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MaRS launches new fintech cluster

Toronto has long been the financial capital of Canada, and with the help of MaRS and the city's fintech startups it may soon become the country's financial technology capital as well.

Last Tuesday, MaRS announced the launch of a new fintech cluster as well as a series of strategic partnerships with major financial institutions like PayPal, UGO and Moneris Solutions. The initiative, which is being led by Adam Nanjee, the former vice president of business development in emerging payments at MasterCard Canada, aims to create a place where the country's fintech startups, financial institutions and venture capitalists can meet, collaborate and innovate on new technologies.

“Over the past year or so we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of entrepreneurs from coast to coast, but particularly in Toronto, building technologies that solve financial sector problems,” says Nanjee. “The purpose of this cluster is to be a bridge for those entrepreneurs, as well as for financial institutions and for the Canadian and international venture capital community.”

PayPal, which is one of the main partners in the cluster, will lend its support to the effort by bringing its 2015 BattleHack hackathon to MaRS in July, and by hosting a segment of its Commerce Factory meet ups in Toronto.

Although MaRS only launched the initiative last week, Nanjee expects the country's major financial institutions to take notice quickly. “I think we're going to see more momentum from traditional financial institutions,” says Nanjee. “We're going to start to see a real thirst for innovation and entrepreneurship from the Canadian banks and credit card companies, as well as from even more traditional financial institutions like insurance companies.”

Startups can register for the program at www.marsdd.com/fintech.

Source: MaRS
Photo courtesy of MaRS Discovery District.

Toronto startup creates impossible-to-lose wallet

This past September, Kickstarter celebrated its one year anniversary in Canada. In the year leading up to that date, Canadians pledged $24,140,424 to the more than 3,650 projects that found their way onto the platform. Among its first year big winners were campaigns like The Tar Sands Reporting Project and the Corner Gas movie, but few Canadian companies were as prolific on the platform as Toronto-based MIJLO.

Following the crowdfunding success of its Better Backpack and Everyday Watch, MIJLO returned to Kickstarter this past week with its most recent effort, Where's Wallet.

Where's Wallet is a wallet that, according to MIJLO founder Daniel Eckler, is impossible to lose. Using a combination of a sensor within the wallet and a downloadable mobile app, Where's Wallet will alert its owner if they're ever separated from one another.

It's also a simple accessory piece that's stylish without making a bold fashion statement, says Eckler.

Indeed, if there's something that ties together MIJLO's seemingly disparate group of offerings, it's an emphasis on simplicity and on creating a product that will last a lifetime. According to Eckler, it's a philosophy he was inspired to burrow from renowned Japanese retailer Muji—which, coincidently, recently opened its first location in Toronto.

“They take an approach that is simple and refined. There also have a philosophy behind their business that believes people should live simply,” he says. “I decided I wanted to found a company that had similar values.”

He goes on to add, “What ties all our products together is that each one can easily be the one product a person buy in a specific category and something that they'll be able to use and keep for a long time.”

As of the writing of this post, the Where's Wallet campaign has 29 days left to go and it has already raised $25,355 of its $30,000 goal. It seems MIJLO is doing something right. 

Source: MIJLO

Who's hiring in Toronto? Upverter, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, National Ballet of Canada and more...

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

Local startup Upverter is seeking an events and community manager. According to its posting on the Ladies Learning Code job board, the company is looking for a person that's passionate about entrepreneurship, has experience running events and marketing campaigns and has a knack for making people feel like they're part of a community. If that describes you, drop the company a line at jobs(at)upverter(dot com), telling them why you're a perfect fit.

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund is hiring a WordPress master. Those that turn their attention to the organization's posting on the Centre for Social Innovation's job board will find a single paragraph that asks, “Can you help set up a back-end system to manage a website using wordpress [sic], and develop a manual and training sessions for laypeople, so that they can manage their own site using wordpress [sic]?” If the answer to those two questions is yes, then contact Mary Pickering at (416) 392-1217 to inquire about the position.

The National Ballet of Canada is also looking for a digital native to help them with their web needs; they're searching for a web and digital media coordinator. The catch with this position is that the company's ideal candidate will not only be experienced with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, but will also have experience with multimedia editing tools like Final Cut Pro and Photoshop, as well as content marketing tools like Wordify and Kentico. Check out their posting for more details. The deadline to apply is March 4.

Finally, for those that find the prospect of staring at an email client all day thrilling, the Canadian Red Cross is hiring an email marketing coordinator. The person that takes on this role will be responsible for leading all of the organization's email marketing efforts. Duties include working with various departments within the Red Cross to ensure that their outbound copy is clean, concise and easy to read, as well as constantly monitoring and improving upon the organization's content marketing efforts. One to two years of experience in a related position is a must. The deadline to apply is March 17.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!


Structural Genomics Consortium gets major cancer-preventing donation

One of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world decided to mark World Cancer Day, February 4, with a significant monetary contribution towards finding new ways to combat the deadly disease.

On Wednesday, Merck Canada announced that is donating $7.5-million to the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC).

The SGC, which is based in the MaRS Discovery District, is a not-for-profit public-private partnership led by the University of Toronto and Oxford University. Its main goal is to promote medical breakthroughs by creating a database of open sourced research that can be accessed by almost any organization or company.

Not to be outdone, the Government of Ontario also announced a significant investment on the same day. The provincial government said it will give the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) a four-year, $6.4-million grant to research new ways in which to increase screening rates for colon cancer and to decrease the harm chemotherapy inflicts upon patients, among other things.

To date the provincial government has invested $756.9-million toward cancer research.

“Ontario is proud to support the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, which is working with key partners on ground-breaking research that is leading to very real benefits for Ontarians fighting cancer,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario's minister of research and innovation, in the press release that followed the announcement. “This investment will help the OICR get their discoveries out of the lab faster, improving both prevention and treatment and making a difference in people’s lives.”

Not a bad day in the fight against cancer.

Source: MaRS and University of Toronto. 
Photo: Courtesy of CNW Group/Merck

Who's hiring in Toronto? Evergreen Canada, MaRS, Telus

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

Evergreen Canada is hiring a marketing and communications director. At least 10 years of marketing, communications or public relations experience is required to be considered for this role. Check out the organization's posting on their website for a truly comprehensive overview of all the duties and requirements that go along with this role. The deadline to apply is February 27.

For all the digital natives out there, Telus is seeking a product manager to oversee the company's adherence to online and digital best practices.This individual will be responsible for ensuring all of the company's customer-facing software is intuitive, elegant and easy to use. Three to five years of experience working with a digital firm is a must—though other qualifications, like having done a bootcamp through HackerYou, will be considered an asset, so there's that.

Normally we try to avoid posting about internships here, but this week brings with it a set that look worthwhile (read: they actually pay). MaRS is currently accepting applications for its summer internship program. University students can apply to work for one of the organization's many departments, including its Solutions Lab and its business acceleration program. The internships run from May 4 to August 21. Applications are due February 16. Check out MaRS's careers website for the full list of internships.

Those between the ages of 18 and 30 will also want to check out the Studio [Y] program at MaRS. This intensive, nine month fellowship puts 25 individuals through a comprehensive curriculum on so-called 21st century skills. Participants are taught things like critical and entrepreneurial thinking, and are then asked to apply those skills while working on projects with real-world partners. The program provides its fellows with a $20,000 stipend so that access is not an issue. Check out the Studio [Y] website to learn more about this groundbreaking program and to find out what's required to apply. Applications are being accepted until March 16.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!

Toronto startup is launching an online marketplace for bartering

Imagine you have an old bike you want to get rid of and, instead of selling it for $50, you have the opportunity to trade it for some rare albums you want for your record collection,” says Sascha Darius Mojtahedi.

“Wouldn't it be great if someone really wanted that bike and you could get something for it in return?”

What Mojtahedi is purposing is that I take money out of the equation and barter away my beloved fixie for something else. As an idea, bartering is one of the oldest in the book. It's also the concept that Mojtahedi and his co-workers at Shufl, a Toronto-based startup, are building their company around.

“A lot of companies innovate on new ideas, but we wanted to innovate on a really old one,” he says.

Once Shufl becomes available later this year, users will find a local online marketplace where they can trade their unwanted items for things they want. In fact, according Mojahedi, Shufl is first and foremost built and designed to help users find a compelling reason to complete transactions without the use of money—though, of course, they'll still be able to use cash if they so desire.

In creating Shufl, Mojahedi says his team's goal was to help people discover new found liquidity in the items they already own.

“There’s a large underground community that is already bartering,” he says. “They’re very active, but because what they're doing is viewed as being less sexy, it's never been allocated the same respect from a platform perspective as more traditional tractions.”

It's his hope that Shufl is able to change that.

The service is set to become available to the public in May. In the meantime, those that are keen on checking out the platform can sign up to take part in the company's beta.

Source: Shufl 

Ryerson Digital Media Zone announces historic partnership with OneEleven, Communitech

Local entrepreneurs had reason to celebrate last week as the Ryerson Digital Media Zone, Toronto's OneEleven and Waterloo's Communitech announced a historic partnership.

Going forward, entrepreneurs taking part in one of the three startup accelerator programs will have have access to the facilities of the other two incubators.

According to Valerie Fox, the Digital Media Zone's executive director, the partnership came about because the three organizations quickly came to understand the importance of collaborating with one another.

“We all understand the importance of collaborating amongst ourselves,” she says. “Startups are going to where they'll get the best help. Each incubator has its own strengths, and there are some startups that could, in a sense, use help from all three of us.”

She adds, “In the best interest of our entrepreneurs, I think this type of collaboration enables us to really help them, as well as strengthen our community at the same time.”

Fox says that Tuesday's announcement simply formalizes a relationship that has existed between the three incubators for a while now. “I think what’s interesting is that we’ve been doing this for a while now, but now what we’re doing is saying that it's been formalized,” says Fox. “In a way we're saying to our entrepreneurs, 'Seriously, this is going on, so take advantage of it.”

Besides gaining access to additional facilities, the entrepreneurs and students that benefit from this partnership will also gain better access to mentorship, capital and, perhaps most importantly, potential customers.

And while this partnership is the first of its kind in Canada, Fox says she both expects and hopes other organizations announce similar partnerships in the future.

“Ontario depends on this type of collaboration; it's only strengthening us.”

Source: Ryerson Digital Media Zone

Toronto startup invents machine that promises to make 3D printing sustainable

The economics of printers is such that it's often cheaper to buy an entirely new printer than it is to replace the ink inside of the one a person already owns. Those same economics have migrated to world of 3D printers. The printers themselves are relatively affordable, but the cost of plastic filament can become prohibitively expensive in a short amount of time.

Enter Dennon Oosterman and his co-founders at ReDeTec.

The Toronto-based startup has created a device called the ProtoCycler. It's a machine that allows makers of all skill levels to recycle some household plastics and 3D printing rejects into new spools of filament.

According to the company's Indiegogo page, the ProtoCycler, which ReDeTec plans to sell for $799 at launch, will pay for itself within 10 to 20 uses. Indiegogo's community has quickly taken to the idea: as of the writing of this post, the crowdfunding campaign has raised $82,782 USD, surpassing its $70,000 USD goal with six days left.

Oosterman and company started to work on the ProtoCycler while they were studying at the University of British Columbia. The program they were enrolled in purchased several 3D printers that the group got to play with. Oosterman, a life long maker who has created his own guitar amps, became enamoured with the creative possibilities the printers enabled, but he says he also realized that there was was a significant cost to using the printers.

“At first, we thought they were fantastic because we could make anything. They also had none of the hazards of a machine shop, and you didn't have to sit there and watch it do its job,” he says. “A few months later, we realized we had filled garbage bins full of bad parts and rejects, and that we had spent a lot of money on new filament.”

He and his friends set about creating a solution that would make, a task, it must said, that's much easier said than done. Some three years later, they're almost ready to share their work with the world.

It's fitting that the founders of ReDeTec started working on the ProtoCycler while they were still in school; Oosterman believes classrooms will be among the main beneficiaries of the technology he's helped create.

“More and more schools are adapting 3D printing into their curriculum. That said, having kids print ten plus projects year after year quickly becomes unsustainable,” he says. “We let all those same schools save costs and reduce on waste. They also teach kids the inherent value of recycling.”

Source: ReDeTec

Who's hiring in Toronto? Ontario Trillium Foundation, Rubikloud, AGO and more...

The Ontario Trillium Foundation is hiring an individual to oversee the acquisition, development and implementation of business software for the organization. This is a role that will involve managing a small team. Three plus years of experience in a related field are required, as well as experience with MS SQL and a customer relationship management software like Salesforce. The closing date to send an application in is February 2

Those that have been considering giving the startup life a chance will want to check out the next series of postings.

Rubikloud, which secured a $7-million Series A investment earlier in the month, is about to expand its team significantly. All told, they're hiring across 12 positions. The positions they're hiring for are as follows: business development and strategydatabase engineerdirector of product management, director of project delivery, infrastructure manager, lead data scientist, office manager, QA engineer, senior data scientist, UX designer, software engineer and front end software engineer. The deadline to apply for all positions is February 27.

On the culture side, the Art Gallery of Ontario is hiring an assistant registrar. The individual that takes on this role will have several duties relating to the pieces of art the AGO temporarily loans out from other art intuitions. Responsibilities include, managing physical and digital records pertaining to said pieces and writing additional supporting documentation, coordinating the shipment of the pieces, as well as a host of other related duties. Applications must be submitted by February 4

Finally, on the contract site of things, social impact job board Bmeaningful is looking for a part-time web developer. The required qualifications for thw position are fairly standard: three plus years of experience working writing PHP, HTML5/CSS and Java Script, as well as experience working with WordPress. According to Bmeaningful's posting, the position has the opportunity to turn in to full-time work down the road. The deadline to apply is January 30.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!

U of T study finds ecosystem disaster in non-native species

In 1890, a pharmacist named Eugene Schieffelin released some 60 European starlings into New York's Central Park. He did so because the group he was part of, the American Acclimatization Society, wanted to make it so that the the skies of North America were filled with the sights and sounds of all the birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.

Schieffelin and company got their wish and then some.

More than 100 years later, the European starling is everywhere, including Toronto. Free of its ancestral predators, the species has managed to grow unchecked, much to the detriment of North America's native wildlife and even to human activities like farming.

However, the European starling is only the most famous example of an invasive species being introduced to North America. Either by design or mistake, countless other non-native plants and animals have found their way into North America.

One such species is the European fire ant (myrmica rubra, for those that enjoy their Latin taxonomies). Colonies of this aggressive ant are often found near water, and they've become a common sight in the Don Valley and on the Toronto Island. A chance encounter with one of these ants often ends with a nasty bite.

What could be worse, is that this ant—and other invasive species like it—could be working together with other invaders to increase the rate at which they both spread across a new ecological system.

Megan Frederickson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Kirsten Prior, a biology professor at the University of Florida, as well several postdoctoral fellows have spent the past year studying the European fire ant.

On a UofT-owned nature reserve an hour north of the city, the researchers used 42 plastic kiddie pools (pictured) to create siloed ecosystems. They filled each pool with soil and the seeds four different species of wildflowers—three of which were native to Ontario, and one, the greater celandine plant, which was not. They then released the European fire ant in about half of the pools and a native woodland ant in the other half, and let them go about their work over the winter.

When the team returned in the spring and summer, they found that the fire ants had dispersed all the species of wildflowers, but particularly the invasive greater celandine plant, to far greater effect than their North American cousins.

This finding seems to in part validate a theory called invasional meltdown, which suggests that the establishment of one invasive species can help facilitate the incursion of other non-native species.

“I’d say we have really good evidence for half of the story. Our experiment very clearly shows that this invasive species, the european fire ant, can help this invasive plant spread,” says Professor Frederickson. “What we don’t know if the reverse is also true.”

Frederickson and her team are working towards seeing if the greater celandine plant somehow helped the fire ants.
The term invasional meltdown was coined by evolutionary biologists Daniel Simberloff and Betsy Von Holle in a seminal 1999 paper.

“Since they wrote this paper in 1999 people have been interested in looking for examples, and there are a handful examples out there but not a whole lot. There’s some debate in the field on how common and important this phenomenon might be—and it's one of the reasons we were interested in doing this study,” says Professor Frederickson.

In the press release that announced the study's findings, Professor Frederickson's colleague Kirsten Prior succinctly stressed the importance of their research. “Invasive species are a leading threat to natural ecosystems, and can have impacts on society,” she said.

“Research on how ecosystems become invaded and the consequences of invasion is important. It sets us on the right path to develop solutions to reduce the spread and impact of these harmful species.”

Source: University of Toronto
Photos: J.G. Sanders, K.M..Prior.

Who's hiring in Toronto? National Ballet of Canada, Ladies Learning Code and more...

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

The National Ballet of Canada is seeking a footwear coordinator. This is a one year contract position that will see the person that takes it on become responsible for ensuring that the Ballet's dancers are provided and fitted with appropriate performance footwear—minus Pointe shoes, because they're so important to a ballet troupe there's probably one person responsible just for them. Other responsibilities include painting and styling the company's footwear for each specific production, as well as maintaining a footwear record. In other words, this sounds like just about the coolest job ever. The deadline to apply is January 23.

If you watched even a bit of Canadian television during the 90s, then you're likely intimately familiar with the Canadian Heritage Minute. Whether it was the one about burnt toast or the one about a scrapped supersonic jet, these one-minute infomercials were, almost without exception, well-made, informative and compelling. Now there's a chance to work for the organization that was responsible for their creation. Historica Canada is hiring a Heritage Minutes officer. This is a general administrative position that includes duties like note taking, responding to inquires from the public and conducting research. The deadline to apply is January 21.

The Sick Kids Foundation is hiring for two associate level positions. They're looking for a development writer to help writer and edit the material that gets sent out to their donors, as well as a third party events associate to help with the planning and execution of their calendar of events. The deadline to apply for both positions is January 19.

Finally, while it's not a paid position, we would be remiss not to mention that Ladies Learning Code is looking for a volunteer lead instructor. For those that haven't heard of the LLC, it's a Toronto born organization that puts together digital literacy and coding workshops for women and youth. No previous teaching experience is required to apply for this position, so those with relevant skills and a desire to give back and impart their knowledge should check out the group's website.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!

Government of Ontario provides update on Jobs and Prosperity Fund

This past Wednesday, the Government of Ontario issued an update on its Jobs and Prosperity Fund.

The fund, which was proposed in 2012 and passed in 2014, was, according to the government, created to streamline and improve Ontario's suite of private sector support programs.

The $2.5-billion the provincial government allocated to the fund is currently being split between three streams: a new economy stream which, among other things, is meant to help private sector companies improve their research and development capacity; a strategic partnerships stream that is aimed at finding and building partnerships between the government and the innovative entrepreneurs, companies and organization that call Ontario home; and a food and beverage stream that is meant to help the province's food manufactures improve their productivity and help them gain access to new markets.

“The Jobs and Prosperity Fund gives us the flexibility to offer strategic incentives, where necessary, to secure anchor investments in key sectors,” said Brad Duguid, Ontario's Minister of Economic Development, in an email interview.

Despite providing no concrete numbers, Duguid says the grants have already created results. “We’re already seeing the benefits that this fund will bring — our investments through JPF in companies such as Cisco, OpenText, Ford and Honda. These investments have already helped to create and retain thousands of good paying jobs in Ontario, and billions of dollars in private sector investment.”

Prior to the 2014 election, former Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak criticized the program and other similar Liberal initiatives as “corporate welfare”. The program is set to last 10 years.

Source: Government of Ontario

Ontario Health Innovation Council releases Catalyst Report

Released shortly before the holiday shuffle—and subsequently missed by most people—the Ontario Health Innovation Council (OHIC) Catalyst report lays out six recommendations the province should follow to become a innovative healthcare entity.

The goal of the report's authors was to find ways to improve the quality, speed and delivery of Ontario's healthcare services while also finding ways to transform the province into a bastion of medical innovation.

The most interesting recommendation is the third one, which suggests that the province create a fund for made-in-Ontario technologies. The proposed four year, $20-million fund should be used to help speed the adoption of technologies that are developed within Ontario's borders, says the report's authors.

Another of their recommendations calls for the province to create an office for the “Chief Health Innovation Strategist,” who, if the government goes through with the appointment, will be responsible for identifying the province's most pressing medical needs and aligning the medtech sector's efforts to develop solutions for those needs.

Following the release of the report, MaRS published a statement endorsing the report's recommendations. “We believe that implementing these recommendations will position Ontario as a global health innovation powerhouse, while improving citizen health, and growing Canada’s new health economy,” said Dr. Ilse Treurnicht in the organization's press release.

The full report can be read here.

Source: Ontario Health Innovation Council. 

Who's hiring in Toronto? MaRS, InterAccess, TIFF and more...

MaRS is attempting to fill several senior positions at its headquarters on College St. They're hiring a new director of real estate finance, director of finance, investment director, investment manager and construction project manager. Each position has different required qualifications, but the common theme is that MaRS really does want the best of the best; all of the positions require about five to ten years of experience in a relevant field. The deadline to apply for these positions varies between January 9 and 12, so brush up those resumes and cover letters and send them along.

An organization called InterAccess is hiring a manager of education and outreach. According to their website, they're a “public gallery, educational facility and production studio dedicated to the creative use of technology, electronic art and new media culture.”

The person that takes on this role will be required to develop new educational programs for the organization, as well as help find and develop sponsorship opportunities for InterAccess. Two to three years in a related field is required to apply for this position. The deadline to apply is January 16.

For those interested, InterAccess is also hiring a general manager and program coordinator.

Similar to the previous position, the Toronto International Film Festival is hiring a senior manager for their adult learning program.

The main responsibilities that come with this role are managing and developing the festival's Reel Talk, Books on Film and Food on Film programs. Additionally, as one would expect with a position of this nature, much of it involves being a spokesperson for the organization and its programs. Five to seven years of experience in a related field is a must. The deadline to apply is January 9.

Finally, looking to do something different this new year? Why not become an organic farmer for a season!

The Sleepy G Farm is one of many farms outside of Toronto looking for help this summer. The work is sure to be demanding, but, if Hollywood is to be believed, it will also likely be incredibly rewarding. Besides being able to partially disconnect from technology for several months, successful candidates will be given the chance to learn cool skills like blacksmithing, animal care and pasture management.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!

Local coding academy sets its sights on nationwide expansion

As digital literacy becomes as important as reading and writing to securing a job in the modern workplace, one Toronto coding school has taken a significant step towards becoming Canada's de facto place to learn how to code.

On December 18, the Konrad Group, a local digital consulting firm that counts the CBC, Nestle and Salesforce as some of its clients, announced that it had acquired Toronto-based coding academy BrainStation for an undisclosed sum.

According to Jason Field, one of BrainStation's co-founders, the company plans to use its newfound resources to expand into five other Canadian cities by the end of 2015. First on the list are other cities in Ontario like Waterloo, London and Ottawa.

But that's not all. With it's new owner boasting a presence in the United States and Costa Rica, BrainStation also has the opportunity to become a global brand down the line should its owners decide that's the path they'd like to follow.

Additionally, Field says the school plans refocus its efforts on becoming a go-to centre for digital literacy, not just a place where someone can learn to code.

“Now that we have the financial capability, we’re going to build our programs to be not just about coding, but about digital literacy in general,” he says.

“Each community needs different things, and as we continue to develop we envision that we’ll have eight to ten curricula built out. Depending on the city, maybe web development is the only one that's feasible, but it’s still something that community should have access to. It shouldn’t be the most populated cities getting all the love.”

BrainStation is hosting an open house on January 13 at its new space to talk about some of its plans for the new year. 

Source: BrainStation
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