The 30 Timmy Awards Finalists Everyone in Toronto Should Know

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The Timmys are coming to Toronto on August 18th to put the spotlight on local technology companies and individuals that are creating the best places for IT professionals to work! When the votes are all in, the finalists will come together for a celebratory gala hosted at Revival Bar (783 College St.), where the winners will be crowned at the first inaugural Toronto Timmy Awards. Discover who Toronto’s 30 impressive finalists are.

 

Best Tech Manager

andrewAndrew Santorelli, Senior Development Manager, Kanetix

“A fun work-life balance.”

Andrew is consistently searching for new growth opportunities for his team and other business units. He also ensures that team members have opportunities to expand their skills and expertise through attending courses and conferences. Andrew is highly involved in creating a fun work life balance through opportunities such as leading the Movember charity event, promoting and attending the annual Hackathon, and running bi-weekly development meetings to promote innovation.

Andrew worked with the largest insurance company in Canada to build an the industry’s first multi-product quoter where you can get an auto and property quote with one application. Other projects include OCR driver’s license scanning, automated testing framework, improved efficiencies with third party integration and more.

Bohdan ZabawskyjBohdan Zabawskyj, Chief Technology Officer, Mercatus Technologies

“Work hard, play harder!”

Bohdan is a strong believer in building his team based on culture fit. Potential employees are carefully screened in order to maintain a cohesive culture. He values the opinions of his team leads when it comes to culture fit, especially during the interview process. Everyone in his office works hard and plays hard—including Bohdan!

Over the past year, the engineering team at Mercatus has produced a customizable white-label e-commerce solution for the grocery market, which includes a comprehensive API and front-end admin console, all while maintaining a customer base.

claudiaClaudia Navas Robleto, Senior Manager, Scotiabank

“Strong work ethic.”

Claudia provides a great team culture by promoting events outside of work, scheduling department meetings, and sharing the fun in the workplace. For example, she organizes department dinners and bowling outings in Scarborough to celebrate the implementation of a new product upgrade. Claudia demonstrates excellent work ethic, management skills, and willingness to make the workplace a fun environment for everyone.

Claudia’s team worked on a security upgrade for the ScotiaConnect electronic banking service, a platform for business clients to make electronic transfer of funds to third-party vendors and individuals around the world.

Cory ThomasCory Thomas, Vice President of Engineering, Career Cruising

“Equal opportunity to learn and innovate.”

Cory consistently spends time getting to know his people and their skills. He mentored a number of his team members to other roles whether it was moving up to a more senior position, creating specialized roles given the individuals unique expertise, or assisting them in making lateral moves by providing them with access and support. To keep his team cutting edge, Cory makes sure that everyone is given equal access and opportunity to learn, innovate, and apply their innovation.

Career Cruising’s educational software is used by 20,000 institutions (schools, libraries, and employment centers) across North America and over 9 million users (students from kindergarten to grade 12 as well as post-secondary and adults) worldwide.

Damian McCabeDamian McCabe, VP of Engineering, Connected Lab

“New perspective.”

Damian has insightful feedback that improves work across all aspects of the organization including design, engineering, business development, and internal operations. He consistently helps team members see the problems from new perspectives, while respecting and fostering their opinions and growth as practitioners.

Damian has led projects surrounding idea generation, design, prototyping, planning, execution, and shipping. Connected Lab builds products for web and mobile apps, wearables, smart cars and the connected home using “The Connected Method,” a fusion of extreme programming and design thinking.

Jason FieldJason Field, CEO and Founder, BrainStation

“Continuous career growth opportunities.”

Jason actively promotes goal setting with his team. By creating three and five year personal goals, he ensures that roles within the company are aligned with what employees want to achieve outside of the workplace. Jason prioritizes career growth opportunities and is continually guiding employees to be the best team players they can be.

BrainStation is a digital education platform empowering over 20,000 individuals through their technology training that is built around the ever-evolving digital product lifecycle.

Matt VandermolenMatt Vandermolen, Director of Technology, Momentum Digital Solutions

“Team-oriented environment.”

Matt ensures a great team culture by creating a team-oriented environment. He grants teams the authority to get their jobs done on their own terms, while ensuring they accept responsibility for the results. Most importantly, he is a great mentor and he is always available to provide support when needed.

This past spring Matt’s team, comprised of Sitecore Certified Developers and Sitecore MVP’s, delivered a large platform migration of 15 websites for a major pharmaceutical company. These websites, respectively, came from a myriad of systems and technologies such as ASP.NET, MVC, Drupal and WordPress to be recreated under one unified multi-site implementation of the Sitecore 8.1 platform.

Robert BurkoRobert Burko, CEO, Elite Digital Inc.

“Education and laughter.”

Robert is not only a leader, but a teacher as well. He has a passion for educating those around him about the topics he loves, which encompasses all things about digital marketing. The office is filled with laughter, which represents people enjoying what they do. From a relaxed work environment, to flexible hours, to their infamous “snack cupboard” to field trips, to the movies. Robert’s team truly goes the extra mile not because they have to, but because they want to!

Elite Digital Inc. specializes in digital projects including digital strategy, web site design and development, mobile apps, ecommerce, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, social media, webinars, conversion optimization, marketing automation, email marketing, mobile text message marketing, CASL compliance, and more.

Sam WardSam Ward, Vice President, Alliants Canada

“Find your expertise.”

Alliants as a company promotes great career growth, and Sam himself makes sure that all employees are using the opportunities they provide to the fullest extent. The tech team at Alliants includes expertise in Angular, Node, Ruby on Rails, IOS, and Android development.

Sam led Alliants Canada in building a complete, end-to-end online check-in service used by 100 hotels.

Soheil SeyfaieSoheil Seyfaie, Director of Development, Achieve3000

“Remove all obstacles.”

Soheil always encourages developers to learn new technologies, suggests leveraging innovative tools and is always open to hear about new potential technologies. He pays attention to the desires of the team and seeks ways to ensure that all obstacles are removed in the work being done and shortages in technical knowledge.

Achieve3000’s flagship reporting tool built on top of one of the leading PHP frameworks has seen rapid functionality extension which has allowed it to replace anywhere from two to four other legacy applications, consolidating all functionality and implementations into a single code base.

Vote for the Best Technology Manager here!

Best Tech Startup

chargemoreChargeMore

ChargeMore, founded in 2013, provides stations to charge 50+ customer devices with just one 4-hour charge and they’re 2x faster than wall adapters. The company has just released its newest generation of portable charging stations that feature a sleek design with advertising value. Led by a young entrepreneur, ChargeMore aims to disrupt the mobile industry by providing a new level of customer service.

Toronto_StartupLogo_glamcard3Glam Card

Glam Card, founded in 2016, is the first and only loyalty rewards card for the salon industry, and as such they are striving to modernize and digitalize a 60 billion dollar industry that is still quite archaic in nature. Additionally, they also reward salon customers with gifts on their glam store, thus assisting in the increase usage of Glam Card at participating partner salons.

Toronto_StartupLogo_lookookLookBookHQ

LookBookHQ is a company that started with a handful of individuals right in the heart of downtown Toronto; a pioneer in content marketing automation in the B2B technology space, helping marketers deliver content journeys to their audiences faster and more effectively, by automating the sequence and delivery of content into highly engaging, personalized experiences to cultivate and identify sales-ready prospects.

 

 

 

Toronto_StartupLogo_Rover3Rover Parking

Rover Parking, founded in 2014, is the shared marketplace for parking. The Rover application provides a brand new supply of shared, private parking spaces that are easy to find, inexpensive, available all over the city, and accessible from a few quick taps on a smartphone. In addition, Rover allows individuals or businesses that have empty driveways or parking spaces to share those spots for a fee, resulting in some quick extra cash in hand.

Toronto_StartupLogo_tophatTop Hat

Top Hat, founded in 2009, is introducing cutting edge mobile technologies to improve the educational experience, make it more affordable for the student, and increase the efficiency of learning. Top Hat is a market leader in classroom engagement.  Millions of students and most of the larger universities in North America use their platform.

 

 

 

Toronto_StartupLogo_TribalScaleblueTribalScale

TribalScale, founded in 2015, develops custom software from mobile apps through to web-based solutions whilst helping their customers innovate and adapt to the digital age. The leaders at TribalScale are not “Yes Men,” they challenge the traditional way of thinking and executing on software-based projects and are a “tribe” of like-minded individuals all aligned to a common goal to empower each other and their clients to be the best they can be.

 

 

Toronto_StartupLogo_turnstyleTurnstyle

Turnstyle, founded in 2013, helps brick and mortar stores compete against e-commerce by leveraging in-store Wi-Fi networks to help retailers understand and engage with customers based on their behavior and demographics. Their location-based customer engagement platform enables retailers to interact with customers at the appropriate times, increasing relevancy of messaging and customer loyalty.

 

 

Toronto_StartupLogo_uXpUXP Systems

UXP Systems, founded in 2011, is the industry leader in User Lifecycle Management for operators. The company was founded on the realization of the dramatic transformation taking place within the service provider (Fixed & Wireless Telecom, Cable, and Satellite) marketplace. Simply put, UXP Systems exists to allow operators to create and manage a relationship with every digital user.

 

 

Toronto_StartupLogo_wealthsimpleWealthsimple

Wealthsimple, founded in 2014, is the first mobile and online application in Canada to allow customers to sign up and set-up an entire investment account through their smartphone or computer. In their first year of business, they have built an entirely new category of investment management in Canada, calling it “on-demand advice”, which combines technology and real people to deliver a smart investment service, personalized client experience, and lower costs.

 

 

Toronto_StartupLogo_XocialXocial

Xocial, founded in 2012, is a social network that supports and inspires social change. Their online platform connects people and organizations to causes they care about, then measures the positive social impact of their actions through a unique (and patent pending) algorithm. This startup believes that by building a movement of competitive kindness, they will inspire the next generation of social responsibility.

Vote for one of these Tech Startups to win a Timmy!

Best Tech Work Culture

BrainStation

“Empowering 1 million by 2025.”

BrainStation embodies the digital spectrum from an internal and consumer standpoint. With a lean and young team, they have been growing exponentially and embody everything that a technology startup thrives to be. They define themselves are a tech-education school, with a goal to empower 1 million people by 2025.

BrainStation

BrainStation part-time and full-time courses in tech education including digital marketing, product management, web development, iOS development, UX design, UI design, data analytics, SEO/SEM, and Google analytics.

Connected Lab

“Continual innovation.”

Connected Lab ingrains technical creativity in everyday life as employees are continually challenged to solve today’s problems using the technology and practices of the future. Technical learning is a quintessential part of Connected Lab culture and the desire to continually learn and explore is a mandatory trait that is held by every team member.

connected lab 2

Connected Lab works on idea generation, design, prototyping, planning, execution and shipping. They build products for web and mobile apps, wearables, smart cars and the connected home.

ExperiencePoint

Always striving to become better.”

Experience Point is continuously encouraged to think of new solutions to problems. They thrive by the mantra, “what works now isn’t always going to be the best solution in the future.” By continuously improving how we do things and not afraid to fail, they capitalize on what they have learned to become better.

experience point

ExperiencePoint produces technology-driven workshops on both Change Management and Innovation. These workshops feature engaging web-based simulations and expertly guided seminars by leaders in the field.

Klick

“Technical creativity in the DNA.”

Technical creativity is a part of Klick’s DNA. Every moving cog within Klick’s daily operations can be found on Genome – the ever-changing intranet that helps employees connect better, work faster, and get inspired. Within Klick, a dedicated Genome team maintains the platform, ensures it changes with users’ needs, and develop new tools all the time. The amazing thing about Genome is that any employee can suggest changes and see it come to life. Ownership over the continuous improvement of the technical functionality of the tool resides with the users – the employees of Klick.

klick-fc-in-action

Klick entails everything from learning platforms to product campaigns to intranets. Klick focuses on creating tools to help people work faster and deliver higher quality work. In 2014, Klick’s principals wrote the New York Times Bestseller “The Decoded Company” to profile how data can be used internally to empower people and give companies a competitive edge. Based on the success of the book, Klick created Sensei Labs in 2015 and commercialized the Genome platform into SenseiOS to help other companies’ people work and learn faster.

Questrade Financial Group

“Rewarded for ideas and contributions.”

Every year, the Questrade Technologies Group hosts a year-end awards ceremony during which team members who go above and beyond are recognized and rewarded for their ideas and contributions. The Questrade Technologies Group encourages technical learning to help employees achieve professional success via various programs.

Questrade financial group

Questrade’s most well-known cutting edge service is the Questrade platform, an intuitive proprietary trading system that comes in three flavors (IQ Edge, IQ Web, and IQ Mobile) and is fully responsive. This feature enhances the client experience by allowing the user to move seamlessly between their devices, whether that be their smartphone, tablet, desktop, or laptop. The platform also has intelligent market data and research built into it so clients can make informed decisions.

Universe

“Communication, collaboration, and synthesis.”

Universe provides an environment where driven engineers are free to incorporate the new technologies that passionate individuals seek out organically. There’s no program to artificially encourage that technical learning – but when an engineer at Universe is passionate about a new technology, they are free to act on that passion. Universe promotes a culture of communication, collaboration, and synthesis, inviting every team member’s ideas with an open mind, and encouraging everyone to remain current in our competitive space.

 

Universe culture

Universe makes the fastest growing DIY ticketing platform. It is known as the social marketplace for events. Their mobile apps are strictly native, aligning architecturally with web clients, but also leverage the speed and cutting edge of APIs provided directly by Apple and Google.

Uberflip

“Think outside the box and push boundaries.”

Uberflip is constantly encouraging individuals to think outside of the box and to push boundaries. The company offers a collaborative environment with an open concept office, promoting brainstorming, group sessions and creativity. Every month, they hold an “Uberflip Town Hall” meeting to chat about business challenges and updates to work on as a team. Flip the Switch is a company-wide event, similar to a hackathon, where the company breaks into teams that are each given a challenge or problem to solve to test their technical creativity.

uberflip2

Uberflip is a content experience platform that aggregates all of the user’s content (blog articles, eBooks, videos, whitepapers, and more) so it can create, manage, and optimize tailored content experiences for every stage of the buyer journey.

TWG

“Address problems and find creative solutions.”

TWG creates hundreds of new digital products each year and has been doing so since 2002. The company promotes technical creativity in several ways. They often conduct a “Sprint Zero” with clients to identify what problems the software should address and prototype many creative solutions. Their technical team members have experience across a broad range of platforms and tech stacks, so they can be creative in suggesting solutions. Internally, TWG promotes creativity with team-led lunch and learns, Club Ed and Club FED (after work design and front-end development seminars), and weekly demos.

TWG replacement culture

TWG creates digital products for companies from the startup stage to mature enterprises, such as Globe and Mail’s iWatch app, RBC’s wealth management site, and SCR’s Carrot app that incentivizes healthy living.

TouchBistro

“Creativity and endless limits.”

TouchBistro believes that promoting technical creativity is an essential element to the company’s success. The company’s Research & Development team evaluates new technology routinely. Tracer bullets (minuscule pieces of code) are utilized to validate or test assumptions on new engineering options or framework to determine if they will work (like programming language). This procedure opens up the door to more creativity as it allows for managing the process in a cost- and time-efficient manner. Offsite code-a-thon retreats for the engineering team are held where, besides enjoying leisurely comradery pool-side or hiking, the free flow of ideas and code concept applications are encouraged. Developers are challenged to think about what else engineering could be working on, or what pet project or passion they might have that is within the TouchBistro space. Engineering design creativity and performance are also rewarded through stock options, job promotions, and training courses.

touchbistro

TouchBistro today is ranked as the #1 iPad Point-of-Sale Software Solution specifically designed for restaurants in 37 countries, used by over 6,000 restaurants.

theScore

“Sharing, learning, and experimentation.”

The core values of the engineering culture at theScore are sharing, learning and experimentation. It all starts with the job interview process. In addition to evaluating the technical skills and experiences, the company ensures that the people they hire are smart, self-starters, and ambitious. Once on board, they invest in the career development of their people. From conference and training budgets to internal mini-conferences and regular knowledge sharing events (like demo days, pair programming sessions, and tech talk videos at lunch), theScore’s goals is to create a continuous learning environment that refines the skills of the teams and improves the productivity of the company as a whole.

thescore

theScore, a tech-focused sports media company, is the second most popular sports app in North America – second only to ESPN – with 4.3 million monthly active users. It is also a leader in competitive sports and video game coverage via theScore’s e-sports web and mobile platforms.

Vote now for the company you think has created the best workplace!

The Timmy Awards ceremony will highlight the local technology community and celebrate the Toronto community as a whole for creating a great business ecosystem to thrive in. The event itself will be a great opportunity to network with finalists and other influential members of the tech community.

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The 3 Tech Startup Lessons You Need to Learn (From A Mark Cuban-backed CEO)

Written by Jesse Stauffer, Co-Founder and CEO of XpireSee Jesse and Xpire at the first Tech in Motion Dallas event on March 9th. 

Lots of people have ideas. Mention you’re an app developer and you’ll be instantly bombarded with tons of far-fetched visions for apps. The problem is that most people don’t have the passion to actually turn their idea into a product. Being a developer, I have always been able to think of a cool idea, sketch it out, and then build a beta version of the app in anywhere from three days to six months. This allows me to jump on ideas quickly and get a working version into the hands of my family, friends, and co-workers.

Obviously, not everyone has the technical chops to code an app. I’ve spent over six years learning programming — sometimes coding for up to 18 hours a day. You don’t have to be a code guru to be in tech. Many of the greatest tech innovators of our day were not technical guys. Instead, they were visionaries who knew exactly what they wanted their product to be and how to get there. The key to running a startup is to be scrappy. If you really truly want an idea to see the light of day, then you will do whatever it takes. You’ll wake up early and go to bed late and you’ll meet the right people. You’ll sacrifice time and energy and effort and money. Do one thing every day that pushes your idea to the next level and closer to the starting line, and these three tips will help guide your tech startup to success.

Not a tech person but need one for your startup? Contact your city rep to help you find a developer.

1.     Fail Quickly

The only way to know if your product has any hope of being successful is by getting it into the hands of consumers. Many companies spend years developing software and testing it exhaustively, often delaying their launch further and further. You don’t have to get it right on the first try.

fail quickly xpire

Of course you don’t want to develop an app that constantly crashes, but you also don’t want to build every feature you can think of in version 1. Stay focused on 1–3 key features for your app and make them minimal. The goal here is to create a working version of your app that demonstrates the general purpose of your app. This is very helpful when sharing the app idea with investors or future business partners. By showing a working version of the app you are showing that you are invested in the idea and really mean business.

Also, don’t take months to update your app. Listen to user feedback, build it, launch it, and repeat it.

 

2.     Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Many people read articles about startups that seem to take the world by storm overnight and don’t see why they can’t do the same. While there are a few that have done this, the majority of companies take years and years to build. When I launched my first app, I woke up the next day disappointed after seeing the small amount of downloads that I had received. I was under the assumption that as long as you grind through the tough development work, after that you were golden.

I was wrong. Because of the large amount of apps on the market, it’s hard work to get downloads. Because people have short attention spans, it’s even harder to retain users. While app growth takes time, it also takes work. Some people think that if they just wait a year then they will check back in and magically have millions of organic users.

success doesn't happen overnight (xpire)

This is not the case. Because the majority of people have never even heard of your app, your job is to locate your target customers and sell them on your product. You have to continue to grind. Never stop selling.

 

3.     Keep on Keeping On

Though running a startup is hard work, it is highly rewarding – but not in the way you may think. Lots of people start their own company because they are money hungry. They want to drive cool cars and set their own hours — who wouldn’t?

Want a job where you can set your own hours? Here are some open tech jobs with flex hours.

It takes true passion and dedication to what you are doing. You won’t be able to last through the bumps on the road if you are not motivated by your product making the world a better place. It sounds cliché, but in the end that’s why most products and inventions are created. The human race tends to look at the results without looking at the work put in. People will be sure to notice the good things, but will easily overlook the late nights you spent in front of the computer screen in your parent’s basement banging your head against the keyboard because of an unknown bug.

keep on keeping on

Even if you’re in a dip, continue pressing on and building what you believe in and what people find useful.

Jesse will be showing off what Xpire has been up to at the Tech in Motion “New to Dallas Demos & Drinks” event on March 9th from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center. RSVP and see all the companies here.

Related articles for great startup advice:

jesse xpire headshotAbout the Author:

Jesse Stauffer is the CEO of Mark Cuban-backed Xpire, where he builds mobile tools that make social networking quicker, easier, and less permanent. Prior to Xpire, he worked as a white hat hacker, discovering and patching vulnerabilities in websites. Jesse is a recent graduate from the University of North Texas, where he received his Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science.

DC Tech Titans Talk Entrepreneurship, Co-founders and the Power of No

Tech in Motion’s DC chapter put on their first ever fireside chat this fall, hosting Adam Zuckerman, founder of Fosterly and Dan Berger, CEO and founder of Social Tables to speak about startups. Joe Colangelo, co-founder and CEO of Bear Analytics, moderated the conversation for the night with a heavy emphasis on content but a far more laid-back and intimate approach than the typical panel discussion.

Find a tech talk near you on Tech in Motion’s event list.

The event took place at the Artisphere, a local arts center located in Arlington, Virginia, which was once the site of the Newseum. The evening kicked off with networking in the Lower Town Hall, an open concept space equipped with a bar and art installations. The discussion then moved to the Dome Theater, which provided the perfect setting for the audience to interact with our speakers.

With Joe at the helm of the conversation, his easy-going personality and knowledge of the startup world was on display as he expertly moderated what proved to be a very insightful and engaging dialogue. His two speakers for the night, however, were no strangers to speaking up in front of the local technology community.

Adam Zuckerman of Fosterly was a recognizable figure to many in the audience as an important player in the DC tech space. He is well known for his work at Fosterly as well as various advising roles to the community at large. Adam calls upon his unique background in business, law, and technology to help galvanize the entrepreneurial community in the greater Washington, DC area.

Dan Berger is the CEO and founder of Social Tables, a hospitality software company with a thriving culture based in Washington, DC. Dan has been described as a “relentless and focused entrepreneur” and recognized 40 Under 40 in the meetings industry by Collaborate Magazine and Connect Meetings and named to Successful Meetings Magazine’s “Most Influential” list.

Recappic

When the networking portion of the night wrapped up, attendees eagerly took their seats in the Dome Theater to listen to these two experienced entrepreneurs. After going over their individual backgrounds, the discussion kicked off with Joe prompting Adam and Dan about the dedication they feel towards their companies.

Gone is the 40 hour work week – Adam stated the necessity of his 6 day work week schedule in order to make sure that Fosterly happens. Adam recommended that audience members find a job they would normally do as a hobby, because in the entrepreneurial realm, Work/Life balance is nonexistent.

“I’m very bought in, I don’t unplug. It’s a luxury which I don’t allow myself,” Dan remarked.

Dan was on the same page with Adam’s line of reasoning, stating that Social Tables was a side project on which he originally dedicated nights and weekends to. However, he quit his day job when a future investor didn’t believe him committed enough.

If anyone doubted the commitment of these two individuals and countless others in the tech community in D.C., that was put to rest as chuckles and murmurs of agreements followed Adam saying that “Entrepreneurs are the only people on Friday or the weekend who say, ‘Whoa, wish it was Monday.’”

After giving a brief history about Social Tables and how it came to fruition, Dan spoke on the topic of co-founders and how the relationship with his own came to an end. Dan said he realized two major factors eventually highlighted how he and his co-founder could no longer see eye to eye on the best course of action for their company.

“Don’t look for friendship or a different risk profile,” Dan said candidly.

Adam elaborated on the delicate nature of the co-founder relationship, adding that “you might spend more time talking to your co-founder than your family”. In the end, Joe, Adam, and Dan all agreed the most important thing to do was what most benefited the company, no matter how ‘messy’ things became.

Adam brought up a common misconception that a lot of individuals have towards those who have their own businesses; they believe that when you found your own company, you don’t have to answer to anyone. The reality, according to Adam, is that “you don’t stop answering to people. You answer to employees, investors, and the clients you want, have, and lost.”

On another note, it’s easy to take on too much when starting your own business. Dan shared insight on perhaps one of the most difficult lessons of establishing a startup: the power of ‘No’. Both Adam and Dan agree that it’s better to focus on doing a few things well than taking on more tasks or clients; they both firmly stated that it is okay to say ‘no’ and leave things on the table rather than over-commit.

The night ended with an extremely engaging Q & A session, where local entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts were able to pose questions to the speakers about their experiences as well as ask for advice. Tech in Motion DC looks forward to the next tech talk – Join your local chapter to attend one of our free events in 2015.

Kids, Music, and Entrepreneurship

Jon Kraft PhotoThe first time my business partner Girish Venkat pitched me the idea for Thrively, I was in the middle of working with Bill Gross at Idealab to get a company called UberMedia off the ground, and we desperately needed a CTO. Although I loved Girish’s vision, I knew I couldn’t abandon my other project, so I flipped the tables on him and recruited him to be our CTO. Girish and I worked together for over two years at Ubermedia, but eventually the pull of Thrively became too much, and we made the decision to join forces and get started building it.

The “pull” of this project was not just intellectual, but emotional. My strengths lie in the world of multidimensional analysis, slicing and dicing data, and breaking things down into their individual components so that they can be better understood. I helped to build several companies using these principles, most notably Pandora where we embarked on the Music Genome Project.  Thrively uses similar principles to match kids to activities and opportunities.  I was fascinated by the idea that by understanding children’s underlying strengths and how activities build and support those strengths, we can connect kids to the activities which can have the greatest impact.

I have spent most of my adult life working with kids in various ways. When I went to Stanford, the fall quarter – as incredible as it was – at some point felt like a trap. I felt like a gerbil in a giant, utopian habitat, but unable to escape. It was both an entirely new and intimidating social experience and a stressful and intense academic experience, and the campus was so huge and all-encompassing that I really never left. At least, I had no idea of how to do it. By the time the winter quarter hit, I knew I had to find a way off campus, and by spring, I found my outlet and my sanity coaching Little League in Palo Alto. I continued to do that for five years, and I also picked up coaching at the Stanford Area Youth Basketball League my sophomore year. I never felt trapped on campus again, because I was connected to the community in a fundamental way, through kids.

As the father of three incredible children, I am constantly amazed by the energy with which they throw themselves into their activities, and I find myself fascinated by what appeals to them in each one they love, and what makes them want to stop going to other ones. There is nothing more exciting than a child who has discovered something they’re passionate about. But it’s not always easy!

Girish’s idea for Thrively turned me on to strength-based education, and the idea that, if we built this right, we would democratize a very important element of education and personal development – that which occurs outside of school. No longer do you have to be a superhuman parent scouring the nooks and crannies of the Internet for unique opportunities that you think will inspire passion in your kids. You can simply engage with a platform that will understand your children’s strengths, connect them to the vast world of opportunity, and allow our engine – the same kind of seemingly magical and omniscient engine that allows Pandora to construct the perfect radio station – to direct you and your family to incredible opportunities you may never have discovered.

A big thank you to Jon for speaking at Tech in Motion Orange County.

About Jon Kraft

Jon Kraft is the co-founder and CEO of Thrively, a website that helps children identify their strengths, and recommends targeted extracurricular opportunities to help children build on those strengths. Jon is married, the father of 3, and in addition to starting a number of technology companies in his career (including Pandora), he has been a dedicated youth sports coach for more than 30 years.