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24 hours with real estate startup Casalova

The real estate startup is located in downtown, Toronto — one of Canada’s most competitive real estate markets — which means employees have to always be on their toes since local listings can change in the blink of an eye.

Unlike some of its competitors, Casalova is a one-stop shop that brings together prospective renters, landlords and agents all in one place. Users who sign up get access to new homes and a certified agent, while landlords have their properties listed and also get a $100,000 insurance package so they can rest easy knowing that if a tenant damages their homes they won’t go into debt to fix it.

Here’s an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of Casalova’s team and their founder.

The agent: Jennifer Meade (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.)


Jennifer Meade, one of the company’s newest agents, knows all too well how volatile Toronto’s real estate market is these days. She’s seen up-close-and-personal the city’s property market jump more than 20 per cent in the last year, and more importantly the impact it’s had on prospective renters and buyers.

“Everything moves so fast now,” she explains. “If you want something in this market you have to be ready to move quickly because property can go just like that,” she says while snapping her fingers for added effect.

For Meade, most days involve checking her email to see which new clients she’s been matched with through Casalova or connecting with new renters through her own personal network. Today her client, a nurse moving from Barrie to Toronto, is looking for a condo to call home in the downtown core, which Meade confesses “can be tricky” since the prospective renter’s 14-hour job makes it difficult to view properties during normal hours.

Today her day starts at 7 a.m. when she scours local listings for new condos. When she finds one that matches her client’s needs (in this case parking and access to shopping and entertainment) she calls the property manager to book an appointment and waits for her client to make the long drive downtown.

Two hours later she shows the nurse around a lovely condo near the city’s waterfront while rattling of its impressive amenities — inclusive gym, pool and hot tub, to name a few. It’s a one bedroom, 778 square feet, home that overlooks Lake Ontario. While Meade thinks she may have found the hard-to-please nurse the perfect home her client isn’t so sure and wants to look at a few other places before making a final decision.

Keen to see her client view as many places as possible she hails a taxi that will shuttle both of them to their next destination. She also informs the condo owner over the phone that her client is interested in the property but needs a little more time to make a decision. “It’s important to keep every door open,” she says with a smile while juggling two phones.

Two hours and three condo viewings later (a cancelled showing due to a lost lockbox means the day ends early) just reinforces how much her client loved the first home showed to her. Meade later makes an official offer that day with help from Casalova’s customer service team and then make plans to meet tomorrow to follow-up on signing details.

“It always feels good when you find the perfect home for someone,” Meade explains.

The front-line staff: (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.)


Naveed Marzook, Casalova’s vice-president of customer success, loves his job. It’s easy to see that he and his team shoulder most of the face-to-face customer and agent work the company deals with on a daily basis. Any questions about properties, or payment requests go through his team.

The customer service team also helps customers navigate the website if necessary and add new homes to the company’s growing list of real estate options on an almost hourly basis.

For all intents and purposes, Marzook and his team are the swiss army knife of the company, although he prefers to refer to his team as the startup’s “helpers”. The go “above and beyond” what they’re expected to do all the time, he explains. “Everyone pitches in and we appreciate it.”

Marzook and his team believe that success boils down to the fact that they actually like working together. In an attempt to prove his point, he holds up a golden owl, fondly named Hooter, which is given to the team member who happens to “pitch in the most.”

Today it might be him, and the next day it could be Jess Shulist — one of his colleagues whose computer is decorated with Rihanna stickers and works with agents to get documents ready for clients.

“It’s a fun place to work,” Shulist says while looking fondly at Hooter. “I think it’s cool how we never forget to recognize how hard each other is working.”

The co-founder: Ray Jaff (3 p.m. to 8 p.m.)


Ray Jaff wakes up at 6 a.m everyday to workout. He works through company problems while running on the treadmill and brainstorms new solutions while lifting weights. “It’s what gets me through the day.”

The entrepreneur is dressed in a fitted oxford shirt and pleated pants but says he would be just as comfortable in jeans and a shirt.While working, he checks in with team members, goes over the website’s latest updates and the company’s plans to move from the DMZ to it’s new office at Peter & Adelaide as it expands its team and goes national.

At a meeting with the team’s Engineers, Jaff and the developers hunker down at their desk to come up with solutions and a tentative timeline for new product updates. Forty-five minutes later they’re done and the founder is already on his way to his next meeting. His phone blinks throughout his afternoon that includes phone calls regarding the company’s latest expansion into Vancouver’s real estate market and company updates.

Casalova now lists homes in Vancouver and the greater area — a real coup for the startup. “We’ve been working towards this for awhile.” When asked how he manages to avoid burnout, Jaff merely laughs and shrugs. “It’s a team effort, we’re all working on this together and we aim to only hire A-players who are dedicated to the Casalova mission. It’s makes everyone’s life a lot easier.”

This sentence doesn’t make sense.Today is the company’s appreciation lunch. Casalova’s real estate agents and front-line staff get together to celebrate their quarterly wins at a complimentary lunch while munching on sushi, chips, cupcakes and champagne. Despite its small team, the event is an important way to show how much their hard work is appreciated.

“Casalova is like a family. We value everyone and just because the agents aren’t in the office with us doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be here with us to celebrate.”

The award categories include ‘Rookie of the month’, hardest hustler, and MVP of th month.’ After the awards are given out, Jaff motions for people to take photos with the honourees and quickly segues into the company’s latest app. The updates, he explains, are important for to keep customers happy and stay on the cutting edge of technology.

Once the meeting is over, it’s back to meetings with staff, responding to emails and later one-on-ones about Vancouver. It’s almost 8 p.m. by the time the day is over for Jaff.

As he readies his things to leave for the night the entrepreneur’s eyes are still glued to his smartphone.

The post 24 hours with real estate startup Casalova appeared first on The DMZ.

Originally Published by Ryerson DMZ

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From science fiction to science fact: Tech that actually exists

For many, it serves as an inspiration and more importantly a peek into what the near future might offer. Everything from smartwatches to relatable robots can arguably be traced back to a fictional piece of work.

Thankfully technology moves at breakneck speeds and what was once considered impossible has quickly become reality. If you’ve ever wanted your very own hoverboard or a robotic servant to call your own, you’re in luck. Here are some of the best fiction-influenced technologies that now exist.


Fans of Marty McFly – the wonder kid from Back to the Future – can finally rejoice. The hoverboard that helped propel the smart-talking, wise-cracking teen to new heights is now a reality. In 2015, car company Lexus introduced its own version of the device that relies on “magnetic levitation” (read: magnets that repel gravity) to achieve lift-off.

Since then other companies have stepped up and created their own. U.S. startup Hendo Hoverboards introduced the world to its first levitating device on Kickstarter two years ago and since then has launched four different versions of the board that look and move like a traditional skateboard.

Embeddable microchips

In most dystopian movies, GPS-tracking microchips are tools oft used for nefarious reasons. Bad guys inject the tiny, plastic devices at underneath the skin of the heroic protagonist (or protagonists) in an attempt to track, manipulate and in some cases even kill. Thankfully, in real life, things aren’t so bad.

While tech startups (and a few forward-thinking innovators) have long flirted with the idea of embeddable tracking technology it’s only in recent years that it’s become a real possibility.

Wisconsin-based Three Square Market is one of the first in North America to provide its employees with tracking chips that allow them to enter and exit a building at will and make cashless purchases from company kiosks. The devices, the size of a single grain of rice, use radio-frequency identification (RFID) — the same technology found in key fobs and smart wristbands. While Three Square Market’s chips don’t include in-depth tracking by choice the Swedish company — called Biohax International — behind the device does include that feature in its other smart embeddable products.

The Jetson’s ‘Rosie the Robot’

Robots are all too often employed by Hollywood as a way to demonstrate just how modern and advanced a society is without being explicit. It’s a popular trope that can be found in Star Trek’s Data, Ava from Ex-Machina and even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in The Terminator. While the characters from our favourite science fiction novels aren’t feasible just yet, several companies have figured out a way to emulate some of their best features.

Sophia, a humanoid robot created by Hanson robotics, is as close as it gets to a Rosie from The Jetsons. She can converse in up to 20 languages, easily mimic human emotions, clean and respond to questions in real-time. Her skills have even garnered her a vocal and enthusiastic following online and since being launched last year has appeared at the UN, Jimmy Kimmel Live and CNBC.

Driverless cars

Hiring a human driver is so passé. If science-fiction movies are to be believed the best way to travel is with an artificially intelligent and self-aware driver behind the wheel. Knight Rider’s Michael Arthur Long and his trusty sidekick — the smooth-sounding Pontiac Firebird Trans Am — were for many the epitome for what a smart car should act like.

The growing roster of driverless cars on the market, unfortunately, lack the spunk found in KITT (the affectionate nickname for the car) but they do showcase some of the basics that consumers will likely want in a vehicle.

Google, one of the top companies in the AI driving market, has seen its cars rack up a total of three million self-driving miles so far. It’s autonomous fleet rely on sensors to differentiate between pedestrians, other cars and cyclists and can transport individuals to their chosen destination, just like KITT.


The post From science fiction to science fact: Tech that actually exists appeared first on The DMZ.

Originally Published by Ryerson DMZ

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Fire-plagued BC breathes easier thanks to Waterloo Region startup

Rich Szasz was all set to execute a soft launch of his company’s air filtration masks this month in China.
Two and half years of work had gone into the Kitchener startup’s masks, which it hoped to sell to customers worried about air pollution in the Asian country and other parts of that region.
Then wild fires erupted in the B.C. interior.
As residents scrambled from their homes and a massive evacuation unfolded, Szasz and his partner Peter Whitby, co-founders of O2 Canada, realized they were in a great position to help.
In mid-July Szasz hopped on a plane to China where he visited the company’s manufacturing facility. There he arranged to speed up the production and packaging of the masks so they could be shipped as soon as possible to the western province.
The first 250 masks arrived last week. O2 is distributing them for free to Salvation Army workers, front-line staff, helicopter pilots and residents with breathing problems in the areas of Kelowna, Kamloops and Cache Creek.
A further 1,000 masks arrived this week. O2 can’t afford to give away those masks but is hoping to distribute as many as possible free of charge using a crowd-funding campaign on Go Fund Me.

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Auvik Networks lands CDN$15 million Series B round

Aiming to aggressively expand its market reach and quickly double the size of its workforce, Waterloo-based Auvik Networks, maker of network monitoring and management software, has announced it has raised CDN$15 million in a Series B financing round.
“We want to invest more in our product and expand our product offering as well as expand our geography,” said Marc Morin, Auvik co-founder and CEO.
The round is being led by Boston-based venture capital firm OpenView with participation from existing investors Celtic House Venture Partners and Rho Canada Ventures.
Auvik’s software suite is the tool that managed service providers use to keep their clients’ IT networks running smoothly. Many small to medium businesses outsource the management of their IT and Internet networks to a managed service provider.
Morin is well-known in the Waterloo Region ecosystem. He is co-founder of PixStream, the video networking pioneer which sold to Cisco Systems in 2000 for US$369 million. He is also a co-founder of well-known Waterloo broadband services provider Sandvine. Morin partnered with Alex Hoff to form Auvik in 2012, and former BlackBerry Chief Technology Officer David Yach joined as a third co-founder shortly thereafter. That same year, Auvik raised a CDN$6-million seed round.
Morin said Auvik will use its Series

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Ontario government launches lab at Communitech to transform digital services

When it comes to interacting with government, we’ve all been there: In a long line waiting to renew a driver’s licence; at a laptop trying to order a document; on a mobile phone looking for a specific piece of information.
Today, the Ontario government took a big step towards reducing the friction of those interactions. It opened the Ontario Digital Service Lab at the Communitech Hub, the nexus of Waterloo Region’s teeming technology community, where an eight-member team will focus on transforming the way the province designs and delivers its services.
“This government is committed to making Ontarians’ lives easier,” said Deb Matthews, Minister Responsible for Digital Government and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, who visited the Hub today. “One way we’re doing that is by making citizen interaction with government easy, quick and convenient.
“To do that we need to transform the way we think about government services, design and delivery. The Ontario Digital Service Lab is an important step towards achieving this goal.”
Another important step Ontario has already taken is the hiring earlier this year of Hillary Hartley as the province’s first-ever Chief Digital Officer. Hartley co-founded 18F, the innovation team that is helping to modernize the United States

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Nimble Hippo Radio: Anthony Bartolo on learning from hackers

Anthony Bartolo — Senior Audience Evangelism Manager at Microsoft — has a unique approach to engaging with the hackers and developers in the Microsoft ecosystem: he wants to learn from them. It might not sound radical, but in the modern world of corporate innovation, hackathons are often seen exclusively as a source of talent. Since it’s virtually impossible to build a robust, working prototype in 36 hours, enterprises are usually looking for potential, not learning about product.

For Bartolo, hackathons are much more than a farm team for engineers. Hackathons are where you learn about the problems you didn’t even know you had.
The post Nimble Hippo Radio: Anthony Bartolo on learning from hackers appeared first on Communitech News.

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Emmetros: Where everyone, including employees, feel the love

“We build respect for boundaries into our agreements [with our employees] and we stick to them. Foosball tables can’t compare with being able to go to your daughter’s horseback riding lesson after work.” – Mary Pat Hinton, CEO and co-founder of Emmetros, in The Waterloo Region Record, May 18, 2017.
Most of us are reminded daily of the anxiety affiliated with juggling the competing demands of work and personal life. Compromise one or the other  – will work pay the price today or will family? – and we hemorrhage worry and guilt. We’ve all been there.
And so you’ll understand the tears of gratitude that welled up in Tanya McPherson’s eyes recently as she talked about her current employer, Emmetros. When McPherson was hired, Emmetros helped her custom-design a short work week that suited her family needs; it enshrined her work week in a written contract and continues to make iron-clad certain that the contract gets respected.
“It changed my life,” says McPherson, Chief Operating Officer at Emmetros, a three-year-old Waterloo Region startup that makes a software platform designed to help people suffering from dementia better manage their lives.
Companies that commit to work-life balance are hardly unique. Many forward-thinking firms have an informal,

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Parent trap: Here’s how entrepreneurs with kids make it work

Being an entrepreneur is hard, but being a parent (one of the toughest jobs in the world) and running your own business at the same time is even harder.

While most people would assume that combining children and a career in tech could end up being a hindrance, it’s actually a boost to an entrepreneur’s bottom line if they can manage to pull it off.

Children and careers can make the perfect combination

The startup life usually comes with late nights, negligible pay and unpredictable schedules. That added stress can easily become overwhelming. For some founders being a parent is a boon because it forces them to be smarter, faster and better at prioritizing what really matters in life and work.

“The best part is that you get to cut the crap out of your life — no watching YouTube or on Reddit when I’m at work,” explains Matthew Karabela, co-founder of Go Fetch It. The DMZ-based startup connects businesses and Canadians with pick-up drivers, truckers and other hauling equipment operators from across the country.

“Having kids teaches you how to give [work] your all when you have free time and really focus.”

Karabela’s company – which he describes as an “Uber for pickups and deliveries” – is especially unique in the startup ecosystem because two out of three of its founders are parents. “Not many companies have one founder with kids and we have two but it hasn’t stopped us from being successful.”

Since launching last year, Fetchit has seen its membership increase to 1600 users, partnered with over 20 businesses in Toronto, and now has approximately 220 drivers using its service. Despite its early success, the father of two is quick to admit that his company gains didn’t come easy.

Having an eight month old and toddler at home means he’s missed a few bed night stories throughout the year, which has also coincidentally made him a master at multitasking.

Changing nappies with one hand while holding town hall meetings or working late into the night to accommodate sick kids comes with the territory, he says. “It’s hard work, that’s true, but I wouldn’t change anything” he explains. “When you think about it like a business, raising kids gives you a better return in the long run. My family makes me a better person.”

Benefits of being a parent: Advice from the other side

Sharn Kandola, cofounder of real estate startup Feed Duck and mother of two, believes the difficulties that go along with raising kids sometimes overshadows how beneficial they can be for a founder’s business.

In the startup world, where networking is a crucial part of the biz, being a parent can open up social and professional circles in a way that cocktail mixers and after-hour meet-and-greets can’t. “You meet so many people just by going to parent events or school activities,” she explains.

Parenthood also helps entrepreneurs stand out among the competition and be a better boss.

“Being a parent gives you a better perspective, because you know what it’s like to lead and guide someone else,”

Kandola later adds: “If you’re an entrepreneur and a parent you can help support other entrepreneurs and your business as a whole because you spend so much of your time doing it at home.”

Secrets to success

For Karabela, balancing both worlds and the responsibilities that go along with it requires hard work. Unlike at regular nine-to-five jobs, sick leave is poor and maternity leave almost non-existent. Understanding your personal limitations, leaning on friends and making exceptions in the short-term to help your business get ahead should be a given.

Kandola agrees. The entrepreneur wakes up early so she can focus on her business and get a head start on the day. A 5 a.m. wake up call during the work week might be daunting for some but it’s one of the few constants in her busy, hectic life that ensures that her business doesn’t suffer if her family needs her.

“You make sacrifices for what matters. It’s no different from what other entrepreneurs have to do.”

The post Parent trap: Here’s how entrepreneurs with kids make it work appeared first on The DMZ.

Originally Published by Ryerson DMZ

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InFlight celebrates as King Street reopens

King Street has reopened in downtown Kitchener, a milestone in Waterloo Region’s reinvention of its transit infrastructure.
Communitech News caught up with InFlight, a tech company that just opened an office in midtown, perfectly placed to enjoy the new flowing traffic.
Featuring remarks from Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and art by Jennifer Gough and Taylor Jones.
The post InFlight celebrates as King Street reopens appeared first on Communitech News.

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M-Theory: Communication breakdown, it’s always the same

Recently I posted a picture to Instagram of a New Zealand beer that a co-worker had brought me. My niece liked the picture, but she’s 9, so I jokingly chastised her that she’s not allowed to like pictures of beers. Her response was that she wanted to give me a like.
We all have that one connection on our social sites who seems to “like” everything posted. Everything. I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to roll my eyes most of the time.
But my niece’s comment gave me pause. She wasn’t liking the beer; she was liking me. This was yet another wakeup call regarding how people (mostly younger) use media and develop/spend social capital.
It’s similar, I think, to how conversations on instant message apps between herself and her sister (and sometimes with me) can consist almost entirely of stickers and emojis. It’s mostly nonsense, but can be a lot of fun.
Attention has become a currency, sometimes more valuable than actual currency, and there are real physical and psychological responses to getting, having, not getting it, or losing it:
When you see those three dots that tell you someone is composing a reply to your message, but the message

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