McMaster Graduates: And Entrepreneurial Funding!

Originally posted on

Regular readers here will know that while we continue with our SEO practice, provide Mentoring to our Hamilton based Innovation Factory clients and have a startup or two of our own – we also very much look for leadership by any of our local community leaders. And it’s so dang nice to be able to report on this brand new offering from our Federal Government….yup, we’re talking about cold hard cash for McMaster alumni to fund their own startups!

MP David Sweet, Conservative member for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, on behalf of the Honourable Gary Goodyear, announced this past Friday up to $787,500 in funding that will allow McMaster University to provide graduates and graduate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with entrepreneurial skills.

“Our government is committed to creating jobs and supporting economic opportunities in southernOntariothrough investing in the ideas of graduates and providing them with the skills necessary to become successful entrepreneurs,” said MP Sweet. “This funding forMcMasterUniversity will equip the students with the skills needed to bring their innovative, market-driven ideas to life, contributing to the growth of the southernOntarioeconomy.”

This new funding initiative is being provided through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario’s Scientists and Engineers in Business initiative, designed to assist graduates and graduate students in STEM fields in developing their business skills and launching or expanding their business ventures in southernOntario.

McMasterUniversity will use the contribution to provide up to 75 fellowships to eligible STEM students and graduates to help them successfully convert their ideas into new companies and create jobs in southernOntario.

“This investment in student mentorships is critical to stimulate start-up companies by students who have the ideas and drive to start their own high tech ventures,” says David Wilkinson, dean of McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering, who expects the funding to assist in the creation of up to 30 companies. “These mentorships are vital components in building the next generation of entrepreneurs and each will give them the fighting chance to succeed.”

And where exactly does the cash come from? Well, created in 2009, FedDev Ontario supports the southern Ontario economy by building on the region’s strengths and creating opportunities for jobs and economic growth. The Agency has launched a number of initiatives to create a Southern Ontario Advantage and place the region in a strong position to compete in the global economy. These initiatives are designed to encourage partnerships and support projects that help the region’s businesses and communities become more competitive, innovative and diversified. To learn more, visit or call 1-866-593-5505….and I urge any/all McMaster students who have an entrepreneurial flair – to contact them today!

So, a good thing happened right here in Hamilton this past Friday…and I am so so glad to see same….and to you McMaster students who drop by here….what we’re talking about might just be very close to your own heart….after all, cold hard cash is a great tool for a startup to use, eh!

Understanding the US Crowdfunding Bill….

Orginally posted on

A major part of our time here is as you may already know, spent on web development and technology concepts that go above and beyond our normal SEO practice, and for us the single driving passion we’ve had lately, is crowdfunding and Canada, and yes we’ve written on this recently too. The two items are very easy to say and think on – but in fact, yes….the two items together are still illegal here in our own province here in canuck-land.

That said, I am of course, hoping that the “powers that be” i.e. our Provincial Members of Parliament just might be watching closely at the current bill entitled HR-2930 “Entrepeneurs Access to Capital Act” in the US House of Congress as it works it’s way through the various stages in becoming a federal law in the US. Their House of Representatives passed that Act, with a v0te record of 407 – 17 (a real solid backing there eh!) and the bill now sits with the House Senate for further study and then vote….but will it “pass” the Senate?

One David Alan Grier, a Professor over at the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, offers up his own thoughts on same, via a great video that shows you the background for the “needs” for this Bill as well as his own thoughts on where it will end up…and while I think he’s mostly correct, there are still some obstacles in the way of same. This is WELL WORTH the click to spend 5 minutes or so, on learning about how the US views crowdfunding and where it will most likely “end up” in their own technology future.

That said, so what might be what you’re thinking, eh? Well, the point to me (and many many others here in Canada) is that as the US moves ahead with HR 2930, we here in the great white north appear to be stuck on doing little to combat this initiative from our US neighbours. Obama is behind this too….which means even more to me that this will pass and become law. For the US….and not for us!

Think about it.

You are a founder and you believe in the power of crowdfunding and have a startup that needs some early seed capital….so where do you go?

You go to any of the upcoming surge in US based crowdfunding sites that will spring up to take advantage of HR 2930 and offer up equity investment opportunities. You go where the money is. You go to any of those sites to get valuable seed capital to invest in your startup…and you could care less that the folks who do fund you live in Alabama or Wyoming or Massachussets or anywhere south of th 49th Parallel.

You look for success. Right? Right!

So…what is the current state of our Canadian views on opening up the crowdfunding model for our Canuck startups….here’s a bulleted list of same –

So what do you think? Should we Canucks look south to watch closely on the US model and see what they “do” and then think about the same up here in our own country? And if so, what do you think the crowdfunding model “should” look like to both provide early seed capital for startups yet still protect investors too!

Oh, and a special “tip-O-the-hat” to the folks over at the CATA Alliance…for taking such a leadership role in trying to get our Canuck legislators to pay attention and envision change! #Kudos CATA Alliance!


Tablet Apps: New Numbers look Impressive!

Originally posted on

Over the past year, since Xmas actually in 2010 when I got an Apple iPad, I’ve been very much following the rollout of this new hardware, the personal tablet for use at work. Not, as many others do, I’m guessing to surf or watch movies or listen to your own music playlist, but to actually “do” something in the business world.

Look at presi’s maybe, or a Word .docx or an Excel ss…you know, stuff we all do all day long on our PC….but instead now do on a tablet. And just in December last, I got a brand new RIM PlayBook which I now love and use daily butI guess, I’m very much wanting more…but let me explain.

First the tablet universe size is somewhat “muddy” when it comes to real verifiable numbers of units sold. The Apple iPad and iPad2 are somewhere up around 40 million units sold, if you can believe the latest estimates. The whole android using market is second, it appears but I can find no real numbers to quote…and the RIM Playbook is much less even after the big sell-off at Xmas 2011 and the resulting huge drop in pricing too in the last few weeks.

There is a very recent study tho, but the folks that I’ve blogged about before, the PEW Internet firm here, that offers up some interesting info on the tablet ownership numbers…

“The share of adults in the United States who own tablet computers nearly doubled from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January and the same surge in growth also applied to e-book readers, which also jumped from 10% to 19% over the same time period.

The number of Americans owning at least one of these digital reading devices jumped from 18% in December to 29% in January.

These findings are striking because they come after a period from mid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in the ownership of tablets and e-book readers. However, as the holiday gift-giving season approached the marketplace for both devices dramatically shifted. In the tablet world, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet were introduced at considerably cheaper prices than other tablets. In the e-book reader world, some versions of the Kindle and Nook and other readers fell well below $100…”

Note that this chart outlines same but shows that marked increase dramatically too — and that the table and eBook reader numbers are so dang close too!


This is very interesting…in that mobile growth is surging, the number of mobile apps is a growing percentage of same and yes, as the prices fall, the market penetration grows too….and in my world, that’s a tell-tale sign that any startup who is looking for a “baileywick” to play in, just might consider the mobile app channel!


DemoCampHamilton6: March 20th 2012, with Joel Auge of HitGrab

When: Tuesday March 20th 2012 @ 6:30pm-9:30pm
Where: Twelve Eighty pub @ McMaster University

Keynote: Joel AugĂ© – Building a great gaming company

Joel (@joelauge) is the CEO and Co-Founder of HitGrab Inc, a leader in social gaming. In March of 2008, HitGrab created MouseHunt, which is now one of the most successful (in terms of user engagement) games on Facebook. HitGrab has also created LevynLight, a ‘light’ fantasy RPG that’s focused on simplicity, allowing you to jump in at anytime and have quick bursts of fun throughout the day!

The demo line-up has yet to be finalized, but expect to see at least one of the student startups that are starting to come out of McMaster (such as DormBooth). If you are interested in demoing that evening e-mail


Hamilton’s Open Data movement continues

Open Hamilton (@OpenHamilton) organized an event last Thursday February 16th at City Hall on The 5 W’s of The group met to discuss the purpose of the city website, its design and framework, and the role of citizens in relation to the website.

The meeting featured a wide-ranging discussion on topics such as…

  • The possibility of using an open platform such as Drupal as a basis for a new city website
  • Usability issues, and the idea that the website navigation should be organized based around how citizens think about information
  • Communication issues, such as referring to the nature of the data instead of the data, and making an argument for the cost saving nature of open data apps

Michael Canton (@valleytownmedia) wrote a blog post on the meeting, available here.

The group has organized The Bay Hackathon for March 2nd to March 4th to develop more apps utilizing open data, details thus far are available here. The group is also seeking developers and data experts for garbage collections apps, details available here.


CodeYear meetup approaches at The Baltimore House Feb 21st 7pm-9pm

There is a meetup coming up on the 21st of February at 7pm. Keep your calendars open. It will be at the “I’m passing out it’s so comfortable” Baltimore House in downtown Hamilton. I will be helping anyone participating, or wanting to participate in the CodeYear program. It is an online educational program dedicated to teaching people how to code.

It’s true that CodeYear was the initial driving force for this meetup but I also encourage any developer or IT professional in and around the city to come by and talk, organize, relax, or simply work. I’ll be working on a demo for a motivational tool (TallyBoard) using HTML5 Canvas and JavaScript, for starters. It’s not fancy, just something I would like for myself at the moment. I should state that I’m not affiliated with CodeYear. They only encouraged people in cities across the world to organize meetups so I participated. I eventually want it to be a place where people young and old can learn together. Now, let’s see who is interested in growing an even larger software community in Hamilton, Ontario by attending our CodeYear meetup!

I’m glad you are still here, you’ve successfully graduated Alex Pineda’s School of First Paragraphs. Here is a cookie (monster).

Now if you’re interested as to what CodeYear is like, Dann Berg, A CodeYear participant, wrote an excellent blog post on his experiences:

“As with any other skill, the more you learn, the more questions you have and the more you realize you don’t know. Codecademy has been fantastic for opening the door to learning to code (so they have succeeded in their goal) but I still see areas where I want to know more and don’t know where to find answers. Maybe these gaps will be filled as the year progresses, but as a student for two months, I wanted to share what I feel some of my thoughts thus far.”

You can also see the rest of his blog entry at the Relevant Links section at the bottom of this post.

In closing I want to mention that there are more programs out there other than just There are a few offered by Stanford online as well as MITx and a few others. These are all free, and in many cases instructor lead week by week. I’ll post all relevant links below for those interested as classes begin shortly. CodeYear serves the purpose of learning languages progressively and most importantly using a fun interactive delivery. If you’re interested please don’t hesitate to come down on the 21st of February and see us all at the Baltimore House, 7pm. There are coffees, teas, and sweets there for the hungry people. Come!

Reach me for questions:
alex AT

Relevant Links:

A Student’s Thoughts After Almost Two Months of CodeYear

The Baltimore House Facebook Page


Stanford’s CS 101 class (and many more, scroll to bottom)




New firms added to the directory

The following new firms have been added to the directory of Software Hamilton, an informal\unofficial directory of the software firms in Hamilton:

BraveNewCode Inc.
BraveNewCode has worked with large and small companies, individuals, artists, musicians and authors creating websites, web applications and mobile solutions. BraveNewCode has created wordpress plug-ins WPtouch and WordTwit, and the web app Piggy.
Hamilton, Ontario

FourSeven is an Independent video game studio based out of Hamilton, Ontario. FourSeven is three talented video game design and development students who will be working together to create games playable in internet browsers.
Hamilton, Ontario

REfficient Inc.
REfficient Inc. is a leading expert in the area of asset recovery and reverse logistics, focusing on nationwide surplus technology management and sustainability reporting.
450 Sherman Avenue North Hamilton, Ontario L8L 8J6


Pursuing excellence in professional communications

Demand for strategic communications leadership is growing fast, mainly driven by the digital revolution. Executives in business, not-for-profits and government are realizing that effectively managing relationships and influence is key for success.

This radically new marketing landscape has caused many experienced professional communicators to re-examine their own readiness to succeed in today’s ever changing and hyperactive digital culture.

At the forefront of this revolution is an innovative executive education program at McMaster University ( called MCM (master of communications management). In the new digital world, organizations need to strategically build, manage and evaluate relationships with stakeholders. Whether it is internal communication, government relations, marketing communication or advertising, fundraising and advocacy, the professional communicator’s role has expanded and magnified. Communications has come of age and it needs a new class of highly trained strategic managers, consultants and entrepreneurs to make sure it is being optimized for sound return on investment.

The MCM is specially designed for professional communications managers who want to take their careers to the next level. Pioneered by Terry Flynn, a successful PR industry entrepreneur, agency owner and professor of communications, the MCM has quickly become the most prestigious executive master’s degree for communicators in Canada.

Flynn’s goal for the MCM was simple: to propel professional communicators’ careers into the executive boardroom, to give them a seat at the decision-making table. So, he proposed something Canadian business education had never seen before: a hybrid learning program aimed at practicing communications managers that provides a winning combination of cutting-edge management training, PR management strategy and mass communication theory. The program is offered in partnership with the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University in New York.

The program had to be innovative and draw on McMaster’s strengths in business and communications. To get there, Flynn and his team designed a curriculum that focused on Canada’s specific legal, political, economic and regulatory environment, while providing crucial comparative case studies to the United States and the United Kingdom — two major markets where Canadian communications executives often do business.

The MCM had to fit the lives of busy working professionals, while providing solid networking opportunities to its students and communications leaders from across Canada. This meant developing a unique blended learning model of short, on-campus residencies and conveniently scheduled online interactive tutorials.

The program is a true Hamilton success story. Every graduate has seen career growth: a promotion, increased income, higher consulting fees or the prestige of winning international awards. In fact, MCM students recently swept the prestigious New York-based Arthur W. Page Society Awards in the annual business communication case study competition.

Alex Sévigny, the new MCM program director and social media expert, is excited to take MCM even further: “Communication is now a key part of decision making at the highest level. Our graduates are uniquely equipped to take leadership in those roles. We want the MCM credential to be synonymous with chief communications officer or vice-president, communications.”

There’s no better way to sum up how the MCM is fostering a new way of doing business in communications than to quote MCM graduate Don Smith, director of operations, public affairs branch at Canada Revenue Agency: “To me the value of the MCM program was immediately apparent. What I learned was so applicable. I could put theory into practice as a professional communicator right away.”

MCM is another homegrown example of Hamilton thinking big and taking the business world by storm.

Dr. Nick Bontis ( is a professional speaker, management consultant, business adviser, and founding faculty member of the MCM program.

TechTalk4HamOnt web series releases first videos

A new web series called TechTalk4HamOnt produced by Michael Canton (@valleytownmedia) and hosted by Tim Miron (@TJMiron) recently launched. The first videos released as part of the web series feature interviews conducted right at DemoCampHamilton5 with local innovators like Nick Tomkin (@ntomkin) of Orbital (@GetOrbital, @SynapseNews) and Nik Garkusha (@nik_g) of Open Halton (@OpenHalton). The series does a great job of shining a spotlight on Hamilton’s growing tech scene and I’m thrilled to see such an initiative taking place in the community. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@TechTalk4HamOnt) to keep up to date with the latest releases. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next from TechTalk4HamOnt! Check out the first set of videos released by TechTalk4HamOnt below:

Nick Tomkin

Nik Garkusha

Shanta Nathwani

Joey Coleman

Kevin Browne

Inspiring Hamilton children to become digital innovators

Janine Murray (@JAVAJ9) recently inquired about in-person coding classes for kids during a quick twitter exchange. Inspiring children to become digital innovators and providing them with the tools to get there is a wonderful objective given the ample, high paying jobs that are available to those with such skills and the importance of digital literacy in an era where some believe the next industrial revolution is coding.

At an institutional level, McMaster does have outreach programs (CAS, Science) , the Venture Engineering Camp (of which I am a proud alumni!), and Let’s Talk Science. The Bay Area Science & Engineering Fair is another great local example of encouraging and rewarding children with an interest in STEM fields.

A very interesting regional example of inspiring children to become tomorrow’s digital innovators is the Youth Hack Jam taking place in Toronto this coming Saturday. The event isn’t centered around a strict agenda (perhaps a good thing for children…) but instead will be split up into different stations with volunteer instructors and assistants to teach children “how to use the tool, and then to support them as they think creatively and use the tool to ‘change the world'”. Station tools include Mozilla’s Hackasaurus and MIT’s Scratch, another station will be centered around paper and pencil app prototyping. Parents can bring their children to this event to have them participate in the different activities.

I think this event is a wonderful idea with high potential for many reasons. The more free flowing “station” structure of the event should keep things social and dynamic, which should be more engaging and kid-friendly. The fact that each station focuses on something different recognizes that digital literacy isn’t just one thing, and should better accomodate the varied interests of different children. Some of these activities, such as Scratch, allow for easy follow-through in the sense that a child that learns Scratch can continue to develop programs and foster that interest when they go home from the event. I believe that in comparison to other STEM topics such as chemistry or physics more children would find these activities relevant to their daily life – in that everyday they use apps, they play video games and they surf the web. Children may find the ability to create and shape those digital aspects of their life empowering, and that feeling may encourage them to keep learning to increase that ability.

An event like this also seems reasonably lightweight in terms of cost in that it utilizes volunteer instructors, indoor public space and freely available learning tools (and 96% of Canadian households now own a computer, so laptops should not be in too short a supply). Practically however even seemingly “lightweight” events in cost can still be time consuming to organize and promote. But if the event turns out to be reasonably lightweight in practice, such an event model could possibly “go viral” and be done somewhat sporadically wherever their is a sufficient supply of volunteers and demand from parents and children. When overloaded parents with hectic schedules are given opportunities like this, with a low time commitment required of them and no cost attached, it makes it easier for them to encourage and support their child’s interest in technology. I think when this encouragement is received from a parent and outside of the child’s time in the classroom in particular, it can have a profound effect on that child’s life. More than anything else, this event sounds fun.

I would love to see grassroots organized “Hack Jam” events like this taking place in Hamilton! As I write this article, it looks like I’m not the only one either. Between my professional commitments and events I already organize as a hobby I am too busy to organize such an event any time soon. But I would encourage anyone interested and able to do so to take up organizing such events as a hobby and run with it. This article on organizing a grassroots tech event in Hamilton may be of some help, but I have some more suggestions and ideas written below, assuming that the requirements for such an event are: station activities, indoor space, volunteer instructors, and publicity.

Station activities

A bunch of these ideas are taken from the Toronto Hack Jam page but I’ll just repeat them here…

Alice – “Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web.”

Playing MadLibs with Python: Building Your First Game – “Ever wanted to build your own computer game? Here’s your chance! Even if you are a total beginner, you will be able to complete this challenge. You’ll be taken through the process of building a MadLib game, step-by-step.”

Computer Science Unplugged – “CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.” The important thing with CS Unplugged activities is that none of them actually require a computer! Check out their activity list, concepts like binary numbers and sorting algorithms can be taught using pre-designed activities. Each one of these activities is a potential station!

Hackasaurus – “By making it easy for youth to tinker and mess around with the building blocks that make up the web, Hackasaurus helps tweens move from digital consumers to active producers, seeing the web as something they can actively shape, remix and make better.” It is well supported and made with Hack Jams in mind, check out these resources.

Hackety Hack – “Hackety Hack will teach you the absolute basics of programming from the ground up. No previous programming experience is needed! With Hackety Hack, you’ll learn the Ruby programming language. Ruby is used for all kinds of programs, including desktop applications and websites.” Well supported with lessons like this available.

Paper user interface prototyping – “involves creating rough, even hand-sketched, drawings of an interface to use as prototypes, or models, of a design” i.e. have children design the look and feel of apps by drawing paper mockups.

Scratch – “Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web. ” Check out Getting Started with Scratch, Scratch videos and other resources to see how simple it can be.

Indoor space

Volunteer instructors

  • Solicit for volunteers from the community on stage at the next DemoCamp, or at StartupDrinks
  • Solicit for volunteers as part of the EventBrite registration page and general marketing push for the event
  • Elementary and High School teachers
  • Grade 11-12 High School students
  • University, College professors
  • University, College students
  • Parents


Anyone organizing such an event would of course be welcome to put it in the calendar, post a blog about it or send a description of the event to to have it put in the newsletter.

If Hamilton is going to become a city where digital innovators make the world a better place to live, that shift should benefit everyone and those new opportunities should be made accessible to everybody. Codeyear meetups for beginners and advanced programmers to learn how to code are a great idea, as is a technology group for supporting women in technology. I think local grassroots organized “Hack Jams” for youth would be another great idea, and that organizing them would make a great hobby!

Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account is able to comment on this article below, if you have any thoughts or suggestions!