Haro Ventures

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    This report is a collection of snapshots of 22 tech startups located or founded in Victoria BC... see more

    Source: Haro Ventures Startup Report - Intro

    Haro Ventures releases 2017 Victoria, BC "Startup Report"

    What does Victoria’s tech ecosystem look like? And how can sharing this information help all the players involved in building our community?

    This report is a collection of snapshots of 22 tech startups located or founded in Victoria BC, gathered over the last quarter of 2016. We share glimpses into the company market opportunities, directions, go-to-market strategies and unique differentiators. We learn about the entrepreneurs’ vision for the future of their companies, about the times they’ve wanted to give up, and what kept them going.

    The information in this report was gathered using semi-structured interviews with company CEO’s, founders, and team members. Relevant qualitative answers are displayed on the company snapshot pages, and quantitative data has been gathered for an aggregate display at the end of the report.

    We call these insights snapshots because we acknowledge that the information provided could very well change over the next several years, and represents where the companies are at at specifically at this point in time.

    We hope to provide an informative and well-rounded picture of what the tech startup scene in Victoria looks like in early in 2017. This report was created for individuals curious about our awesome city and tech community, potential investors looking for the next big thing, and even entrepreneurs wishing to learn more about their peers.

    To download the full report, click here: https://silkstart.s3.amazonaws.com/58d2a1ac68621338f7f3fba5.pdf

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    My mission at Agog Labs today is to find out whether SkookumScript is really as easy to learn as... see more

    Source: Medium.com
    Author: Ania Wys

    Zero to coding hero? Putting SkookumScript to the test

    In a world where video games constitute a nearly $100B annual market and there are 1.8 billion self proclaimed gamers (plus we all know a closet-gamer or two), it’s surprising to learn that there still isn’t a widely used programming language created specifically with video games in mind. The team at Agog Labs want to change that. Over the past 13 years, they have developed SkookumScript, a new programming language and tool suite that they hope will become the new industry standard.

    As I rush into Fort Tectoria on a rainy Thursday afternoon, past the rocketship that greets me at the entrance, I mentally review the notes I read about SkookumScript before making my way downtown. SkookumScript is a scripting language dedicated to the creation of gameplay, the overall experience of playing a game. Conan began developing SkookumScript in 2004 and officially released it in 2016, successfully integrating it with the Unreal Engine, which is used by 25% of game developers worldwide. It was used at United Front to author all gameplay on Sleeping Dogs and Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition and Agog Labs plans to integrate SkookumScript with the rest of the major game engines.

    My mission at Agog Labs today is to find out whether SkookumScript is really as easy to learn as Conan and the team say it is. Having spent the past five years in graphic design and branding, I have experience working with the Adobe Creative Suite as well as using basic HTML and CSS. The closest I have ever been to programming anything like the gameplay I’m about to be presented, however, is in making 30 to 40-second animations. As such, I’m a unique user case for SkookumScript. Realistically, most people on a game development team will have at least some experience using an integrated development environment (IDE). This includes the sound engineers, artists, and QA testers — roles you wouldn’t traditionally associate with coding. For a list of typical roles on a game development team, click here.

    The first thing I see once I get to the Agog office are two incredibly wide monitors filled with an incredible amount of code. Conan Reis, Agog Labs founder and creator of SkookumScript, approaches me to shake my hand and offer me some water. I first met Conan at a pitch event during VIATEC’s annual Experience Tectoria. With his kind and gentle mannerisms he’s just how I remember him from then, minus his awesome mad scientist costume. (Quite frankly, I didn’t know mad scientists even did office casual.) Conan’s background in artificial intelligence and developing AAA games for 24 years is what has led him to his current specialization — devising gameplay and AI aspects of game development.

    As soon as I sit down, Shadi Dadenji, who Agog Labs recruited from Amsterdam, introduces me to the different windows that appear on the screens. We start by taking a quick look at C++ code in Microsoft Visual Studio, which is what Conan and Shadi use to create and perfect the SkookumScript Integrated Development Environment (SkookumIDE) itself. We then take a look at the user-facing side of the IDE and see how it plugs into the Unreal Engine 3D World Editor. Shadi tells me I’ll actually get to create a few commands and script actions myself using the demo world that Conan created for first-time users: a metallic multi-room area including a hero character and three robots, which I can only assume are the bad guys.

    What intrigues me most about the lines of code we are plugging in is the readability. Though I lack reference to other scripting languages, the code seems to read like a very rough sentence. For example, the code below is used to move one of the robot characters towards the hero:

    Similarly, this code sends a random robot to the character:

    (It’s confirmed: the robots are the enemies)

    So now I can’t help but wonder: if SkookumScript really is so integrable, easy, and efficient, then why hasn’t this been done before? In an industry as enormous as video games, there are sure to be other mad scientists devoting their time to finding a viable solution, if they haven’t already.

    In response, I’m told that another scripting language popular for game scripting is Lua, which was created for the Brazilian petroleum industry in 1993. While Lua is simple and portable, it lacks built-in game concepts, a native editor or debugger, and a single, unified company that provides updates and support. Furthermore, to use Lua, each studio needs to essentially create a custom copy of Lua technology which they keep private. As such, when someone who’s familiar with Lua starts working for another studio, they need to learn their new studio’s unique way of using it. Agog Labs wants to make up for Lua’s shortcomings by ensuring SkookumScript is both universal and fully supported.

    Popular video game languages in 2009

    As my grand finale, Shadi lets me take charge in the SkookumIDE. I write a few lines of commands that set up each of the robots to run simultaneously towards the hero and make the hero explode once all their destinations are reached:

    Typed up with *minimal* help from the mad scientists

    So while SkookumScript likely isn’t for complete newbies to IDEs and 3D world editors, one is able to pick up the general principles with relative ease. This makes me suspect that those working in a video game studio could totally own the experience, no matter what their role happens to be. Using a language that all team members can follow means each member doesn’t have to wait for the engineers to assist them in making small changes. This can result in enormous time and cost reductions.

    I can’t help but think of another unique aspect of SkookumScript beyond the realm of video games: its potential for academic use. Though I was only able to spend two hours in the SkookumIDE, it’s easy to imagine what a room full of enthused kids could do given free reign. Over the past few years coding literacy has become a priority in schools around the world. A language like SkookumScript, which Conan says can be used in virtually any area that requires real-time control (such as interactive automation, robotics, aeronautics, Internet of Things, or big data), could prove an awesome and engaging learning tool.


    So it turns out the behind-the-scenes of video gaming can be pretty interesting, too. The next time you’re hours deep into an intense gaming session, you might find yourself wondering if the science behind what you’re playing is just a little bit… mad.


  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Victoria native Bobbi Leach has a history of earning her stripes in the tech world. see more

    Haro Ventures Mini Series: An Interview with Bobbi Leach

    Victoria native Bobbi Leach has a history of earning her stripes in the tech world. After working her way up from associate to VP at a sports marketing firm in Ottawa, Bobbi relocated back to Victoria where she eventually worked her way into the CEO role at RevenueWire helping to grow the company’s international reach and expand its e-commerce platform. Bobbi has also helped launched FuturePay, an alternative payment option for online shoppers that allows them to put their purchase on a tab to pay later. Bobbi’s efforts have been recognized consistently, being awarded the gold-level winner at the Stevie Awards in the Female Executive of the Year in Canada category, and the Executive of the Year award in 2015 by VIATEC.

    • How did you come to start FuturePay?

    FuturePay was started because we saw an opportunity in the growing industry of alternative payment options for enabling online transactions without a credit card. FuturePay provides shoppers with the ability to access instant financing as they’re making an online purchase.

    • What’s the most satisfying part of your role there?

    The most satisfying part of being CEO at FuturePay is seeing how happy people get when they have success. For example, our email marketing took a lot of testing before we got the message right, but when we did, the team was jazzed when they saw the growth in retailer sign-ups and new revenue. Likewise, it took some trial and error before we figured out the best sales strategy, but now the team is super pumped because they’re landing new clients every week.

    • What did you want to be when you were a kid? Who were your childhood role models?

    Other than wanting to be a belly dancer when I was six years old, I always wanted to go into business. I knew by grade 10 that I wanted to go to business school and by the time I was 25, I was a partner in a startup. The person who influenced me the most growing up and has always been my biggest supporter is my mom.

    • With F@#% Up Nights becoming a popular community event, we’re witnessing a positive trend of being open about your failures and mistakes. What mistake have you made that you wouldn’t go back in time to change?

    Never underestimate the need to stay focused in the early years of a startup. In a previous startup I was part of, we made the mistake of trying to build a cadillac-level product for multiple verticals of clients all at once. After two years, we ran out of money before we could scale up the sales and marketing effort to recruit enough clients to reach break-even. This was a huge lesson that I brought to FuturePay to launch the product quickly and iterate, while staying focused on a core client base. I believe it’s one of the primary reasons why we’ve been successful with attracting several hundred clients.

    • What or who inspires you the most?

    At the moment, entrepreneurs who cross over to vastly different industries inspire me the most. Elon Musk is one of those entrepreneurs. He went from digital payments and electric cars, to solar power and space exploration. Another one of those entrepreneurs is Martine Rothblatt, who started her career as a lawyer but then went on to launch several satellite companies including Sirius Satellite Radio and then founded United Therapeutics Corporation, a biotech company. And she’s also a pilot!

    • What role do you think ‘diversity’ plays in growing a successful tech community?

    I think diversity plays a huge role in the success of a tech community. Diversity brings different perspectives into the community, which make for a more informed view on issues and a more inclusive approach to building relevant programs. Ultimately I think this leads to a healthier and more productive tech community.

     Read a previous highlight on female tech community leaders here, and stayed tuned for future interviews by following us on Facebook or Medium.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Stocksy United is a uniquely structured artist-owned cooperative that provides beautiful stock photo see more

    Source: HaroVentures.com

    Haro Ventures Mini Series: An Interview with Brianna Wettlaufer

    Stocksy United is a uniquely structured artist-owned cooperative that provides beautiful stock photos, interview pieces, travel stories and recipes. Perhaps mostly highlighted for it’s unique financial structure (which pays out the majority of profits to photographers), the company is led by CEO and co-founder Brianna Wettlaufer who believes in open collaboration, fair representation and artistic expression. We sat down to learn a little bit about Brianna, her role at Stocksy, her childhood role model and what inspires her, among others.

    • What’s your role at Stocksy and how did you come into that position?

    I’m CEO and co-founder. I bring to my role 15 years of experience in building online communities, promoting transparency and democracy in business, and mentoring photographers in the stock industry. I actually came into this role originally as Stocksy’s COO. The board realized I was the primary driver of the vision, product and experience and voted me into the CEO role in Stocksy’s first year of business. I’ve never looked back.

    • What’s the most satisfying part of your role there?

    Being part of the amazing Stocksy team. They’re the most amazing, fierce group I’ve had the pleasure of working with. To date we’re 25 intense and different personalities. Which, of course, has the potentially to go horribly wrong when you have that many strong opinions at a table, but somewhere between championing honesty, accountability, support, respect and humour, we make it work.

    • What did you want to be when you were a kid? Who were your childhood role models?

    My family is really artistic but also has a strong background in science. The convergence of the two by using logical thinking but expressing it creatively has always the most fascinating thing to me. It’s geeky, but I’d say Leonardo da Vinci was one of my childhood role models because I was mesmerized by the science behind his drawings. So generally I’d say I just wanted to work in the sciences when I grew up, with art being a supportive component of whatever I was focusing on.

    • With F@#% Up Nights becoming a popular community event, we’re witnessing a positive trend of being open about your failures and mistakes. What mistake have you made that you wouldn’t go back in time to change?

    I don’t like to fall to regret, everything is an opportunity to learn and do it better next time. But, if I’d had to pick something, I’d say going head to head with tables of executives when I was 23 was probably one of my poorer decisions. I didn’t start that job with that attitude, but after years of fighting against them, I got to the point where I wasn’t willing to back down, but that lead to my eventually needing to leave the company. But I absolutely don’t regret fighting for what I believe in.

    • What or who inspires you the most?

    Travelling typically inspires me. Not because I want to go do touristy things, but because I love seeing different experiences and reality. I like to go to the grittier areas and just talk to people and hear their stories. I’m not roughing it, I do stay in hotels because I’m a nerd and I like having access to the internet. [Laughing].

    As for people, there’s a girl here in Victoria that runs “The Grit of it”. She’s an amazing portrait photographer that always inspires me with her honesty and desire to champion the stories of unsung heroes.

    • What role do you think ‘diversity’ plays in growing a successful tech community?

    Tech can mean so many things, so I’m reluctant to speak for that whole community, but diversity plays a really big role for us at Stocksy. Unfair representation can make us feel shitty and cast a horrible message. In the stock world there’s been a very exploitative approach to representing diversity by using people as tokens. With Stocksy we’re always searching new ideas beauty, traditions, environments and how we generally express ourselves in the everyday. Seeing that richness come through is really important for us to reinforce the accessibility and connection of a more beautiful depiction of lifestyle.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    This week’s highlight is on Christina Seargeant. see more

    Source: HaroVentures.com

    Haro Ventures Mini Series: An Interview with Christina Seargeant

    For the month of December, Haro Ventures is launching a mini series highlighting and celebrating awesome female leaders / movers and shakers in our tech community. We will be publishing one interview weekly to share insights into the roles, goals, and vision of these individuals in order to help us all grow a better understanding of who's shaping our community.

    Between working as HR business partner with Workday and volunteering with Ladies Learning CodeVIATEC, and networking community PeopleOps, Christina is a quintessential (and busy!) member of our tech community. We were thrilled to sit down with Christina to learn about what she does with Workday, her childhood role models, what keeps her inspired, what mistake she’s most learned from, and her vision of diversity in our community.

    • What is your role at Workday and how did you come into that position? / Your involvement with Ladies Learning Code?

    I’m an HR business partner at Workday, supporting everyone from the frontline employees to the VPs of Workday Canada. We have an offices and teams that comprise 150 employees all over Canada in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. I’m meant to be the first point of contact for all things HR related and position myself as a champion for Canadian benefits and the different programs we offer in Canada.

    I came into the role because Workday offered me the position during its acquisition of MediaCore in August 2015. I was the director of people operations at MediaCore, which meant I oversaw anything to do with people and general business operations including facilities, legal and some finance.

    I got involved with Ladies Learning Code (LLC) just before the chapter launched in Victoria. I met Erin Athene at Discover Tectoria where she told me about the organization being based in Toronto with chapters popping up all across the country. I was instantly intrigued and wanted to help out. She needed to raise $1000 to get things started and kick off the first workshop. MediaCore wasn’t in a financial position to offer the funds but we wanted to help in other ways. When Erin started a Tilt campaign to rally the funds through the community, within just a few hours Dan Gunn of VIATeC said he would match any fundraised money up to $5000 dollars. I instantly called Erin and suggested we needed to change our goal from $1000 to $10,000 knowing how these funds would help us do great things for our chapter. In the end, we raised $11,000 and became the poster child chapter for LLC when it comes to harnessing community support. The companies we spoke with along the way were so interested in supporting us and loved what we were doing.

    After that I took on the role of chapter lead with Erin. She manages our sponsorship, fundraising and community partners while I lead the workshops and logistics and make sure we have a programming pipeline for the year. We work with a number of other amazing ladies that have helped us make our Victoria chapter what it is today.

    • What’s the most satisfying part of your role there?

    The most satisfying part of working with LLC is definitely being able to support people who are otherwise unfamiliar with technology or don’t feel confident they could do well in that field. To see their confidence increase from the moment they walk through the door in the morning to when they leave the workshops at the end of the day is really empowering. We help people realize their goals, whether they’re looking for a new role in their current workspace or re-entering the workforce.

    I’m personally passionate about helping people pursue their careers in technology, which is largely why my role at Workday is so satisfying to me as well. I love helping people take on challenges when it comes to career or the workplace, and I work with a number of managers that are really supportive and want to see good things for their employees. I especially enjoy recruitment because I get to be a part of helping to build a strong team, and the team we’ve created so far is so great.

    • What did you want to be when you were a kid? Who were your childhood role models?

    When I was a teenager I wanted to be a photographer. I actually pursued this dream and started a freelance photography business when I was 16 and which I still own and operate to this day. The reason why I don’t do photography full time, however, is because I don’t want my passion and hobby to turn into the source of pressure it might be if I relied on it to make a living. For me, it’s important to keep photography as a hobby business that’s there for me when I feel the need for a creative outlet. Im passionate about what I do as a career as well, but in a very different way.

    As an only child, I played a lot of video games as a kid and would relish in that escapism it provided. As I look back now I think a lot of those characters I played as then could be considered my role models. They commanded their presence, their powers, chased demons, and created magic. They definitely had an ensemble of traits I aspire towards.

    • What or who inspires you the most?

    I think what I draw most of my inspiration from is our tech community. I think we have a number of really fantastic people here who are really passionate about making our industry as vibrant as it can be and I’m personally really interested in helping this community grow and flourish as much as I can.

    In 2013, I founded a networking group in Victoria called PeopleOps. It stemmed from my interest in finding other people who are in HR roles in startups to learn from and grow with. I didn’t have a full grasp on what our community really entailed back then, so the amount of interest I received was really overwhelming. Lots of people responded saying “I’m figuring this out for the first time too”. We’re now at 65 members and run a vibrant and active Slack channel where we discuss the professional and developmental events we run on a monthly basis. We see people in HR grow and push themselves professionally while helping their respective teams grow and be successful. They want to be better to help their companies. Their passion is very inspiring and it inspires me to give back.

    Much in the same way, LLC is a vibrant community of women who want to grow and learn and be a part of the community as both learners and mentors.

    The passion both these groups show is very inspiring and reminds me to give it back.

    • With F@#% Up Nights becoming a popular community event, we’re witnessing a positive trend of being open about your failures and mistakes. What mistake have you made that you wouldn’t go back in time to change if you had the chance? What did you learn from it/them?

    What comes to mind for me isn’t a mistake, but something pivotal I experienced that yielded several learning opportunities: the work surrounding MediaCore’s acquisition. While overall I consider the acquisition a success, it wasn’t easy and there were many bumps along the way.

    It was the case of a startup company being purchased by a public company in San Francisco that has many accolades and strong revenue and is a solid contender in the market place. As far as acquiring companies are concerned, it probably couldn’t have got much better. The whole process of being acquired and of exiting, however, proved to be quite difficult and taught me a lot.

    It taught me about communication, how people deal with change, about self-balance, about advocating for employees, advocating for the company being sold and the company doing the buying. I learned that the due diligence process is extremely important, and about many intricacies that come with selling a company.

    While I wouldn’t go back in time to change anything, I’ll definitely use the knowledge I gained to benefit me and the company I’m with the next time I’m involved in a similar process.

    I look forward to the day when we do it all again.

    • Do you see a positive trend of expanding the diversity in tech in Victoria?

    I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us to create a more diverse tech community in Victoria. Things can always be better, and we could always be trending up. It can tend to be a matter of whether or not a community has the champions that are willing to put in the effort to make that happen, and I think that we do here in Victoria. More than ever, people are willing to have the conversation about what their companies need in order to attract diverse talent and engage them in a meaningful way. Change like that isn’t derived from one meeting to decide on strategy, but has to be a continuous conversation and continuous community goal.

    Stay tuned for more interviews with awesome leading women in our community by following us onFacebook or Medium