Open. Participatory. Distributed. Hackable. Special.

I ran into Mark Surman this morning and he reminded me about the upcoming Mozilla Drumbeat event in Toronto on April 24, 2010. I like the Drumbeat events. Get everyday people who use the Internet and web technologies involved in new ways to understand participate and take control of their lives.

At a practical level, Drumbeat community members use web technology to make things that improve and protect the open internet. They run local events where people propose and work on these practical projects. They encourage others to get involved. Mozilla helps find contributors, funds and advice for the most promising Drumbeat projects. It also directly leads a number of Drumbeat projects of its own.

It’s all about making and building. Getting regular people to understand the impact and the potential the open web as a generative tool on lives, careers and information. It’s about taking the tools, methods and techniques developed through the collaborative development process used at Mozilla and extending it to help support the open web (it reminds me of the evolution of Mozilla as described by my friend David Eaves). Check out Mark’s blog posts about Drumbeat or his presentation below

What are potential Drumbeat projects?

Some of my favourites of the currently submitted projects include:

Universal Subtitles

Universal SubtitlesSubtitles bridge linguistic and physical barriers to video. Help create an open lookup standard that lets any video client find matching subtitles in online databases, along with free and open source tools to enable users to easily create subtitles and translations, a Firefox extension that will look up and display matching subtitles, and an open community subtitle database.

Privacy Icons

This project has a very simple goal: to develop a series of graphical and machine- readable privacy icons that companies can use to convey important elements of their privacy policy to users and that developers can build applications on top of to enable users to make choices based on the disclosures in the policies.

You should check out the projects. Think about how you might get involved. And more importantly, who are those people that are peripheral to our little web technology community that you know that should be participating? Open government folks? Media company people? Real estate technologists? Teachers? Artists? Share Drumbeat with them. Invite them to join you. Invite them to participate.

DemoCamp Ramen Edition

Photo by frippy

It’s time again for DemoCamp. There are a few tickets remaining. But this is DemoCamp Ramen Edition. Why ramen? Well it’s pretty easy. The first is an homage to being ramen profitable. The last event with Gurbaksh Chahal was great, my only complaint was that by 9pm I was hungry. The great folks at Liberty Noodle have offered to help us out. They are providing take out boxes of noodles or rice as part of the DemoCamp registration. Hopefully this should make it more tenable to spend time watching a stellar line up of local startups and a keynote. This is all made possible by our friends at SIFE Ryerson, who have recently launched StartMeUpRyerson to be the SVASE of Canada, go have a peek.

April Dunford is keynoting.  April is one of my favourite marketers in the world. She has lived in big organizations (IBM, Nortel) and at small organizations (DataMirror, Infobright, VersePoint). She has a wicked grasp of customer development  and this #leanstartup thing. April has agreed to talk about the myths of product market fit. Well at least the challenges about figure out if you’ve got product-market fit and how to know when to begin to transition to go-to-market. This will be a must attend discussion for startups about products, marketing and corporate development. (Don’t worry if you miss April at DemoCamp, you can see Sean Ellis at MeshU).

There is an outstanding line up of startups:

I’ve seen a few of these demos, and they are fun. It’s exciting to get to see world-class technologies and startups here in Toronto (Ottawa and Montreal). I’m looking forward to hanging out with everyone, learning from April and watching the best demos.

We’ll be heading out for beers afterwards. We’re heading over to the Imperial Pub. And if you haven’t figured this out, let me help you, The Imperial Pub is a great place for a couple of beers, it’s not the place to go for dinner.

Toronto Tech Week 2.0

Wow, May 17-20, 2010 is shaping up to be Toronto Tech Week 2.0. It’s going to be a busy week, but like Social Media Week TO and Mobile Innovation Week. This has something for most of the industry. Coverage of engineering, clean tech, software, health, bio, policy, culture, news, participatory culture, entrepreneurship!

You can’t ask for a better set of conferences in Toronto. If we had Rudy’s BBQ, I’d be almost as excited as I am about SxSW.

Planning for SxSW

My copy of SxSWorld arrived. And I would like to claim that I prefer accessing this information digitally because of the environmental and other factors, I really like glossy print. I like books and magazines. I like the tactile, emotional experience. It’s probably rooted in my childhood and trips to the Byron Library. But suffice to say, I was flipping through SxSWorld with Smokey Robinson on the cover and I’m excited about this years festival.

Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator @ SxSWi
Are you innovative enough?

Chris Sacca ( is hosting the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator event. A couple of things. This is a SxSW event that is sponsored by Microsoft. It’s not a Microsoft event. There are 32 startups competing for attention, recognition and prizes. It was a fun event, it’s basically product pitches and commentary from judges. Think DemoCamp with feedback. I’m looking forward to spending 2 days in the Hilton, unfortunately there is not a single Canadian company in the list of thirty two.

There was a huge ad for a Montreal company that I want to adore, Tungle. Tungle solves calendaring at the edge of an organization, i.e., meeting scheduling when not everyone is on Exchange or Notes. It’s the free-busy time when everyone is using a different calendaring system. You can see my schedule at Good on the Tungle marketing team making the investment to go after a market segment that attends SxSW. While I don’t necessarily think this is the segment that they will currently get to profitability on (we’re a bunch of cheap, early adopters), it’s a sign that they are finally pushing forward with a go-to-market plan. And the full page ad in SxSWorld.

Hugh Forrest doesn’t get enough recognition. And unlike in the past when I’ve been sucking up to Hugh, this is just an honest tip of the hat for his great work. The addition of Core Conversations in 2007, and the addition of Future 15 sessions shows the risks that the SxSW organizing committee is willing to take to improve the attendee experience.

“New media technology constantly evolves and re-adapts itself. Similarly, we try to continually evolve and re-adapt the SxSW Interactive Festival programming format. One of the new additions for the 2010 schedule is a series of short talks called Future15. As the title implies, these are 15-minute solo presentations curated from proposals submitted to the PanelPicker. We grouped these Future15 presentations into two-hour blocks of programming related to a single theme. For 2010, Future15 themes range from “connected business” to “government and technology” to “wireless innovation””.

I presented a Core Conversation in 2008 which was one of the most engaging formats at SxSW. I’m looking forward to the addition of the Future15, I’m hoping to see a lot of smaller easier to digest content chunks from people. This coupled with the always engaging keynotes which include: dana boyd, Ev Williams, and talks including Douglas Rushkoff, Jaron Lanier, Marissa Mayer, Josh Koenig.

Digital Mission - UK Trade & InvestmentIt’s is great to see the UK Digital Mission bringing 40 UK digital and mobile companies to SxSW. In the same vein, there is a Canadian Blast for the Music Festival supporting Canadian recording acts. I know that Canadian Consulate has hosted events at SxSW. It will be interesting to see if SxSW is the key event for product launches, business development, marketing for a certain segment of digital/mobile companies. It has become the launch pad for music, will it do the same for interactive (specially with CES, MWC, TC50, Demo, OSCon, Web2Expo, and a huge variety of other shows).

There is a large contingent of Canadian companies travelling to Austin for SxSW. I’m looking to meet with any (Canadian) startups that want to talk about product development, marketing, fund raising, and growing their business. I’m also looking forward to talking to others about lean/customer development, fund raising not in the US, global business development and marketing, and everything else. Time to start building a plan, filling up a calendar and trying to meet more great people at SxSW.

Social Media Week + PowerPoint Karaoke

Eli Singer, the team at Entrinsic, and a supporting cast of  people & advisors have organized the first Social Media Week Toronto.

There is a great schedule of events that span the gamut of social media for companies large and small, not for profit, and local case studies. The schedule is a week with independently organized events. Some of the events I’m watching include:

PowerPoint Karaoke is one of my favorite social formats. It is just brilliant. I first saw it executed in 2006 at ETech. And I wrote about as an alternative format to DemoCamp. I’m stoked to see that my friends Tom & Jay are making the effort to make it happen in Toronto. Remember it’s a social event, it’s meant to be a way to have fun!

North by Northeast Interactive

If it feels like there is a push of activities in Toronto, there are.

You don’t need to attend every event, there is lots going on.

Entrepreneur Week – Founders & Funders Social

Founders and Funders

I’m heading to Waterloo tomorrow afternoon to attend Founders & Funders Waterloo as. Iain Klugman and the Communitech mafia have done a great job on Entrepreneur Week. And I think Entrepreneur Week and the Waterloo scene is a great thing. I’m really excited to be participating in the social aspects. It’s also making me feel really guilty about my efforts in the Toronto community. It has been almost 18 months since the last Founders & Funders in Toronto (stay tuned or watch Founders & Funders or StartupNorth for updates).


I’ll be heading back to Waterloo in early December to view the Velocity Startup Day. Velocity seriously kicks ass. What a great opportunity for students to spend a term or two deeply immersed in entrepreneurship and technology. Velocity Startup is a great opportunity to:

  • Connect with VeloCity students displaying current business projects
  • Interact with other UW entrepreneurial students representing their projects at our exhibition
  • Inform students about your company/services
  • Talk to students who may be interested in working for your organization

Any startup should be heading for the day to find talent. Funders should be heading to see if there are any opportunities.


What: VeloCity Start-up Day
When:Tuesday, December 1, 2009 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Where:Student Life Centre
200 University Ave West
Waterloo, ON   Canada

DemoCamp Toronto # 24 featuring Gary Vaynerchuk

crushit We’re really lucky to have Saul Colt working his ass off in Toronto. He’s done a great thing. He’s invited his friend Gary Vaynerchuk to come to Toronto and talk to startups about his book, Crush It, and entrepreneurship. That’s right, Gary Vaynerchuk in Toronto on December 3, 2009 for the next DemoCamp Toronto (which will be number 24 for anyone keeping track).

Gary is keynoting SxSW. Here’s your chance to see Gary without the trip to Austin. However, I strongly recommend the trip to Austin if for nothing other than the BBQ and the Shiner Bock.

The event is sponsored by Zoocasa, Saul Colt, Rogers Ventures, OCE, Microsoft BizSpark and StartupNorth are working together on this one.

I haven’t had the chance to read the book yet. Adding it to my queue along with Trust Agents, Six Pixels of Separation and a few other books.

DemoCamp Details

Impact National Conference & Impact Ventures

Cross posted on StartupNorth.

Impact Entrepreneurship GroupImpact_blog_redlogo started life as a student group designed to help promote entrepreneurship as a career path. It was started by Kunal Gupta, now the founder & CEO of Polar Mobile. It started as a conference for students, “a one-day event in Kitchener, Ontario attracting 150 delegates”. It is still primarily a conference/event machine for student entrepreneurs. However, with the creation of Impact Consulting and now Impact Ventures (see below) this is changing very quickly.

The next INC_logoImpact National Conference is happening November 20-21, 2009 at the Westin Harbour Castle on Queens Quay in Toronto. The conference features some interesting speakers including some familiar faces: Andy Nulman, Sunjay Nath, Ali Asaria, Jordan Banks, Saul Colt, Austin Hill, Mike McDerment and others. It looks to be a great conference with a great list of speakers in Toronto.


What is most interesting to me is the announcement of the Impact 2010 Programs, including Impact Ventures.

Many talented youth with innovative ideas steer away from an entrepreneurial path due to the numerous challenges, including funding and guidance, which they inevitably face; Impact Ventures was created to remove these obstacles. Impact Ventures strives to provide youth entrepreneurs with the seed funding, advisory services, workspace tools, and strategic resources they need at the crucial idea stage to create a successful business. Based on the successful Y Combinator model used in Silicon Valley to bring the next generation of ideas to life, Impact Ventures will help propel new startups to achieve their business objectives.

The selection process consists of an application form and an interview; there is no business plan required. During the pilot, three to four ventures showing the most opportunity for growth and long term sustainability will be chosen for the first batch. This three-month program will bring these budding entrepreneurs to Waterloo, the technology hub of Canada, to present them with all the components each entrepreneur needs to help build their venture.

Components for each selected Venture:

  • $15,000 in seed funding for an average of 6% stake in the company
  • Mentors available for hands-on help as well as advise
  • Advisory services including Legal, Accounting, Banking and more
  • Office Space in Waterloo to create an environment of collaboration
  • Themed weeks where experts related to starting a business will provide their insights and advice
  • Consultants to help a new company fill gaps in its initial organization

Impact Ventures is dedicated to the implementation of the entrepreneurial spirit amongst Canadian youth and values the independence of each entrepreneur. We are not interested in controlling the direction of the company as we trust in the entrepreneurs to make the best decision for their company. We believe in a non-regimented and friendly atmosphere where you are allowed to develop your startup with little interference, numerous resources and advice when you need it. Impact Ventures is set to revolutionize the startup industry by giving entrepreneurs an excellent spring board that will launch them to their success.

I’ve been talking with members of team creating Impact Ventures including Taimur Mohammad and Ray Cao since my post "Incubators, accelerators and ignition” back in April 2009. It looks like the Impact team has taken up the challenge and will be using their network of advisors, past members to help guide and mentor new companies. It also looks like they’ll be providing funding and consulting services to help kick start these early ventures.  There is a Waterloo residency requirement, which potential a detractor for many students actually enables students in the VeloCity program a formalized incubation phase beyond their residence. For many non-University of Waterloo students this provides students access to the ridiculous support network available in Waterloo (I’m looking at you TechCapital and Communitech and BarCampWaterloo). This is something that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

meshmarketing– Oct 22, 2009


My good friends Mark Evans, Michael McDerment, Stuart MacDonald, Mathew Ingram and Rob Hyndman, also known as The Mesh Boys, are hosting a new event in Toronto called meshmarketing. Mesh Conference has evolved into the leading conference for impact that the Web and participatory technologies have on marketing, media, culture and politics in Canada. It leads me to believe that meshmarketing will be a great event.

What is meshmarketing?

“meshmarketing is a one-day event focused on insights, tools and tactics to help you win customers’ hearts and minds, online. An insightful keynote will lead us into a series of engaging conversations and "show and tell" presentations, as well as in-depth workshops.”

Who is speaking?

There are great entrepreneurs and marketers including:

And some of the best Canadian talent that we haven’t seen at community events in a while including:

It’s a very inexpensive conference (tickets are Cdn$489 + GST) to see world-class talent in Toronto. For Toronto residents, you don’t have to travel, you don’t have to pay for a hotel, you get access to leading international and Canadian speakers (ok, it’s focused on eastern Canada, I’m not diminishing either the speaker list or my friends from the western parts of the country). If you’re looking for what looks like it will be a fantastic event focused on marketing, analytics, mobile, community, participation, reputation, search, video, word-of-mouth and a whack of other buzzwords, meshmarketing is going to be hawt.

Getting ready for PDC


I’m starting to get ready for another trip to Los Angeles for Microsoft PDC. PDC08 was a great trip, however, it ended really poorly for me. I arrived home from LA and spent 5 days in Toronto General Hospital after complaining all week about chest pain. It turns out that after a heart attack, they take this stuff very seriously, and wanted to do an angiogram. I promise for PDC09 to not hole up in my hotel room and hide because my chest hurts!

Thomas Lewis has a great post on Hotels for PDC09. I’ve stayed at the Westin Bonaventure for PDC08 and CHI98. It’s a great hotel. It was where True Lies was filmed.

“Where do all the Microsofties hang after the event? If you are a fan of edgy chef personalities, you know that you always want to find the dives the chefs go to after their shifts are done. Later in the evening, after evening events and A/V checks are done, many of our kind will head over to the lobby of the Westin Bonaventure where everyone will be hanging out at the bar chatting up the news of the day and talking with attendees. Now, if you are looking to find all the hipster-Microsofties, then you want to head to the club at the rooftop of The Standard. The view there is awesome but the drinks can get expensive.” Thomas Lewis – Devil’s Field Guide to the PDC

But I’m thinking I’m going to change it up for 2009. I’m turning over a new leaf. And in a tribute to my turn-of-the-last-century industrialists I’m thinking the Millennium Biltmore will be my home away from home for a few days in November. I stayed in the Biltmore as part of the planning committee for CHI2000. And while the hotel is not the family estate, it should be fun. It’s only a few blocks from Westin, check out my Bing Collection of the hotels to help find your friends in downtown LA, and it’s something new. Plus how can you go wrong with the name Biltmore?