Edmonton Notes for February 17, 2019

Happy Family Day long weekend! Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Investing in education, diversification in Edmonton 131693
Investing in education, diversification in Edmonton, photo by Premier of Alberta

Upcoming Events

WD Canada announces $2.3 million for Edmonton Global
WD Canada announces $2.3 million for Edmonton Global

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Edmonton Notes for February 10, 2019

If you can believe it, the temperature could be -6 C on Wednesday. That would be a welcome change! Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Hoth LRT
Hoth LRT, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events

Ice Castles Edmonton
Ice Castles Edmonton 2019

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Edmonton Notes for February 3, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Ice Castles Edmonton
Ice Castles in 2017

Upcoming Events

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Paul Singh brings tough love to Edmonton’s startup community

Paul Singh is a well-known entrepreneur, investor, and speaker based in Washington, DC. For the last few years, Singh and his partner Dana Duncan have travelled around North America visiting startup communities “that other investors weren’t visiting.” Along the way they’ve interacted with thousands of founders, investors, community leaders, and elected officials, and have seen first-hand what nearly 100 cities are doing to try to grow their startup ecosystems.

ScaleUp YEG brought Singh’s North American Tech Tour to Edmonton this week. He participated in a number of events on Thursday and Friday in addition to one-on-one meetings with local entrepreneurs to provide “mentoring and support” (and presumably to look for investment opportunities). I saw him speak on Thursday afternoon at the Edmonton Innovation Ecosystem Community (EIEC) meeting hosted by EEDC.

Paul Singh

“It’s not better anywhere else,” Singh told the room. “We could pick this room up and put it down in any other city and we’d have the same conversations.” Entrepreneurs would complain that there’s not enough money, investors would complain that there aren’t enough quality companies, and bureaucrats would complain that they’re being overlooked compared to others.

Singh lamented the fact that entrepreneurs see investors as individuals with power that need to be won over, referencing Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank tendency to focus the camera on the investors as the popular reinforcement of this idea. He suggested investors are just like entrepreneurs, with a business to grow. Still, he didn’t hold back when it came to his advice for the entrepreneurs in the room.

“If you cannot build a business in Edmonton, moving is not going to help you,” he said. “The internet has made place less relevant.” Singh argued that because the barriers to entry are so much lower now, it’s most often entrepreneurs themselves that get in the way of success. “Most entrepreneurs underestimate the value of just getting started,” he said. “We have a lot of wantrapreneurs.”

When asked which cities he has come across that are successfully building startup communities, Singh cited Kelowna, BC and Lincoln, Nebraska. But he quickly turned back to Edmonton. “I feel like Edmonton’s worst enemy is the people that already live in Edmonton,” Singh observed. “You guys are awful to yourselves.” He noted that in today’s world, ambition and access to information are both fairly evenly distributed. “It’s visibility that is not equally distributed,” he said. And that’s what Edmonton should focus on.

“If you want to make Edmonton better, you don’t need collaboration,” he said. Instead, entrepreneurs need to pick up the phone 200 times a day and sell, investors need to just focus on making more money (wherever it comes from), and government officials need to drive visibility.

“The only thing stopping more billion dollar companies from being here in Edmonton is the entrepreneurs not doing it,” Singh said.

Controversial criticism

One of the other events that Singh participated in during ScaleUp YEG was a session called Customer vs Investor Presentation: Knowing How to Pitch to Your Audience:

“Local ScaleUp dealcloser will share their sales and investor presentation for feedback from our experts Carey Houston, Paul Singh, & Kristina Milke on what makes for a good presentation for each audience. You’ll leave understanding the differences between a sales and investor presentation, what makes a good pitch, and understanding the needs and motivations of your audience.”

Amir Reshef, co-founder and CEO at dealcloser, gave the two presentations on stage in front of a crowd and received feedback from Singh, Houston, and Milke. I was not at the event, but understand that Singh did not hold back in his criticism and that Reshef, while expecting constructive feedback, was taken aback at the approach that Singh took. This led Alex Putici, founder of Work Nicer, to write a blog post explaining that Singh would not be welcome to participate in upcoming events at the coworking space. He wrote:

“A community member was participating in a pitch event and was thereafter “roasted” and “humiliated”. Tough truths, direct feedback, and criticism is important. But it must be delivered respectfully while helping the individual and encouraging the community around them. This balance can be tricky, but it’s culture setting.”

Both Singh and Reshef have since responded on Facebook.

“I apologize for making you feel roasted and humiliated — I’m sorry,” wrote Singh. “My understanding of that particular event’s goal was clearly incorrect, I believe the organizer has conveyed that to you.” He said that he and his partners enjoyed their time here in Edmonton, adding that “we’ll be doing our best to invest more of our time and money in promising entrepreneurs here.”

“Overall, it was not a fun experience and while I do not begrudge Paul giving honest and blunt feedback, I would have preferred not to be the person at the receiving end of that feedback in such a public manner,” wrote Reshef. “When the organizer of ScaleUp YEG asked me to present, I was told it would be a very positive and friendly presentation. It did not pan out that way.”

I understand that Singh, Reshef, and Putici have all spoken with one another and are ready to move on.

My Thoughts

So why mention the controversy at all? Two reasons.

First, I think it is a reminder that people are generally making good faith efforts toward a common goal and that they really do care. Singh was not out to get anyone, the organizers did not intentionally mislead anyone about the intent of the session, Reshef did not complain or ask for the removal of Singh from Work Nicer, and Putici was acting in the best interests of the community he’s responsible for. I believe they all genuinely want to see Edmonton’s startup community succeed. The fact that they care so much is what makes incidents like this seem bigger than they are.

Second, it does present an opportunity for everyone in the local startup community to reflect on the type of community we’d like to have. If we want a respectful, constructive, and accountable community then we need to be intentional about building it that way.

Paul Singh

I really enjoyed Singh’s talk. Though I am sure he has delivered the exact same message to countless other cities on his tour, he seemed genuinely interested in Edmonton’s startup community and attempts to improve it. I appreciated his reminder that often the grass is not greener on the other side, as well as his observation that Edmontonians spend too much time worrying about how we’re doing rather than just getting on with it.

A little perspective goes a long way.

UPDATE: The pitch event took place at the Edmonton Convention Centre not at Work Nicer Beaver House as originally stated.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 44

Edmonton’s 44th DemoCamp took place on Tuesday night at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. It was the first DemoCamp of 2019. You can see my recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 43 here.

DemoCamp Edmonton 44

If you’re new to DemoCamp, here’s what it’s all about:

“DemoCamp brings together developers, creatives, entrepreneurs and investors to share what they’ve been working on and to find others in the community interested in similar topics. For presenters, it’s a great way to get feedback on what you’re building from peers and the community, all in an informal setting. Started back in 2008, DemoCamp Edmonton has steadily grown into one of the largest in the country, with over 200 people attending each event. The rules for DemoCamp are simple: 7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.”

Here’s my Twitter thread for the event. We had six demos, in order of appearance:

CleanNow is aiming to be the Uber for house cleaning. They launched in early December and now have more than 400 active customers over the last 30 days. CleanNow is trying to solve the problem of finding a reliable house cleaner, so they demoed some of the features that support that. The backend is written in Code Igniter and they have a PHP API. Payments are done in-app with Stripe. CleanNow is launching next in Calgary, hopefully in March.

The World’s Opinion, or two for short, was inspired by election polls and how inaccurate they can be. “Everyone has a phone so why can’t we get a sense of what people are thinking?” Noah said. The app is currently iOS only (built in Swift from scratch) and allows users to vote on questions by swiping left or right, to ignore or skip questions by swiping up, and to save a question for later by swiping down. The question editor looks like the Instagram story interface and allows for thumbs up/down or two-choice questions. Everyone can see the breakdown of responses for a question, including some basic demographics like gender. The backend uses Google Firebase, and Noah said he’ll probably do an Android version at some point.

Sparkshot is an art discovery platform with a twist. Artists create artwork, upload it to the site, and behind the scenes Sparkshot will cover it in black pixels. Users can then purchase pixels (using Bitcoin micropayments) to reveal the art over time (price per pixel is set by the artist). Each piece looks a bit like a jigsaw puzzle until it is fully revealed. Once finally revealed, anyone can see and share the png file as well as all of the messages the buyers posted along the way. Because it uses Bitcoin, there’s no need to know who is buying the pixels, so there’s no account to create. Jarret and Dean demoed Forkdrop.io at DemoCamp Edmonton 42, another Bitcoin-related project.

I remember participating in hackathons and it seemed like an achievement to get the entire team setup in source control and have a simple website built. How things have changed! Eric and Mark showed us their hackathon project, which is a gesture controlled robotic arm. They built a wristband with eight pressure sensors to measure muscle movement that sends data to an Arduino micrcontroller and on to a computer with a classifier to convert the muscle movement into four different motions for the robotic arm. They told us they currently measure 200 data points for each position. In the future they’d like to make the wristband wireless and they also talked about prototyping their own microcontroller boards to speed up signal processing. Amazing.

Next up was RevonTech with Animus, which is a small device that can power a string of up to 150 LEDs in sync with music. They 3D printed the case and designed the board themselves to ensure that power consumption was kept to a minimum (it can run continuously for over 6 hours). Animus can control the lights based on frequency and also does some beat detection. Using the mobile app, users can choose from a collection of patterns. Patrick told us they wanted it to be a plug-and-play kind of device, for people who don’t know all the tech, but want to take advantage of it at a concert. We also learned the hardware supports far more than they have been able to implement in software thus far. Animus is about to launch in beta!

The final demo of the night was VSS-30, which Matthew explained is an attempt to emulate those electronic keyboards you probably played with as a kid. He modeled the keyboard in Blender and it took about 15 hours. VSS-30 runs entirely in the browser using WebGL and features all the effects, synthesizers, and recording that you could hope for. “Is there a way to save your creations out of this?” someone asked. “Absolutely not!” was the response. Matthew said it’s about recreating the toy experience. “Go in, making something cool, and then let go of it.”

I really enjoyed all of the demos! It was my favorite kind of DemoCamp: a nice mix of software and hardware.

DemoCamp Edmonton 44

Here are the events and other announcements that were mentioned in-between demos:

  • Student DevCon is coming up on March 23, 2019 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. Tickets are just $35 and include all sessions, swag, breakfast, and lunch.
  • Business Model 101 is Startup Edmonton’s most popular workshop. It is running twice per month for the next few months, and new for 2019, you can attend in Riverbend or Meadows, so you don’t need to travel downtown.
  • There are plenty of upcoming community meetups listed at the Startup Edmonton meetup site.
  • DemoCamp Edmonton 45 is scheduled to take place on March 12, 2019.

You can also check out the Tech Roundup for the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community every Tuesday. Here’s the latest edition.

If you’ve got something to show, apply to demo at a future event.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 45!

Edmonton Notes for January 27, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

New interchange to create jobs, attract investment 129823
New interchange to create jobs, attract investment, photo by Premier of Alberta

Upcoming Events

Rogers PlaceInside Rogers Place

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Edmonton Notes for January 20, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • An investment of $2.5 million from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund will support the rebuilding of the Roxy Theatre. “This funding will support the construction of a new 14,639-square-foot Roxy Theatre, which will be rebuilt in its original location on 124th Street. The new facility will include a 200-seat black box theatre, an 80-seat studio theatre, a rehearsal hall and a gallery in the lobby. It will also be fully accessible for audiences and artists with disabilities.”
  • J.C. Sherritt has announced he is retiring from professional football after spending eight years with the Edmonton Eskimos. “Just to get to call myself an Edmonton Eskimo for the rest of my life means a great deal,” he said.
  • Council will be discussing the snow & ice program this week and there will be tough questions about the memo on calcium chloride that recently surfaced. “Councillor Scott McKeen, who reviewed the memo, previously said he plans to make an inquiry as to why city administration did not share it with councillors.”
  • David Edey, who served as Edmonton’s City Clerk from 1997 to 2008, passed away on January 10. “David’s work paved the way for Council to do their best work,” said City Manager Linda Cochrane. “He was an unwavering supporter of staff and his community, always believing that a helping hand could make a meaningful difference.”
  • The Hyatt brand is returning to Edmonton with a new hotel in the former Enbridge Tower (the one on 102 Street with the peaked roof).
  • The suicide barriers that were installed on the High Level Bridge a few years ago are failing to prevent crisis calls according to a new Edmonton Police Commission report. “It’s very troubling that we still have these numbers,” said Councillor Scott McKeen.
  • The new Edmonton Opera Centre is located inside a 22,000-square-foot brick warehouse in the northwest part of Edmonton. “The opera centre is also home to the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, set builds for Opera Nuova and rehearsals of The Singing Christmas Tree, among other groups.”
  • According to Environment Canada, the rest of the winter is likely to have above normal temperatures.
  • Information sessions on upcoming Neighbourhood Renewal work are taking place over the next few weeks at Royal Gardens, Highlands, Alberta Avenue, Inglewood, and Strathcona.
  • The LRT will be completely shutdown on Sunday, January 27 to accommodate testing of the Thales signalling system. “Customers will still see trains running on the tracks, but will not be permitted to board.”
  • The Edmonton Arts Council anticipates adding 11 new public artworks to the City of Edmonton Public Art Collection in 2019, five of which are by Edmonton-based artists.
  • From Linda Hoang: 10 Vietnamese Edmonton Entrepreneurs Worth Following.
  • Episode 21 of Speaking Municipally covers the bike share, calcium chloride, and everything else that City Council was discussing this past week. The latest Council Roundup has everything you need to know about the week ahead.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Health Innovation, Music, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups. We’re back at it this week!

Untitled
High Level bridge and North Saskatchewan River, photo by rjbeeswax

Upcoming Events

Legislature Lights Segway Tour
Legislature Lights Segway Tour

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Edmonton Notes for January 13, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Government centre Edmonton January 4 2019
Alberta Legislature, photo by Jason Woodhead

Upcoming Events

Heaviest load ever to travel on Alberta’s highways 127334
Heaviest load ever to travel on Alberta’s highways, photo by Premier of Alberta

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Edmonton Notes for January 6, 2019

Happy New Year! It was nice to have a break, but now I’m ready to get back down to business.

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • Former Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Gene Zwozdesky has died of cancer at the age of 70.
  • The City has mailed 2019 property assessment notices. “Overall, the residential market experienced a 1.7 per cent decrease in assessed value.” Call 311 if you have any concerns with your assessment. March 11 is the deadline to file formal complaints with the Assessment Review Board. Property tax bills will be delivered in May.
  • A report issued by the Civic Service Union 52 before Christmas says the City could cut management positions to save $100 million over a four-year budget cycle. “Micro-management in an organization this complex can cause gridlock,” wrote Elise Stolte.
  • China stopped accepting 24 kinds of waste at the beginning of 2018, including paper and plastics. Now Edmonton-area municipalities are struggling to manage the increased recycling costs. “It has increased the competition across the board,” said Mike Robertson, contract manager for Edmonton’s Materials Recovery Facility.
  • Could this be the year of the bike in Edmonton? Elise Stolte argues that a “cheap, easy, bike share can make the millions Edmonton invested in bikes lanes a benefit to the masses.”
  • According to Statistics Canada, Alberta lost nearly 17,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate in Edmonton was 6.3%.
  • Councillors Cartmell, Hamilton, and Paquette spoke about their concerns with the Valley Line West LRT in year-end interviews. All three “voted in favour of the route and design for the 14-kilometre stretch of the Valley Line between downtown and Lewis Farms in the west end.”
  • The City of Edmonton’s urban hen program is capped at 50 sites and there are currently 12 applicants on the waiting list.
  • SkyriseEdmonton has a look at the proposed Stadium LRt Station redesign. “Stadium Station, according to 2017 passenger counts, has the third-lowest utilization of any station on the LRT system, still only being primarily used for a handful of stadium events every year.”
  • Edmonton’s first baby of 2019 arrived 21 days ahead of schedule, weighing in at five pounds, seven ounces. She was born just eight minutes into the new year.
  • Put your Christmas tree out next to your garbage bags by 7am on Wednesday and the City will collect it for recycling. “For Christmas trees to be acceptable for composting, all ornaments, tinsel, garlands, nails, screws and tree stands must be removed.” You can also take natural Christmas trees to an Eco Station for free until January 31.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Health Innovation, Music, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups. We’re back at it this week!

Edmonton 2019
Edmonton 2019, photo by IQRemix

Upcoming Events

AmpersandGrey-CityJam2018064
NextGen City Jam 2018, photo by Edmonton’s NextGen

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Edmonton Notes for December 16, 2018

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Premier seeking industry interest in oil refining 124562
Premier seeking industry interest in oil refining, photo by Premier of Alberta

Upcoming Events

Between Christmas Trains
Between Christmas Trains, photo by Jeff Wallace

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