25 Innovative Technology Companies Showcase Talent and Celebrate Community At NextBC

On May 15, the top 25 tech companies in BC gathered together on the second-floor concourse of The Telus World of Science to showcase their latest innovative breakthrough and to celebrate the influencers and visionaries of the future.

NextBC, presented by DigiBC, the Digital Media and Wireless Association of BC, invited out a diverse collection of game/life-changing companies, from experienced money managing tools [Payfirma] to digital health advances [Conquer Mobile] to HD cameras in the exosphere, shooting perfect images of the Earth [Urthecast].

“At DigiBC we recognize that technology is changing our lives in so many ways,” said Howard Donaldson, President of DigiBC. “Our objective is to promote innovation and that is really what inspired this event.”

NextBC was designed not only as a conference with keynote speakers and panelists, but also as an award show, highlighting the company that has excelled and continues to show great potential.

The top 25 companies, at the end of the night, were chiseled down to five. From there a panel of judges were selected to ask important questions that focuses on four factors that include; breakthrough or rapidly advancing technology, the potential for broad impact, the potential for significant economical impact, and disruptive impact that transform how people work and live. The five companies chosen were: General Fusion, D-Wave Systems, Avigilon, Urthecast and CapTherm Systems.


How many years from commercialization do you think you are?

“Eight years,” responded General Fusion’s representative. “We want to build a power plant; that is not something you can whisk up in an afternoon.”

“Hopefully in the next few years we’ll demonstrate the physics that the power plant is based on, which when we compress this very hot gas, we can make fusion energy,” he continued. “Demonstrating that will take around two years, but this will not be a power plant, this will be a test that can show that it can be done. After that we need to build a piece of hardware, which will take some years and a lot of money, and just raising the money will be difficult to build a power plant like that.”


What is disruptive about your business model?

“We have the ability to stream data from space in utterly new and innovative ways, disrupting how it was done for everyone else,” said Urthecast’s representative. “We can democratize the view of Earth for free for anyone with Internet connection. That free platform that we put out to everyone in the world allows us to generate huge numbers of eyeballs. And those eyeballs can in turn be monetized much like the classic model of Internet companies.”

“I’m happy to say that we are very profitable,” said Avigilon’s representative, “and we are the fastest growing software company in North America. We go to market through certified Avigilon dealers. We directly sell to them and they sell to stadiums, transportations, etc. That’s pretty disruptive because a lot of our competitors mass produce to market distributors, and they dilute their product and their pricing model.”


Why are you here in Vancouver?

“From a national level, the support for research and development in Canada is second to none,” said CapTherm’s representative. “We feel really fortunate for the support we received from national research councils and scientific research and experimental development. We do utilize the ETC tax credits, we got a substantial portion off the pie last year and overall I couldn’t find a better place to run the company out of.”

“As you might imagine quantum mechanics take some pretty smart people to do what we are doing,” said D-Wave System’s representative. “So when we started the company here, we were able to attract some of the world’s best physicists to work on the dream that we had. People have come from all around the world: a lot of European countries, all over the States and across Canada. They always had this dream and that’s why they are here.”

When it was all said and done, the tension had built and the drum roll had fizzled out, General Fusion was awarded the Gold honours, D-Wave System with the Silver and Avigilon with the Bronze—and Fusion Pipe Software Solutions took the People’s Choice Award.

Bad Data, a Usability Gap, and the State of the Wearable Economy

Consumers demand the most out of their wearables. From the days of simple prescription-reading glasses to the Google Glass of the present—if it’s going to exist, it needs to work seamlessly with our lifestyle. But at this early stage, consumers may be expecting a sophisticated Xbox One when their wearables are at an adolescent-Atari stage.

During Wearable Wednesday Vancouver on April 23, moderator, Redg Snodgrass CEO of Wearable World, a couple groups of panelists and a large crowd of innovators, entrepreneurs, designers and investors gathered together to discuss the state of the wearable economy.

While some big companies, such as Nike are bowing out of the wearable-tech arms race, the doors are open for smaller companies to make the next innovative leap.

“The fact that Nike is leaving this market is a compliment to the market,” said Nikola Obrknezev, Technology and Partnership Lead at Fatigue Science. “Consumers are telling the manufacturers what they want and what they don’t want. It is our belief that wearable devices are going onto a platform, be it the iWatch, Android or Samsung. So they are going to build within an ecosystem. I mean [Apple’s CEO] Tim Cook wears a Nike Fuelband; he sits on the board—the fact that [Nike is] getting rid of the hardware team—they didn’t say anything about the software team. Who knows what they are building behind the scenes.”

While wearable developers are transitioning from constructing hardware to creating platforms, the ecosystem shifts into the next phase as data accumulates. But the challenges and the model of development remains the same: prototype, measure and learn.

“Putting something on a person’s wrist—making something that they are actually going to wear—is incredibly complex,” Liz Dixon, CEO of MIO added. “I think people get hammered all the time for making technology that is far too complex to use. Nobody likes to read instructions.”

There is a general public demand for wearables, we can all use another innovative way to communicate, etc. But there is also a demand for wearables in a niche market that includes security and medical. Mike Morrow, CEO of CommandWear, is seeing a lot of potential for technological growth between different sectors.

“Once we know that police and security buy into it and start using it—guess who they work with: Fire, EMS, medical, industries, utilities and on and on, and it grows,” said Morrow. “Of course, as we grow we capture the attention of the big boys. We are already working with Motorola for example. They are more focused on the backend systems, they’re in with police, and they are interested in the big data and analytics side of this business. They are hungry for data feeds from the field.”

Still the gap between innovative technologies, integration between platforms and devices and the usability is one that will take time to close. And it cannot be done when marketable and actionable dishonestly occurs, a mistake that many pioneering manufacturers made.

“Right now we have a lot of devices out there that are being marketed as doing A, B, C, D and—people look at it and say ‘Wow, I really want that,'” said Bayan Vandrico, Lead Researcher and Hardware Engineer at Vandrico. “But they buy it and realize it wasn’t really what they thought it was. That’s because those products aren’t really actionable.”

Collecting data is one thing, turning that data into something useful is another. If a wearable device wants to stay on our wrist or on our face it must serve a greater purpose than telling us how many steps we take or how much we sleep. If our habits don’t change, then the wearables have to.

But with so much data entering the ecosystem, distorted information is blended in with the accurate ones. Tracking location is an example of something that sounds so simple in a technological sense, but is incredibly complicated in a data-heavy ecosystem. It has evolved significantly since GPS tracking to cell tower triangulations to WiFi RSSI and advancements still continues.

“To me the trajectory is figuring out the broad solution,” said Shane Luke, Chief Product Officer at Recon Instruments, “and having someone that really focuses on that problem. It’s okay for it to take awhile; you can still do a lot, even with data that is not quite right.”

Luke added, “It’s an important principal, if you are in this space and you are building stuff, to look around at what others are doing and what they spend all their time on. They are going to do it better than you if you only spend 25% of your time on it, guaranteed.”

Wearable tech currently stands on the threshold of something very exciting. With so much new data, ideas, devices and platforms appearing in the local, national and global economy, partnerships are bound to take the state of wearables to the next level—a stage where wearables will be of the time and not a relic of technological trial and error.

Road-tripping with My Mother the Carjacker

Where do Vancouver musicians go?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 11, 2014

Beside the industrial waves of the mighty Fraser and alongside the barbwire fences and railway tracks is a building long past its prime. Weather-beaten but still venerable, the musical dormitory is both a rehearsal space and a hangout spot for My Mother the Carjacker (MMC).

I joined them as they took shelter from a rainy night in the late winter of 2013. The trio set up their equipment for a session in their humble abode—the sprinkler room. Dan Whittal, Liam Worthington, Allan Heppner, and a 12-pack of beer got down to work; nitty-gritty work, hold-all-my-calls-I’ll-be-here-awhile work.

“We take it really seriously,” said lead singer and guitarist, Whittal. “But we don’t act serious, and that makes all the difference.”

Every band has a different dynamic and MMC’s characteristic is very distinct, since they have one central understanding: “At the beginning we agreed, ‘Don’t tell anyone they can’t do something,’” said bassist, Worthington. “If they write the part, let them write the part. If it doesn’t work with the song, obviously the guy would know anyways.”

Logo and Van

The Road

Vancouver’s live entertainment scene is not always welcoming to newcomers, so MMC embraces the bumpy ride. It’s all up and down, resembling their fast-paced tempo and off-topic banter during their live performances. Still, it’s difficult for a unique band to stand out in a big crowd—like a car with a funky paint job honking in rush hour traffic, there just isn’t enough room.

“The thing about Vancouver is that it is really tough to get people out, we are kind of spoiled for music,” said drummer, Heppner. “There is also a lot of it, because it is a big city. So people see a lot of shit bands, while there are good bands playing all the time. If they don’t like one, they could go to another, because there are 50,000 clubs and bars.”

Like so many other local musicians, they are choosing to take their talents out of town. MMC is not ignoring Vancouver or trying to escape it; they simply know that they must meet their fan base halfway.

“The thing is with booking out of town, you will need to give yourself a three-month window,” said Worthington. “So yeah, we are definitely actively looking towards a fall tour. We are always trying to play out-of-town shows. We are looking at Whistler, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, and Victoria. We want to do an extensive BC tour. Prince George, we’ve been asked to go there so many times. And then there is Nelson and Revelstoke. You can have a full-month tour of just BC.”

In early February, MMC returned from Kamloops after a short three-day trip to enjoy some good ol’ Vancouver sushi with me. They all nodded in agreement that the trip, albeit short notice, was both profitable and invigorating.

“We were cruising down the highway when a guy beside us was like, ‘Pull over! Your tires are fucked!’” Worthington, the designated driver in the band, retold the experience. “Oh God! We pulled over and checked it out and it was gone.”

“We didn’t notice at all,” said Whittal, “but it had been dragging for a while.”

“The truck belongs to Hey Ocean!,” Worthington said. “We borrowed it for four hours and fucked it up. They knew it was coming soon so they gave it to us. Whatever, it happened and we dealt with it thanks to the most brilliant man alive, Brian from FortisBC.”

The band laughed off the experience of standing on the middle of a highway during one of the coldest weeks of winter, lifting up their three-wheeled truck in order to fit a jack underneath. In retrospect, the situation could have been disastrous: they could have missed their show, or worse. Adversity comes with the territory when you’re touring as independent musicians. Safety is first, fun is second, but money is always a close third.

The Campaign

The sacred title of musician is respected by MMC: none of them would openly announce that that is what they are. Like judges, doctors, and politicians, Whittal, Worthington, and Heppner don’t feel they have legitimately earned the honours yet—not as a professional title, at least. The definition is still debatable between the three as they contemplate their own identity in the grand scheme.

“When someone asks you, ‘What is your job?’ you cannot say that,” said Worthington. “It’s what I aspire to be… and it’s getting closer and closer every year, but we’re not there yet.”

They speak enthusiastically of other bands, bands they look up to, while drawing a line for themselves. This mark keeps them grounded as they continue to strive for that ultimate goal.

In the summer of 2013, they took on a new initiative: their second album. But before they could return to the studio they decided that they wouldn’t half-ass the job. This time they were serious. Even if they couldn’t call themselves professionals, they would behave like professionals.

“You have an album coming out?” said Heppner, impersonating the public when he told them about their first album.

“Do you even play an instrument?” Worthington mocked.

“Your name is Liam?” Whittal added as the band laughed off their anonymity.

Campaigning for their Kickstarter was a brand new challenge for the group. On stage they were exuberant, but individually they were reserved and far from forthcoming when it came to asking for money. Getting someone to come to a show was one thing, getting them to download music was another, but getting them to chip in to a creative piece of work that has yet to be created is a whole other beast. Sucking up their pride and doing what they needed to, MMC, with the help of many, met their $6,000 goal.

“It gets easier over time,” said Worthington. “When people actually start following you, it does get easier for sure. Especially on social media when we can get the word out about the Kickstarter. Now people know that the album is coming out and we put out little teasers of the album and the recording process. We are just slowly building hype.”


Broken tire

The Studio

The day after they returned from their harrowing road trip to Kamloops, the three members of MMC were putting in the hours at the studio, recording layered tracks for their new album. I placed myself on a couch and watched as they worked.

Occasionally an error would arise, one would notify the other, and instead of countering with defensiveness, the response would be in jest and with appreciation. Jokes played in the background just as the music played in the foreground. Even though every moment spent in the studio was precious, there was no indication of anything being rushed. There were no shortcuts.

When it comes to the importance of studio time versus show time, MMC recognizes the value of both and doesn’t take either for granted. That being said, it’s not every day they get to work on recording their new album.

“You’re not going to be recording as much as you are playing,” said Heppner. “If you have nothing to record, then you need to be playing because that’s how you exist as a band.”

“But the way you keep on existing as a band is by having something to record,” Whittal added. “And that is a hard one to—”

“It needs to be a really good exposure show!” Worthington interrupted. “Or we are recording an album. The show needs to be absolutely worth it. In my opinion, studio time is so much more expensive than a show is, so it needs to be a really well-promoted show with great exposure. It would be the show for sure! ”

“Especially for us,” said Whittal, “shows are kind of our thing.”

Genres are harder to define than ever. Avant-grunge, funk rock, and danger polka punk are just a few attempts at characterizing MMC’s sound with words. But they don’t care about creating a theme or focussing on a certain category. What they want is to generate music with unpredictability—the I’m-up-on-my-feet-and-moving-without-knowing-it kind of music.

…Or of Something Else, their second album, will be available in the spring of 2014, and although they are always looking for new roads to explore and new places to play, you can catch them around town at local venues playing their balls-on-the-walls-all-hands-on-deck-feels-so-good-it-can’t-be-butter kind of music.


For more information about My Mother the Carjacker, their music, and where they’re performing, visit their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mymotherthecarjacker) or follow them on Twitter (@MyMotherCarjack).

Girls Raising Establishes New Platform For Female Entrepreneurs and Investors in Canada

Girls Raising, a community based around assisting and fostering the growth of women founded startups, in addition to all like-minded entrepreneurs and investors, originated from New York and has since expanded to San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver.

The empowering organization is dedicated to opening doors, creating an audience for established and up-and-coming female innovators and influencers and bridging the tech-sector’s gender gap.

For many years, the skewed ratio between men and female workers has formed a barrier for emerging female talents. There simply wasn’t enough resources, platforms and opportunities committed to helping women achieve their goals.

Men conduct business in certain way and women conduct business in another way; it’s not about which is better—it’s about how to nurture both forms of communication effectively so that entrepreneurs and investors of either gender can develop the best work possible.

“There is this whole concept of ‘you can’t see what you can’t see’,” says Vanessa Dawson, cofounder of Girls Raising, “so we need more visibility for women leaders and entrepreneurs who are entering startup companies, because then it’ll inspire other women. We are getting there now and there is more.”

The initiative starts with getting promising founders and entrepreneurs out and interacting, sharing resources and developing new ideas. On March 27, Girls Raising will be hosting another event from their Presentation Series in Vancouver. The private event will showcase presentations and panelists, featuring women entrepreneurs and investors that have overcome the gender gap and found success as leaders in the industry. The events are just another actionable step towards supporting, educating and encouraging females to choose tech for a career option.

“The Presentation Series started out as an event series, but it is so much more than that,” says Dawson. “It’s helping more women raise capital for their ventures and get some really good feedback and advice for which direction to take it, and we are building a community around that.”

The event in terms of presentation will cover two specific areas: the finance of a business and the founding of a business. Two women specialist in each of those fields will present, offering tips to raise a company into the green. The event will also see a preselected group of entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to an established panel and receive feedback and potential investment opportunities.

“The quality [of startups] that we bring to the table has been pretty high at all of our events,” says Dawson. “That often leads to acceptance of an accelerator or a follow up investment or some leads that are good for the business. And we share it all with an audience of attendees who are founders, investors, new entrepreneurs and community members.”

Girl Raising caps their active events at 100 people in order to keep the quality of interaction high and insure that everyone gets something out of it, whether they are there as an attendee, panelist or a presenter.

The tech-ecosystem can often be too vast and intimidating for many, but Girl Raising supports the adventurous attitudes of entrepreneurs and understands that there is going to be challenges and adversity, regardless of your gender.

“Be as exploratory as you can,” offers Dawson. “Don’t be afraid to try something, rather than just thinking about it. Women tend to put a lot time into thinking whether they should do this or thinking whether they should do that, and they don’t act. You learn the best lessons and you learn what you want to do and what is the best fit from actually trying something.”

Test driving the car ban


Paris’ car ban solution to pollution problem is something we should all try

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 24, 2014

Many metropolitan cities in the world are suffering from the smog of pollution. It’s just something that happens when millions of people start living together. While some places continue to digest the pollutant, others are working hard on the solution. On March 17, Paris implemented the car ban, where only vehicles with a licence plate ending in an odd number were allowed to drive on the roads—the alternative was a fine.

Roughly 4,000 drivers were fined on the first day of the ban, but many drivers played along with the one-day ban—the government chose not to continue with the second day of the ban. French researchers found significant improvement in the air quality. Although I understand the inconvenience it must have caused for the commuting public, I’m also a bit disappointed that it only lasted a day.

We have recognized the harm of pollution for many years now. Greenhouse effect, global warming, and melting ice caps are all warnings harkened by Al Gore and his environmentalist buddies. The evidence is clearly visible, but still we choose to anticipate the consequence before we engage in a solution.

Why should we wait until there is a smog problem before we execute a car ban? Can we not change this human zeitgeist?

Let’s look closer to home. Beautiful British Columbia. We wouldn’t dare compare ourselves to larger cities like Los Angeles, Mexico City, Beijing, and Paris, right? But aren’t we cruising in the same direction? Didn’t we just expand our highways in anticipation of the growth both in population and in drivers? I’m sorry, but if you think our emerald forest, ivory mountains, and sapphire ocean are going to protect us from pollution, you’re wrong. Those are the things we’ll lose should smog happen here, in beautiful British Columbia.

Bike lanes do a little, a new transit line does a little, but what we need is something like the car ban in Paris: something that keeps us from becoming complacent. As we grow as a city, we must also adjust our lifestyle to accommodate traffic congestions—just because populations double, doesn’t mean traffic needs to double as well.

This new way of living may require us to schedule car pools and strategize our way to and from work. It may sound like a hassle to remember when you can and cannot drive. Moreover, this type of initiative will require that law enforcement ensures people are following the new rule. I understand that may lead to a lot of negative reaction, after all, the road already leaves us so vulnerable and traffic police already have so much to look out for. But one day, shit might just hit the fan, and we’ll be asking ourselves what we could have done—well, this is what we could have done: stop being little whiners.

The car ban may seem like a gimmick to many, but it should be something we all consider, not just for metropolitan cities, but also for soon-to-be metropolitan cities, like our own.

Game On In Vancouver: Videogame Industry Finds Comfort In Hollywood North

Posted by Elliot Chan on Mar 14, 2014
Formerly published in Techvibes Media.
For a while there, it seemed as though BC’s insubstantial tax credits and the immergence of the mobile gaming industry were causing many Vancouver-based video game developers to lose their jobs. Big name developers such as Microsoft, Radical Entertainment, Walt Disney Co., Propoganda Games and Rockstar Games were rather laying off employees or relocating.

But now in 2014, the digital industry fostered by “Hollywood North” is ready to win back game creators.

Earning the trust of Japan and Silicon Valley was the key to Vancouver’s come back. The exodus of some big name console developers made room for external developers to move in, namely from the East—no, not Toronto, but Japan. In the past year, more than a handful of the top Japanese game developing companies took up camp in Vancouver, including Namco Bandai, Capcom and DeNa Co. These foreign gaming giants are claiming that Vancouver is a perfect hub to do domestic and international business.

For one thing, Vancouver is in the same time zone as San Francisco, another location teeming with videogame innovation and talents. That made communicating between headquarters more convenient—while a non-stop flight from Japan to Vancouver was only a mere 10 hours—thus establishing a global network of gamers and developers.

The second is the consolidation of console games and the “freemium” model of mobile games had forced many gaming companies to seek assistance from local developers. Japanese developers aren’t exactly coming in and rehashing their successful products to the North American market, no, in fact, the objective is to take what has been working in the East and build upon it here and market it in a different way to an audience that has their own distinctive gaming culture.

The accessible geographical location and the healthy breeding of skilled gaming contractor have made Vancouver a hotbed for an industry constantly adapting to new technology. At the end of 2013, Entertainment Software Association of Canada reported that there were now 67 video game companies in British Columbia, behind Quebec and Ontario by approximately 30. British Columbia has 5,150 employees, in relation to the 16,500 that work in the country. With earnings of $2.4 billion annually, Canada holds the spot for the third largest video game industry, behind, you guessed it, Japan and the United States. Famous game developer Namco Bandai announced, after establishing The Centre of Digital Media in Vancouver, that it will strive to develop new online social games.

With all that being said, videogames in Canada are neither a dying art nor a dying industry. Gamers want more and developers want to create more. Studios, both local and international, are constantly seeking talented people with video game design and development, 3D modeling, animation, computer graphics background to help shape the future of video games.

Yes, that landscape of games is indeed changing. But whether it is on the plasma screen or on the smartphone screen, Vancouver is right in the mix in terms of innovating, developing, and influencing the next phase of gaming.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron

By Elliot Chan

Formerly published in MeetVanCity.com

courtesy of BBC

courtesy of BBC

In 2010, all eyes were on Vancouver as it hosted the 21st Winter Olympic Games. Fans, athletes and everyone else crowded the downtown core celebrating and enjoying the event. In preparation for the grand occasion, Vancouver went through upgrades, introducing new sport complexes and public spaces and a safer highway to Whistler. Most of what was created for the Olympics is still in use today, such as the Convention Centre and Richmond’s Olympic Oval. While those locations became a regular part of the city’s landmark, the Olympic cauldron is still able to spark memories of the crowded streets and national pride.

Since the day it was unveiled, the cauldron has been a famous icon in Vancouver. So much that organizers were unprepared for its popularity during the two weeks event in 2010. A fence had to be constructed to keep spectators back, until a viewing spot can be built on higher ground. Today, the best spot to see it would be on the upper level of the Convention Centre.

Built to resemble five pillars of ice leaning against each other, the Olympic cauldron is now accessible for anyone eager to get a closer look. During the night, the transparent pillars will illuminate blue and green. Set in the centre of a fountain, against the Coal Harbour backdrop, the cauldron is a photogenic image of the city.

On special occasions, the cauldron would be re-lit. But the initial lighting is what most people remember. During the opening ceremony in BC Place, there were two Olympic cauldrons, the one we know now outdoors and another one in the stadium for the show. At the end of the ceremony, four famous Canadian athletes were supposed to light the pillars of the BC Place cauldron and have the flames travel up to the top of the bowl, but due to mechanical issues, one of the pillars did not rise. It was embarrassing for the organizers and awkward for the audience. Having two cauldrons meant that there would be two lightings. So a pick-up truck transported hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky with the Olympic flame from the stadium to the site of the outdoor cauldron. There, he fulfilled one of the greatest athletic honours in all of sports — lighting the Olympic Cauldron.

Zipments.ca Turns Everyday People Into Couriers to Get You What You Need When You Need It

Admit it, our busy schedules stop us from getting stuff done (I know—the irony!).

The solution: We share resources and help each other. Vancouver-based Zipments.ca is making it happen with a selected group of “lifestyle couriers” that retailer, customers and normal-every-day-busy people can trust.

Forty-eight hours after Zipment.ca launched in November 2013 (hailing from New York-based Zipments), they’ve received over 200 applicants wanting to be “lifestyle couriers.” It goes to show that there is indeed a market in a sharable economy, one where we don’t always have to rely on postage stamps, tracking numbers and expensive charges. Perhaps the public is starting to have trust in the real world interaction, especially as they hear more talk about people staying in companies such as AirBnB, and see more people driving Zipcars.

“The sharing economy is brought to us by the 2008 recession quite frankly,” CEO of Zipments, Robert Safrata told Techvibes. “People were starting to ask themselves, ‘instead of using more, how can I use what I got?’ And that is one of the reasons why I believe the sharing economy has blossomed.”

Unlike the big players in the delivery industry, Zipments.ca operates nights and weekends. Which means there are less chances of a sticky notes appearing on your front door, informing you that there had been a failed delivery. In those cases you either have to call in, reschedule or pick up the item at your local post office. Not a big deal, but a hassle nonetheless. But Zipments.ca’s flexibility enables both the courier and the customer to live their life and make the exchange at their leisure, thus allowing 100% success.

“Someone made an order out in UBC,” said Safrata, “they wanted to receive the delivery between seven to eight at night. [The item] was available to be picked up at a store at four-thirty. Now there is a big gap where the professionals will say they can’t do that or it’ll be very expensive. But with the lifestyle courier, using Zipments, they can look at the job and say, ‘I can do it.’ One did, and went and picked it up, kept it safe in their car—like the Fedex guy would in his truck—went to yoga (only in Vancouver) and then delivered it out to UBC.”

Every city and community is unique and Vancouver is a city of obstacles. Bridges, constructions and mountains make for some beautiful architecture and scenery, but commuting is often a time consuming pain. Vancouverites, like people anywhere simply want what they need without disrupting the flow of their day.

“People in Vancouver tend to feel that if you pass one bridge you’ve really gone out into the country, and if you pass two bridges you are in another country,” said Safrata. “I see that as a great opportunity for [Zipments]. If someone doesn’t want to cross a bridge they’ll get someone else to do it for them.”

As Canada Post gradually phases out home delivery, many are savouring the last days of waking up to a mailbox full of correspondences, subscriptions, and bills (mostly bills). While Canada Post has their plans, Zipments.ca also has much to consider in the future. The trends are definitely changing and what was once considered to be a luxury for businesses is now becoming a service anybody can have.

“People have done without [couriers],” said Safrata, “yet people are getting busier and getting used to having stuff come to them. And they are valuing their time.”

Smartphones and the advancement in app technology have offer users a convenient solution to most of life’s problems. Chances are, you’ll have one weather app, one map app and one banking app on your phone. Well perhaps it’s time you also include a delivery app.

Soldiering on



Canadian army should not be mocked for civil service

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

The city of Toronto has been the butt of jokes for far too long now (though some might say not long enough): their uproarious mayor, Charlie Sheen; the Maple Leafs double-dribbling to the playoffs; and, of course, the freeze storm. Yes, it has been an ice age of comedy for the centre of the universe, but I will not poke fun at Toronto for sending in the army to battle Mother Nature, that cold-hearted bitch.

While we’re living in Vancouver, where anything below 10-degrees Celsius is considered cold, people in Toronto have been pouring cups of hot water outside and watching it turn to ice before their eyes. The sight gave me chills (remember the 1997 movie, Batman & Robin, where Arnold Schwarzenegger a.k.a Mr. Freeze kept making cold puns? I do). I know people in the Prairies are laughing at Toronto for their dramatic call to arms, but let’s be honest, if they weren’t laughing at Toronto, they would probably be shivering. Toronto is a big city that can only function when people are able to leave their households. As someone who has all-season tires on my car for, well, all seasons, I know what it’s like to be stuck at home. So I’m a little surprised that calling in the troops for reinforcement isn’t more common—after all, why shouldn’t we use our resources?

Weather is one of the most devastating forces in the world, and having the military around to back up normal people is a morale boost a country like Canada should have. We are a peaceful nation and we should lead by example. For many in the United States, the idea of sending in the troops for anything but war is still a highly debated proposition. Citizens just don’t want to see the army cruising down the streets—that is not encouraging for a healthy morale. Recent hurricanes have since changed the minds of many, but others are still convinced that a country should not rely on their army for domestic reasons. But as the world continues to face the fury of Mama Nature, it seems that the army lending a hand may become a common trend.

A little deep freeze is far from a humanitarian emergency, but it would be comforting to know that the military would be able to help when disaster strikes. A soldier assisting shouldn’t be something we laugh at; it should be something we expect and respect.

Taking a look closer to home, we wonder what might cause Vancouver to send in the army. How about an earthquake? What they call the inevitable “Big One” could literally happen at any moment. I sure hope and expect someone to help me deal with that crisis, especially if I get stuck on Granville Street when the city shakes.

We can mitigate disaster, but we can never really avoid it. So, let’s use all we have when things get bad and build upon that for when things get worse.

Fringe Bar

The Watering Hole for Vancouver’s Wild Festival
by Elliot Chan
Formerly published in Discorder Magazine. Sept. 3, 2013



An actor, a musician, and a dancer walk into the Fringe Bar — the rest is unpredictable.

Before you judge this article based solely on my poorly crafted joke, know that the Vancouver Fringe Festival is all about experimenting. And when it comes to conducting experiments and exploring the chemistry of “us,” there is no better place than the social laboratory a.k.a. the Bar.

The Fringe Bar is the watering hole for the festival’s wildlife before, in-between, and during shows. The St. Ambroise Fringe Bar has fostered some of the city’s most creative live performances over the years, and still nobody knows what to expect this time around. Dramatic routines, balloon animal gymnastics, or banjo-playing burlesque dancers; it’s always a mystery bag of entertainment.

“It constantly re-invents itself every year,” says David Jordan, Executive Director of the Vancouver Fringe Festival. “We can’t get stale because of the way we program the festival. When you’re drawing artists out of a hat, you’ll never get stuck in a rut.”

The festival’s evolutionary tree has branches sprouting in every direction, with one attractive limb being the Fringe Bar. It accommodates performers, spectators, and anyone else seeking a thirst-quencher and an experience.

“Fringe Festival in Canada is very artist-centric and there are a lot of touring artists,” said Jordan. “So we needed to give these people some place to hang out — and beer was a natural fit.”

The Fringe Bar humbly began at Planet Bingo and the Legion on Mount Pleasant. In 2007, the Fringe community moved outside and incorporated live music to the social heartbeat. Dan Mangan performed that year and since then the Fringe Bar became a permanent fixture. It got spectators moving and offered an experience that extended beyond the theatre seats.

“It’s amazing playing for theatre people, because they like to get theatrical,” said Tristan Orchard, a local DJ and musician. “They’re pretty much my favourite audience to play for, because everyone is performing and they have that post-performance good vibes.”

photo by Lachlan McAdam

photo by Lachlan McAdam

In 2009, Railspur Alley became the festival’s central hub. Outdoor stages and bright lights fashioned onto the tree canopies created a starlit atmosphere down the promenade. Festival goers, performers, and passersby alike can enjoy the high calibre artists, while getting a little pick-me-up at one of Granville Island’s outdoor patios.

Outdoor patios? In September? Is that another joke?

Weather-pending is something Vancouverites hear often, but anything goes during the festival. The outdoor components for the Fringe Bar were incorporated in 2010, after witnessing other successful beer gardens at Fringe Festivals across the country.

“I was always a little wary,” said Jordan. “It’s September. Can we get people to be hanging outdoors? It’s going to rain. But it’s awesome.”

Curse the rain all you want, but one of Jordan’s favourite Fringe memories happened during a rainstorm. It was 1 a.m., a cabaret show just ended, and a torrential shower had the city drenched. Undaunted, Jordan accompanied by his Fringe confidants, in true West Coast spirit, dove into the bar with a splash.

“There was a huge puddle, 12-feet long,” said Jordan, “and a foot deep at some places. I looked at it and was like ‘We are going to be dancing in that puddle for sure.’ And within 20 minutes, everyone was in that puddle. It was a great time. There was a kind of spontaneous exuberance to that.”

“It was a monsoon,” said Orchard, who remembered performing during the storm. “It was just a great experience where people decided to forget about the rain, dance in puddles, and slide across tables. Everyone was completely soaked. It was just a beautiful moment where everyone lost themselves and it was just a wonderful time.”

Promoting impulsiveness and spontaneity is all part of the Entertainment Coordinator’s job. Taking the helm at this year’s Fringe Festival is Corbin Murdoch, who knows that first-class preparation is foremost when it comes to quality improvisation.

“We anticipate spontaneity and we anticipate a diverse crowd each and every night,” said Murdoch. “On the back end, we need to be as organized as possible so that we can be quick on our feet.”

From September 5 to 15, the St. Ambroise Fringe Bar at Argo Café and the green space nearby will be the Fringe epicenter. New additions to this year’s festival include food carts (La Taqueria, Reel Mac and Cheese, Urban Wood Fired Pizza), square dancing, and the Fringe Talk Show hosted by comedian, Riel Hahn, which features candid conversations with Fringe artists.

So what do you think? Maybe you can help me workshop my opening joke: An actor, a musician, and a dancer walk into the Fringe Bar—(insert your own experience here).


The St. Ambroise Fringe Bar is open every day of the Fringe Festival, which runs from September 5 until September 15. The bar’s hours are 7p.m. until late at 1363 Railspur Alley on Granville Island.