Category Archives: Toronto

Toronto Is Awesome: Reason #7 – Live Theatre (aka Theatre Review: Les Miserables)

I just got home from seeing Les Miserables for the first time ever. Yeah, I know. You’ve probably seen it multiple times. If you’re a live theatre buff, you’ll love Toronto. There are literally dozens of theatre venues in Toronto. Some hold the big productions that move to Broadway. Others might be as small as local theatre venues in old converted buildings.

For a full listing of all shows in Toronto visit this useful resource:

Last night show was quite remarkable: From the use of technology to create various locations to the timeless story that has entertained millions of people around the world. The highlights for me were the outstanding performances (singing) by Ramin Karimloo (Jean Valjean), Melissa O’Neil (Eponine) and Earl Carpenter (Javert).

Les Miserables
Les Miserables

This is my seventh article in the Toronto Is Awesome series. I would love your comments, thoughts and future suggestions for this series.

Toronto Is Awesome: Reason #6 – Sports

This is my sixth article in the Toronto Is Awesome series. I would love your comments, thoughts and future suggestions for this series.

Say what you will about Toronto’s professional sports teams (yes we know they historically “suck” – I am still a die hard Jays fan) there is still one thing that you cannot deny: Toronto is a sports town. And not just professional sports.
No matter the season, we are an active city.
Rain or shine, cyclists can be found navigating the streets of (mostly downtown) Toronto; kids play soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter; swimming and martial arts classes are filled throughout the year and baseball diamonds are busy many weekday summer nights.
Sports. Ya gotta love this town!
toronto sports teams
toronto sports teams

Exercise your brain

Who am I to talk about exercise. I could lose a few pounds or more. I know that. My muscles could use a little firming up and my heart can be a little bit stronger.

I also realized that my brain can use some exercise a little now and then. And that’s why I came away from TEDxToronto feeling rested and energized at the same time.

When you spend most of your waking hours (like myself and many other do) working on building a business (you can include studying, working and other things in here) you can sometimes be blinded by the fact that your other regions of your mind or brain also need to be activated.  Now, I’m not a behavioural scientist. Nor do I understand, in scientific terms, how the brain works.

What I do know is that yesterday I felt different:  I woke up earlier than I normally do to get downtown on time for the conference. I didn’t tweet much during the conference. Instead I spent my time listening and taking notes on points that resonated with me. I spent lunch and the breaks talking with everyone from friends to strangers and students to millionaires.

And when the conference was done, I was happy in a different sense. My mind felt light. I knew I had work to catch up on but I was happy I spent a day learning from others who were pursuing their passions in areas much different from mine.

So, thank you to everyone who made my TEDxToronto experience a great one. The ideas that were spreading on Thursday infected me.

my favourite co-working spaces in toronto

Almost a year ago I blogged about co-working spaces in Canada. On December 17, 2010 I wrote a piece titled “the (in)complete list of co-working spaces in Canada”.

The impetus of the previous co-working post was the desire to find a space to work from while at the same time being able to take advantage of other people working and building.  Listed below are three places that I’ve had the privilege of working out of:


While not officially a co-working space, BNOTIONS has had a profound positive impact on the growth of thirdocean.  We spent 6 months calling the BNOTIONS office space our home.  We held our team meetings there and also met potential clients in their space.

The culture of BNOTIONS also positively influenced the culture of thirdocean.   Every time a guest exited the elevator on the 4th floor a loud round of applause greeted them.  The BNOTIONS office is also famous for their WWE DVD collection and superhero action figures.  Today, no matter where we work, all thirdocean visitors are greeted as long lost friends.

The Work Republic:

No matter what I say about TWR it will not be enough.  Located at the corner of Victoria Park and McNicol Avenue’s, TWR is only a 5 minute drive from my home.  This has allowed me to work out of a space while still being able to drive my son to his morning and afternoon classes.

This north-Toronto space is a welcomed and quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto.  On most days you can find Ray, Maurice and Milan listening to old school hip hop (Neil Young when I visit!), building mobile apps and making videos.

Need a space outside the city (yet still very accessible) centre to work from and bring your guests to? The Work Republic is the place for you.

Network Orange:

A slice of heaven in the middle of downtown Toronto, Network Orange is ING Direct’s contribution to Toronto’s startup and freelance community. Nestled at the corner of Yonge and Shuter, Network Orange offers our team a home 7 days a week.  Included in their package are a choice of 3 meeting rooms, wifi, coffee, a functional kitchen as well as ample desk space. Open 7 days a week, I have actually “opened” this space at 8am and left when it closed at 10pm.

Operating out of this space has also allowed us to meet with potential clients, clients and even our service partners.  More than any other space, Network Orange has helped our team at thirdocean grow from a young company looking for an identity to Canada’s community management and social media agency.

If you have a favourite co-working space please tell me about it in the comment section below.  If you want to receive this blog in your email, click on the “sign me up!” button on the right.

Why I do what I do.

Image representing Boris Wertz as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

I love Toronto.  And not just the Blue Jays baseball team or the CN Tower.  I mean what makes Toronto, well, Toronto.

Her people.  Especially those people who are making things happen.  Whether it be community activists like the folks at the Toronto Green Community or the start-up/tech space that I have been involved in for the past couple of years.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to chat with Canadian entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist Boris Wertz.  He appeared as my guest on The XConnect Show.  It was our 19th episode and the first time we had a live audience.

The reason we invited a select audience was because our team knew that many people in the start-up space would love the opportunity to listen and learn from Boris.  So we had about 10 guests sit in on the session.

Before our taping I introduced Boris to every member of the studio audience.  And that made me feel happy and proud.  Happy that I could do it and proud that I had the chance to do it.

What made me more happier was receiving an email from one friend a few minutes ago who apologized for leaving without talking to me so he could share with Boris a cab ride across the city.

No need to apologize.

It’s why I do what I do.

my top seven #followfriday

Old and new Diet Coke cans.
Image via Wikipedia

In what may turn out to be a regular weekly installment, here are my top seven recommendations for people to follow on Twitter. In no particular order I present to you…

  1. @TantienHime – no other person RT’s me more than her. No other person supports everything that is Toronto more than her.
  2. @mhp – many people know that I don’t indulge in wobbly pops.  Mark knows that.  It doesn’t stop Mark, though, from buying me a Diet Coke every time he sees me.  And if I don’t say it enough: Thank You Mark.
  3. @salimavalji – Salima is one of the early pioneers of Toronto’s digital industry  as the former head of Edelman‘s digital division. And I was fortunate enough to spend some quality time with her at Canada 3.0 this week. (Thanks for the ride!)
  4. @vasta – I once asked him, “How do I use Twitter?” He answered, “Just get on it and register.” Hey Sameer, I’ve registered. Now what?
  5. @amirad – Community Manager for My City Lives is also a popular writer now. She was featured this past week in Metro. Congrats Amira!
  6. @ceben – Thanks for taking the lead in Toronto’s StartUp Weekend Chris.
  7. @Ldillonschalk – For inviting me for a Monday morning coffee and helping me start the week off right. Thanks so much for everything.
Start following these folks on Twitter. Your life will be much brighter!

(Update) Toronto’s social media winner: sports team category

(UPDATE – 4/19/2011: I’ve included links to all the web and social sites to the team listed below as well as numbers if applicable.)


Revenues generated as a direct result of social media.  Here’s why this is the most important factor in determining the winner. What do fans want most? A winning team. The best situation would be a championship team. And the factor that determines whether or not a team is of contending status or not is their ability to financially attract and retain talent.  And for the purposes of this blog post, let’s see which Toronto sport’s team has reaped financial benefits.

Wait a sec:

Fan engagement and reach is important too.  In this day and age of instant communication, sports fans demand up to the second updates.  This is why athletes and media are heavy users of tools like Twitter. However, to measure the “return on investment” of social media engagement.

Also, understand that these are just my observations.  I have not interviewed anyone who works for the nominees even though I know them.  The purpose of this blog is to give my viewpoint and to spur some discussion.  I would love to hear your thoughts on who is “winning” the social media game.  On to the nominees!

The nominees:

Toronto Argonauts

Twitter: 4,696 Facebook: 2,727 YouTube: 253,697 upload views

The Argos website has share functions throughout. Furthermore, their Facebook, YouTube and Twitter channels  are well populated with a fairly engaged online community.

Toronto Maple Leafs

LeafSpaceMonika: 8,713 Twitter: 48,642 Facebook: 378,572

Their fan-focused site drives both fan engagement and revenues via advertising and ticket and merch sales.  The Leafs also have a huge following on both Twitter and Facebook.

Toronto Blue Jays

Social Media Clubhouse, Twitter:  32,210 Facebook: 249,397

A very busy website where the social media properties are hard to find. While we did see the BlackBerry sponsored Tweeting Tuesday’s ad, we had to scroll down to the bottom to see the Twitter and Facebook links. The BlueJays also have a very popular Facebook and Twitter following with a highly engaged audience.

Toronto Raptors

Twitter: 30,697 Facebook: 204,592

Piggy-backing off their Maple Leafs cousins, the Raps have done an amazing job with their Raptorspace fan site as well as with their Twitter and Facebook pages.

The Winner:

This is a hard one.  I’ll be honest tough. Before I even started to write this I had the Blue Jays picked as the winner. Why? They had actually obtained a sponsor as a result of their Tweeting Tuesday’s initiative – BlackBerry. The Blue Jays are improving in how they communicate and engage with their fans via social media. And last year they not only obtained a sponsor for one of their social media properties, their parent company (Rogers) has done a great job by looping in all their media properties. Listen or watch a game and there will be mention of “following” or “friending” the Blue Jays. But…

The Leafs are the perennial favourites here in Toronto. Yet picking them would be too easy and lazy.  However, after some surface research, I have to announce the winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs have  done an amazing job interacting and engaging with their fans on Facebook and Twitter.  They (as well as the Raptors) have also created a fun and interactive fan site called Leafspace. And when it comes to monetization they have conquered that too. A cursory glance at their website shows corporate ads on their fan areas. And they also held a Facebook competition  which was sponsored by a corporate sponsor.

Congrats Toronto Maple Leafs! And a HUGE thumbs up to the Toronto Blue Jays for doing a kick ass job in a relatively short period of time (and for inspiring this blog post!).

5 Questions with Meghan Warby

Meghan Warby is the first community manager working within a provincial   government.  In the province of Ontario‘s Cabinet Office she guides Ministries in their digital communications, online outreach and social media strategies.

Previously, Meghan has been an agency-side communications consultant in government relations, corporate communications and digital strategies, at Hill & Knowlton & Argyle Communications.  A social media enthusiast, Meghan spent the winter of 2008 traveling across the United States to interview ‘pioneers’ in eAdvocacy to gauge the significant changes in communications between the 2004 and 2008 American federal elections. Blogging and tweeting as @withoutayard combines her love of music (nurtured at the Austin Music Foundation) & politics (expressed on two Election Predictor Blogs & as Vice Chair of the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy).

What motivates you to do what you do on a daily basis?

I’ve always been passionate about civic engagement and studied political science, public policy, specifically cultural policy, for years. After working in the non-profit sector, Heritage Canada, and the consulting world, I knew that my work needed to include civic-minded values, technology and communications. Acting as Community Manager for the Province is a great balance of these three areas. As naive as it may sound, I strongly believe that citizens will become far more engaged with government if they have clear, updated, easy-to-access information online.

If you had 30 seconds to impart your wisdom on a classroom of soon-to-be graduates, what would you say?

Be humble, yet shameless. Take the opportunity of being labelled a ‘student’ to interview people you admire for your final dissertation. Glean invaluable information on their career path, habits, inspiration and experience. Make writing (real-life paper-version) thank-you notes part of your weekly routine.

In your opinion, what has been one of the most important technological developments over the past 12 months?

It’s certainly not Quora or or any of the other tack-ons to existing systems or sites.  Honestly, I think that the massive political and social chance brought by the media’s use of WikiLeaks over the past year will prove to be the most important.

If you had a crystal ball, what would you say will be the most important technological development over the next 12 months?

Hopefully in the next 12 months we crack the mobile currency ‘nut’ to develop a comprehensive/centralized network that delivers international aid, encourages donors’ to offer micro-loans & tracks behaviour (health, lifestyle, spending, etc.) in developing countries.

Who is one of Canada’s tech stars and why?

Too many to name and the field is growing! Likely the biggest and best tech star of 2011 is plugging away right now in Ryerson’s DMZ lab. If I had to pick one, my Toronto-centric lefty-pinko paradigm would note the creator of Rocket Radar, Adam Schwabe.

Canadian Angel and Investment Community – does it exist?

I hear Angel Investors want to see revenue.  Is this a Canadian thing?  Twitter and Facebook received angel funding before making money.  What are your thoughts?

This was my question to my Twitter and Facebook communities about one month ago.  And it is interesting the answers I received.  I am going to share with you many of the responses and conversations that took place on Twitter and Facebook as a result of my question.

Here are some of my thoughts:


Who the heck do people go to in the first place.  You have an idea.  You’ve even created a product and have started to gain a few customers.  But to grow your business you need someone to invest in your business and maybe mentor you along the way.  But you have no clue who to approach.


You finally find someone who may listen to you.  But you’re not sure what the criteria is.  What questions will they ask and what answers will you need to provide?  Maybe your company is not the right fit for this “serial investor”.  What sort of criteria, information and metrics will you need to provide?

The world of startups and the startup investment community seems fractured here in Canada.  Do you need to have a positive cash flow before seeking out investors?  Do you need to have a successful startup resume to capture the attention of potential investors?  Do you need to have one million subscribers before someone will answer your phone call?

In my opinion, its time for the angel and investment community in Canada to get together and make yourselves available to the startup community.  I believe there are many investors in Canada willing to mentor and pony up the financial resources to help a company flourish and grow.  And there is undoubtedly many smart people here in Canada working on new and cutting edge companies, ideas and technologies.

The conversation:

Dave Coleman: It’s actually an east coast thing … NY/Toronto for example are all about business models and showing revenue (not profit, but revenue) … West coast is all about building, generating users and then figuring it out from there.  It’s worthy of debate Karim. I do not think either are right or wrong. The chance of an east coast start-up succeeding is higher (IMHO), however the volume of startups out West is greater

Farhan Lalji:  Don’t think it’s just a Toronto/NY thing, it happens in London as well.  Angel investors want to see revenue here as well, though they say they will invest in an idea, rarely does it happen. Just look at Seedcamp in the EU – says it’s like Y Combinator but all of the companies had product and traction/customers if not revenue.   I think that’s what makes Silicon Valley unique; it has a culture of risk – trusting the team to take advantage of the market. It also has a culture of reinvestment, several people made money off companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, eBay, PayPal, Cisco etc and those new rich took flyers on the founders of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare etc.

Rahim Adatia: There is a lot more to this than East coast vs West coast and business models vs no business model. New York is far more risk-taking than Toronto. In the US and more so in the Valley, smart money invests into teams not business models. Smart money knows that business models change in the early days and you need a team that has the brains, will, and experience to adapt quickly. There is also more maturity as an industry in the Valley in regards to tech investments. This is the 4th or 5th cycle here, while in most other areas, this is the 2nd. The first being the dot-com boom, and the current dot-com 2.0 boom. That has benefits in terms of banking, legal, business development, sales, etc.  The problem is that soon greed starts to set in, and in all areas dumb money floods in. For example, a person who normally invests into real estate, will throw money into the tech world trying to cash in quick and then bad teams get invested, or the teams in Toronto/London without biz-models get invested. That ends up temporary skewing everything. This is the premise I present at many of my talks.  General comment I get is that you can already start to see the dumb money (greed) coming into the Valley.

There were many more Facebook comments and Tweets that were shared regarding this question.  Thanks to everyone who participated and will continue to participate in the comments section below:

How would you improve the funding and startup disconnect in Canada?

are you searchable? – post 2 of 31

marketing in a social age is devoting 31 posts this month to social and digital media and the real estate industry.

Are you searchable?

If not you should be.  If I did not personally know a real estate agent there are a few places I would go to search out for one.  I will share with you how I would look for them and where I would be.


Are you searchable on Google (or really any major search engine)?  People might not search for you but they are searching for agents in a neighbourhood or within a specific area.  For example, if you specialize in condos in Toronto’s Scarborough Bluffs area, make sure you can be found if someone types in : “Toronto Scarborough Bluffs real estate agent”.

How do you do this?

There are a number of ways.  Here are two ways.

First, optimize your search.  A good SEO expert will make sure that the keywords you want to be found by are used on your main website.

Second, take advantage of social search.  A proper blogging and using micro blogging strategy is a great way to increase the chances of you being found.


Being searchable on Twitter is not hard.  The point here though is twofold.

First, make sure that you tweet enough that your content gets becomes relevant and is then found by the search engines.  Second, create enough good content that people on Twitter find you interesting and useful.

Important Twitter Point:

It’s okay to tweet out your listing.  However, what might not work is ONLY tweeting out your listings.  Be human.  If you were at a party (unrelated to real estate) would you only talk about real estate? Try it and see how fast you’re looking for someone to talk to who’s interested.


I will cover Facebook a bit more in a later blog post.  Understand this though: Facebook has become one of the world’s most popular search engines.  Many people will search on Facebook just like they search on Google.  And Facebook’s search is powered by Bing; a competitor of Google’s.

My advice here is to create as much relevant and compelling content on Facebook as you do on your blog and on Twitter.  One of the things you can do is to publish your blog on Facebook.  This allows your thoughts to be read by those who may be Facebook friends of your’s but not savvy enough to search for your blog.