Monthly Archives: April 2014

Silicon North is Booming because of… Blackberry?

blackberry-z10-1-500x433When Blackberry imploded a few years back cutting half its staff and losing most of its market share, the general feeling in the Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge Tech-Triangle was, “Ruh roh… this doesn’t look too frikin’ good.”

Spring forward to today, and that doom and gloom has been replaced with a booming business sector, start-ups galore and streets packed with Lamborghinis, Austin Martins and Teslas

Reuters did a deep dive into it last week in a must-read article written by Sayantani Ghosh titled, BlackBerry’s meltdown sparks start-up boom in Canada’s Silicon Valley”

The troubles at BlackBerry Ltd, which fired more than half its staff and lost more than 90 percent of its market value as consumers shunned its smart phones, might have spelled disaster for the company’s hometown of Waterloo, Ontario. Instead, there are hot sports cars in the streets and new companies filling the refurbished office buildings.

More than 450 start-ups opened for business in the twin cities of Waterloo and Kitchener last year, more than four times the number begun in 2009. In the year ended April 30, 2013, more than C$214 million ($235 million) was invested in start-ups in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Three years earlier, the figure was just $500,000…

Often, the new companies are being founded by former BlackBerry employees chasing their entrepreneurial ambitions in a community that’s Canada’s answer to technology hubs in California and elsewhere.

“For those who are trying to get a new tech business off the ground, get it funded, and not get lost in the shadow of Silicon Valley, Waterloo can be the best place to get your company on the map,” said Sean McCabe, vice-president of engineering at drone manufacturer Aeryon Labs Inc in Waterloo.

John Stix at Communitech

John Stix at Communitech

Entrepreneurs can also avail themselves of the Communitech Hub and its Hyperdrive seed-accelerator program that helps create scalable, venture investment ready businesses. Fibernetics’ co-founder John Stix works with Communitech by providing mentoring services.

“The wealth of talent in the region is truly remarkable,” said Stix. “Not just limited to these start-ups, our company gets bombarded by super-qualified people whenever we post a new job. It makes our hiring decisions more difficult  – but it’s a great problem to have.”

The Reuters piece concludes that this isn’t a flash in the pan either, that the Tech Triangle that encompasses Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge will continue to thrive essentially due to Blackberry’s demise.

Larry Smith, an adjunct associate professor of economics at Waterloo University, said BlackBerry’s success had overshadowed other companies and its reversal is now making them stand out.

While BlackBerry’s decline released a lot of talent into the local labor market, the region also has the infrastructure that makes it easy for companies to set up shop, he said.

The BlackBerry connection is also a form of assurance when backing the area’s start-ups. Executives who were part of BlackBerry’s success have experience of “scaling up” a business – a valuable asset for a start-up aiming to break into the big league.

BlackBerry’s decline has also made it easier for start-ups to hire and retain talent.

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It turns out, Steve Jobs wasn’t such a jerk after all

st_2133673bDon Melton was the guy who oversaw the creation of Safari, Apple’s web browser.

That meant that on a day to day basis, he worked with Steve Jobs, and his dealings with the greatest product development genius of our times runs contrary to the image that most of us have of him; that he was a jerk, a slave driver, and not just a terrible boss, but a terrible person.

Jobs’ negative image, painted by third and fourth party stories, are legend in the tech industry, but like most legends, while there is some truth there, most of it is fiction.

Melton, who left Apple in 2012, has started a new career as a writer and is blogging about his encounters with the late Apple co-founder. “Memories of Steve,” reveals Jobs the leader, thinker, and colleague in vivid first-person detail. Jobs’ reputation as a brilliant but difficult person to work for is well known, but Melton’s you-are-there accounts paint a more nuanced picture of a man consumed by the intensity of his vision. Melton says Jobs wasn’t a jerk. Inventing the future means you just don’t have much time to waste.

“I wanted to get the intensity but humanity across,” Melton told WIRED Magazine after his post had become an online hit–attention he says he wasn’t actively seeking. If there is some higher purpose, he says it’s to convey that life at Apple was regular people trying to do marvelous things, sometimes succeeding, but sometimes failing big time.

“I want people to just see a glimpse inside the factory,” he says, “not to tell the company secrets but to let people know this was real people–just a bunch of folks standing around talking, trying to figure out how to change the world.”

Learn more about how Steve Jobs built and managed Apple from a guy who was actually there.

 Memories of Steve

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Startup Weekend: And the winner is…


Erin Atchison pitches her winning company, Barn Raiser

…the community.

Okay, there was an actual winning team, but on the whole the objective of the entire Waterloo Startup Weekend exercise was to develop businesses around improving life in local communities – and it looks like “mission accomplished.”

Starting last Friday night, 70 young entrepreneurs gathered at the Communitech Hub in Waterloo to pitch their ideas and out of that group, 12 business ideas were adopted. Over the next 54 hours, after splitting up into groups including team leaders, developers and graphic designers, these 12 companies were hatched, business plans were drawn up, model websites and apps were developed and in the end came the pitch. An august group of judges from the Waterloo community, including Mayor Brenda Halloran, voted Barn Raiser the winner.

Originally the idea for Barn Raiser was Erin Atchinson’s based on her experience with volunteerism. It is a website designed to provide a meeting ground for local business, community builders and non-profit organizations to share resources, ideas and connections to support community building. Atchison’s team, consisting of herself, Tammy Bender and Charlotte Chan, impressed the judges with their minimum viable product, extensive market research and viability in the community.

“I find it almost ironic that the thing we were creating is similar to what Startup Weekend is,” Atchison told Communitech’s Kayleigh Platz. “I have lots of big ideas, ideas that could maybe go somewhere, but don’t have a place to put them. This weekend did the same thing for me. It gave me a reinvigorated sense of validation for ideas, especially with the mentors. It was an outlet to put our passions.”

Startup weekend

John Stix mentoring third place winners GLIDR

Fibernetics’ co-founder John Stix worked as a mentor all weekend long helping the 12 teams with all their business development questions, pitch problems, or just to function as a sounding board.

“The amazing journey that an Entrepreneur embarks on can be incredibly rewarding and inspiring,” John said. “The relationships, celebrations, failures, risks and memories, make all the sacrifices seem like a group badge of honour that you wear proudly on your sleeve. These entrepreneurs astounded me with their innovation and go get it attitude. I can’t wait for the next one!”

Saferide finished second with their app that helps the youth to track, score and improve their driving skills.

Third place GLIDR, developed a “random app of kindness” platform allowing users to anonymously gift strangers with such things as a cup of coffee or a free lunch.


Team Barn Raiser

The intent of the community-focused Startup weekend was to inspire change in the Waterloo Region and to act as a catalyst to inspire the group of 70 extraordinary young people to engage in changing their community for the better. Members of the Barn Raiser team plan to continue with developing their new business, which demonstrates that it worked.

As part of their First Prize, Fibernetics is providing a NEWT Small Business Bundle that includes Unlimited Internet two business phone lines with Unlimited Canadian Long Distance free of charge for the next two years.

From John and  everyone at Fibernetics, congratulations to all who participated, and a special congratulations to Barn Raiser on their well-earned win.


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We Get Mail: Takacs Health Facility Saves Big with NEWT

Hendrick HealthJames W. Takacs, D.D.S. – Takacs Health Facility

I decided in 2013 to switch our office phone system to Fibernetics’ NEWT Managed PBX system primarily because the telephone expenses for our dental practice were extremely high. Our phone bills averaged between $650 and $850 per month. With the new system the total bill is approximately $400 per month including the internet and the lease on the equipment itself. The long-distance portion of the bill (approximately 250-300 daytime minutes) averages only about $5-$6 per month!

The system itself is easy to use and has many great features. An example of one that really works for us is the ability to forward calls to another number (I chose to use my cell phone number) when the power goes out. Our office is situated in an area which unfortunately experiences many small power outages, so the fact that patients can still get through to us when they need us is a great benefit.

All staff at Fibernetics have been very professional to deal with. Richard. the Sales Director, met with me at length to answer all the questions I had and even allowed for me to attend an office to see the system in use prior to making a decision.

“The in-office training session was conducted by one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met!”

When it came to the actual installation. the installer was able to put the system in place during regular business hours with very minimal disruption to our busy office. The in-office training session was conducted by one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met! She was extremely patient with us and made it easy to learn something completely new. Any questions that I have about service or other issues are answered in a timely fashion by the technical support staff.

Switching to Fibernetics has been a positive experience for our office and I would highly recommend the system to other offices.

Karen VanderHeiden
Office Manager

It’s always great to hear from our clients on how we’re helping them with their business while saving them money. In Karen’s case, her organization now has a state-of the art business phone system that is saving them more that 50% on their phone bill alone, plus hundreds more a year in long distance savings – and on top of all that their Internet is basically thrown in for free.

And, once their lease term is up, their monthly bill will be reduced even further realizing even more savings.

newt_beyond_telecomNEWT the Sales Director Richard Reist did a fantastic job setting Karen up with her new NEWT Managed PBX phone system.

If you are interested in building a business case for your organization, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our telecom experts like Richard at any time.

Please call us at 1 (855) 366-1773 or set up a callback HERE.

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Congratulations to our friends at triOS College

triOS CollegeNEWT has been the communications partner with triOS College for years and we couldn’t be happier that, for the fourth consecutive year, triOS College Business Technology Healthcare, has been awarded the Deloitte Best Managed Company Award and this year becomes a Best Managed Gold Standard Winner. 

triOS has been awarded this designation for redefining post-secondary education by listening to student and employer needs and delivering.  triOS President Stuart Bentley could not be more pleased.

“Becoming a Gold Standard winner is a true testament to the outstanding achievements of our entire staff,” Mr. Bentley says.  “Our business is all about our students and their career success.  Our very capable staff allow triOS to get to know our student and our employer needs more intimately.  With that, we are able to deliver exactly what they want and need from an educational institution,” he says.

The success of triOS rests on creating a structure that allows students to shine.  Being a career college, the programs are focused on the exact skills graduates need in the workforce.  The programs are shorter in duration which enables students to get back into the workforce quickly.

triOS also focuses much of their attention on identifying the needs of local employers and building programs to fulfill those needs. “The program development process is a key component of our organization,” says Bentley.  “We review market trends, job shortages and work with employers and governing bodies to create programs that are in demand in the marketplace,” Bentley commented.

We’re very proud to have helped triOS provide their extraordinary education to their students, and to contribute to their success. CEO Frank Gerencser said, “Fibernetics reliably delivered 10x the bandwidth on our complex, multi-campus MPLS network serving thousands of users for less money than a long-entrenched major telco – with great service too.”

For more information on triOS College, please visit their website HERE.


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