Edmonton Technology Startups

Post ImageWhen it comes to technology startups, it seems as though Edmonton can’t hold a candle to Toronto, Vancouver, or even Ottawa. Very rarely in my travels, physical or virtual, do I hear about really interesting tech things happening in Alberta’s capital city. Yet I know there must be. I mean, surely we aren’t the only ones, right? Nah, there’s others…we just need to help each other become more visible.

So the first step is to identify all the interesting tech startups (or established but relatively small companies) based in Edmonton. I’ve started tagging some, such as Zigtag, Nexopia, and ProExams, at del.icio.us using the tag edmontontech. I encourage you to do the same! Or, if you’re not into the social bookmarking/tagging thing, leave me a comment or email me with your Edmonton-based tech companies.

I suppose step two would be getting together with some of the companies to see what kind of interest there is in making our neck of the woods more visible to the rest of the world. I’d like to start changing Edmonton’s image with respect to tech startups. We have a great economy, relatively low living expenses, and lots of smart people. We’re just not regarded as all that great a place to start a tech company.

But first, step one. What Edmonton-based tech startups do you know about?

TEC Connector 2006

Post ImageThis afternoon was TEC Edmonton’s annual TEC Connector networking event, and for the second year in a row, Dickson and I decided to go. We were actually invited to setup a booth for Paramagnus, but we opted to just mingle instead. The TEC Connector is kind of an important event for me, because I consider it the start of our adventure with VenturePrize.

There seemed to be more people this year, and also unlike last year, we actually knew a few of them this time! It was nice to reconnect with some of the very smart and very interesting people we have met over the last year. These kinds of networking events are funny in a way, because you can meet some great people, but they also show just how small Edmonton can be. There are more familiar faces than unfamiliar ones.

There was some talk today about VenturePrize and the new student category that has been launched. I think it’s great that the program is expanding! Dickson and I will be one of the featured presenters in this year’s VenturePrize seminar series, an opportunity I am really looking forward to. We’ll be sharing our story with this year’s participants on November 1st.

Read: TEC Edmonton

Some details on Enterprise Square

Post ImageI attended an information session put on by TEC Edmonton today, where I learned some more details about the recently named Enterprise Square. TEC Edmonton will be the largest tenant in the new building, and while the session today was geared more towards their Research Transition Facility (RTF) clients, I still learned a lot. First and foremost, the name RTF will cease to exist when TEC Edmonton moves downtown in August of 2007. The new name will simply be “TEC Centre”.

One of the more interesting aspects of the presentation was that they shared artist drawings and some preliminary floorplans for the building. I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of the floorplans, but I do have scans of the drawings – here’s the outside of the building, and here’s part of the inside. If you look really closely, you might notice the following:

  • They have added a lot of windows to the second and third floors to try and bring in some more daylight.
  • A completely new fourth floor is currently being added. It will be constructed of steel on top of the existing concrete structure, and the sides will be completely covered in glass.
  • Instead of a skylight on the roof, they are building 13-foot high glass structures to allow daylight to flow into the building.
  • New elevators will be completely enclosed in glass, and existing escalators are being refurbished.

You’ll note the number of times I mentioned daylight. The existing Bay building was meant to be a department store, and so the focus was entirely retail. As a result, very few windows were built. Actually, I learned some interesting things about the building itself too. It is entirely built of concrete, and was constructed in two parts. The southern half was built in 1939, and the northern half was added in 1952. The familiar “coat of arms” on the southeast corner of the building will be preserved, along with a number of other features in order to meet the City of Edmonton’s restrictions for historic buildings.

Enterprise Square will offer about 350,000 square feet of space when complete, which should free up at least 150,000 square feet of space on the main university campus (which is good considering more academic space is badly needed). Here is the tenant list:

  • TEC Centre tenants & TEC Edmonton
  • U of A Faculty of Extension (completely moving downtown)
  • U of A School of Business Executive Education Program and the Alberta Business Family Institute
  • U of A Design Gallery, Arts Faculty
  • U of A Advancement Services
  • Art Gallery of Alberta (temporary, until the new Art Gallery is complete)
  • CHUM (Citytv and The Bounce, which already occupy space in the building)

As you can guess from the list, there will be at least some classroom space in Enterprise Square, used by the Faculty of Extension and the School of Business. Whether it will be available for use like space on the main campus remains to be seen.

President Samarasekera fast-tracked the project a while ago, and has made a number of her own requests (such as open spaces for lots of “hustle and bustle” on the main floor). The construction schedule really is aggresive, with blueprints for the interior to be completed in November and construction to begin in January (Stantec is handling the project). Tenants will start moving in over the summer. Dr. Samarasekera sure knows how to crack the whip it seems!

At this stage of the game, nothing is perfectly set in stone, but it’s getting closer. I expect in January you’ll really start to notice a difference if you pass by the building. And hopefully by August we’ll be able to take a good look at one of the newest additions to the University of Alberta!

Edmonton Public Library "Adventure" Ads

Post ImageIf you live in Edmonton, and listen to the radio occasionally, you may have heard the new ads for the Edmonton Public Library. If you haven’t, fear not, because I am going to summarize them anyway:

There are two young guys trying to skateboard, when one says to the other “I am not cut out for this.” The two are then faced with a problem – what to do? One guy suggests the adventure of a lifetime with dragons and all sorts of other things. The other guy thinks hes crazy. Then the first guy says all of it is possible at the public library. And the two go on their merry way, to slay dragons in their imaginations no doubt.

Now when I heard the commercial, I couldn’t help but laugh. No one I know gets all excited about taking an “adventure” to the public library. I get what they are saying, but I can’t see it working with young people. Maybe I’m just “too cool” but I think their marketing team took the wrong approach with the latest ads.

The goal is clearly to try and bring young people into the library. Instead of some hokey ad about an adventure, why not highlight the aspects of the library that appeal to young people? Things like public computers, excellent study and workspaces, a Second Cup built right in (for the downtown location at least), power outlets for your laptop, and wireless Internet (do they have this?). Okay so I can’t think of as many characteristics that would appeal to young people as I thought, but I am sure they are there. Thing is, I haven’t been to the library in so long, I don’t know what they are.

Do you agree with me? What else about the library would you highlight?

Read: EPL

University of Alberta unveils Enterprise Square

Post ImageJust over a year ago, I posted that the University of Alberta had officially purchased the Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Edmonton. At the time, officials said the first tenants would be able to move in within 12 to 18 months. It appears things are more or less on track:

At a downtown ceremony Thursday, the University of Alberta unveiled the new name for its downtown building with a flourish.

A large sign was lowered from the second level of Commerce Place above the rotunda, bearing the name “Enterprise Square.”

The name was chosen to reflect a bunch of things, including academic enterprise working alongside the private, and the enterprising spirit of Edmonton.

Renovations at the historic site continue, and are expected to be complete in the summer of 2007 with tenants moving in shortly thereafter. Once finished, roughly 430,000 square feet of space will have been renovated and made available in just 24 months. The project is definitely impressive.

On October 11th, TEC Edmonton (which will be the building’s largest tenant) is hosting an information session at their current location on the university campus. I am registered and planning to attend. For more information or to register for the event, click here.

Read: ExpressNews

Revealing The Hidden Terror: Snakes on a Plane!

Post ImageIf you haven’t had the pleasure of talking to me in person for a while, you might not know just how excited I am for the upcoming movie Snakes on a Plane, which opens Friday (though I have tickets for the Thursday screening). I mean there’s snakes, a plane, fear-stricken passengers, and one extremely badass FBI agent, better know as Samuel L. Jackson. Just check out the summary:

On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who’s a witness in protective custody, lets loose a crate full of deadly snakes.

And with much cussing and violence, I fully expect Samuel L. Jackson to save the day. You just can’t go wrong with a title like Snakes on a Plane!

Another interesting aspect of the movie is the huge community of fans who have created “fan media” for the movie – fake trailers, posters, websites, fake scripts, etc. There’s really an amazing amount of stuff available. You can find links to some of it as well as some good background on the movie and the community at Wikipedia.

Which brings me to the point of this post – to show you fan media created by myself and Andrew! We went to the Edmonton International Airport yesterday, to interview people about the hidden terror; the terror the media doesn’t want you to know about. Snakes on a Plane. What we found was shocking – no one was aware of this growing terror! Among those we talked to were a security screener and a baggage person, and it was clear from our conversations that there is no plan in place to fight the snakes. The ban on liquids is good, but what we really need is a ban on snakes!

Watch the video at YouTube!

The video turned out to be a little longer than I had hoped it would at seventeen minutes, but I wasn’t sure what else to cut. It has its funny moments, especially in the latter half, so if you have some time to spare, check it out! We find out if people are afraid of snakes, if they trust Samuel L. Jackson, and if they are planning to see the movie. It was fun to make!

Read: YouTube

Edmonton's Capital EX

Post ImageLast night Sharon and I went to Capital EX (formerly Klondike Days, or simply K Days). The ten day festival ends tomorrow, and with rain in the forecast, I would expect attendance numbers for the last two days to be quite low. The rain stayed away yesterday though!

There’s a bunch of new rides this year, and many of my favorites are now gone (like the Drop of Fear and the Zipper). We only went on the ferris wheel, which we tried to time just right, so we’d see the fireworks at the same time. Apparently it was “too windy” though, so the fireworks were cancelled! I wasn’t impressed. We did get the ferris wheel ride for free pretty much though – as we were in line to buy tickets, this guy came up and offered us his card which had 11 credits left on it (we needed twelve, hence the pretty much free) as he had just received a wrist band from someone.

New to the EX this year is Ed Fest, a big concert series with some popular musical acts like Nelly Furtado, and Sam Roberts (who closed the show last night). You can hear the music from almost anywhere, so there’s no need to buy tickets really! The stage is pretty poorly placed though, because it is so loud, it drowns out the nearby Epcor stage which has magicians and other acts. It was really annoying, though the magician we watched made the best of it.

Another thing the organizers did this year was separate the little kid rides into a completely separate section. Very smart move, as it made it much easier to walk through the midway and to the normal rides. Inside the Sportex there was a display from the Art Gallery, which looked kind of neat in the pictures promoting it, but turned out to be really unimpressive in person (it was a river made of jars). There was also the usual stuff like the military displays, and the thousands of people hawking all sorts of crap.

And what trip would be complete without mini-donuts! I absolutely love those things, and they sure were tasty yesterday. I wish there was a mini-donut street vendor near the office – I’d probably be his or her best customer!

Read: Capital EX

Sonic 102.9 FM acquired by Rogers

Post ImageAny Sonic-heads out there? Big news regarding one of Edmonton’s newest radio stations! It appears that Sonic 102.9 FM has been acquired by Rogers Communications. Details from Broadcaster Magazine via Tod Maffin:

Rogers Communications, long seeking a radio presence in Edmonton and northern Alberta, has found its channel, with a $39.8-million acquisition of OK Radio’s Sonic Radio 102.9 FM and World Radio 101.7 (CKER FM).

The deal also includes two stations and a transmitter in Fort McMurray, a station in Grande Prairie and transmitters there and in Peace River and Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

The deal will be heard by the CRTC on September 11th, though it is expected to be approved. This has got to be some kind of record! I mean Sonic only launched in 2005, and now it has been sold. I guess their former owner, OK Radio, was founded a long time ago though, back in 1973.

Hopefully the new owners don’t change too much…

Read: Broadcaster Magazine

UPDATE: You can find Sonic 102.9 on the web at http://www.sonic1029.com.

Wilson wins 2006 Grand Prix of Edmonton

Post ImageI am so glad I got to go to the race today – it was awesome! I only wish my Dad had been able to come (we always watch the F1 races early Sunday morning together, though virtually, as he lives in the north). Despite the heat, there was a packed crowd for the race today, and it was extremely entertaining. Bourdais led the first half of the race, but Wilson proved much quicker and eventually took the checkered flag, becoming the only driver besides Bourdais and Allmendinger to win a race this season (here’s the full story).

I have to say that watching a race in person is a much different experience than watching on television. Edmonton is probably unique too, in that you can see pretty much the entire track from your seat in the grandstands. In any case, I like that you see every car go by every lap, whereas on TV you are at the mercy of the producer and camera people. It makes it much easier to see visually who is gaining on whom, who is falling behind, and who is trying too hard. Sure the television has the times and stuff, but actually seeing it is pretty cool.

The race began with the parade of drivers, each in a Ford pickup. Some of the Edmonton Eskimos also took part, with their very yellow truck bringing up the rear. There were parachuters, CF-18s, Mayor Mandel, Premier Klein, and various other dignitaries to get things underway. Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish was the grand marshall, saying the famous words with a twist – “Katherine and gentlemen, start your engines!” (as Katherine Legge is the only woman driver in the series). It was neat to see MacT and Kelly Buchburger walking down the concourse with a couple other guys – everyone would walk past, and then stop and look at the foursome, wondering if they had really just seen MacT! He’s an Edmonton celebrity to be sure.

I’ve added a few more pictures to my photoset from today. I also have about ten minutes of video, just various clips that I recorded throughout the day, so I’ll post that at some point as well. You know, so you can hear the scream of the engines for yourself!

Anyway, great race, and I hope I can go again next year!

35 Degree Racing in Edmonton

Post ImageI really wanted to go to the inaugural Grand Prix of Edmonton last year, but never got around to getting tickets. This year though, I was lucky enough to get Silver tickets for today and tomorrow. Turns out that one of my very fashionable friends got tickets from work, yet found she didn’t like watching cars go in circles, so she was nice enough to give her pass to me. Needless to say, I was pretty happy.

I arrived at the track this morning around 10, just in time to catch the morning Champ Car practice. I stayed until after the afternoon qualifying, which ended at 3. I’m amazed I lasted that long – the weather in Edmonton today was an incredible 35 degrees celsius, which as I’m sure you’re aware, is much hotter when you’re on asphalt.

It was totally worth it though! I’ve always been a big racing fan, with my favorite being Formula 1 (and there was a lot of Schumacher and Alonso gear to be seen today which was neat). I used to watch Champ Car all the time too, back when it was called CART. I still remember Jacques Villeneuve racing for the Players team in CART before switching to F1 and winning a world championship. And I remember Paul Tracy, who was one of the youngest drivers in the field. He’s now the oldest, and clearly the fan favorite here in Edmonton. He starts the race second tomorrow, despite a little accident this afternoon. Sebastien Bourdais has the pole.

Watching in person is much different than watching on television. The sounds are obviously much louder, and you can hear certain things much more clearly, such as gear shifts or brakes locking up. And while it’s easier to keep track of what’s going on when watching TV, there are some things you just can’t see properly unless you’re in person. Things like the way the cars bounce around (well if you ignore on car cameras at least), or the way the downforce keeps them on track as they go through a corner at 100 mph. Everytime the cars go through turns 13 and 14, it looks like they are going to lose control, and except for one time today, none of them did. It’s incredible.

I’ve created a new photoset with a bunch of pictures I took today, and I’ll add to it tomorrow. A couple interesting ones are this forklift carrying packages of ice to keep drinks cool no doubt, and this jet engine mounted to the back of a pickup that blows debris from the track. Maybe I’ll bring my video camera tomorrow!

Read: Edmonton GP