by Illumina on new agreement! Below is the press release, followed by a short summary on what GenoLogics does. Congratulations to the GenoLogics team on such an exciting partnership!

Press Release
Victoria, BC, September 4, 2014 (BusinessWire) 
— GenoLogics today announced it has been selected by Illumina as the preferred laboratory information management system (LIMS) provider to support HiSeq X Ten sequencing system customers. Under the agreement, the companies are working closely to provide support for HiSeq X Ten whole-genome workflows and analysis pipelines, including those to be used inside of Illumina. Additionally, Illumina will be using GenoLogics’ LIMS to support its collaboration with Genomics England to sequence 100,000 genomes.

The agreement pairs the $1,000 genome with the preeminent laboratory information management system, further empowering the sequencing community to sequence human whole genomes.

According to Alex Dickinson, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Illumina, “Illumina is pleased to be working with GenoLogics to ensure HiSeq X Ten customers receive the LIMS support they need. Scaling a lab to deliver the $1,000 genome presents unique challenges and GenoLogics has the demonstrated ability and understanding of our technologies to support these labs.”

“Clarity LIMS leads the industry because it helps sequencing labs improve overall efficiency, turnaround time, and the accuracy of data,” states Michael Ball, CEO of GenoLogics. “This agreement was the logical next step with Illumina because it builds on these efficiencies with enhanced automation and throughput, enabling customers to rapidly scale their sequencing operations.”

About GenoLogics

GenoLogics develops the industry-leading laboratory information management system (LIMS) for life sciences organizations. Clarity LIMS helps labs gain efficiencies and throughput with increased accuracy, fast turnaround, sample traceability, and preconfigured instrument integrations.  Whether your lab is regulated or unregulated, big or small, Clarity LIMS will streamline your lab operations so that you can focus on advancing healthcare. Founded in 2002 and privately held, GenoLogics is based in Victoria, British Columbia.

Here’s a summary to help:

  • GenoLogics is located in Victoria, BC at the Vancouver Island Technology Park
  • We have about 55 employees and we are growing
  • We make laboratory informatics software that helps life sciences labs manage lab data, making them faster, more efficient, and more accurate
  • Recently, we signed a deal with Illumina, the biggest instrument maker in the market
  • Our software, Clarity LIMS, will be distributed with their new sequencing platform called X Ten (this is the platform touting the $1000 genome).
  • Illumina has also declared us the preferred software for all of their labs, one of which will be processing human genome samples for the 100,000 Genomes Project underway at Genomics England.
  • The 100,000 genomes project will sequence genomes of patients with common cancers and rare diseases and contribute to a bank of knowledge to help scientists and physicians better understand disease.


Being chosen as the laboratory informatics software for use in the 100,000 Genomes projects is a huge milestone for GenoLogics.  What’s even more important is that the combination of our software and Illumina’s low cost sequencing of the human genome enables the researchers and scientists to more readily sequence human genomes to better understand, diagnose, and treat disease. And when sequencing becomes a routine part of our healthcare, we will receive personalized treatments, treatments that are more curative, and an overall lower healthcare bill.

To learn more about GenoLogics, visit their website here.

VITP Welcomes Newest Tenant cfactor Works to the Collabor8 Suites!

cfactor Works has moved into the Collabor8 Suites at VITP and we would like to officially welcome them!

With their main office located in Saskatoon, they have branched out and opened an office right here in Victoria, BC.

Who is cfactor Works?

cfactor Works Inc. (cfactor), developer of the socially infused Human Resources and Talent suite, Vibe HCM, is based in Saskatoon, SK with additional offices in Victoria, BC and Denver, CO. Their specialty is creating easy-to-use HR technology that is meant to be used and valued by all employees. This relentless pursuit has spanned over 14 years and led them to work with some of the most innovative, recognized brands on the planet while creating a highly acclaimed HRIS, Talent and Employee Collaboration suite in the process.

Unlike typical HR systems, cfactor’s Vibe HCM is a dynamic hub of employee-focued processes, communications, connections and collaboration – driving efficiency while fostering engagement. They strive to create highly branded experiences tailed to their customer’s culture & unique story. More than 750 firms have “got the Vibe” in their workplace.

We look forward to having them based here at VITP!

Check out the company details and contact information here.

Tech News: Canada Ranked Among Five Best Countries in World to Launch a Startup

As seen on
View the original article here
Written by Rob Lewis

Canada Ranked Among Five Best Countries in World to Launch a Startup

Canada is among the five best countries in the world to launch a startup, according to research compiled by Washington State University’s College of Business.

Alongside the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia, Canada was named a top country for startups, thanks to factors such as low inflation and economic stability.

The data is backed up by a report last year from Startup Genome, which placed three Canadian cities—Vancouver, Toronto, and Waterloo—among the world’s 20 most active startup ecosystems.


View the original article and a description chart here!

Part 2: Emotient, UVic & Autism on CTV “Tech It Out”

Following up on an earlier post (click here for a refresher), CTV featured the app on this weeks segment of “Tech It Out”

Click here for the video!