“We chat with startups and entrepreneurs about their f*ck ups, hardships and failures, in hopes to uncover great lessons and remove the stigma from failure today.”
“We chat with startups and entrepreneurs about their f*ck ups, hardships and failures, in hopes to uncover great lessons and remove the stigma from failure today.”
I’m very sorry to write that Justin Policarpio passed away last night, having lived graciously and courageously with cancer.
Justin was a key community builder, entrepreneur and leader in the Hamilton startup community.
I first met Justin when he was running Women Entrepreneurship, an event series focused on celebrating female entrepreneurship, and working on his Campus Helper education company. He next co-founded and led edtech robotics startup Roboteurs as CEO.
His work with Women Entrepreneurship and his startups was already impressive enough, but where I feel he left a major positive mark on our community was his work with Spectrum / The Forge.
It wasn’t very long ago at all that people talked about a divide between the McMaster community and the Hamilton startup community. There was a “gap” in the pipeline between innovative McMaster students and the business community in Hamilton. There was also a “gap” in terms of support for student entrepreneurs on campus… there was no Velocity or Ryerson DMZ equivalent, and the existing efforts were more informal, sporadic, grassroots.
Justin was the manager of the new Spectrum program that started in 2014, intended to foster and encourage entrepreneurship on campus, and to act as a pipe into a formal incubator program (“The Forge”). This was a very important job, at a critical time. If the Spectrum program flopped, which was a real possibility given the state of things at the time, I don’t think we’d have the energy and number of startups that you see further up the pipeline today. Justin was the perfect person for this role, and he hit it out of the park. A slew of great events and regular programming, much of it done in partnership with others, made his work a complete success in terms of fostering entrepreneurship on campus and building a bridge from McMaster to the broader Hamilton community.
He was a great community builder in that way. He had an infectious positive energy, was wise beyond his years, kind and always eager to help other people, was a great listener, and knew how to make great things happen fast. I met with him before he took on the Spectrum role, and you could tell he really “got it” in terms of the bigger picture. He was really keen on partnering and working together with everyone. Beyond the programming he developed that supported startups, he would always find time to support various other initiatives happening around the city, whether it was a Startup Weekend or a new healthtech meetup group.
People from other communities have noted a collaborative spirit in Hamilton, they’ll say things like, “in Hamilton, you guys really work together compared to X”. Justin played a major role in creating that spirit and culture. His good work and good spirit will live on.
This is the second time I’ve written an article like this in the last year. I’m upset because Justin was so young. It’s really not fair at all. We should use the time we’ve got to make a positive impact the way Justin was able to do so.
And speaking of the time we’ve got, I was reading over some of Justin’s old posts, and I came across this video of life tips he gave to graduating McMaster students. I’ve posted the text of his life advice below, it feels like advice that’s relevant for everyone.
I’d like to take this time to talk about just that, time. It’s something we all have a limited amount of, we never get any more of, so in reality it’s our most valuable asset. That said, why would we ever want to waste it?
A lot of you are going to be graduating from McMaster or have graduated, and you’re starting to think, “you know, what do I spend my time on? Do my masters, my PhD? Do I get a job or travel the world?”.
And in reality you got to do whatever you want to do because it’s something that you want to do, and not something that you feel like you ought to do. And you’re going to get a lot of pressures from your friends, your family, your parents and society as a whole.
I look at the time I spend on my stuff, on my startup company, on this new initiative at McMaster that I’m spearheading called Spectrum for McMaster entrepreneurs and startups. I look at the countless hours I put into this stuff, and you know what? I love it.
It’s time that I feel is well spent because it literally makes me happy, and I see all the value I get out of it. So when I think about the time I spent I think of three main things, and I guess these can be my two minute tips for you.
One is have no regrets. Have no regrets on the time that you’re spending on the things that you want to do.
Two, you know, in a nutshell: be fearless. You’re going to come across a lot of obstacles, not just in your school, and not just in work, but also in life. And they’re going to hit you, but you’re going to have to get through them. So be fearless, be strong.
And three, you really just have to start. You have to start doing what you want to do, and that said you also have to finish it and get it done.
The issue of inclusivity in the tech sector has been a focus in the news lately, as well as a focus of discussions locally. It’s too bad the reasons itâ€™s coming up are sad, but the reasons aren’t surprising (which makes it even more sad…). Â I wanted to write this article going over existing initiatives around inclusivity that are already happening in the city around tech and startups, including ways to get involved and help them. I want to write some more articles on this topic, including one highlighting some cool things that women in the local tech sector are doing that maybe some people donâ€™t know about but would find interesting to learn about.
Hamilton Code Clubs (@hamontcodeclub) is a program by IEC Hamilton, led by Beth Gibson (@bethkgibson), to teach elementary school students how to code through lunch-hour and after-school clubs run by community mentors. Â The program is focused on priority neighbourhoods and female students, especially in grades 6-8 which are particularly critical years for encouraging career paths, and has reached over 1,600 students in the Hamilton-area at roughly 40 schools. Â The program has recently expanded into some weekend workshop and summer activities. Â Right now you can help out by volunteering to mentor, helping to promote workshops, and in the future Iâ€™ll be posting more opportunities for involvement such as sponsorship.
Itâ€™s also worth noting that Hamilton Code Clubs is organizing a small working group to provide advice on ensuring the program is inclusive and welcoming to everyone. Â As the group evolves over the next year, the intention is that it can also look at sharing best practices to help local firms with inclusivity. Â For example, several firms partnered with the program have noticed specific changes they can make to their job postings to appeal to more women applicants; these types of best practices can be packaged together and shared with the community. Â When that happens, Iâ€™ll be sure to post the results.
Black Boys Code (@blackboyscode) is a program founded by Bryan Johnson that introduces boys of colour between the ages of 8 to 17 to computer science through one and two-day; workshops, after-school events and mentoring programs. Â The program has recently started running workshops in Hamilton on McMaster University campus. Â You can help out by volunteering to mentor and helping to promote their upcoming workshops.
Women in Computing Society (WiCS) McMaster is a McMaster University group that runs events for women in the various computing programs on McMaster campus, founded by Alyssia Jovellanos (@alyssiacodes) [who is a rockstar leader in general too].
Coding Bootcamp is a new joint project by Mohawk College and IEC Hamilton. Â A 12-week free Coding Bootcamp will introduce basic web programming to adults 19+ who are not currently enrolled in post-secondary. Â The program will operate out of Hamilton Public Library, and a female only version of the same program will operate out of the Eva Rothwell Centre. Â Over the summer some introductory workshops are running as a â€śtry and see if you like it before you commit to 12 weeksâ€ť. Â You can help out by spreading the word about these upcoming workshops!
McMaster Computing and Software Outreach (@maccasoutreach) is a program led by Christopher Anand, focused on computer science outreach, through creating educational software, delivering workshops and other activities such as summer programming. Â The program is particularly innovative in its curriculum development, covering computer science and computational thinking rather than the imperative style computer programming covered by most outreach activities. Â For example with concepts such as functional programming with the Elm Language. Â The program has also had a focus on women and other underrepresented groups in its curriculum development and program delivery.
Women Entrepreneurship (@women_ent) is a local event series founded by Justin Policarpio (@Justin_Polic) covering the success of women entrepreneurs (not just tech/startup), and supporting those small businesses in the region.
Hamilton Fempreneurs (@hamfempreneurs) is a monthly meetup group for women entrepreneurs and leaders (not just tech/startup), with a talk or discussion at each meeting, founded by Suzanne Zandbergen (@thegeneratorca) [also, if Iâ€™m missing other founders, please let me know].
Editor’s note: Saw this on greenBYTE Hamilton just now and wanted to share – maybe help them out and donate!
â€śIt was the right thing to doâ€ť- Recently a mom and her 13 year old son Scott came into the store to purchase a computer. When I asked what they needed the computer for, Scottâ€™s mom told me that he was being harassed in the community and she wanted him to have something to do at home where he would be safe. When I heard this I knew what I had to do. I went to the back and got a laptop for Scott and told him it was free. Scott and his mom thanked me profusely and said that I helped them out more than I would ever know. greenBYTE is always looking for end of use computer donations so we can help more kids like Scott. Please visit our web site atÂ www.greenbyte.caÂ to find out how you can help us.
When: Wednesday May 3rd 2017 from 6:00pm â€“ 9:00pm
Where: Location has moved, see the registration link!
Organizer: Shopify Plus / Thalmic Labs / Vidyard
You’re invited to join Canadaâ€™s hottest tech companies for a candid conversation about the challenges of building product, and how to ship it! Weâ€™ll talk product; from an engineering, UX and product management perspective.
What to expect:
Need another reason to join us? Weâ€™ll have tastings from some of Waterloo Regionâ€™s amazing craft breweries, and great food to match. This event is by registration only, feel free to share the invite with your colleagues and fellow product builders.
Learn, Mingle, Eat, Drink, all for FREE! But space is limited so register now to reserve your spot. #KWTECHTOUR
When: Thursday April 27th 2017 from 6:00pm â€“ 9:30pm
Where: McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario
You have a hardware idea and want to build a startup around it. You know some of the initial steps you need to take, but surely there are more details you might not be aware of. What are the things to prioritize in the beginning versus later on? When is the right time to grow your team? Are patents right for you? What should you expect when it comes to fundraising vs. bootstrapping? How do you define success? This workshop is designed to intimately discuss all the gory details of building a hardware-focused startup, pitfalls to avoid, strategies to pursue, how to assess the growth metrics, and much more. The topic segments will include Legal & IP, Finance & Fundraising, HR, Sales, Manufacturing, Regulations, Logistics, Marketing, and Expectations.
“From the first program, to sending humanity to the moon, the work done by women in the field of computing has pushed us all forward into the now and into the future. Given the immense disparity in numbers between men and women active in and entering the field of computing (and STEM fields in general), we believe it is imperative to create a mainstream documentary film that showcases the breadth and depth of the IMMENSE FEMALE CONTRIBUTION to the world of computer programming.”
Check out the video below and visit their crowdfunding page for more details!
When: Saturday March 18th from 10:00am – 5:00pm
Where: McMaster University at 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario
Conference aimed at high school students who are interested in learning more about Computer Sciences. The conference will be full of various activities including guest speakers, a pathways seminar, and various workshops and presentations led by Computer Science students. The conference is FREE to attend for high school and university students.
Some of the workshops:
-Introduction to functional programming in Elm
-Beginner and Intermediate Arduino Activities
-Post-Secondary Pathways Seminar/Panel
-User Interface Panel
Last Sunday Hamilton Community Robotics held the the VEX Robotics Expo for teams of high-school students at McMaster Innovation Park. The teams will represent Hamilton in the world championships next month. Check out the video coverage of the event below!
I’m very sorry to say that Jim Rudnick passed away last week.
Jim was an important community builder in Hamilton’s startup community. Back in 2010-11 when institutions like Innovation Factory were first getting off the ground, Jim was the number one networker and community cheerleader in this area. They gave him the first DiFizen award for making a difference in the community. Jim had everybody’s back, and people loved him for it.
Some of us will be getting together this Friday March 10th from 5pm-7pm at SERVE Ping Pong bar to have a pint in honour of Jim and tell some of our favourite stories.
Corrected update: this article was briefly updated to mention that Jim’s memorial service had been made public. This was a miscommunication. That memorial service will need to remain private for his family, due to space restrictions it may not be able to accommodate everyone. The Friday drinks will go on as planned though.
I’m not sure it’s my place, I’m not so good at these things, but I’ll tell a quick story.
DemoCampHamilton1 was the first big community event I had ever planned. Until then my life was a more like a typical computer science grad student… sitting behind a desk, working away on math problems that had nothing to do with people.
I was way out of my element at the time doing something social and business oriented, and to be honest totally scared out of mind. I was worried sick things would go off the rails. The day of that first DemoCamp I actually hadn’t slept a wink for the prior two nights.
But this guy Jim Rudnick who had been e-mailing me since announcing the event really wanted to go out to lunch the day of the DemoCamp. He listened, gave advice, shared his own experiences, and put me at ease. You kinda had to know him, but he had a way of delivering advice that was fine-tuned to his listener in a way that let them know what they needed to know without causing them to put their guard up. I think it’s because you got the sense he really wanted you to succeed.
When we were done our lunch he made a small gesture that I’ll never forget. As we were about to leave the restaurant he turned to me and said, “I’m behind you” and patted me on the back, and then let me walk ahead of him. I know it’s such a little thing, but it meant a lot.
I think that’s what Jim did for a lot of people too – he had their backs. There was a bunch of us that were young and/or new to Hamilton. Maybe not as secure in themselves or their abilities just yet, let alone secure in their careers, or startup, or family life. And at the same time all these people were “trying really hard to make it in life”. They were stressed out from running the rat race, working long hours, and dealing with competition. And though a lot of these people were learners and hard workers with goals they wanted to achieve, due to their stage of life and career, they were understandably tense, anxious and unsure.
Where as Jim was our Obi-Wan Kenobi. He had the wisdom of seeing it before, and coming at things from the end of his career, he could be more relaxed and detached than the rest of us. He modelled a lot of behaviours that the rest of us followed… like the importance of “opening up the rolodex”, supporting people, leadership, sharing good ideas even if it meant others would implement them instead of you, and seeing the best in others (I’ve never met anyone better than him at that in particular).
Over the years Jim kinda became an informal mentor for me. We would meetup for lunch and beers every so often and talk about business, life and family. He retired not very long ago and wrote a lot of SciFi books, which was great to see him get to do something he loved. He had the best sense of humour, and always expressed love for his family and friends.
I’ll miss you buddy.