City

Toronto, a technology and talent hub. What makes us so special?

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Toronto has, for a long time, been a place where people want to play — the city has dynamic sports teams, restaurants from every corner of the world and fun-filled neighbourhoods. As the city grows up, literally with condos reaching ever higher into the sky, many are choosing to live and work downtown too. Toronto has become a real technology hub. Companies such as Google, Uber, Twitter and Facebook all have offices in Toronto. Even Google’s offshoot Sidewalk Labs has chosen to build a high-tech neighbourhood at Quayside, the Queen’s Quay and Parliament area. As the major players develop and grow, there are several smaller tech firms that are employing Torontonians and creating innovative products and services.

Because Toronto is Canada’s largest financial and technological hub, there are opportunities to make money here. Investors set up their overseas subsidiaries here and invest their funds in innovation. In fact, Toronto added 22,500 technology jobs between 2015 and 2016, according to CBRE, which is more than the New York and San Francisco areas combined. Technology education in Toronto is bountiful as well, with institutions such as Brain Station and Bitmaker providing workshops, seminars and full courses on everything tech.

1) eSight

COMPANY PROFILE

According to eSight, more than 253 million people are living with vision loss and this community faces a 70% unemployment rate and a 30% poverty rate.

eSight’s Founder has two sisters who are legally blind. In 2006, he said to himself, “If I can assemble teams of engineers who can build incredible products for the commercial market, why not assemble an engineering team that can build electronic glasses that would let my sisters see?” Now the eSight product is available in over 42 countries and counting.

When trying to figure out what the product is, you’ll see the word “magic” on the company website. 416 Mag asked to explain the magic behind the product that allows people to see.

“eSight intelligently optimizes a wearer’s remaining functional vision with a combination of zoom, contrast, and focus. The element of magic is how the sophisticated software (proprietary algorithms) marries with the hardware, to enable the profound result, sight. eSight is the only wearable device of its kind that is backed by clinical validation. Some of the main features include: Patented Bioptic Tilt Capability (a wearer can tilt the headset up to the position that will enable them to see the live feed on the screens, while enabling them to rely on their natural peripheral vision to safely navigate), WiFi, Bluetooth and HDMI capabilities, OLED Screens, High-speed and high-resolution camera.”

In other words, eSight is electronic glasses that enable people with legal blindness to see as in the same way as those with full vision. The founder’s two sisters use eSight today and participate fully and independently in their everyday lives.

Jordan Finewax, marketing and outreach coordinator describe a story that stuck with him during a product demonstration. “A man named Anthony was trying eSight for the very first time. We plugged the eSight into a tablet (via HDMI) and had him watch a clip of his favourite football team (the Steelers), and he was in utter shock. He could see the names of the players and the numbers on the back of their jerseys. He was speechless. He sat there, completely wrapped up in the video clip until eventually, tears welled up in his eyes. For the first time in 20 years, Anthony could see.

The product is now available in more than 42 countries, and most “eSighters” are in North America.

eSight benefits from Toronto’s technological and educational talents. And with Toronto being a financial hub, the product was born after millions of dollars in investments, several patented innovations and extensive collaboration with individuals with legal blindness.

eSight opened its Toronto head office in 2013, choosing Toronto because the company executives thought the city offered the most growth potential in technology.

“With more and more homegrown talent from local universities and the comparable cost savings from starting a business here relative to say, Silicon Valley, we can only expect Toronto’s tech industry to continue growing,” Finewax said. (Jordan Finewax, marketing and outreach coordinator)

EMPLOYEES AND COMPANY CULTURE

Photo sources: marsdd.com

The company has a promise, “to help people see so that they can change the world.” 10% of the employees are living with a visual impairment and use eSight every single day.

The office space is an open concept with no separate cubicles or offices. “The idea is to foster innovation and collaboration,” Finewax explained.

Another company which promotes share spaces is WeWork.

WeWork

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

COMPANY PROFILE

WeWork is a global network of workspaces with more than 200,000 members around the world. The company transforms buildings into workspaces and also provides members with community, as well as digital and physical services. Its members are various, everyone from entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and large multinational enterprises. The company, co-founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, in New York City in 2010 has more than 242 physical locations in 71 cities and 21 countries.

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

Neumann and McKelvey wanted to build more than just office spaces; they wanted to build a community.

The company describes the idea as joining as a me, but become a greater we.

“WeWork provides an opportunity to work for a mission-driven company, but even more than that, it allows you to become a part of something larger than yourself. WeWork is a community with more than 200,000 members around the world and is a place where you’ll be challenged every day,” Jarred Paperman, WeWork’s community director says.

The company offers various benefits to its employees such as lunch and learn sessions, networking events and even wellness classes such as kickboxing and meditation.

WeWork has two locations in Toronto and plans to open a third later this year. By the end of 2020, the company hopes to have 20 locations in Toronto.

By the end of 2018, the company’s membership on a global level is expected to reach more than 400,000 people. This year, the company plans to open another 200 buildings for a total of 400 buildings across 83 cities and 27 countries.

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

We chose to explore a company that uses WeWork. Let us introduce you to Feedback.

Feedback

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

COMPANY PROFILE

Feedback is an app that lowers the price of restaurant take-out food using factors like weather, traffic and time of day.

Hungry people order through the app, go to the restaurant and present their receipt to get anywhere between 20% and 70% off the regular price.

Not only does it help the customer get a discount, but it also helps the restaurant avoid food waste by clearing out food at the end of the day at a steep discount, the company explains.

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

he idea originated as if it was a scene in a novel or a whimsical movie. The company’s founder, Josh Walters was hanging out at a pizza place in Italy, yes, in Italy. It was a late night, and just when the pizza joint was about to close, the owner offered him free full pizzas that otherwise would have been thrown out.

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

Josh recognized there was an opportunity because he realized that restaurants must frequently face this dilemma. The next day, Josh called his cousin Ben who was working in management consulting. The two spent the next few months developing a business plan and speaking to close to 100 restaurant owners to understand the issue.

In Canada alone, food waste totals $31 billion each year; the pair tells 416 Mag.

“Salad bars, bakeries, cafes, restaurants and food courts all threw out enormous amounts of delicious food each day,” the pair explained.

The app has become more sophisticated, not only offering end-of-day deals to customers, but it drives predictable traffic to restaurants, ensuring the businesses can staff and prepare their food more efficiently at times when they are are fuller capacity than other times.

Since Josh and Ben didn’t know how to develop an app, they pitched a company called WeWork. They won the WeWork Creator Award and received USD 36,000 to outsource the development and build the app. The Feedback team then moved to the first Toronto location of WeWork.

The pair chose Toronto because of its food selection.

“Toronto is one of the greatest food cities in the world! Due to its rich multicultural makeup, Toronto boasts amazing restaurants including cuisines from all corners of the world,” they said.

Leftover catering = A healthy meal for someone in need! Today’s pickup from @telus headquarters! #zerowaste #zerohunger ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #feedbackapp #nowaste #charity #recycle #foodsecurity #giveback #foodwaste #catering #fresh #salad #healthyfood

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All of Feedback’s customers are located in the GTA, and they plan to expand throughout North America.

Regarding the company’s future, the cousins plan to continue to collect data to understand pricing in the food industry in its entirety further.

“We believe that an ice cream cone in the middle of the winter and summer should not cost the same and that a steak at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday and 8 p.m. on a Saturday night have different perceived values to customers.”

EMPLOYEES AND COMPANY CULTURE

The company consists of three co-founders and six full-time employees. Everyone is a part owner of the company.

Everyone in the company, aside from the development team, starts at the same level.

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

“Everyone starts in business development where they get to learn the ins and outs of our product, our customers, and our value proposition. We then move people into roles and positions that they feel like they can both learn from and contribute to,” they explain.

“Anyone who is mission-driven and looking to do a lot more than just create value defined as dollars and cents would have a great time working here at Feedback.”

Many of the employees work in the field, meeting with potential customers in person, so they are often working remotely.

(Josh at Wework office, photo source: Wework)

“Our product team members are encouraged to work from home as often as is convenient for them. Some come in every day, as they like the stability of the office, others work from home up to twice a week.”

“Some people find they can concentrate and focus better when they are working from their quiet desk at home, rather than the busy office space. We allow our employees to find what works for them, and encourage them to put themselves in the best position to do their best work.”

The company does have in-person team meetings weekly for each department.

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

Photo Credit: Laura Rossi

The Feedback space is at the WeWork office at 33 Bloor St E. near Yonge Street.

“The space is beautiful; our private office is tucked around the corner from a spacious, vibrant common area with coffee, beer on tap and plenty of private meeting rooms.”

Feedback is happy to be part of Toronto’s technology industry.

“Toronto’s already a hub of innovation and collaboration and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon!”Feedback’s space is thanks to another company, WeWork.

CONCLUSION:

It’s a good time to look for technology work in Toronto. As the bigger companies expand, smaller companies such as WeWork, eSight and Feedback are making their mark, building not only smart businesses but interesting and engaging places to work.

By profiling these three companies, there is a noticeable shift in work culture developing in Toronto. The city is at the forefront of this shift, and it’s ideas since it’s the perfect environment to attract start-up companies like eSight and Feedback.

Diana Pereira

Diana Pereira is a journalist, a university journalism teacher, a world traveller, a fair-weather kayaker, and a frequent bruncher. She's working on her mermaid status, travelling to as many countries as she can that include a body of water and when she's home in Toronto, you can find her in a kayak on Lake Ontario.