All posts by Steve Zelle

Canadian Startup Shopify Crowned ‘Canada’s Smartest Company’

Profit Magazine has crowned Shopify with a remarkable title: Canada’s Smartest Company.

The Ottawa-based software company has zoomed from insignificant startup to full-fledged powerhouse not unlike how a Ferrari goes from zero to 60. Now with 142 employees and 40,000 clients selling $600 million worth of product in 90 countries, Shopify is positively killing it.

“Shopify was one of the first companies to recognize that more and more small businesses are moving sales online and need an easy-to-use and inexpensive platform to do so,” says Boris Wertz of Vancouver’s Version One Ventures. “Being an early entrant in this space helped them initially, but they also are the company that has executed the best. They build great product, pursue aggressive sales strategies and are extremely metrics-driven.”

Continue reading at Techvibes

Mercury Grove helps small businesses kick into high gear

Serial entrepreneur Scott Annan has plucked four of Ottawa’s most promising technology startups and given them a leg up on the competition with $25,000 in cash and an office to call home.

The four businesses were selected from a group of 80 contenders.

“This is really the first step in helping Ottawa create a stronger, tighter tech community,” said Annan of his company Mercury Grove’s community-powered business accelerator launched earlier this month

The program will see the four companies share office space with Mercury Grove, which specializes in creating online tools for growing businesses, and tap into funding and mentoring from 50 business leaders around the city – including Scott Richards, CEO of Zip.ca, and Harley Finkelstein of Shopify.

“Ottawa has got a lot of tech startups in different silos,” Annan said. “We’ve heard complaints that it makes it difficult to attract venture capital funding. So by putting these companies in one space, it will be easier to cooperate and attract capital.”

Share what you have, say Startup Weekend winners Moochable.co

Three newly minted online Ottawa-based businesses have emerged victorious from a weekend-long event where 50 entrepreneurs with software, design and business backgrounds raced to create new web-based services.

At the sold-out Startup Weekend Ottawa event last Friday, attendees pitched 31 ideas to the group and the top 10 became new businesses teams would work on for the rest of the weekend, said the event’s organizer Cheryl Draper.

Only three walked away with the top prizes Sunday night, with first place going to the site Moochable.co, a new online community that helps users share their belongings with people nearby.

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Why aren’t there more women in tech start-ups?

At an industry conference held last month in Las Vegas, Alyssa Richard stood out so much she felt as though she was “walking around with flashing yellow lights” stuck to her head.

Ms. Richard, the Toronto-based founder of mortgage comparison website RateHub.ca, wasn’t doing anything in particular to attract attention at LeadsCon, a networking conference for online lead generation companies. She was simply being herself: a woman who runs a successful, 18-month-old technology company.

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Facebook scam steals Ottawa company’s business

Ottawa’s largest window and door retailer says a fraudulent Facebook knock-off was using its name to make money by stealing its customers.

Comfort King Windows and Doors said it recently signed up for a company Facebook page to help market its business and attract new clients.

But when owner Paul Hunter looked on the social networking site, he said he found a group of people already had created a fraudulent Facebook page in Ottawa under the Comfort King name.

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Mobile Monday highlights local app entrepreneurs

Ottawa’s mobile community gathered to showcase local innovation this week at Mobile Monday, a monthly initiative hosted by serial entrepreneur Rob Woodbridge.

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Young Entrepreneur How-To’s

Dave Hale was 18 when he started his first business. Today he’s recognized as one of Canada’s top twenty young entrepreneurs.

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Top 3 Reasons Your Product Description Sucks

Most product descriptions suck, especially when they’re written by marketing people who have never sold anything. Here are the three major reasons that product descriptions suck, along with examples of how to write ones that don’t.

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An exuberant entrepreneur

From her perch overlooking Bank Street, skin care-founder-turned-event-space-owner Jodi Fedor takes a rare breather from the frenetic run-up to Christmas. She nibbles a dark chocolate almond, peers out the window and smiles beatifically.

Since launching her latest venture on Nov. 1 — a hip new event venue called @The Space — the already high-octane 35-year-old has been doing double time judggling endless new bookings, evolving her marketing, dreaming up grand schemes and generally ensuring that whatever else goes on, this endeavour, like everything else she’s turned her hand to, will have her full attention.

As it turns out, @The Space (atthespace.ca) which Fedor opened to fill Ottawa’s need for smaller venues for intimate soirees, board meetings, receptions and workshops, is the perfect setting for both big ideas and chilling out. The two-floor venue is art gallery-sleek, but warm and beautifully fluid in its design. Odd little knick-knacks from Fedor’s peripatetic life growing up on a 62-foot schooner and a 900-acre farm in the Okanagan Valley can be found upstairs in the third-floor boardroom “Annex,” while flashes of colour from area artists abound, along with candles and essential oils.

It is, in short, a pretty good representation of Fedor herself who, since launching her international natural skin care line Exuberance Beauty at 32, has evolved from a dynamic young woman on a mission to see her vision realized into a powerhouse of ideas and networking.

Continue reading at the Ottawa Citizen

Small is beautiful in Ottawa’s tech sector

Thank you to the Citizen for the recent three-part series on the city’s prospects as an ongoing magnet for knowledge-based industries. Now I’d like to take the opportunity to engage Ottawa’s business community and Citizen readers on where we have to focus our efforts.

A hint: It’s not on a game-changing boost in government programs or procurement policies. Our game changes with a laserlike focus on Ottawa’s entrepreneurs, their startups, and our ability to rapidly accelerate the success of those young companies.

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