Category Archives: Community

Justin Policarpio announced as new student entrepreneurship manager

justinLocal startup community leader Justin Policarpio (@Justin_Polic) has been hired as Manager, Student Entrepreneurship in Student Affairs at McMaster University. Congratulations to Justin, and please help him out in this new role! Check out the announcement below:



I am pleased to introduce Justin Policarpio in the new role of Manager, Student Entrepreneurship in Student Affairs. Justin holds two degrees from McMaster: a BSc (Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences) as well as a Master’s of Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He is the Founder of the Women Entrepreneurship program at McMaster and was the Business Development Co-ordinator in our School of Engineering Practice. He is also the CEO of his own startup, Roboteurs. Justin will focus on co-curricular programming, launching this fall, that will help strengthen our culture of entrepreneurship and that will connect students from all disciplines with each other and with the community. Please join me in welcoming Justin to his new role.


Sean Van Koughnett BA, MAES
Associate Vice-President (Students and Learning) and Dean of Students
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | 905-525-9140 x 27455


Kent Austin talks leadership and team building

“Some people just have a knack for leading. They just have ‘it’. The ones that have ‘it’ have lasted a long time in this league. Ron Lancaster. Don Matthews. Wally Buono. And Kent Austin has it. He just does.”Orlondo Steinauer (Tiger-Cat Assistant Coach)


Last week at a YEP Hamilton event Kent Austin talked about his thoughts on leadership and team building. There were about 30-40 people in attendance. Kent Austin owned the room during his talk. I have no doubts whatsoever as to why he’s been so successful in his career. When I grow up I want to be just like Kent Austin!

I don’t think he was expecting ‘media’ in the room, it was more of a casual fireside chat, so I just wanted to highlight the major points rather than give some sort of blow by blow recap.

These are my notes on Kent’s leadership thoughts:

- Leadership is fundamentally about influencing other people (for good or bad)

- Leadership is not something you are given, it’s something you are

- Leadership is not a title or hierarchy, a 3rd string player can be as much a leader as any other

- What a leader knows only matters so much as they can convince others to buy into it and own it

- If others don’t buy into the leaders guidance, it won’t be as effective

- To this end, “culture trumps scheme” any day of the week

- Key to creating buy-in success is to ‘make it about the success of the player’

- Buy-in to advice is not a formula, there are different levels of buy-in

- Trust is also key to influence

- Maturity also matters to buy-in – do they see opportunities or complain?

- Can’t make everybody buy-in, some people just aren’t a good fit

- Measuring performance growth is more important than initial performance

It was striking how similar Kent’s advice and tips were to things I’ve heard from tech entrepreneurs. So it wasn’t surprising when Kent told us he founded a telecommunications company.

He ended his talk by making a point about the importance of culture that really stuck with me. From the sounds of things when Kent took over coaching the Tiger-Cats, the players and coaches were lacking a strong ‘locker room culture’. They needed a gathering spot – somewhere they could be together, not just to workout but to play board games together afterwards. Kent noticed a lot of empty space in the basement of the Tiger-Cat offices at 1 Jarvis Street and envisioned a shared space (locker room / gym / meeting rooms) that would give the players and coaches an opportunity to develop a stronger culture. Within a few days of conceiving the idea, Kent told us Tiger-Cat owner Bob Young was pulling out all the stops to ensure he had the resources to make it happen. And before long, players were bonding over playing board games together after meetings, and that all important culture was forming just as Kent had envisioned.

To me this is why community is so important. It’s about giving that all important culture an opportunity to develop – through the random collisions between people, peer to peer education and mentorship, and yes, the casual socializing afterwards (whether it’s beers, cups of coffees, or playing the movie Hackers on the big screen at The Winking Judge at 1am).

But the talk also made me think about how, that while yes, we have great spaces for fostering startup culture in Hamilton such as Platform 302 and McMaster Innovation Park, we don’t have a space specifically intended for tech startups. We obviously don’t have the capacity to pull off a Y Combinator or TechStars in Hamilton. But we do have the capacity for a shared space focused on and catered to the needs of tech startups.

The focus on tech specifically matters because the collisions and education that can occur when tech startups get together go beyond the business-end similarities and opportunities for ‘multiplicative value’. When you get a bunch of people doing bleeding edge technology work together they have their own form of multiplicative value. The stray thought that occurs after hearing a colleague’s talk becomes a group side project, and pretty soon new tech is being developed – the kind of new tech that becomes an unfair advantage for a startup.

I think it’ll be awhile yet before we have such a tech focused shared space in Hamilton. For starters, as of yet we’re missing wealthy benefactors waiting in the wings to support the initiative. And also, many tech firms in Hamilton are already very well served by existing spaces that aren’t tech exclusive. But when and if a tech specific shared space does happen, even if it’s 10-20 years from now, I suspect it’ll be a key piece of infrastructure that makes a huge impact.


Globe and Mail story features Hamilton tech entrepreneurs

globeandmailThe Globe and Mail partnered with Hamilton Hive to put together a Young Entrepreneurs Night last week attended by over 400 people, and The Globe and Mail has featured the event in a great story.

Graphic designers, visual artists, tech entrepreneurs, filmmakers and food-and-drink retailers arrived on the 21st floor of 100 King Street West in Hamilton’s downtown core.

Many Hamilton-area individuals volunteered their time and resources to make the event happen. It was the biggest (and broadest) networking event that I can ever remember occurring in the city. And perhaps most importantly it was a unique chance for a national media outlet to see Hamilton and why people are so excited about our city in recent years.

A couple years ago a famous Toronto tech entrepreneur told me he “hadn’t heard of any tech startups coming out of Hamilton”. So it was especially awesome to see “tech entrepreneurs” referenced specifically – while individual Hamilton-area tech firms have received national and international publicity, being added to the mix in publicity like this was excellent for creating broader awareness of our local industry too!



Hacker Saturday tomorrow



When: Saturday March 1st from 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Where: Radius Cafe @ 151 James Street South


TL;DR; casual 3 hour ‘hackathon’ @ radius cafe :)

Ruby programmers learning Drupal, Drupal programmers learning UX, UX pros learning Python, Python hackers learning Graphic Design, Graphic Designers learning Bootstrap, Bootstrap pros learning Meteor.js, Meteor.js hackers learning Scala, Scala programmers learning Google APIs and so on and so forth.

Come hack on your hobby project or form new ones with other students & professionals in one transit friendly location, Radius, every other Saturday starting December 14th 2013, 1pm to 4pm. We recommend that you come with an idea or project already in mind that you would like to try and implement, however silly!
ps. please come with a fully charged laptop as outlets are limited.



Alex Pineda – and @alexpineda77
Derek Braid – and @royal_arse


Swarm the newcomers

This is probably the 20th time I’ve made a blog post referencing a point already made by Brad Feld in his Startup Communities book, but I like to reference the points made as they become relevant.

One of the problems a community can face is when newcomers have to “earn their way into the hierarchy”. It’s a challenge moving into a new community, and there’s no need for it be made more difficult with gatekeeping, “in-groups” and other hierarchies based on status or position instead of abilities and “what you can do and what you’re doing”.




How should newcomers be treated?

Brad made a point about how newcomers should be quickly introduced to a community, no matter what role they seek to play. These include recommendations to key events and people, and even inclusions into organizing community initiatives that could determine their leadership potential.

There’s a very active community now, with a whole series of regular gatherings serving different functions, some even occurring on the same day (and the community is diverse enough to support this now too). This has been the case for several years now and it continues to expand organically. March – June is the busiest time of the year for such regular events. A lot of the same people meetup and talk to one another each time.

Newcomers around here generally speaking don’t have to work their way up through some sort of hierarchy, and that’s awesome. Newcomers are generally speaking embraced and supported.

If you’re at an event and see somebody new, possibly doing the “keep myself busy in my smartphone because I don’t know anybody yet” routine, then you as a regular can break the ice and introduce yourself. If you have nothing in common with them, think of who they should know. Because you can also go one step further and offer to introduce them to the people that are relevant contacts in their field. People who share interests and whom they may want to collaborate with in some capacity in the future.

The cost for that person to get to know those people over a series of events and random run-ins is much higher than the cost for you to share those contacts. It’s good economics. By swarming newcomers and connecting them to the relevant contacts we can reduce their “settling in time” and help them collaborate much more quickly.


StartupBus North America 2014 Competition

Editor’s note: I was forwarded the following by Paul Vlahov (@PaulVlahov) who is interested in getting the word out to Hamilton-area startups.


StartupBus-Logo-Grey-CMYKStartupBus Canada is rolling towards Austin, TX in March, and we’re looking for some extreme Canadians to represent the Great White North.


If you already know what StartupBus is, apply at and tell us why you’d be an awesome part of this global community.


If you don’t know what StartupBus is, read on.


What is StartupBus?

StartupBus is an exercise in time, resource, and comfort-constrained creativity – it’s a hackathon on a bus moving at 100km/hour for 3 days across the continent. It pushes people past their limits, and finds greatness on the other side.


Why Do It?

It’s a life changing trip that has seen people step off the bus and into incubators, new jobs, a new startup, or just a new way of looking at life. The competition a shared experience that has brought together a community of truly amazing people in countries around the world. StartupBus represents a network of amazing entrepreneurs, investors, journalists, and builders that is genuine and celebrates the do-ers in life. Also, a cross-country hackathon road trip makes for an epic story.


How Do I Apply?

Tell us why you’re awesome and what you bring to the community. The bus is stacked with do-ers (mostly coders and designers who can implement) but if you bring something unique, then we want you. In the past, we’ve had lawyers, environmental policy wonks, students, and retirees who all brought something special and make the community stronger for it.


When Do We Leave?

StartupBus rolls from March 2 to March 6, 2014 and ultimately lands in Austin, TX in time for the biggest tech conference in the U.S. From there, you get yourself back however and whenever you want.


I want more information!

Visit for more information on the competition or email with questions.


Bingo cards to startup stars?

The Delta Bingo Hall located in Gore Park on the corner of King and Hughson is closing. Bingo halls have been in decline lately so the news perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s also unfortunate for the charities supported by the bingo hall, the attendees and those who worked there – hopefully everyone is able to find alternatives.

That said, for a long time now people have looked at that space as being underutilized in its potential. It’s a massive, wide-open space with big clear windows surrounding the corner of the building. It was hard to not think about what could be there instead.


Rendering created by Nick Tomkin (@ntomkin) Director of Orbital


A year and a half ago at SuperCrawl I remember talking with Nick Tomkin about that space and how it would make a cool co-working / incubator / accelerator type space. Not only had he had the exact same idea, he had actually whipped together a rendering. After talking to people it looks like others have had the same or similar idea too.

I’m not sure what makes the most sense at that spot from a logical standpoint. From what I’ve been told a space like that is best suited for high traffic commercial. That makes sense.

But you see stories like Communitech and Ryerson DMZ and it makes you wonder. I recently got to be part of a tour of Communitech, and we were told that one of their more successful and significant tenants was now shopping around for nearby office space to expand into. We have vacant office space downtown and lots of surface parking lots. That 21st floor of the Stelco Tower looks awfully beautiful during Hive X and other events, but it would be a lot better to see the space occupied!

Obviously the case needs to be made better than anecdotal evidence and a short blog article. But what do you think? Could some sort of co-working / incubator / accelerator space flourish in that location?


The “tech cluster” discussion must include Hamilton

Originally posted on


There is no doubt in my mind that when we are talking about tech in Canada and the future of the economy, Toronto and Waterloo will play a big role. It is one big ecosystem and it’s growing. There are some limitations to this growth and the big scary one is the relative lack of transportation infrastructure west of the Halton Region. This problem is making people choose between communities which isn’t good for growth.

A recent Huffington Post article where I was featured highlights the problem for technology (and just about any sector really) jobs. For myself I work in Toronto where there is a much larger concentration of research (17 000 grad students, $1.2B in research at UofT alone) which is important for me as I am constantly looking for founders with the potential to build scalable companies. With four kids the quality of life that I would like for my kids would be hard to provide in Toronto.

The quality of life issue is something that can be overcome by living in a lot of different communities outside of Toronto. You can have better access to and from Toronto to areas that have a similar quality of life as Waterloo in almost every direction away from Toronto but not west of Halton Region. Those other communities are 45-60 min train ride which is just another 15-30 min over the average commute if you live in Toronto.

The discussion on tech ecosystems has shifted from Waterloo or Toronto to a larger technology cluster of Toronto AND Waterloo — which is great! The problem, I think, is that only talking about Waterloo and Toronto for technology is limiting the stories being told of the amazing technology companies that exist in a broader cluster around Toronto.

If you are going to talk about a Technology cluster in Ontario it can’t be just about Waterloo, it must include the QEW corridor down to Niagara and it should put more emphasis on Hamilton. This area includes the regional municipalities of Halton, Hamilton, and Niagara (could also include Woodstock, Brant county, and Brantford). Combined they account for roughly 1.6 million people — nearly half the population is in Hamilton and it has the largest urban centre outside of Toronto in the south of the province.

The conversation has to expand as I think it limits the economic growth by cutting off the story telling in the broader ‘technology’ sector. If all we talk about is Waterloo or Toronto we are distracting people from all the opportunity in a very broad area. Research, Software, and Hardware will be sprinkled around seeding growth everywhere. We also need to talk about and support the next evolution of technology manufacturing otherwise this resource rich country will keep exporting raw materials and be reliant on other countries to build our products.

This is not a zero-sum game.


About Jesse Rodgers: Jesse is the Director of the Creative Destruction Lab at Rotman, a cofounder of TribeHR, and built VeloCity at the University of Waterloo. He has been a key member of the Waterloo startup community hosting StartupCampWaterloo and other events to bring together and engage local entrepreneurs. Follow him on Twitter @jrodgers or


VivosWeb New Office Open House this Friday

21kingVivosWeb is a full service Internet design, development and marketing agency offering a wide range of services. VivosWeb is based in Hamilton and headed up by CEO Amro Awaida. VivosWeb is inviting the community in Hamilton to an open house at their office this Friday, see the details below:

When: Friday, 17 January 2014 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (EST)

Where: 21 King St West (16th Floor – Suite #1600) Hamilton, Ontario L8P 4W7


We’re finally here!

Come and check out our new office space and data centre in the heart of Hamilton downtown at 21 King Street West, Suite 1600. Food and beverages are on us, so come down anytime during the morning or the day to enjoy breakfast/lunch, chat with our team and network with other visitors.


Free Registration


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