Recap: Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally Open House

Last night was the open house for the City’s new Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally (LTEL) initiative (you can read my previous coverage here). The event was meant to provide more details to the community, and to introduce the people behind the scenes. David Faber from the Deputy City Managers Office, Kamren Farr from TEC Edmonton, Keith Chorley from CoE IT, Bruce Beecher from CoE IT/Transit, and Cam Linke were all on hand to introduce the idea and answer questions. Roughly 25 people attended.

Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally

David began by giving the pitch, essentially providing the same information he shared with me last week. He stressed that this is a pilot program, and that it’s okay to fail. The City of Edmonton is hoping to learn from the experience, and will be reporting back to Executive Committee with the results. David highlighted the intent of LTEL:

  • To communicate the services that the City of Edmonton provides.
  • To build bridges with the local community, to enable small tech companies to use the City of Edmonton as a sandbox.

Next up was Bruce, who provided some information on the challenge – creating a replacement for Edmonton Transit’s Lost & Found system. The current database was built with Access 97, and the IT branch is keen to replace it with something more modern. A few details on the system:

  • Roughly 1700 items are tracked per month
  • Items are stored for 30 days, and if not retrieved are then donated, auctioned, or otherwise disposed of. Passports, for example, are returned to the government, and cell phones are returned to the carrier.
  • Items are stored tagged in bins in a storage room that is roughly 20 feet x 20 feet.
  • Most wallets, cell phones, backpacks, and purses are collected within 2 days.

The basic business processes are:

  1. Enter articles – start tracking lost items
  2. Search articles – when someone calls with a description
  3. Claim articles – individual signs the tag upon retrieving the item
  4. Purge articles – items removed from database after retrieval or 30 days

Some of the opportunities identified include:

  • Improved security and access control
  • Multiple item search (currently you can only search one item at a time)
  • Track people inquiring about items
  • Enhance reporting
  • Potentially something generic enough that other CoE departments could use it

Kamren was up next, to provide the preliminary market assessment. He talked about the “lost and found” industry, and highlighted solutions at TransLink and the New York transit authority as best-of-breed. There are four existing types of lost and found systems:

  1. Public – transit, etc.
  2. Private – hotels, etc.
  3. Return service – you pay for tags or some incentive to return
  4. Online classifieds – lost and found posters, basically

He went on to talk about market segments, and highlighted some of the market drivers, opportunities, and challenges.

The challenge was eventually described as:

Use technology to reduce costs for the customer (City of Edmonton) and increase recovery rates for users (people who have lost things).

All of this information will be made available on the LTEL page. The only other pertinent detail is that the upper limit for the budget is $75,000. Technical requirements and other details will also be posted on the website.

Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally

My Thoughts

I talked with a number of people after the session to get their perspective. Most folks seemed excited about the idea. Andrew from dub5, in particular, said he was impressed that the City of Edmonton took the time to get this pilot started, and suggested that it was a big step in the right direction. Bruce Winter echoed that sentiment, but like me, was hoping for something a little more visual.

Here are my thoughts on the open house:

  • The City needs to do a much better job of spreading the word. I realize they wanted to manage expectations, but I don’t think enough people knew about last night’s event.
  • I would have loved to have seen the format of the event mimic DemoCamp. Instead of slides full of bullet points, why not demo what they currently have?
  • I get that a lost and found database isn’t particularly exciting, but that doesn’t mean that the presentation can’t be. Instead of telling us there’s a 20×20 room packed with items, why not show a photo?
  • This is going to sound harsh, but Kamren’s presentation wasn’t much more than a Google search. Very basic business concepts (competition, market segments, opportunities, challenges) and nothing more than the names of some other lost and found systems. I’m still wondering what exactly TEC Edmonton and EEDC bring to the table, besides a couple more names?

My biggest concern however, is related to the very first question I asked. I wanted to know if there were any technical requirements, and specifically, if the application had to be on-premise (meaning the City of Edmonton hosts and manages it). Keith answered yes, tech requirements would be provided, and that yes, the solution needs to run in the City of Edmonton’s existing infrastructure. One of the stated goals of LTEL is to expose the City of Edmonton to some of the innovative ideas of the local tech community, so this seems like a big step in the wrong direction. Maybe there’s a good reason for this particular solution, but if so it was not made clear. I think putting up big restrictions like that right from the start limits the potential solutions the City could learn about. (Also, I was under the impression the City wanted to get out of the tech business, by not doing custom development and reducing the burden of hosting and managing systems.)

This criticism is meant to be constructive. Overall I think LTEL is a good thing, and I want to see it succeed. I look forward to the rest of the process!

Stay tuned to the website for updates and an application form. Companies interested in developing a solution have until December 15 to express interest.

Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally – Open House on November 17

As you may have heard by now, the City of Edmonton is hosting an open house on Tuesday, November 17 (on ShareEdmonton) at City Hall to present a pilot project to interested members of the local tech community. The initiative is known as Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally (LTEL), and the open house follows on the report that was presented to Executive Committee back in August. I’ll get to some of the event details in a second, but first I want to offer some background.

I heard about the open house late on Monday afternoon, and immediately posted a tweet. You might think that the City’s IT department would be behind it, but many of them only learned about it because of my tweet! And that’s where things get interesting.

I had the opportunity this week to sit down with David Faber, one of the folks making this initiative happen. David is the Executive Director of Enterprise Strategic Management in the Deputy City Managers Office. His involvement means that this initiative is happening at a level slightly above IT, as David is (along with his team) charged with strategy, direction, accountability, and stewardship for the entire City of Edmonton, not just IT. David’s job is to bring the City’s Vision and Strategic Plan to life, and LTEL is just one of the ways in which he’s doing that.

As you might expect, David oozes passion for Edmonton. He’s been with the City of Edmonton for 12 years now, and even spent some time working in IT, so he has some experience in the field. For David, the LTEL initiative is about innovation and economic development, as well as the opportunity to simply connect with startups and other small tech firms in Edmonton. He outlined a few key goals of the initiative:

  • To bring the community together with the City, and to open the door at CoE for smaller companies.
  • To build shared learning by using the City as a sandbox and by not being afraid to fail.
  • To be supportive of the City Vision, which is to say that the LTEL pilot must be repeatable and sustainable.

I agree with Chris LaBossiere – this sounds like we’re on the right track.

I did explain to David that I was highly critical of the original report, and that I along with others in the tech community are concerned about EEDC and TEC Edmonton’s involvement. Unfortunately, David didn’t say much to alleviate my concerns when I asked how specifically those organizations would be involved, suggesting only that they would provide resources. I’m willing to wait and see how things turn out, because it certainly sounds like TEC Edmonton is less central to the pilot than was suggested in the original report.

We’ll learn more about the project at Tuesday’s event, but here’s what we know already:

  • The problem is to come up with a replacement for Edmonton Transit’s current electronic Lost and Found system.
  • Prospective participants must be incorporated companies by February 3, 2010, must have annual revenue of $2 million or less, and must be located within the City of Edmonton’s boundaries.
  • Prospective participants have until December 15, 2009 to express interest.
  • Potential solutions will be presented on January 28, 2010.
  • A selection announcement will occur on February 3, 2010 with the pilot project starting March 1, 2010.

The Lost and Found system was selected for two important reasons: it’s tangible, and already has funding attached. Representatives from IT, DCMO, ETS, and TEC Edmonton will be on hand to provide more information.

I’ll be there on Tuesday to learn more about it, and I hope you’ll consider attending as well.

Local TV Matters vs. Stop The TV Tax

As you may know, there’s a battle going on between Canada’s broadcasters and its cable/satellite companies. The broadcasters, CTV, Canwest Global, CBC, and others, want the CRTC to impose a fee-for-carriage, alleging that their signals are being distributed without compensation. The cable and satellite companies, Rogers, Bell, Shaw, Telus, and others, view such a fee as a “tax” on their subscription fees. The CRTC will examine the issue again in policy hearings beginning November 16th.

Both sides have started to encourage supporters to get involved and to contact the CRTC directly. The cable and satellite companies have launched Stop The TV Tax, while the broadcasters have launched Local TV Matters. They’re both on Twitter too: @stopthetvtax and @LocalTVmatters. If you want to submit comments, you have until November 2nd to do so:

I like that the issue is getting Canadians involved. Here are my thoughts on the issue:

  • As I wrote back in May, I think it’s disingenuous of the broadcasters to position this as a “save local” issue.
  • If it was really about saving local programming, the broadcasters would have no problem guaranteeing that funds raised from the fee-for-carriage would go entirely toward local programming. They aren’t willing to do that.
  • Local TV doesn’t matter. Local content, reporting, and community service matter, but none of those things require a TV station.
  • Is it really a coincidence that the broadcasters only started complaining loudly about this when the economic crisis was in full swing?
  • The local stations are still available for free via antenna. If there’s a fee associated with accessing them via cable or satellite, I want the ability to opt-out (ideally they’d be opt-in).

The fee-for-carriage wouldn’t result in an incredibly large amount of money for the broadcasters, so it’s not going to solve all of their financial troubles. It’s more of a stop-gap solution. They’re still going to lose money and viewers. Isn’t it time to rethink the strategy? Focus energy on something constructive?

As I’ve said before, we need to allow sick businesses to die so that healthy, innovative ones can take their place.

Taking Edmonton’s Technology Community to the Next Level

I’m always thinking about the technology community in Edmonton. Some very positive things have happened in recent years, and I want to see that trend continue and even accelerate. To take our tech community to the next level however, we’re going to need everyone to bring their unique strengths and abilities to the table. Community organizers, researchers, investors, public policy makers, educational institutions, small and large enterprises, and most importantly, entrepreneurs, all have a role to play.

For a while now I’ve felt that something is holding us back, something that we can change. That’s what this post is about.

Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally

There were two interesting items at the top of the City of Edmonton Executive Committee meeting yesterday. The first was the TEC Edmonton 2008 Annual Report (PDF). The second was a report entitled Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally (Word).

I read the second report with great interest. It is based on a consultation with TEC Edmonton, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), and City Administration and is in response to the following motion from the May 6, 2009 Executive Committee meeting:

That Administration consult with TEC Edmonton, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, and the general technical community on opportunities to facilitate and better capitalize on incorporating work and research done via the City’s purchasing, standards and business practices, and report back to Executive Committee.

The report is relatively short at just two and a half pages, so I encourage you to read it for yourself. Here’s my summary:

  • One of the four principles of the City of Edmonton Strategic Plan is innovation, loosely defined as “exploration in the adoption of new techniques, technologies, products and ways of operating in order to improve results and lead progressive change.”
  • With that in mind, EEDC, TEC Edmonton, and City Administration want to challenge the status quo with a pilot project that connects them with one another and the “general technical community”.
  • The pilot project would provide benefits to local technology firms (such as opportunities to use the City as a reference customer) and to City Administration (including exposure and access to technologies that previously had not been realized).
  • The pilot project would leverage concepts similar to “the University of Alberta Idea-Fest or local technology Demo Camps” and would consist of two sessions.

It’s nice to see DemoCamp and IDEAfest both get mentioned. Kudos to Cam Linke, Michael Janz, and everyone else who makes those and other events successful.

The above points seem logical enough and if that’s all I had read, I’d happily support the recommended pilot project (which sounds like a couple of events). Unfortunately I kept reading, and as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

First, the scope of the pilot project is defined as:

  • Small entrepreneurial organizations
  • Prototype the approach – keep it simple
  • TEC Edmonton would identify potential attendees and review with Administration
  • Products must be usable and available for testing

If by “small entrepreneurial organizations” they mean “startups” then I think the first point is spot on. There are so many local startups that could use a leg up with the City. The second point makes sense also – simplicity and iteration are key. The fourth point is similar to the rules of DemoCamp – we’d like to see action rather than talk. I’ll come back to the third point.

Next, the two sessions are defined as follows:

The first session, held in Q3 of 2009, would focus on the City of Edmonton identifying business problems and communication of priorities to TEC Edmonton associated companies.

A second session would be held approximately four weeks later with TEC Edmonton members presenting possible solutions to opportunities identified.

Can you spot the pattern? It continues in the report’s final remarks:

This pilot also supports the concept of the knowledge economy and leverages the capability of local educational institutions.

It focuses on retaining and accelerating the success of high-impact innovation-based start up companies in the Edmonton area by strengthening the partnership between TEC Edmonton and the City of Edmonton. This in turn promotes the development of an entrepreneurial culture and the infrastructure to nurture and sustain scientific and technology-based enterprises.

What started out as a promising attempt by the City to leverage and work with the wonderful technology community we have here in Edmonton quickly became all about TEC Edmonton. According to the recommendation, TEC Edmonton would be responsible for picking the attendees and for driving the dialogue.

This is bad for two reasons:

  1. TEC Edmonton does not represent the whole of the technology community in Edmonton.
  2. TEC Edmonton has a very poor track record when it comes to “promoting the development of an entrepreneurial culture” in Edmonton.

TEC Edmonton Background

Formed in 2000 and ratified in 2006, TEC Edmonton is a joint venture between the University of Alberta and EEDC. It’s mandate is to “help navigate the commercialization process – transitioning science solutions into business opportunities” in the greater Edmonton region. A few highlights from the annual report I mentioned above:

  • TEC Edmonton received 98 reports of inventions in 2008. A total of 77 patent applications were filed and 48 patents were granted. A total of 23 technologies were licensed.
  • TEC Source provided free business advice to 70 entrepreneurs in 2008.
  • A total of 160 entrepreneurs participated in TEC VenturePrize in 2008.
  • The TEC Centre is home to 22 tenants.

TEC Edmonton represents the Information and Communications Technology, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences and Agri-Value industry sectors. There’s absolutely a need for an organization to facilitate the commercialization of research coming out of the University of Alberta. TEC Edmonton needs to continue that work – they’re good at it and they’ve proven they can get results.

The Problem With TEC Edmonton

TEC Edmonton automatically gets a seat at the technology table in Edmonton, whether it deserves one or not. The City of Edmonton and EEDC cannot pursue their objectives in the technology space without involving TEC Edmonton, which is a problem because TEC Edmonton isn’t interested in much of what it would take for those organizations to achieve their objectives.

Startups have little to no interaction with TEC Edmonton and are very rarely impacted by TEC Edmonton programs. Software-based startups are even further removed from TEC Edmonton’s activities. The organization is completely geared toward monetizing expensive high tech research from the University of Alberta, not helping local startups.

  • Patents are meaningless in the world of software, but are at the heart of nearly every deal that TEC Edmonton does. The very first question mentioned on the TEC Source page is: “Do you have intellectual property or a business plan?”
  • The TEC Centre is an incubation facility for TEC Edmonton companies, not technology companies in general. You can’t just drop in.
  • Alberta Deal Generator doesn’t help startup companies prepare for investment, it helps later stage companies. And the private sector does a better job of that anyway.

Quite simply, TEC Edmonton has been ignoring software startups for nearly a decade now. Why does this matter? If we want to move beyond our current energy-based economy to nurture and capitalize on the incredibly smart and talented people we have in Edmonton and Alberta, we need to start paying more attention to software. That’s where innovation is happening and value is being created.

What We Really Need

We don’t need two events to talk about business and communication problems for TEC Edmonton associated companies, nor do we need an organization filtering communication between the City and the technology community. What we really need is for TEC Edmonton or an organization like it to help software startups by doing the things the community can’t.

Easy exchange of knowledge and ideas is something the community has proven it can do well with events like DemoCamp and BarCamp. The ability to get started without a lot of initial investment is another thing the community is addressing through initiatives such as ENTS (you can read more about ENTS here).

Something the community can’t do is provide smart seed funding. I’m talking about YCombinator and TechStars. Tiny amounts of money to get entrepreneurs going, with ongoing mentorship and other networking opportunities. These programs likely aren’t going to make anyone rich, but that’s not the point anyway. The point is to invest in people, to encourage entrepreneurship. TEC Edmonton could do this right away if they really wanted to by scrapping Alberta Deal Generator and taking a fraction of the money spent on that program and putting it into a local YCombinator. I’ve heard about some members of the community working towards this, but I think it would be a great opportunity for TEC Edmonton.

Final Thoughts

If we want to take the technology community in Edmonton to the next level, we need the City of Edmonton and EEDC to recognize that as it currently exists, TEC Edmonton is holding the community back, not helping it move forward. TEC Edmonton certainly has a role to play, but it’s not the catch-all they’ve been given. We need to focus more attention and energy on software startups, an area that TEC Edmonton has historically ignored.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend or listen to the meeting yesterday, so I’m not sure what the Executive Committee did with the report. I’m hopeful that the right people will read this however, so that we can start down the path to positive change.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who provided me with context and thoughts on this topic over the last few months – you know who you are.

DemoCampEdmonton8

Unfortunately the leaves have already started changing colors on some of the trees and the mornings are getting progressively cooler. The good news about fall? It means that DemoCamp is back! Join us at the University of Alberta in two weeks to see what local tech entrepreneurs are up to. As usual, we’ll head over to RATT after the demos for Edmonton’s best networking opportunity for tech professionals. Here are the details for #8:

Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Time: 6:30pm (and drinks/networking afterward)
Location: E1 017, ETLC, University of Alberta (map)
Cost: Free sign up

The rules for DemoCamp are simple: ten minutes to demo real, working software, followed by a few minutes for questions. No slides allowed. You can learn more here. Our last DemoCamp took place on May 13th – you can read my recap here.

If you’re planning to come out, sign up here!

Help us spread the word – check out the BarCamp Edmonton blog and our Facebook group. Be sure to tag your tweets, posts, photos, and other content with democampyeg.

Hope to see you there!

Recap: artsScene Edmonton Summer Party

Last night was the artsScene Edmonton “Jekyll & Hyde” Summer Party. The unique event was held at two venues – first the “Jekyll” part at Latitude 53’s rooftop patio, then the “Hyde” part at Prohibition. I had never been to Latitude 53 before, so it was a great opportunity to check out the space. The crowd was a bit smaller than anticipated, but everyone had a great time chatting, drinking, and listening to the musical stylings of Keri Lynn Zwicker and Jay Sparrow.

At around 9pm, the crowd started to migrate to Prohibition where Peter Sagar, Roland Pemberton III, and The Cake Eaters performed. It seems that many people skipped the first part of the evening and went straight to Prohibition, because the place was packed. Ken Bautista, Chair of artsScene Alberta, mentioned that they did the two venue style event in Calgary with locations directly across the street from one another. I think that would have worked better here too.

One of the interesting things they did during the event was walk around with an iPhone survey using software by local firm TouchMetric. The results were displayed on an LCD screen at Prohibition, which was pretty neat.

You can see my photos from the evening here. Hopefully they’ll soon have much better photos (and video too) on the website.

artsScene Edmonton Summer PartyartsScene Edmonton Summer PartyartsScene Edmonton Summer PartyartsScene Edmonton Summer PartyartsScene Edmonton Summer PartyartsScene Edmonton Summer Party

In addition to the socializing, there was some news about upcoming artsScene events. The first is called boardLink:

boardLink is a live event that introduces and connect young professionals (ages 18-40) with local arts boards through a unique speed-networking format. boardLink creates opportunities for young people to be more actively involved in the leadership and development of Edmonton’s arts and culture scene.

Event partners include Emerging Business Leaders, InterVivos, Junior Chamber International Edmonton, and The Citadel Theatre. The first boardLink event will happen about a month from now:

WHAT: boardLink
WHEN: September 28, 2009 at 6:30pm
WHERE: Shoctor Lobby, The Citadel Theatre

Tickets are $15 – check the website for more information.

The second event we learned about is actually a series of events – the Behind the Scenes Series, featuring five of Edmonton’s major arts organizations.

At each Behind the Scenes event, young professionals (ages 18-40) discover the performing and visual arts in our community through exclusive talks with artists and artistic directors, stage and gallery tours, and opportunities to attend performances and exhibitions with follow artsSceners.

Here the the dates for each organization:

October 19, 2009 – Edmonton Opera: Featuring Rigoletto
November 9, 2009 – The Citadel Theatre: Featuring Rock ‘N’ Roll
January 18, 2010 – Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Featuring Late Night Beethoven
April 8, 2010 – Alberta Ballet: Featuring Songs of a Wayfarer and The Seven Deadly Sins
May 20, 2010 – Art Gallery of Alberta: Discover the inner workings of the new AGA and see a new exhibition come to life

You can get tickets for an individual event for $19, or passes to all five for $79. Again, check the website for more information.

artsScene is starting to make some really cool things happen for young professionals in Edmonton. Stay tuned to their blog and Twitter for updates!

artsScene Edmonton Summer Party – August 20th

Back in May I attended the launch party for artsScene Edmonton – a fantastic event at Planet Ze Design Centre in Old Strathcona. I had a great time, and suggested that artsScene events could become “must attend” events for local creatives. The first test of that is coming up next week:

On August 20, we’re ready to bring you our second party – a “Jekyll & Hyde” themed summer party that promises to be bigger and better, with two venues, more featured artists, DJs, and live music acts!

They have since announced the performers, and they include: Kerri-Lenn Zwicker, Jay Sparrow, Field + Stream, The Outdoor Miners, and guest DJs The Cake Eaters and Roland Pemberton III.

The “Jekyll” part of the event starts at 6pm at Latitude 53 (10248 106th Street), while the “Hyde” part gets underway at 9pm at Prohibition (11026 Jasper Avenue). Tickets are just $15 online or $20 at the door and include access to both venues. You can pickup your tickets here.

Don’t forget artsScene Edmonton is on Twitter, Facebook, and they have a mailing list. They also recently joined LinkedIn, so get connected!

Hope to see you on the 20th!

Facebook has acquired FriendFeed

Today Facebook announced it had acquired FriendFeed. This is exciting, interesting news for a number of reasons. First, I think FriendFeed is a fantastic platform. Facebook is about to get a whole lot better thanks to the engineers behind FriendFeed (this is very much a talent acquisition). Second, I think this will cause Twitter, Google, and everyone else in the real-time space to pick up the pace. We’re going to see a whole ton of innovation in the months ahead. That’s good news for all of us.

Here’s the TechCrunch story on the deal, which is where I first read it. Here’s the official Facebook press release, and here’s the official FriendFeed post.

Here are some other relevant posts I’ve found interesting:

Also today: Facebook launched improved search for everyone.

I haven’t used FriendFeed much lately, and I’m not incredibly active on Facebook either. Still, I’m stoked about this deal. In addition to making Facebook a whole heck of a lot better, I think it’s going to have that “a rising tide lifts all boats” kind of effect. At least I hope so (I’m looking at you Twitter).

Idea: Proud Edmonton Tech Company badge

Edmonton SkylineThings have definitely improved in the last couple of years, but Edmonton still has a reputation as something of a dead zone for innovation. Or perhaps more accurately, we don’t really have a reputation – we’re not on the radar in most cases. It’s not true of course, there are plenty of interesting and innovative projects, companies, and people in Edmonton. The challenge is making others aware of them.

There are a variety of ways to do that. One is through the media, both traditional and new. Such mentions tend to be fleeting, however. Another way is through events such as DemoCamp, though those typically benefit only the locals. These are important, and we should keep doing them, but we need something else as well.

As I thought more about the problem, it occurred to me that we could learn something from other industries. There are two organizations in particular that do a good job of boosting local companies – Original Fare and Keep Edmonton Original. You can find their logos at independent restaurants and retailers around the city, and I think seeing them reinforces the notion that we have more than just big box stores and chains. What if we had something similar for technology companies?

For tech companies, the web is important. It’s often the first point of interaction. As such, it’s always been a pet peeve of mine that so many local tech companies seem afraid to mention on their website that they are based in Edmonton:

I’m not trying to suggest that any of these companies have intentionally left Edmonton out, but I do think there is room for improvement.

So here’s the idea: what if every local tech company put a badge on their website that says “Proud Edmonton Tech Company”? What kind of an impact would that have? I think it would definitely help with awareness.

For most companies, placing the badge on the front page probably doesn’t make sense. Nexopia, for instance, has a very large external audience that probably doesn’t care that the company is located in Edmonton. Others will simply want the front page to look a certain way. Nearly every company has an about page however, and it’s on that page that I think such a badge would be featured (and maybe on the contact page too). Where would the badge link to? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure it has to link anywhere.

What do you think?

artsScene Edmonton Launch Party

Tonight I attended the artsScene Edmonton Launch Party at Planet Ze Design Center in Old Strathcona. I was quite excited when I heard back in April that the initiative was coming to Edmonton, because I think it’s a great idea. From the press release:

artsScene is a new initiative that brings together young business and creative professionals (ages 18-40) to grow the arts, culture and creative industries in our community. artsScene is an initiative of Business for the Arts, a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting business leadership in the arts, facilitating funding relationships and connecting business volunteers to the arts. artsScene has been established in Toronto, Halifax and Montreal, and now Edmonton and Calgary.

Tonight’s event was a party, one of five different types of events that artScene will be hosting. Others include BoardLink (speed networking), Roundtables (breakfast sessions), Behind the Scenes (engage with artists), and a Creative Summit (two-day conference). The next event will be a BoardLink in June, followed by a summer party in August.

artsScene EdmontonartsScene EdmontonartsScene EdmontonSharon & MackMichael & KenCadence Weapon

Featured artists this evening included Denise Lefebvre, Patrick Higgins, and Shelby Wallace. Other special guests were Edmonton’s newest poet laureate Roland Pemberton (aka Cadence Weapon), and DJ Marc it Fresh (Marcus Coldeway). CBC Radio3 was also in attendance. Organizers said over 100 tickets were sold ahead of time, and there was strong interest at the door. I’d say there was easily 125 people there by the time I left. It was a good mix of people too! SmibsTV was recording some interviews, so keep an eye on their site for video.

I think artsScene events could quickly become “must attend” events for creative professionals in Edmonton. Check out the website, and stay connected – artsScene Edmonton is on Twitter, Facebook, and has a mailing list. You can see my photos from this evening here.