Jennifer Morrison Hosts Alberio Bathory-Frota and Robbie Butchart
Listen to the episode here: rainforestalberta.podbean.com/e/e0159/
[00:00:00] Jen Morrison: All right. Welcome everybody. My name is Jen Morrison and I'm happy to host another episode of the LIBI podcast. Today I'm excited to talk to two really funny, incredible outgoing,innovative guys that are creating, an incredible company, here in Calgary and around the world. So welcome Alberio and Robbie.
[00:00:21] Alberio BathoryFrota: Thank you, Jen. Thanks for having us.
[00:00:22] Robbie Butchart: Thank Jen, that was quite an introduction. I'm excited for this one.
[00:00:26] Jen Morrison: Well, you know, you know, it's easy to speak kindly about people that are great. so for context, Alverno is the CEO and co-founder of LaunchCode and, Robbie is the CRO of LaunchCode. So they are creating the path and creating new, opportunities for the innovation ecosystem here in Calgary and Alberta, which is really exciting.
So let's dig in guys, and, you know, start with the question that's fun to ask, you know, who were you as kids? And I think that often we have, you know, personality traits and character traits that are innate with us. As children and that can continue with us throughout our lives. And hopefully it'd be part of the work that we get to do as grownups.
So let's start with Alberio, feel free to share whatever you like. you know, where you're from, background friends, family, but, yeah. Who was Alverno as a kid?
[00:01:19] Alberio BathoryFrota: Perfect, love it. Thanks Jen. And I'll try to keep this within a reasonable amount time, because I could probably talk for a few days straight.
but yeah. so I was born in Brazil. I was actually born right off of the equator in Brazil, a nice little beach town, a beautiful sunny days everyday around 30. And at the age of nine, we decided to move to a more tropical place called Edmonton now where I was bombarded with white stuff that was not white sand.
but it was a really cool experience. Right. at that time I didn't speak a single lick of English. It was, it was. I had to learn and understand, you know, on the ground running. I was put in the school there. I remember sitting in class having no idea what the teacher was talking about, what people were talking about.
[00:02:01] Alberio BathoryFrota: Right. And I think, what really helped me out during that time is, is the fact that, you know, as a kid, I'm a bit, I was a very curious person. I still am. Right. I'm very curious and very experiential. I find that I learn a lot more through experiences than I do, through reading or listening.
So. What I found at that time was that, you know, that that was kind of a really good trait for me, which was good too, because as many people will tell you, I have a pretty bad memory. So I always, I always have to relearn things by re-experiencing them. which kind of, I think has helped me in the long-term because it allows me to, you know, have a bit of a different problem solving skills than most, where I just kind of have to rely on my experience of basically relearning from scratch a lot of things, right? So that's, that's, you know who I was as a kid. Very, very curious, very experiential. I absolutely love nature. I love being out in nature. You know, I, we'd like to travel a lot. My family likes to travel a lot. I have family throughout the world.
Right? So my mom's side of the family is actually in Slovakia. I have, I have family there. My dad's side of the family's in Brazil. I have family in the United States. You know, I have how many here in Canada, so we absolutely love to travel a lot. And, and my, my perfect type of travel is that, you know, experiencing new things, right.
I'm not necessarily one that likes to go. To let's say the museums or things that are, you know, you'll find out postcards. I like to just kind of go in the place and, and be, and do what the locals do without a tremendous amount of, you know, organized or scheduled activities. You just go and you kind of experience it. Right. Absolutely love that. did that love that as a kid, as well, so that's who I am.
[00:03:35] Jen Morrison: Oh, that's amazing. Well, I can relate a lot to that curiosity piece. In fact, I have it, the word tattooed on my body, and I also can relate to the notion of taking the road less traveled, especially when traveling, you know, not going where everybody else goes.
I feel like we could share a lot of stories about that. So, but we'll park that and dig into that another time I want to. You know, let Robbie, answer that question as well. You know, who was Robbie as a kid where you from family traits that you, that you had innately and that are still part of who you are today. You want to share a little bit about that?
[00:04:11] Robbie Butchart: Yeah. Wonderful. Thank you. And the crazy thing is I'm the talker. So this is going to be a bit of a long one. Hey. The, the reality of, my mine's a lot less exciting when it comes to, you know, the fact that, you know, Alberio from Brazil and, and had to come to a different country, but, I'm born and raised Calgarian, you know, my whole family is from here. I'm still here to this day. my, a lot of the stuff I did growing up was all focused around sport, had a lot of energy. Outgoing from a young age was always kinda like to be the life of the party and, you know, have fun. That's kind of how I recharge, you know, and I figured that out at a fairly young age, that I really recharge with a lot of people around and, and, and just genuinely enjoy the presence of people.
so it got into sports to try and, you know, at a, at a young age to try and disperse some of that energy that I had a lot from my parents, I think drove him nuts a little bit. and a lot of the friendships that I kinda gathered through the years were all a derivative of that, of the different sports that I was involved with.
[00:05:05] Robbie Butchart: So a big focus for me was, was kind of, you know, that, that, that expression there, through those, those team sports, and then just found some stuff into the individual side as well. So, anything in anything, anything, and everything I can get involved with from a sporting perspective, I tried to so,
[00:05:20] Jen Morrison: Well, there you go. I know, I wish we had hours to talk about this, cause I'm sure we could, all, we could all talk for a long time, but any particular sports or, you know, activities that. That you really love to do Robbie, that you feel really launched, you know, who you were as a person as well?
[00:05:38] Robbie Butchart: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I, I think back through it all, and a lot of it was team-based and then a lot of outdoor stuff, you know, I really love being outside.
So, you know, in the winter, a lot of it was hockey related. I grew up playing it from a young age and, and stayed until the high school years. getting into different sports, you know, during the summer was golf and a lot of racket sports outside too. and then evolved as I got into, as I've gotten older and actually got into skiing at an older age with my kids and learned with them, so humbling experience, but a lot of fun, you know, try something new.
So, that was, that was really, a lot of fun. So that was, that was the focus.
[00:06:10] Jen Morrison: That's amazing. So building on what you've both shared, you know, Alberio being curious and, you know, experiential and, and Robbie really loving being around people and, you know, expressing energy and enthusiasm through sport.
You now are building and creating LaunchCode, right. Alberio's, CEO and co-founder, and then Robbie, the CRO and partner in LaunchCode. So, but you didn't end up there right away. So I'm wondering if you can both share your professional journey, of how after finishing high school, what was that period of time like between then, and the work that you're doing now, and I'll start with Robbie actually. Do you want to share a little bit about your professional journey?
[00:06:52] Robbie Butchart: Yeah, I kinda, you know, like Alberio likes to travel. I took the road less traveled when I come to my, my, my track here. So all of, out of high school, I didn't, I didn't follow the typical path that a lot of people did. you know, I think for me, I didn't want to waste time and I want to really find out what I was passionate about and, you know, kind of reflecting after those years, it was all kind of around like, what do you want to do?
And for me, I couldn't really nail that down. You know, it was something that took me some time to figure out, but it genuine, it came, kind of just organically through, some experiences that, falling into a sales professional, kind of mindset is kind of where I started and I started at a very,a slingin cell phones will go with, you know, and so out of high school and kind of early twenties and just kind of trying to figure things out and got really enjoyed it again, all about people.
Right? So you're, you're kind of getting into an experience of dealing with. A multitude of different personalities that allow for you just to kind of hone in your skills and, that evolved, did, did well there. And that evolved into actually moving in, and getting into, an organization that sells hardware and software as well.
And did that for about nine years. And the, what I've found through that is that, you know, there's a unique opportunity, through that 10,000 hours concept, right? You become. Professionally become an expert after 10,000 hours of going at something. And I got to that point and I just, I, my, my curiosity and passion for helping people just kind of continued throughout those, those kinds of, those former formidable years in my professional career.
And through that, you know, really getting into the idea. Opening my own organization. And through opening that, or having that concept of opening it,approached Alberio is as to be a client of mine. you know, and it was really a fun conversation to how we got to this point in time. You know, and, and it really opened my eyes through what he had done.
Just kind of being, being a friend on the side for a number of years on what's possible when you have people that just are super driven. So for me, you know, you get the last four and a bit years here where I've been with LaunchCode and what we've been able to accomplish through that just touches on the experiences that we've all had and the true passion to, to get us to a point that we're seeing the success that we are today, which has been a lot of fun.
[00:09:05] Jen Morrison: It's amazing how after you've had years, of, of different roles or professions or whatnot, how you can look back and recognize how each of those set you up with skills that at the time, maybe you didn't recognize. We're going to benefit you down the road in that way. so really, really interesting to hear you share that Robbie, how about you, Alberio like, what about your professional journey and your, you seem to be quite the serial entrepreneur, like, that's just what you've done the whole time. Do you want to share a little bit about your, your journey after, after high school?
[00:09:39] Alberio BathoryFrota: Ya, for sure, and I think it's a continuation right. Of the curiosity and the experiences.
I, I love experiences. I love new experiences. So for me, you know, when I was younger too,big, I was big into tech. I remember taking, you know, computers apart, my mom's computer apart taking other pieces of tech apart. And I was always really, really, you know, curious about it, and I really enjoyed tech in general.
So obviously the natural thing was to go into computing science for my undergrad. Right. And, and about three years, you know, in, into computing science, there was the bug there that, you know, I'd like to start a business. So in my, in my third year in comp sci I started a business, where I was basically reselling software and hardware to companies, I was helping them set up their networks. So I kind of stacked all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all my classes and labs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then I'd work Monday, Wednesday, Fridays, which was, which is phenomenal, is a great experience, right? my, my marks were never the greatest.
They were just middle of the pack, but enough to kind of get you by. And it was really through that third and fourth year. I'm like, you know what? I really enjoy, you know, the, the business side of it so I did that and when I graduated, I actually got a job in with IT for governments. So I worked for a couple of different governments, in that, during that time too, I had another friend of mine from Edmonton that had his own business in the past is also into business. Always, you know, worked loved building things with his hands, him and I got together and said, Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we built a company that, you know, this and this. and so we, we did, we got together, we started building and through that process, you know, there's been different startups and sometimes it's just products.
We try new products, try to sell them that we've done across, you know, across our history. And it's always been so, so engaging. Right. I did have. And I guess part of that experience too, I'm always, I'm always constantly trying to learn. Right. So trying to learn through, through, you know, activities I do online, but I also went back to school where they, you know, I did my masters in computing science but never completed that.
But I did my master's, you know, my MBA completed that one. I'm actually, you know, and then I started taking courses in philosophy, to us as a philosophy. students. So in the end, I think it had been in student about five different universities or some crazy like that. But, you know, it's, it's kinda that, that model, I'm always trying to experience something new and going out there and do it.
[00:11:51] Jen Morrison: Well, and I think as well for, for the, both of you, because you are leaders in the organization, you know, that you're creating and building. Being an effective leader is not just one part. There's so many different pieces that, you know, create and build effective leaders. And I think that, you know, being curious about different facets of what that could look like is really important.
okay. So for the, both of you, I, it seems to me that you, you didn't have that typical path, which I know I can relate to. I know a lot of people listening can relate to that. Was there any particular, I guess, curve ball, or situation or circumstance that you experienced along the way, professionally that at the time might have been difficult, but actually created new opportunities that you didn't expect. Is there anything that jumps out?
lots, right, lots it's funny because
[00:12:45] Jen Morrison: well you can share more than one if you want
[00:12:47] Alberio BathoryFrota: for sure. You know, and I joke around with Robbie all the time, too. I know. Kind of what makes at least what I think makes people successful in business is your ability to just be kicked as many times.
As, as you can, and as hard as you can and still just continue on, you know, your ability to, to handle adversity and these challenges and just continue on is, is a big factor. Right. And I think in the beginning, I probably would have been affected a lot more by certain curve balls, you know, and looking back, it was, you know, maybe the first one that was like the first, the first two or three customers saying, yeah, wait, why are you selling this?
Like there's a year to have a competitor and he's way bigger than you. and he's got everybody else. Why you guys even do try and do this right. That I think was a lot more, heartbreaking, maybe, you know, it just affected me a lot more in the beginning of this journey. Now it doesn't because you have those experiences.
Right. but it was, it was just your ability to, to hear that. And then, you know, look through it a little bit and say, you know what, that's okay you know, here's a kick I got, but I'm going to continue on, I'm going to try this out. Right. I think that's, that's really a tremendous success factor. Like if you have the perseverance, right.
And not only just the perseverance, but the ability to persevere without just being super stressed, right. You kind of have to let it deflect off of you at times, if you can. That is huge. you know, another one, obviously I always say this to people who are trying to start a business, have a partner, a partner will keep you accountable and there's a lot of us.
And unless you're very, very unique and distinct, there's a lot of us that you know, when, when things are getting hard and it's a Friday night and you know, you don't want to, you don't want to do something and you're like, ah, I'll do it tomorrow. When you have a partner, that's keeping you accountable, it's you, you keep persevering and keep doing it.
Right. And then you could also kind of diverged some of those challenging times or challenging, factions between, so we've, we've had lots of curve balls, you know, some examples, like I said, being Braden off the, off the bat, things like that, competitors doing things to us where, you know, where they were, You know, questionable and on ethical point, whether you they're supposed to be doing that or not persevering through that, negative news, you know, stories about our products or the company that we've had legislation that was passed, that would stop our product in California, had to, you know, have to fight against that.
So there's a tremendous amount, but. Fighting a legislation and, and legislators in California versus a customer, one customer telling you that you shouldn't, you know, your product is, is obsolete. It's, it's the same thing. It's a challenge. It's just how you, how you deal with it. Right. it's, you know, one may seem bigger than the other, but it's not, if you, if you can add a boat the same way with persevere, then I think you'll be very, very successful.
it's it's a, it's a broad question. And, you know, I was thinking about that as he's been talking. Every day there's something that comes up. Like, there's not a day that goes by that you don't have something come at you that you need to deal with. And whether it's personally, professionally, you know, like you have a death in the family think of personal and how are you going to persevere through that when you are, again, that, that, that term that he used perseverance, it's the key to it all.
[00:15:50] Robbie Butchart: And there's a lot more graphical kicking that we talk about when it comes to just how tough it can be, you know? but you know, like you think of, you know, situations that happen with friends that you ended up going into the hospital for whatever reason, or, you know, you have a family member that's not in town that has health problems.
Like there's stuff like that, that comes into the play and you have to disconnect the emotion that you're feeling in order to fulfill your commitments to not only your business partner, but your clients, and then the people that work with you and for you like that, that's a, that's a really tall order to do so to be able to really kind of get through the day-to-day curve balls.
Cause there's not one thing I don't think that sticks out in people's minds. I'm sure there's, you know, as you go through these things, there's a accumulation of them, but really it's, it's the ability to disconnect, understand that whatever's meant to happen is going to, and you're going to be okay. You know, you almost have to deescalate the severity of the situations because there's some crazy stuff that comes up at ya and you have to just move past it. It's a learned skill.
[00:16:59] Jen Morrison: I really, I think it's great that both of you have talked about having that support system or that partner or that team around you, that can not only hold you accountable, but also provide that counterbalance in those moments. Right. You know, when things are coming up. and I also can appreciate, you know, disconnecting from the emotions of a situation can be really hard, especially when you're so invested in the work.
And clearly over time, you can get better at it. But is that, is that something that is still a challenge for the both of you, you know, especially when you're so invested in care so deeply about the company and the people and you know, the clients that you're, you're creating this for?
[00:17:36] Alberio BathoryFrota: For sure. I think what you, what you really said there is when you care real deeply.
And for me, that's, that's a big one, right? Cause you do, you put, you put a lot of time and effort, your own blood, sweat, and tears into this thing. And then sometimes, one of those challenges is one of those that, that makes, makes it seem like you don't care. You're not doing something right. And then, you know, that's when it kind of affects you a bit because you're like, you know what, I really, you know, I'm trying my best here.
We're really trying our best to make this, this organization, you know, the best he can be. So it kind of still does. Right. But at the end of the day, you have to just take it in stride. And I think, like you said that the partners is, is important for that too. I think things that affect me, probably don't affect Robbie as much, you know, it doesn't affect their other partners much, but, you know, And vice versa.
So, you know, having that, that sounding board and being able to talk among ourselves, with really it helps out, right. It makes it so that we can persevere easier.
[00:18:31] Robbie Butchart: Yeah. And I mean, just in addition to that too, you know, like having an understanding and having emotional intelligence for me, like that's, I'm an emotionally charged person.
So I think understanding what makes you tick and knowing who you are, allows you to deal with those situations differently too. Like I always have been, I have always been an emotionally driven person and. Having that awareness, as Alberio laughs, is something it's something that is for me is a struggle every day.
Right? Cause there's so much passion that goes into what we do that to disassociate and disconnect from that is, is hard, you know, because you, you, you don't want to take it personally, but sometimes it just comes that way and you have to just. Reset and find a way to disassociate and disconnect those, those intense feelings you get.
[00:19:17] Jen Morrison: Thinking about that space, you know, that space of like between the emotion and then like the strategy of the next step.
And how do you navigate the challenge? That's come up. okay. So the two of you are clearly, you've got a good relationship. You're you seem to be great friends from what I can tell. and you've worked together for a while now. I want to know how you met. So how did you meet? And then I, on, on that, you know, after that story is shared, you went into business together.
So you don't just go into business with anybody. So I'm wondering if you can identify the things in each other that you knew this was a fit like this was a, this was a partner and this is someone that I could, you know, build a business with, because it's not for the faint of heart. So tell us about how you met and then what about each other created that space to, to build the business?
[00:20:09] Robbie Butchart: Sure. So we actually met over 10 years ago now. I think, 11? I mean, I know he's got a circle on his calendar and he's thankful every day it's part of his gratitude mornings, gratitude mornings.
it actually, it actually, started with the family. So, my oldest son and his daughter, are the same age we're going to kindergarten together and the wives became friends and, we kind of. You started hanging out as acquaintances through, through the kids and the wives, and then, you know, kind of did some lots of exciting things, you know, outside of work. some stuff we can talk about, some we can't, and the reality of it is, is just, you know, had a lot of fun, in, in kind of getting to know each other and the families get along really well. And that's, that's a uniqueness in itself. So, you know, we hung out for quite a while for almost 10 years and, you know, getting into the business side of it was, that was an interesting one because when I.
[00:21:00] Robbie Butchart: I approached him and I'll let him tell his side of the story here, shortly. But like, from my perspective, you know, I was moving out of my, my, my, my position. I was in previously for about almost 10 years. And I was looking at starting my own sales consulting company. And I had, I had a fundamental challenge with my business model and I thought I figured it out.
And I was approaching people that I, you know, I respected. And then I came to Alberio. So it's one of those things that, you know, I was like, this is my, this is my concept. And this one, I'm thinking. Here's my challenge. And before I kind of got to the end of that, him and James who's, our other business partner were like, you know what we want to bring in.
We want to see what we can do with this whole other side of this business. We want to create. And with my history and understanding what was being able to be sold off the shelf, from a, from a software perspective, I saw a very significant opportunity with this, and I kinda, I did it in conjunction with, and, and you know, quite frankly, I'll let, I'll let Alberio tell his side.
you know, the trust that I was given at a very early stage was significant and, and, it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't surprise me just given the character that, you know, Alberio and James have, but, still in that sense, it was. was, was, was a big step forward of faith as big leap of faith.
[00:22:09] Robbie Butchart: And I think that talks a little bit too about, what it takes to be successful in this space is you have to have faith. So, that's my version of the story. And, I'll let Alberio tell, tell his side.
[00:22:19] Alberio BathoryFrota: Sure. I remember actually I do remember the first time we met, I was at my place you came over and yes, and I think we drank between the two of us.
More than we should have. So a night like that it usually makes for good conversation and good memories. Right. so, but yeah, no, no. It's, what's interesting about Robbie is his one-on-one those guys like when you, when you go into a room. You know, let's say it's a party and you don't know anybody. And there's a, and there's one guy that kind of just has that energy.
And you're like, man, I, you know, I really want to be friends with this guy. Like that was Robbie. And I remember, you know, the first time we met and he really had that energy where, where you, you really, you felt, you know, that, that not only is he a guy with a lot of energy, a lot of movement, but he's a guy that kind of, that really cares about you.
Right? So a lot of his questions were very, you know, introspective and, and not just because trying to make chitchat or talk, but because he generally cared. And then I felt that, you know, as our relationship, when we became friends, he was a guy that really knew what was going on in my life all the time and was always caring about it, which was,you know, a phenomenal thing.
That, you know, right off the bat that I knew that's that was somebody that obviously wanted to be friends for the rest of your life. And, and so that was on the friend side, on, on the business side. Yeah. You know, myself and James, we, we started the company in. It was, if it was first, it was a product company.
That's the one we started in 2005, so many years, many, many years ago. He's the one that I mentioned that, you know, reached out and we said, Hey, do we want to start a company together? And along that path, we've tried different product lines and different businesses. And James got to know Robbie and at a certain point, some of our clients were asking us to do something different than our product, build something that was new.
so we did it a few times and, and it was working really well. Right. So we thought, okay, well I think we have a business here, this custom development work. Right. and we said, okay, well, you know, if we want to go down this path and build custom software, let's bring in, let's see if we can bring in, you know, the best guy we know in, in terms of, of, you know, network and getting to know people and, and, and not just necessarily bring them to our company, but genuinely care about what is their challenge you're trying to solve. Right? What a, you know, in this has to be a genuine person that cares. And so, you know, he does, he cares about what, what problem are you trying to solve? ensures that, that we have that phenomenal relationship with our clients, right?
that is something that you know about Robbie, that that is tremendous and I've never seen it. Anybody else. You know, we will sacrifice many things in our organization to ensure that our client is happy and at the end of the day. Like that is the number one thing important. That's important to him. So we knew right away, like this is a match made in heaven.
[00:25:03] Alberio BathoryFrota: Like, you know, he's, he's our guy that we want. And, and we brought him on board and we built the LaunchCode brand with him, you know, as a partner. So, you know, he's, he's our partner in that in, and, and the success has been phenomenal.
[00:25:16] Jen Morrison: There you go. So building on that, right? Thinking about the characteristics of each other, that you were drawn to, to not only create a friendship, but also, you know, step into business together.
so I'm going to have Robbie, I want you to answer this for Alberio and Alberio. I want you to answer this for Robbie. From your perspective guys, like what is the mindset? Because we're talking about entrepreneurship here and which is not an easy path and no entrepreneurial journey is the same. What do you see in terms of mindset in each other that you think are really foundational to success as an entrepreneur
[00:25:54] Alberio BathoryFrota: You know, Robbie really, really cares about people in general, right? He cares, the generally cares about people, and he cares to ensure that people are happy and you see that internally with, with our own team, but you see that externally with our clients and our partners. And it's a huge thing because. that mindset is one of, you know, creating value for someone else.
Not, you know, you're not creating value for yourself. and I, you know, I truly believe that's, that's a huge, huge talent to have you got to, you know, you got to build something or you gotta develop something or you got to create a solution. something that brings value to somebody else. It can't be just, you know, we want to bring customers because we want to make X amount of revenue.
It has to be to truly solve a problem. It has to do to create something that's, that's better for that client or better for the world in general. Right. And I, and that's, you know, a mindset that I see in Robbie there. It is phenomenal for us.
[00:26:48] Robbie Butchart: And I'll, you know, I mean, from my perspective, you know, like I, I was thinking that as I was talking about it and just kind of listening to the story again, it's funny when you do some retrospective thinking when you're in the, in the midst of it.
And you know, like for me, when I came in, it was, it was an unwavering belief in, in what Alberio and James had created and, you know, understanding that, specifically with what, what Alberio holds as that, that CEO is that, you know, there's a visionary state. There is trust that, you know, he exudes in people and when he gives people trust, you want to trust him immediately.
And for me coming in, it was that, that. I can get behind this guy, you know, I can get, I can get into, into the passenger seat, the driver's seat, the back seat. I don't care where it is and we can, we can push this forward because there's alignment there. And the willingness to be able to, you know, look at situations with humility and understand that there is an opportunity that we all see, and we just got to work together in alignment.
When you have that mindset and you in the room, every single time you get into a meeting, you don't have to worry about the BS. You know, like you taught, I've been a part of many different companies and there's always just politics and drama and BS that need to deal with. And that just doesn't happen with, with Alberio as a whole.
What you see is what you get, and that is. So freeing and with that environment coming in and having that, I remember they don't give me a lot here. I'm surprised he's going to walk out of the building here after I've done this, but it's true for people to understand this. So, you know, like that is something that is so key is that you can, if you can remove all the BS and you have trust and faith and humility, when you walk in the door, you've got a team that's behind you, you know, and that's every day, you know, and, and I would say the one thing that, as a whole, both of him, both he and I just kind of exude is that unwavering belief and faith. We know this is going to work. There isn't another option. That's it like we will find a way. And so when you have that, that unwavering faith and knowing that your outcome will be what, you're, what you're setting out for you, you get people that get amped up and get excited.
Cause you're building momentum and excitement through the passion that you bring into every conversation. So I would say that that's a, an add in that, you know, ties into to what you need to have from a characteristic trait.
[00:29:24] Jen Morrison: As you were both talking. Like, it just is so clear to me, how. As an entrepreneur or starting something new or coming up with an idea that, you know, pushes the boundaries or challenges people to step outside of their comfort zone, whatever that is.
I really hear two things coming from the both of you. I hear. The importance of team, the importance of surrounding yourself with people that are aligned, you don't have to be the exact same people, but like, what are those root things that you care about that you value that the, your team and those around you will value as well.
And how do you surround yourself with people that will build on that? So that's one thing that was coming to mind. And then the second is trust and that's a big one. And it's interesting because part of me thinks, you know, it takes time to build trust, but at the same time, Why not start with trust. Do you guys have any thoughts on that piece?
Cause you both mentioned that. And I also think it's, from my perspective and what you shared has been a really key part of not only your working relationship and you know, your friendship, but you know, creating the business that you have together. So. Just talk to me about trust. Cause, cause that really seems to be super foundational for both of you.
[00:30:45] Alberio BathoryFrota: Yeah. And I think there's two mindsets, around that at least that I see out there. Right. You have the one mindset that's like, you gotta, you gotta earn it. You gotta, you know, come in and earn it before I can fully trust you. And then the second mindset it's, you know, I'll just, I'll trust you. defacto trust you.
until I can't anymore, right. and one of them, you get, you may get burned every so often. the other one you don't right. but giving this, this trust defacto and just going that way, we'll move things a lot faster. right. I find that, and, and I find too that it just, you know, you get the right people as well.
people enjoy that, people, you know, Be appreciative of that and really, ensure that they, you know, keep your trust. so this is huge though. I think you cannot grow as an organization if you don't start relaying that trust out there. If you have to be involved in everything that the organization does, you become the bottleneck, right?
[00:31:42] Alberio BathoryFrota: You become the reason the organization doesn't grow. So it's going to be, you know, it's, it's extremely important that, you know, trusting others is hard, may be hard to do a lot of times, but it's important because that's going to be part of your own personal growth as well.
[00:31:58] Robbie Butchart: I completely agree. And you know, that's, that's the biggest thing is that you want people to be bought in.
And if you want people to buy in, you just gotta trust that they're there in, you know, and, and that's what we really try to focus on when we have conversations is ok I will trust you just go and do it. And I think once you actually say those words to people, there's an ownership like. Yeah. Wow. Okay sweet I'm going to go do this, you know, like it's that? And that's part of, I think the, the culture that, you know, we, we really focus on and I mean, are we perfect? No, but are we trying to be there? Yeah. You know, every day it's it's the model is everyday. Let's be better than we were yesterday and tomorrow than today.
So, you know, that's always the intention and the team behind us is phenomenal, but it's because you enable them to be that way. And, and I mean, it makes, makes our jobs a heck of a lot easier when you get that good of a team that's behind you. So I think it comes from trust really at the end of the day.
[00:32:53] Jen Morrison: It's so interesting that like, I'm just thinking about my own journey. And when I moved to Calgary in 2019, late 2019 was pivoting out of K to 12 education, looking for something different, have no idea what that was going to look like. And through a series of meeting, great people and, you know, checking out Rainforest Alberta, you know, was introduced.
by Jim Gibson to Margo and then Margo introduced me to Greg and Jill and you know, whatnot. But I remember within the first couple of weeks of my role with InceptionU back then, I had gone to Greg at some point, asked him like, you know, is it okay if I do this or can I do this? And he just looked at me and he said, I trust you, go do it.
[00:33:33] Jen Morrison: And I've never been. Like empowered like that, even though I know in previous work environments I was trusted, but the system that I was working in didn't allow for, for that, individuality or these ideas to thrive, if that makes sense. So, yeah. And I just know how impactful for me that was, To experience that.
And it took me a while to like adjust to it like, oh, and Greg talks about too. you know, a lot of the time with design and this is design in, in general, but he said a lot of the time at the root of the problem is waiting for too much permission. You know, it holds things back. So anyway, just relating a lot to what the, both of you have shared with that. Any, any thoughts?
[00:34:26] Alberio BathoryFrota: Well, it's, what's nice about it too, is in, in InceptionU, you know, if, if, when they're doing that, it's going to, it's going to come across to the ultimate client, which is a students, right? So, you know, having that trust within the organization is going to allow you guys to do better things and have better products. And, you know, the impact will be felt by your ultimate clients, the students.
[00:34:47] Jen Morrison: Thank you for saying that. And I would imagine that that's what you're hoping. For your business as well. And then the clients that you're working with and the team that you have, it does feel good though. You know, when you realize like, okay, I'm being my total authentic self, I'm doing shit that I love to do.
I'm working with great people. And like, you start to see the ripple effect of that. It's really powerful. Okay. So I, you know, Robbie, I was looking, well, stalking your Instagram earlier today. And, but I was, there was,a piece of a statement that you had on there that I thought was really interesting and it, it, it was, guiding the client through the art of what is possible.
And there's a lot within that, that I would love for the, both of you to talk about, but tell me how does LaunchCode as a, as a business, support that. And then also, how do you individually, the two of you model that in your day-to-day work? So it's sort of a twofold question. Like how does LaunchCode, you know,guide the art of what is possible, and then for you individually, how do you do that in your work?
[00:35:48] Robbie Butchart: Yeah, that's a good, it's a, it's a bit of a corny term, but it sparks good conversation and that's the whole, the whole intent behind it. But you know, the reality of it is, is I think that, you know, a lot of people, unless you're in the technical world or you have some understanding of the software space, a lot of people don't know what's possible anymore.
You know, tech is constantly evolving and. you hear a lot of times people there's gotta be a way, right? So they're wondering, what's possible. Like what is what we could we possibly create that can satisfy and solve some of these challenges and these, these, these goals and help us achieve some of these goals that we've got set out for, for our business.
So, you know, that, that's what. That, that statement is meant to kind of represent. And as far as, you know, the, the conversations that occur because of it, it's, it's very holistic, right? And you'd be talking about an organization as a whole. We talk about the way the business is looking at operating and how do we tie in technology and innovation to change client's experiences, whether it's internal or external clients.
And through that, you know, we really start to. Break down into kind of micro sessions. Sure. We'll go with that. I like micro sessions. It's the word of the day, apparently. But like with that, you know, it allows for us to break down the complexity and this really overarching high level concept into something tangible.
And with that tangibility, it allows for context to be able to now come to the forefront. And our process allows for us to really break that down. You know, we go into a four step process and, and through that, it's, it really allows again for the client to feel how simple this can be, because it's, it doesn't need to be complicated, you know, and, and with just conversation and, and understanding and doing your due diligence and asking questions and being curious.
You can get so much accomplished in so much enlightenment on what the is actually trying to do. You know, we've had clients come to us and say, oh, I've got problems with my overtime. And you know, and we're like, okay, well, let's talk about it. And you get into a conversation. You realize the core of it is not problems with the overtime it's the tech, it's the spreadsheets that they're relying on at the end of the day to run their business.
Okay. Well, what does, and so you get into this whole flow and it's very easy to get into that. And then you show them what's possible. Through our process, that is our presentation of awesomeness. And that word is what we use because it's self-explanatory with that though, you know, that brings, that brings context.
And, and we, we try and mirror that within our environment. You know, like we've got some big aspirations, again, same thing as our client conversations, sitting at the million foot view, we need to break it down into more. Granular stages and, you know, really map those out and then assign people that are accountable to deliver on them.
You know, there's a, there's a whole flow that goes into it. And that's where you have to constantly come back and measure on. So you can actually see that the deliverables are happening in that accountability thing. You know, whether you throw stuff in meetings at each other and or you have a nice pleasant conversation, whatever the fun is, you know, like, however you want to do that, to each their own.
But that's, that's a little bit of, of kind of how we break it down. Both externally and internally.
[00:38:51] Alberio BathoryFrota: Yeah. And you know, I think Robbie nailed the, the nail on the head there. one of the things that we do internally is, with our, with our we're a team, right? Every second Friday, we do special projects Friday, where, where we allow the team to build whatever it is that they want.
Right. We really. Really look for and try to bring in people who are very creative people who have their own personal projects. people were almost entrepreneurial, right? They have that kind of entrepreneurial mindset because it's, it's these types of people that, you know, that can help us really do what's what's not possible.
So we're very, very happy with the team. We have a phenomenal, phenomenal, talented, team here in this organization and the stuff that they can do is, is just amazing. Right. so we try to, we try to thrive that a little bit by giving them opportunities, you know, to do something that's completely outside of client work, which is the special projects. We try to have them work together in teams. You know, maybe it's sometimes it's on their own projects. So, internally as well, we all kind of have our own projects, you know? I myself, I still kind of program here and there it's been years since, you know, since I've been doing it.
my, our other business partner, James, he's working with his hands all the time. Right. Building things. he loves that side of the business. You know, Robbie's always learning new things, creating new things. So it's a, it's a mindset too, where we just, we want to ensure that we have that lifelong learning, right.
[00:40:18] Alberio BathoryFrota: Lifelong learning type of mindset. and that translates at the end of the day to, you know, figuring out solving problems for clients.
[00:40:25] Jen Morrison: Well, there's no one way to do everything. Right. And I think it's neat that you're, it sounds to me like within yourselves and then within the business, there's this constant evolution of how are we approaching things?
How are we thinking about things who is partnering with, who like there's this real. Agility and adaptability that I think is a really interesting, okay. We're going to start to wrap it up. I feel like, you know, the three of us could talk for four more hours. but I have just two more questions for you. I'm really curious for you individually.
What's lighting you up right now. Is there something that you're exploring or interested in that you find yourself? Really curious about, or that's, you know, provoking you to ask a lot of questions and it doesn't have to be work-related, it can be whatever the heck you want, but what is, what's lighting you up these days?
[00:41:13] Alberio BathoryFrota: I have found that that lately there in the beginning of, of this organization and, you know, and James and I first got together, there was, there was, you know, the, there was a business, we had the personal, and it, it was very melded right in that we were basically working all the time. So we kind of, you know, the personal was there as well.
Recently, and this is what I've tried to work on the lot is how do I have it so that it's, it's just one passion, right? And that's not a different passion between business or in a different passion between, you know, family and the traveling and the other things I enjoy. How do I do that as, so it's one holistic, right?
And, and it's really looking down the path of, you know, having clarity processes done of, you know, who you, who you are and where you want to go. Right. some of it gets on the spiritual side. Figuring all of that. And then, and then trying to craft a life for you that can bring this together, right? You shouldn't feel like work is, is a means so that you can have money to do your passion and your personal stuff.
what I'm, you know, trying to work on and, and trying to really create is, is that holistic, you know, experience, and not only just for myself, but how do we do that on an organizational level, right? How do we align, our people and where they want to go and what they want to be? How do we align them with.
[00:42:32] Alberio BathoryFrota: What we're doing in this organization and the how, and then how do we give them those opportunities to just be better versions of themselves? Right. so that's for me is it's that challenge, I think is a, is a forever challenge. It's something that's a continuous continuous work, on challenge, but it's, it's, what really drives me.
[00:42:49] Robbie Butchart: Wow. So deep man that was next level, you know, I joke, but we, we actually have very similar, thoughts when it comes to that, you know, there's. There's experiencing what's new, you know, for me is, is what are some of the things that we can get into to help you grow, to help you understand and learn that, you know, prior to getting into that environment, you've, you've, you've totally changed your perspective or you have a different appreciation for a different perspective.
So for me, it's, it's, it's growing in those areas and learning and exploring and exposing different things into my mind so that I can help kind of, you know, get into a different, different frame of mind, that skill set. So for me, it's, it's all around. How do I grow and how do I become more enabled and bring more tools to situations whether it's personally or professionally to help move the needle on whatever the situation is forward. you know, from, from that perspective. So, you know, understanding the, the clarity process is an interesting one, cause we've done it at as an organization and as a group and it's, it's enlightening, you know, it really brings. What it's meant to clarity around what you see moving forward.
So I think once you have that, that understanding that brings natural inspiration and motivation to keep that light as bright as it needs to be every day to come in and bring passion into every conversation and every interaction, whether it's at work or whether it's at a Starbucks drive through, or whether you're having a beer somewhere like whatever.
You're bringing passion into that and you're, you're bringing excitement. So for me, that's, that's a big thing. And, you know, part of the, from a business standpoint, you know, moving the organization forward and diversifying it with some of the different offerings we're bringing our clients is very unique.
the, the whole startup studio model that we're doing is. Beyond exciting, because that is something that, you know, is a, is a unique offering and something that, I think is going to make a big difference in a lot of people's lives. so very excited for, from that perspective. So, but bringing passion into that too, it's fun.
[00:44:49] Jen Morrison: There you go, well, I think paying attention to what lights us up is important because it's an indicator for me and I'm not sure what you guys think. I think it's an indicator that we're on the right track, you know, and paying attention to that internal guide. I'm actually, I just bought the book. I haven't started it, but it's called extended thinking.
Greg told me about it and it's thinking outside of your brain, and it really is tapping into. The awareness that is outside of our brains, which we tend, we just rely on our brains all the time. But, yeah. Anyways, so I'm excited to dig into that book. okay. Let's let's wrap this up now. This is a big question.
It's building off of what you have been talking about, the two of you, but, you know, what do you want to contribute to the world. and you can answer this from the mindset or the lens of LaunchCode if you like, you can think about it personally. but what do you want your contribution to be? And then what does that impact?
[00:45:43] Alberio BathoryFrota: Perfect sounds. Well, the funny thing is, is probably going to be a spiritual answer it's but, no, for my, my goal, what I'd love to do is I'd love to build an organization, right. That, that creates purpose, you know, and that allows people to have purpose in their life. Right. and you know, when we first started this, obviously it was always around the product and the clients.
my role, I think, has kind of, has changed into that. you know, I'd like to build an organization that we're bringing purpose and, and really creating better versions of people right now when they come in here and not just on their, on their professional life, but their whole life. Right. I'd love to be able to do that.
and I think that's why I'm so passionate with, with the startup studios. Right. And partnering up with, with startups, because I think we have a tremendous amount of, experience that we can help them with. Right. And. And there's a lot of things in the first, you know, five, six years of a startup, you know, that, I didn't know that James didn't know, you know, the two of us kind of had to navigate and try our best, that we can really bring clarity to the beginning of these other startups and, and put that sense of purpose, you know, in the beginning, because it will, it will allow them to, you know, get over those challenges. it'll allow them to get kicked many times and persevere, right? If, if you properly align a person's mindset with what they're doing on a daily basis, you know, but that is a holistic view of not just work versus life, but a combined a holistic view, we now create, an organization that's, that's bringing purpose to people and you know, that for sure is what excites me the most.
[00:47:22] Robbie Butchart: How do you follow that up? I don't even know how to follow that up, you know? So, you know, I w I I'll maybe touch on a couple of different points, but like, you know, there's a shared. And bought in, alignment there, you know, from my perspective, you know, and, and that's, what's exciting too. And I, and I would say that, you know, to add a couple of different things from the business side, you know, in, in addition to what LaunchCode the startup studio is doing the LaunchCode side is going to change the status quo.
You know, like we want people to realize there's a better and more trusting way to do business. You know, I find that the Canadian landscape as a whole is, is a little bit more. Conservative and the fact that, you know, they, there there's a misconceived or perception of there. We will say that, you know, everybody's out to screw you.
We're just going to figure out a way to how to do it. And it's like, there's a better way, but that's because of experiences. So we want to change that experience and bring a better and more trusting kind of approach to the environments in our, our engagements with our clients. and then for me on a, on a personal note, you know, for me, my focus is, is I want to leave people happier than when they started with me.
You know, like whether, you know, it's in, it's in the office and getting people laughing and having a good time, if it's in Starbucks and, you know, buying a coffee for somebody behind you or starting a conversation with some random stranger and just bringing joy and happiness to a situation and be like, wow, that was cool.
And they're walking out of that place in a different way that that's every interaction I strive to, to bring, a better perspective and a happiness when people walk away from it. So that's, that's on the personal side, my, my story.
[00:48:55] Jen Morrison: Well, I have to tell you that I feel that what you just shared, the, you know, the impact you want to have, you both had that on me today, which I think is really amazing, you know, checking in with, you know, purpose and things that light me up.
And, you know, Robbie, I definitely am feeling I'm just having a good day, but I'm having an even better day. I I've really, really appreciated this time that we've had together today. And it's always fun to get to know people on a deeper level and my hope with the podcasts that I'm hosting, you know, for LIBI that we really dig into the person, you know, the business is a ripple effect of who that person is, and we all have a story and experiences and things to share.
So I'm, I'm hoping that whoever is listening to this, that they are getting a really great sense of. Who Alberio is and who Robbie is, what is the best way for people to get in touch with you? If they're curious to connect or reach out, what would you suggest?
[00:49:50] Alberio BathoryFrota: I believe both of us are on LinkedIn. and, yeah, if you know, my personal email is just my name, Alberio at LC dot Dev. So that's L for Launch and C for Code, launchcode.dev DEV. Robbie, I believe is at Robbie at LC dot dev as well.
[00:50:04] Robbie Butchart: You bet. Both, both work, worked for me and preferred either one. So please reach out happy to have conversations and questions. And, Jen, thank you very much for having us.
This has been a fun and, and just a fun experience. We appreciate you giving us the ability to, to talk a little bit about ourselves.
[00:50:20] Jen Morrison: Well, secret side note, everyone that's listening. I did forget to record. The first 10 minutes when we started. So we had to go back and start again. So, you know, there you go. Nothing like making a fool of yourself in front to two great friends.
[00:50:34] Alberio BathoryFrota: Yeah, that was good practice. It was good practice the first 10 minutes. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Thank you as well, Jen, this is our second time we're doing the speaking engagement both times you've oh, you've made it. You made it awesome. Super comfortable and easy to talk to you. So I appreciate that thank you.
[00:50:49] Jen Morrison: Cool. Well, I hope that whoever is listening, has taken some inspiration or, you know, had some moments of pause for everything that Alberio and Robbie have shared with us today. Really appreciate you joining us. and I encourage all of you as I always do to really think about the impact that you want to have. Have a good day.
Lindsay Skabar Hosts Kwame Asiedu
Listen to the episode here!
[00:00:00] Lindsay Skabar: Hello everyone. This is Lindsay Skabar here today on the LIBI podcast. And I am one of the founders of bode Canada. and I am joined here today with Kwame Asiedu. Did I say your last name right?
[00:00:12] Kwame Asiedu: It's great, Asiedu.
[00:00:14] Lindsay Skabar: And he's here for BrainToy. why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself Kwame?
[00:00:19] Kwame Asiedu: My name is Kwame. I'm a, co-founder at BrainToy. Basically. We try to make AI easy for people to adapt for organizations and for individuals. And I'm sure as we go through, we'll talk more. Um, I'm very excited to be here and thank you for having me.
[00:00:33] Lindsay Skabar: Oh, we're really excited to learn from you today. And I am just so interested in the AI space and, and I know there is a whole bunch of people out there trying to apply AI in a way that will really be beneficial to people around the world. But I also know that there's people out there who have lots of questions about how it operates and how much it's going to be ingrained in our life.
so maybe at, let's start with the basics around AI, and maybe if you could explain in your own terms, what artificial intelligence is, and computer learning is, and if there's a difference between the two and maybe a couple of examples that we all deal with today, that that would be reasonable examples of how we deal with AI.
[00:01:16] Kwame Asiedu: So AI, in a very simple term, is trying to teach the computer to think, and to make decisions. You know, human beings have the ability to learn. when you teach us a subject, we learn, we don't memorize them. Sometimes we memorize them, but when we memorize it, then it means we don't understand it, which means we cannot use them to solve problems. But we have the ability to understand and use them to solve meaningful problems.
And so we're trying to help the computer to do the same thing and we give the computer the capability to learn from data, to understand it. To more or less think and reason at times, and then to make meaningful decisions. Now we have that happening in our lives, almost every time. I know a lot of us shop on Amazon and you know how you shop on Amazon, you buy a product, let's say you buy a diaper and then it will make a recommendation to you that maybe you want to buy a feeding bottle as an example, this is because people similar to you who purchase a diaper, also purchased, you know, that particular kind of, you know, maybe a feeding bottle and there is a learning happening behind it. And so they use that to build something called a recommendation engine, and now it makes those specific recommendations to you. And it's not somebody sitting there and typing in these rules.
It is them, you know, applying some of these specifically machine learning techniques to teach a computer, to learn, and then it will now make informed decisions to you. You see the same thing on YouTube. You watch a video and it recommends another video to you. You even use Google Maps and sometimes it will look at what is the shortest route or distance to a particular location and the strategy to help you avoid traffic.
These are all ways in which we use AI today, our keyboards on our phones, your QWERTY keyboard you type, and then with time it starts learning, you know, your vocabulary patterns and some ways that you usually use, and it starts recommending them. These are all ways in which we use AI today. They, they permeate our lives. We can actually do without them.
[00:03:16] Lindsay Skabar: Amazing and then some of the ways that that is extremely impactful is that it kind of just shortcuts, right there. A bit of a shortcut to what you were already maybe going to do, or suggest something that you maybe didn't consider. But would really would, now that you understand that it's an option, you may be take that.
I love, I love the shortcuts, especially, when using Google maps and getting around traffic patterns that are somewhat problematic.
[00:03:43] Kwame Asiedu: Yeah. Can you imagine what we will do without some of these tools today?
[00:03:46] Lindsay Skabar: Today's age is so dramatically different than what we were experiencing back in the day. Yeah. My first, my first experience with AI was, was being introduced to Watson.
do you remember Watson from, from jeopardy? it, that was my first experience of actually seeing it interact. and it's, it's just so, such an unbelievable opportunity that can be viewed in so many different ways. So tell us a little bit about BrainToy and what makes you different and, and how you're going about, that mission of making, making AI more accessible to, to more people?
[00:04:24] Kwame Asiedu: Yeah, so, that's a loaded question. So BrainToy, is, is an artificial intelligence company. And in fact, we built kind of this, Low code, no code platform, we're in Calgary, we're an Alberta based company. we do work with companies outside of Canada, you know, outside of Alberta and outside of Canada. But our main goal is, has been to empower people with this.
I call it the incredible 21st century technology. Empowering people, we do that in three ways. The first way is that we built this low-code no-code platform that can be used by virtually anyone who has domain expertise and have a little bit of knowledge about, you know, the, the methodologies around AI and how you can use it.
And who have probably never written any code in their life to, to solve meaningful problems, in fact to build production AI solutions. And that product, we call it MLOS machine learning operating system. As part of that, we also do what we call use-case delivery, which is, you know, some people might call it consulting, but we find that a lot of companies shy away from embracing AI because they think it's expensive.
They don't even know where to start or how to begin. It is too confusing. They have data strategies. They don't know how to fuse the credit, this data strategy five years ago. Now they don't know how to manage AI into it. They have a whole. ecosystem around the technology. They don't know where to start.
And so we decided that we will also help companies to do this. And so we will come in, we will discover with you, we'll help you identify opportunities for AI. We will understand your technology landscape, your processes, your methodologies, and we'll define specific problems for you. And we will solve it for you.
But once we solve it, we will try to empower your team to take that over, because we don't believe in this idea of consultant always coming back and we want to empower you to do it yourself. And then the third way is also AI training because we find it goes back to the second point I made about people being confused, not having that knowledge about AI.
And so they don't, they don't even know where to start. And so we partner with educational institutions like Sage, like Mount Royal, like Manpower to, to actually develop these curriculums that are offered to leaders, to mid-career professionals, so that they can acquire this knowledge about machine learning and AI and all other aspects of it and how they can use it to solve meaningful problems.
So basically that's what we do. And I usually use this illustration. You know, there are a lot of ways in which companies are helping in Alberta as an example, they will come in and they'll solve problems for you. But I use this illustration about, you know, Carl Benz, you know, when this innovator that created this car, and this was in the 1886. 2 years after that his wife learned how to drive and her name was Bertha Benz.
And then later on, when they started building cars, what you realize was. You know, people who can afford we're hiring chauffers. So a chauffer would drive you somewhere. Chauffer would you just call them and you drive them, but that wasn't scalable. You know, the best way was for us to teach everyone how to drive so that they can own their own car and they use it for whatever purpose they wanted to.
Right? And that is what we are now. And in fact, now the cars are going to start driving themselves. So we believe that AI as has been called the next electricity is a general purpose technology that is going to disrupt every industry. And so you cannot scale it by just hiring unicorns or bringing people in who will always solve your problems for you.
Everybody has domain knowledge. So the best way to scale it is to empower people to do it. And to do that means you have to educate them about the methods and technologies, but also to create technologies and platforms that can make it easy for them to embrace toward that, and to utilize them in solving problems.
[00:08:31] Lindsay Skabar: That's really interesting. You've touched on about a thousand hot toppings that I deal with on a regular basis. And I know a lot of people in the technology space do. All the time as well. so maybe I'll dig into a couple of those, if you're good with it? Number one, being a part of the Alberta ecosystem and being a part of that innovation space that we are a part of here, now how has the fact that you are in Alberta and Canada's first, which is incredible. how have you found being a part of this community, has either helped or perhaps provided, some, areas to optimize, for your business and how AI could be a focus of ours here in this province.
[00:09:12] Kwame Asiedu: Yeah, I think I'll touch on how it's helped and also touch on some of the things that maybe we could improve. So in this province, there is a tech ecosystem, and it has a lot of knowledge about people. And, you know, some of these people have started their own companies they've worked in, I don't know if I should mention names, but, you know, for instance, Jim Gibson comes to my mind who I've worked in about seven different startups, right?
And now also in the industry knows about innovation and how you can help companies adapt it. This podcast from Rainforest, I think he's also a co-founder there, you know, trying to throw light on our better, companies in our better. This has been very useful. there are other bodies like Alberta Innovates and IRAP, Platform try to create office space for innovators. This has been very useful because then you are able to support the, not just tech talent, but small, medium sized business companies. And you can more or less hold their waste so that they can scale. And we have benefited from this, partnering with some of these people.
So that, that is very useful here in Alberta. When it comes to AI, one of the things that I think that's where we can improve, and maybe it's just kind of the, in general, I don't know if you've seen this, Ipsos did a survey for the world economic forum, and this was released just a couple of months ago, I think. And it said that Canadians are among the least likely to believe that artificial intelligence will make their lives better. Isn't that shocking to you? And he said, Canadians, it revealed that Canadians are less knowledgeable and more nervous about using AI. In fact, 36% say that, you know, the products and services in AI basically will not really do anything for them.
[00:10:59] Kwame Asiedu: They will not improve their lives. no, that's the other way. Only 36% believe that AI will improve their lives. And guess what? This 36% is made up of youth, which means that mid-career professionals and leaders today are really behind in embracing this AI. According to this survey, they did, they did this in about 28 countries.
And in almost every category, Canada was almost last. Almost every category, United States, UK, and Australia. We're always the leader. Now, Canada topped in one category. Guess what that is?
[00:11:35] Lindsay Skabar: Oh I don't know, I don't even know if I could guess.
[00:11:37] Kwame Asiedu: Skepticism about AI. So 49% of the people in this, in this survey agree that products and services in AI, it makes them nervous, you know, and, and part of it is it's basically because people are afraid of what they do not know. Most people are not familiar with this technology. there are also not enough products about the methods around the technology, because it's not only about the technology and the tools.
It's also around the methods and the processes around them. And most people do not have an understanding of this. And because of that, most Canadians have not, most leaders have shied away from embracing this, this new technology, which I think it's a way that we can improve. We need to really embrace this. If this is the next electricity, AI has been called the next electricity, which means is going to permeate every aspect of our lives, which company can function today without electricity?
No one. Right? So we need to embrace it and we need to make sure that we are changing our mindset we are shifting gears. And we are thinking, and there are a whole lot of experts in this province that can help us do so. And I call on everyone, you know, reach out to us, reach out to some of these other companies and let's work together. Let's build the next digital economy.
[00:12:58] Lindsay Skabar: Hey, I'm happy to join that movement. I truly think, if utilized properly, AI is there to make our lives easier. And it's, it's a streamline, it's a shortcut to what you're already looking for. And I think, you know, some of that skepticism has to come from a lack of awareness. Of what AI is doing in the first place.
[00:13:19] Kwame Asiedu: I completely agree. And I think this is why some of the. Some of the initiatives from, you know, SAIT, from Mount Royal university, you know, all of these bodies that are coming together to at least create some of these awareness and to educate and empower people about it. It's very, very useful.
[00:13:37] Lindsay Skabar: Now you're bringing up a couple of, educational institutions here in Alberta. And I appreciate that because one of the challenges with. I hear profoundly from technology leaders and being in the technology space for 20 years and in Alberta is that it's very hard to find developers and keep them, to be able to apply, the, the code.
I'm glad you said no code, cause that's really helpful to a lot of us, but, to be able to, to create technology companies here and keep them retain that talent. Here because we're constantly losing our talent, to Silicon valley and other places around the world. So maybe, maybe shed some light on, what you're doing with some of your, if some of the educational institutions like SAIT, and Mount Royal and, and what that can do to help. Get the younger generation really excited about the types of things that are possible when you are a professional, this way,
[00:14:35] Kwame Asiedu: We already pointed out, you know, the, the lack of adaption to these technologies is awareness and knowledge around it. And so one of the things we decided to do is to partner with some of these, you know, large institutions. So for instance, SAIT. And what we did is a SAIT actually called us and a host of other professionals from different industries. And we sat down and we decided to create a curriculum around this. So. First they decided could we even offer something like this? And we said, yeah, it's possible.
Because you know, we, at BrainToy, had been doing this on our own and have been running some of these workshops. And so we created a curriculum, but there's no shortage of data science. information online. If you just typing data science, there is a ton of information that you will always get. The problem is that when people take some of these online courses, they are not able to apply it.
We've had people who have taken some of these online courses, even master's degree in data science, and they will still come and join the bootcamp. Why? Because it was not applied. So we focused on applied artificial intelligence. And through that, we created a curriculum that will teach you the principles of machine learning.
In fact, our focus purely is on machine learning, which is a branch of artificial intelligence. with time we'll add more but principles of machine learning and how you can apply them. And we let you apply them to solve different problems in health, in finance, in supply chain. In oil and gas. And we've had people who want to reskill take some of these courses.
You know, they, they have domain experts, they're domain experts, and they will take it because now they want to be able to see opportunities for AI in their organizations. We've had people who want to move from their current career to another career. You know, they want to pivot and, you know, looking at oil and gas right now.
And so many people who have lost their jobs want to pivot and get into tech. And this has also proven to be very useful. We've had people who that religion, as an example, you know, people in the hospitality business who said, I've never written a code in my life. Can I even do this? And people who only know how to use spreadsheets.
And some of these people have passed out of this, and now they're working a strategist. They're working in AI development in they're working in data teams. So the main goal has been to create this applied AI curriculum and use it to teach people who have domain knowledge, who probably never want to code in your life, but still be able to build solutions using the AI methods and also people who have domain knowledge, but who can code, who are, who are very technical and really want to write production machine learning solutions, develop them by writing code themselves. And we have, you know, a part of the program also for this group of people. So that is what we've been doing in partnership with, SAIT with Mount Royal, with Supply Chain Canada, with Manpower. You know, and a host of others that, we are still talking to will be coming on board.
[00:17:45] Lindsay Skabar: And I'm really looking forward to people going through that curriculum, and, and being employable by, the number of technology companies that are starting here in Alberta and choosing it as their location, to start business because we have such an opportunity here to create, and stay focused on the innovation space, unique to a lot of other places in this world. So it'll be great to have some homegrown, technologists and people who are pivoting. I love that the pivoters as well, to think of their career in a different way, and be able to apply that, that, skillset in a way that a lot of companies are looking to find creative solutions.
[00:18:25] Kwame Asiedu: And maybe just to add, you know, you, you mentioned about some, some talents leaving, right? And sometimes some of these talents, you know, we got a lot of offers before we even created BrainToy, to leave here, but we stayed here and here is some of the reasons some of these talents leave because they work in a company and, you know, they have creative ideas. They have innovative ideas, but there's no support from the organization. And so as soon as somebody knocks your door with an opportunity, which is the decision to move is not only based on money, sometimes it's based on doing something that you believe in something that you think will have an impact on people's lives.
Not that our veterans are not creating technologies that will make an impact on people's lives, but that support. For innovation is sometimes lacking. And because of that, as soon as they see the opportunities they leave. But if we create this environment for people to innovate freely, then in fact, some of these companies will grow to become the companies we respect in the U S where some of these talents move to. Right. Because then we'll be competing with them. And when it comes to AI, there is something that sometimes people think about, you know, they think, oh, I can never embrace it. I can never use it. Well, the world I use the analogy of the car. the world is moving towards self-driving cars the same way when it comes to AI, the world is moving towards a low code, no code platform, and it's moving towards automated machine learning and AI platforms.
Why? Because they know they think the same way as we do that to scale it. You just have to empower people who have domain expertise, empower them with the process, with the technology, with the methods so they can create it themselves. So with this low-code no-code platforms, people are able to learn, HR professionals can learn that, you know what finance accountants, they learn this technology and they utilize them.
Take spreadsheets, for example, you know, people used to write codes. You know, my dad used to talk about writing Fortran codes before I think there is a software that Microsoft released that was called VisiCalc visual calculator. And it was a command line that you would type in, you know, and now that has evolved to become spreadsheets.
And in fact, now with spreadsheets, you probably don't even need tutorials to be able to do it right. As soon as you get in there and everybody from all walks of life and different industries are using spreadsheets for their own purpose. Right? So this is also where AI is heading, where it's going to be easy and everybody will have to know how to use it.
And once we embrace it, you know, this tech ecosystem will grow. Companies will find talent here. Talent will stay here. We'll create more businesses and we can all help grow the economy for future generations.
[00:21:15] Lindsay Skabar: Check me on this. Cause I want to dig into a couple of the reasons that Canadians lead the way on skepticism associated to AI.
One of the things I can imagine aside from not understanding it, not understanding that you are in fact, using AI all the time, you just don't know it is AI. the other one is that fear of technology is gonna replace my job. And I love this spreadsheet as an example because it doesn't, in my opinion, here's my opinion. Then you, then you tell me if I'm completely off base here, just because I know how to use a spreadsheet and I know how to create a lookup table, or I can conditionally format a cell, does it mean that I don't have to apply my own intelligence, my own strategy in order to make that information useful, and in fact, the faster I can get to the information that we need to make the decisions only we can make. Then, the better off we are. We aren't employing people to use paper and pen anymore, to do accounts work or whatever you're doing in a spreadsheet. Instead, we're doing it on digital that doesn't make you less valuable, in fact, it makes you more valuable because, you can be that much more productive on the things you need to do in order to be good at your job. How does that line up for you? Does that make sense? And have you come across that fear of people being replaced by technology in these conversations you have.
[00:22:44] Kwame Asiedu: Yeah. And so what you said with your opinion, first of all, it makes complete sense, right? The spreadsheet is just enabling you, but you, as an intelligent being who has a problem, who has all the knowledge, and this is where we go back to domain knowledge and who really wants to solve a meaningful problem, you just use that to solve your problem.
And it works. And you have, like you said, productive you're faster because somebody took the pain to make this easy by building this spreadsheet. Now, when it comes and that's what is happening to AI and this platform, if that's what MLOS does, but when it comes to this fear. Yes. In fact, I worked in a financial institution and I was leading the data science lab there.
It's now called the AI team and we're solving all these problems and at least on three occasions, three different people called me, quietly, maybe I'm just walking up the stairs or walking down and say, Hey, Kwame, what you guys are doing, is it not going to take away our jobs, you know, that we're afraid of this.
They're fearful of it. And I always try to tell people about. This phobia against AI, is that in fact that is never the case at all. Whenever an AI solution is built, what happens is that yes, sometimes it might automate certain processes. If your work is routine, that you can just sleep and wake up, you don't even need to think and do it.
Then yes, a machine will do it, but every time. The solution is built to replace or we automate a certain process. It creates different roles. In fact, it creates more roles than are existing. People just need to adapt and to be open-minded to learn and new skills so they can take over. And this new skills are not like overkill.
You just have to be open-minded and you will be trained on it. In fact, in most cases it's creating new revenue streams for an organization, such that now they have to hire more. it's created new companies, as an example. Now I can use an example of a company and you and I were talking about it, you know, today that is trying to bridge the gap between sellers and buyers.
There are agents who today work, you know, this is their business. They will come to you and you will talk to them and they will sell you. They will take you to show homes and they will sell you a house. The thing is that now with the advent of new technology, these agents are going to be cut out, right?
But not all agents, agents who adapt are going to still be able to work because subject matter experts are needed as an example, but this company is going to create a whole lot of revenues and more jobs for model risk managers for, real estate developers. For software engineers for, can you imagine the number of jobs you are going to create for these people?
So that fear it's actually unfounded. nobody has research to back that up. It's just inherent in us. We are always creating new revenue streams, creating more jobs. People just have to be open-minded and to learn new skill because you can't take the human element out of AI. It doesn't stand on its own.
You need people, it basically augment what people are doing. Right. And so do not be afraid of it. Just embrace it because you will realize that it is really going to improve your life. Your business, and, you know, almost everything that you do.
[00:26:19] Lindsay Skabar: I also think that those tasks that are a part of everyone's job, that where you don't need to use a lot of elbow grease or, or brain juice in order to do those jobs are probably the least favorite part of your job.
Those things that are repetitive, that you just have to get done. It's like, you know, eating your vegetables, although vegetables can be quite delicious. It's the part of your job that doesn't inspire you, the part that does inspire you, that's where you should lean into and just be thankful for saving the time on, on the less desirable components to your role. And if you find that your whole job is that, then it might be worthwhile finding inspiration elsewhere.
[00:27:00] Kwame Asiedu: Yeah, and I completely agree. And where I used to work that I told you about where people were skeptical. Sometimes, in my team, there were data scientists who were doing sometimes routine stuff.
And these data scientists very skilled. They have master's degrees. They have PhDs. They really want to focus on solving meaningful problems. And these days we're actually making them unhappy. Right. So then once somebody knocks the door with an opportunity to just leave. So to actually retain talent, we had to automate some of these routine and mundane processes that we have so that they can focus on doing what they really enjoy doing.
And that makes them happy. That creates a fulfilling life for them. And their career is more meaningful and more fulfilling. And in fact, when we spend more time doing what we love, we solve more problems. We end up improving processes, improving efficiencies, reducing costs, increasing profitability, all of those things that add up to create a profitable organization, which employs all of us for the rest of our life and for future generations too.
[00:28:05] Lindsay Skabar: That's amazing. So here's a question for you. It's a bit of a wild west right now when it comes down to the application of AI, in the sense of, there are so many different applications and there's not a lot of boundaries or rules you need to abide by in order to be able to utilize AI technologies. Would you suggest there should be some boundaries or there should be some limits on this.
Does there need to be regulation in place? what are your thoughts on that? Given where we are in terms of the technology, sophistication, and to, and how fast we're, we're learning, new ways to apply AI.
[00:28:44] Kwame Asiedu: Yeah. So I completely agree with you that there has to be some boundaries around it. Some framework around governing the processes of developing these, utilizing these machine learning and AI techniques and solving problems. There has to be, right? We need to regulate it. And this is why, because there are a lot of biases inherent in some of the methodologies that I use.
In fact, some of these biases are sometimes introduced by the developers because they're using wrong practices. So you have to govern them. Some of the solutions are black box, which means we don't even know how these algorithms are making the decisions, but we have to break those black box open and make them transparent.
Then people could, could trust those solutions better. And this is actually happening. In fact, in BrainToy, we do have seven methods, seven processes that we follow in developing solutions. And part of it is called AI governance. Before anything goes into production, AI governance, frameworks are adapted, and we use them as part of the evaluation process before solutions go into production.
And these include automatically documenting all the assumptions that algorithms that are used, this include, being able to explain why the models are making the decisions for which they are making, it's called model explainability. This includes challenging the assumptions of the data scientist. It includes peer reviewing all of these solutions and algorithm before they go into production. In Canada, there is in financial institutions, there is a body called OSFI the office of superintendent of financial institutions. And they've created a framework, a model risk management, framework, that when organizations follow, could help them create models that are transparent and also fair. And that are ethical. recently we followed this because this is very important.
Recently we have been in touch with an organization in Amsterdam and they have given us a draft of the artificial intelligence act that the EU is creating because they care about things like accountability, creating solutions that are for the betterment or the wellbeing of humans. Solutions that avoid discrimination that are transparent, that are fair and all of this.
So I think there are a whole lot of organizations working together to create some of these frameworks and legislations. In fact, when I worked in that organization, financial institution, we created one of these frameworks that was approved by the board of directors just before I left and is governing them in the way they build their solutions.
So it's very important that we do that because I don't want to get a higher rate in my loan just because I am, you know, a black man or because of gender, maybe because I'm a female or, you know, so any these things can happen. And so creating frameworks around them, trying to make sure that AI solutions are more ethical. They are transparent. They are explainable is very, very key and very important.
[00:31:50] Lindsay Skabar: It's interesting because some of those biases you referenced. can can happen in the code, but it can also be completely eliminated based on doing it properly. Right. If you're looking at an insurance, program or something, you can actually look at the lifestyle of this specific human being, as opposed to lumping us into these pools of humans that are similar.
No, you could actually look at. Actual risk of Lindsay Skabar on this world. and, and give me the insurances appropriate to who I am and how I live my life, which is a little bit different and it actually removes some of those things that could have been biased before, like my gender, my age, the color of my skin.
So with that ying comes a yang, which it kind of frees us a little bit from the biases that perhaps, are a little bit ingrained in the systems we've already got.
[00:32:41] Kwame Asiedu: Yeah. And if all of us can really think in that direction and support each other, I always tell people, especially data scientists, you know, some data scientists call it their magic. Right. So when they build a solution, they don't even want their peers to take a look at it. It calls for humility. So as part of being a professional data scientist who creates solutions that will make an impact on an organization is humility. And that humidity means make sure, at least if you work in a small organization that doesn't even have a process, at least one or two people in your organization, will look at what you've done. You will explain your assumptions to them. You will explain it to your stakeholders. The people you've got the data from all of that. And you will be able to, at least, even if you don't have, an automated framework around this.
You will be able to cut some of these biases and, and things that are inherent in the technology. And you can build solutions that people can love and trust.
[00:33:41] Lindsay Skabar: Well, we're almost at time here, but I do want to ask that one gigantic question of. Where is AI going? And we've talked about, you know, self-driving cars, we've talked about no code. We've talked about some of those things, but, preach to the skeptics out there for a hot second, and let us know in 10 years how AI is going to be dramatically improving our lives, that we take for granted, right now.
[00:34:09] Kwame Asiedu: If anything at all, COVID has shown us that things can change rapidly.
Right? So the future for this AI technology, which has been spoken of as a general purpose technology that will disrupt every industry, every industry. What it means is that if we don't embrace it, if you, if your competitor, and I think it was Elon Musk that said that if your competitor embrace it and you don't, They're going to crush you.
So one, we need to be open-minded and begin to embrace it. The second one, the same point I will make is also that a lot of companies are working hard to make this technology so easy for you to embrace, to make it affordable, to make it inexpensive. Gone are the days when you needed to solve one solution it will take you six months. And you have to, you spin up a scrum of about 16 members to just solve one solution. And it's six months. And sometimes by the time they finish, maybe it's like a year. By the time they finished the solution. It's the solution is no longer relevant. A lot of companies are working hard to streamline this process and methodologies around the development of AI solutions and BrainToy is one of them. You can actually think and deploy solutions in days, in hours, even in minutes.
So it's going to be faster. A lot of companies are also making it easy for you to be able to build such that you don't need to be a programmer to be able to do this low code no code is where the world is going. So it's going to be easy for everyone to embrace. And again, As far as ethics are concerned, a lot of companies are working so hard to create frameworks that can govern the development of these production solutions.
And the benefit is that people are going to be productive. They're going to create new revenue streams. They're going to increase profitability, reduce costs and you name it. So let's not shy away around it because we live in a world of accelerating change the world that is always becoming something new.
COVID has taught us that. And so if we want to move with the world, then we need to also be adapting to the changes in the world. We need to be involved with it. And AI is one of the technologies and the processes and methods around it. That is one of the technologies that can help us do that and build a digital economy that will improve the lives of everyone around us. And for the future generations.
[00:36:39] Lindsay Skabar: You heard it here, open-mindedness around AI is going to improve our quality of life. And future generations as well. This is a space to watch. Keep in mind BrainToy as you are looking forward. Thank you so much, Kwame for all of your time. And we look forward to seeing all of your success and the impact you're having on that Canadian AI space.
[00:37:00] Kwame Asiedu: Thanks for having me, it's been an absolute pleasure.
Lori Farley Hosts Afton Brazzoni
Listen to the episode here!
[00:00:00] Lori Farley: All right, welcome everybody. Thank you Al, my name is Lori Farley, and I'm joined today by Afton Brazzoni, a founder of Scribe National. Now Afton partners with B2B tech marketers to create high quality content that drives demand and growth.
She has had the pleasure of working with nearly 50 clients worldwide in her two and a half years as founder of Scribe National, the majority of whom are repeat customers, including unicorns like Wealthsimple and others who are among Canada's fastest growing companies, such as TouchBistro Afton brings 12 years of experience to her mission to deliver her clients impeccable content that drives their companies forward, their search rankings higher, and qualified leads to their virtual doorsteps.
As a former reporter, her journalistic approach means her client's content is original expert level and on brand when she's not working Afton spending time with her husband, hiking with her dogs, where they live in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies or honing her oil painting skills. Welcome Afton. How are you?
[00:00:57] Afton Brazzoni: Thank you so much for having me Lori, I'm doing well. Thanks. How are you?
[00:01:02] Lori Farley: I'm really good. It's a nice chilly weather here in Calgary here in January of 2021, a brand new year. Have you made any new year's resolutions this year?
[00:01:11] Afton Brazzoni: I haven't really made any resolutions, but one thing I was actually speaking about with a friend recently is just the idea of.
Taking things a little less seriously having a bit more fun. you know, during this very cold weather, it is a little difficult to stick to that and to find the fun in it. But certainly I think that's the attitude I want to go into the year with.
[00:01:31] Lori Farley: Amazing. I love that. So, we haven't met. This is our second time meeting in terms of preparation for during this interview, but maybe you can tell me and everybody else, that's listening a little bit about yourself. Like where did you come from? How did you get to where you are today?
Yeah, I'd be happy to chat about that. So in terms of, I'll talk about it both, you know, from a career path perspective, as well as actually from a geography perspective, I'm originally from Canada east coast.
So I'm from Halifax. I've been in Alberta for about 10 years. And I think you might've mentioned this in the introduction, but my background is in journalism. And so. You know, ever since I was a child, I've really always been captivated by storytelling. And, and I knew I wanted to do that, and I knew I wanted to do that through the written word.
And so that has really remained consistent throughout my life and throughout my career. But, you know, as, as it is with most of us, I'd say it's taken some twists and turns along the way. And so I ended up. Um, coming out to Alberta in back in 2013, I had lived here previously during the summers, but I had come out and I started working with Banff Center.
And so for those who don't know, that's an arts institution in the Canadian Rockies. It's a wonderful place. Lots of amazing things. They've got a lot going on there really from arts, like written. Science things like, mathematics, tons of different stuff going on there and leadership, lots of good stuff, but I was working there on the marketing team and that was one of several places, you know, over the past.
Well, it was between that time. And, 2019 was, was right before I started my business, but I had always kind of been an employee, working within organizations, never planned on being an entrepreneur. You know, it wasn't something that I knew I wanted to do, but over time I felt like I really wanted to spend more time writing.
And so I had always kind of been freelancing throughout my career in marketing and communications. And as that kind of evolved more and more in the fall of 2019, I decided to start Scribe National. And I decided to really, you know, create a company that would enable other companies to tell their stories through the written word, because that's what I was passionate about.
So at that time I was doing that. Part-time, you know, I was working at Banff Center and then of course, as we all know, the world really just turned upside down in March of 2020. And so at that time I was one of about 75% of the organization that was laid off and I thought, okay, well, this is the moment.
It's like Scribe had been getting pretty busy. it had been getting to the point where I was going to have to make that decision anyway. And so, yeah, so here I am now. And, and I mean, we've been doing this full-time ever since, so I think that's kind of just, I guess, a 101 on my journey into entrepreneurship and how it wasn't exactly intentional, but you know, it turned out great at the end.
I love that story because that's actually, now that I was hearing you tell that story that's happened to me in 2009, when the market crashed for the energy sector. In 2008, I was in recruiting in the energy sector. And, I was just loathing, I wanted to quit, but I had, they had sent me to some course that I want to go.
And I had promised to stay for three years in payment of that. And I was like, oh, why did I promise that. And then one day they came into my office and said, yeah, we have to let you go. And I got a year severance and I thought, oh, well, like what should I do? And I started one of my first businesses. I would not have had the courage to do that if I didn't have that year safety net and the push out the door, just wouldn't happen ,I don't think.
[00:04:58] Afton Brazzoni: Absolutely. Yeah. I totally agree. I don't think, you know, I was, I was kind of teetering on the edge of the decision, but I think sometimes it's like in those moments where. The decision was almost made for us. And then, you know, we're kind of propelled onto the next path. certainly a lot of entrepreneurial journeys have started that way.
[00:05:16] Lori Farley: I love that. So being a woman, who's a founder, how have you sort of seen some trends that are happening or if it has some things that have happened to you or so some advice that you've been given or some advice that you could give, is there something that you could talk about is as you know, As women entrepreneurs, we don't like to talk about ourselves as women entrepreneurs.
We want to be entrepreneurs, but there is a category of women who are struggling to get their foot into the door or to be able to participate in this portion of the economy. What are your thoughts on that?
[00:05:42] Afton Brazzoni: Yeah, I absolutely. So I actually really feel passionate about this topic and, you know, one thing I will say not to get like too theoretical, but my perspective on feminism really is that.
We can be like, I completely get the whole idea behind saying that yes, we're entrepreneurs. We're not, we don't have to qualify it by saying we're women. But I also think that if we want to do that, I think that that's completely valid. So I think for anybody who's listening, like wherever you sit on that side of the argument, I support that and I actually completely see both sides of that.
And so I think some of the things that do come along with. really recognizing that yes, we are. We are women. Entrepreneurs is like recognizing the fact that, you know, the barriers that have been faced with funding and especially like female tech founders. And venture capital and investment, and the numbers show that that's something that women really don't receive on anywhere near the same level that, that men do receive it.
I just think kind of like having an awareness around those things and then trying to further conversations and sort of find like-minded allies, I guess you could say. So like for example, one organization that I'm involved with, well, there, there, there are a couple so I'll name a few things like here in Alberta, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs is absolutely fantastic and I've been involved with their community for over a year now.
[00:07:03] Afton Brazzoni: And so, you know, they are really focused on education and really focused on just access, like helping business owners kind of understand the digital economy and really getting their businesses up and up to speed with those things that a lot of us don't have access to funding to really train ourselves in or, or to grow in that way.
you know, I'm also involved with the Canadian Women's Chamber of Commerce. They do a lot of great advocacy work at the federal level. And then I'd say as well that in BC, there's the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. And so I think it's, it's just sort of stepping out there and, and I think as an entrepreneur, regardless of gender, it can be quite isolating.
[00:07:43] Afton Brazzoni: And so I think for anybody like getting out there and really trying to take advantage of the resources that are available to you while also. You know, continuing to push for more because it's absolutely needed. I, I, so I think it's kind of a balance of both of those things. but. Yeah, I, I love the whole, the whole topic of, you know, women's entrepreneurship and, certainly like tons of great people in the community doing amazing things to further that.
[00:08:09] Lori Farley: Ya, and I think we just had to be cognizant of the fact of, of, the power of words. And if feminism was a, is a word that's been sort of taken away. And, bastardized in some ways by, you know, haters as an example. And I think we just need to remember as a community, especially the tech community, that feminism really just means diversity and inclusion and equality.
So, that's where I come from, that's my kind of feminism. I'm not kind of a radical feminist.
[00:08:33] Afton Brazzoni: I completely, and we agree with you. Yeah, it's really just about, like you said, it's, it's just an equal playing field really. It's, it's certainly not about, you know, I think men are absolutely allies and, and we work with tons of clients ,of all genders. And I think that, you know, the more we can just kind of get together and try to put our heads together on some of these issues as opposed to coming at them separately is great.
[00:08:53] Lori Farley: Agreed, agreed, thank you. So I'm wondering a little bit about like, sort of what you do in your business. How does it work? What's setting you apart and how is it that you're reaching these unicorns and, you know, 500 level companies?
[00:09:05] Afton Brazzoni: Yeah, absolutely. I think, really just like our core value as a business is excellence. And so of course, you know, with that, like no one is perfect and we're not going to be perfect every moment of the day, but I think we really do strive both in the service that we provide the actual quality of the writing and the storytelling as well as in our client delivery.
And so. I think that's been one of the things really that has helped with the success, but I'll kind of talk a little bit more practically about what we do. So we are a content writing studio for B2B companies and primarily B2B technology companies. And so. We kind of, we can come in at two different stages really, so sometimes we work with companies that are a little bit earlier on in their journey. And so at that stage, they're often trying to figure out things like their brand messaging. They're trying to figure out, you know, how to set themselves apart in the marketplace and how to speak, who to speak to, how to speak to them and how to really have those messages resonate and translate into business for them.
And so at that point, you know, we're often working with people and things like their messaging or their content strategies. The other way that we work with clients and this would be for, you know, the more established companies is when really they've got a strategy in place. They have a robust marketing function within their organization, but they simply don't have enough hours in the day to tell their story and to get it all done.
And so in that case, we'll come in and we'll work with, it's usually their content marketing manager or a marketing director or something like that, and really help them execute on their strategy. And tell the stories that they need to tell through content marketing. And so that's kind of the, the practical, how, of what we do.
But I think , and this goes for any entrepreneur, really, like always striving to improve the business and listening to our client's needs, and listening to our markets needs and actually like getting out there and talking to them about the things that they're struggling with.
I think those have been some of the things that have enabled our company to be successful and to grow over the past few years.
[00:11:05] Lori Farley: So, what does a, so what does a content strategy look like from your perspective in terms of the types of clients that you're working with or connecting with are interested in working with?
[00:11:15] Afton Brazzoni: Yeah, that's a great question. I would say, like, I'll kind of speak about it. I know in the Rainforest community, there are a lot of tech, founders and tech companies involved in the community. So I'll speak about it from that perspective. And I think. You know, we always want to be conscious of the fact that like in business, there are just never enough hours in the day.
And especially with a smaller company, you know, if you're a startup being strategic, the advantage that that can really give you. Is giving you a roadmap and, and kind of helping you reclaim some of your time back. Because a lot of the time when people are looking at marketing initiatives, we want to try a whole bunch of different things.
it can become very time-consuming and sometimes unproductive if it's not done in a strategic way. And so that's why we want to come in and, and create a content strategy. That's going to look at. Okay. What are your goals for the content? So, you know, if you have a SAS product, for example, and you want to drive a certain amount of users for that product, get a certain amount of recurring revenue.
[00:12:15] Afton Brazzoni: What do you need to be doing? Like, how do you need to be out there in the marketplace? What marketing, excuse me, marketing channels. Do you need to be on, what messages do you need to be sharing and who do you need to be sharing them with? And the content strategy. We'll look at that from the perspective of tactics that are often used in B2B tech, which would be things like: customer stories that showcase the results of your products and services. it could be things like white papers that really, put your thought leadership out there and, and help people get to know your brand that way by sharing those perspectives or something like, building up your organic search traffic by having, a blogging strategy in place.
So those are some of the main tactics that we would put into a content strategy. And again, and of course it's always going to depend on the company. Like those are, those are three examples, but it's, it's going to become more nuanced than that. But the idea really is to give you that roadmap from which you can execute your marketing so that you don't have to be doing things from scratch.
And so that you don't have to be, you know, banging your head against the wall and asking. Well, why isn't this working or, you know, just, just throwing all the darts at the dartboard, so to speak.
[00:13:21] Lori Farley: Yeah. Or even know if it's working, I work a lot with startups in the earliest stages and get them up to the stages where they are going into other accelerators and incubators for the most part.
And I'm wondering these are strategies that are needed in businesses, right from the very beginning, in some senses, in many senses. And so what are some of the ways that entrepreneurs can be getting prepared or ready so that they're doing things in a way that once they're in a, the place where they can hire you, what would that look like, if anything?
[00:13:49] Afton Brazzoni: Yeah, I think really at the startup stage, like one of the biggest things is just really the positioning of the brand itself and like getting clear what we always love to see when we start working with someone is a company that has already thought about particularly what its values are. Like. I think when someone can come in knowing their mission, their vision and their values. That's really all we need them to have for us to kind of go ahead and start developing a brand personality for them and a brand voice and a brand story. Like they don't need to come with those things. But I think as a founder, if you can. Just be really clear on your mission, your vision and your values.
I think that's going to set you up so well for the, decision-making not only in marketing, but you know, other decisions that you're going to make in your company as well in the future. So I'd say like those three things would be an excellent foundation and it's not to say that they can't change or that they need to always be the same forever, but like making values-based decisions is, is just such a powerful thing.
[00:14:56] Lori Farley: I agree, coming from the social impact perspective as my audience listeners know, that's the space, that's the most important and those that, those core values, those core pillars that lead you to stay true to your passion and not be led astray by advice or funders that are actually counter to what you're actually trying to do and paying attention to those and checking in on those and making sure they haven't changed over time because our values do change over time and making, making sure that we do that generative work.
That's the work we do early on helping businesses to set those foundations to so that they can move into,finding their true customers, not all customers, you know, you know, we, when people do their pitches and they talk about the 70 million people that are going to buy their product, well, we help people find out that people that are going to actually buy their products due to value alignment and those types of things. I'm assuming that that's what you're doing as well?
[00:15:46] Afton Brazzoni: Yes. I think like when you said that, what came to mind for me is in our line of work, it's like asking them about their target audience. And then when someone says. Well, our target audience is everyone. And you have to like, and of course we want things to appeal to everyone, but I think actually then we kind of, as an entrepreneur, like you go through this phase where you realize.
It's actually the more specific it can be, the more successful it will probably be. So it's yeah, I totally understand where you're coming from with that.
[00:16:15] Lori Farley: So do you have any clients that, get in the way of the, of themselves and you when you're trying to do the work, they are, they don't maybe understand the process or they have their own ideas and like, what is it that entrepreneurs might be shooting themselves in the foot in this space?
[00:16:29] Afton Brazzoni: That is a juicy one and yes, it does happen. So while I will also take care to be discreet, like yes, that can certainly happen. I mean, we're, we're actually quite lucky at Scribe. Like we've had amazing clients. I have definitely worked in environments in the past as a marketer within companies where.
my internal clients, like the other departments in the company, it, it was a very kind of difficult relationship to try to make marketing goals happen. And so I think that, like, what I would say to business owners is that it is tough. And I am saying this from experience because like, when it's your business, you're so close to it.
it can be difficult, but I think the outside perspectives can be really valuable if you can kind of just have a little bit of that give and take. And if you are making an investment in an expert, whether it's a marketing person or like an external finance person or whatever it is, you know, if you're making that investment, I do think it's not like you have to follow every single piece of advice they give you.
[00:17:33] Afton Brazzoni: But I think if you're going to make the investment. maybe being okay with being a little bit uncomfortable and, and, and trusting, right. You have to, and that's where, like, it is important to find a partner that you trust so that when they do give you a piece of advice that you're unsure about, if you trust in their abilities, and if you trust in their, level of commitment to your success, then at least, even if you're unsure, you can know that there's a good reason for sort of taking a stab at it or at least giving it a try because yeah, if you don't do that, you do get in your own way. Right. And then you don't really get anything out of the experience.
[00:18:07] Lori Farley: Yeah, I'm, I'm struggling through that a little bit myself, so that's going to be a good, that's good advice for me struggling having one of our I'm involved in a number of startups and projects, and we have one founder that's particularly has some blinders on, so it's hard to market when there's, when the perspective is kind of old-fashioned.
[00:18:25] Afton Brazzoni: Yes, ya. And I think, like that definitely comes up in all industries. but yeah, it's a tough one, but I think like good things can come out of trying to push outside of that comfort zone.
[00:18:36] Lori Farley: What are some of the things that you have like that you're really excited and proud of that you've done in your career or even in your business right now?
[00:18:42] Afton Brazzoni: Yes. I think this is a great time of year to actually reflect on those things. So I think, you know, something I'm, I'm really proud of is our. Our ability to have exceeded our revenue goal by quite a bit last year, and still at the same time, maintaining a reasonable work schedule for myself, because I think it's like it's putting those, those numbers and things like that in context, because the first year in my business.
We also did quite well, but I worked quite a bit more. And obviously when someone is starting a business, that that's going to be part of it and that's part of the deal. But I think being able to achieve financial goals in the business while also having like that personal side where, you know, you, you, you do feel like, yes, I actually got to experience the summer.
Whereas the first summer in my business, I was in my office the whole time. so that's something I'm really proud of. And then the other thing I'd say is. You know, as you mentioned in the intro, like most of our customers are repeat customers and I think, well, in any industry, but I think in this is relevant for tech as well, there's a lot of focus that can be placed on customer acquisition. And obviously it's important, you know, we always need to be gaining new customers and growing and things like that, but I've, I've just been so happy to look back and see that a lot of our customers are. Buying from us multiple times.
And, you know, we're delivering on the promise that we said we were going to deliver on and they're happy with that service. And that has become a long-term relationship. And the same would go for the writers who are involved with my team. Like they've been involved since the beginning. And so. I think, you know, those are, those are some things that I'm really incredibly pleased with.
[00:20:19] Lori Farley: So, one of the, the sort of the tenants of the Rainforest in Calgary and Alberta in general is sort of this sort of pay it forward mentality. Are there things that you have that you can offer into the ecosystem in terms of advice or support or some other things do you have some things that you have at the ready?
[00:20:36] Afton Brazzoni: Yes, I definitely do so on our website, we do have some free, learning and training resources. And then what I'd also love to do is just really extend a special offer to listeners. So typically I would offer anyone a free 30 minute consultation, but within the Rainforest community, I really do want to be mindful of putting something forward.
That's a little more substantial than that. So if there's anyone who's listed. Like let's have a longer conversation, you know, we can do kind of like a 60 to 90 minute marketing, deep dive. I am really happy to offer that, you know, completely complimentary and to the community. And just talk to you about what stage your tech company's at, you know, whether you're literally, whether it's at the ideation stage or whether you've already got a ton of customers like let's chat.
I think that. I think actually one of the things during this pandemic, not that we need to be reminded that we're in a pandemic, but I'm like, I'm hesitant to even bring it up. But, but one of the things that has actually been really nice is just the ability to have, to have built so many more connections with people online?
[00:21:42] Afton Brazzoni: And like in, in this community, for example, and many others, like all over the world, really. So please do like, take me up on it. I, I mean that, please get in touch and we'll have a conversation about it because I think having someone, even though I'm in marketing, it's like, when I want to think about the marketing for Scribe.
I, I want to bounce ideas off of somebody else. And so I think for anyone, whether how, however adept you are at marketing, like to have someone else to speak about it with is always helpful.
[00:22:08] Lori Farley: Right, and you're on the Rainforest Slack channel. So easy to, for people to contact you.
[00:22:13] Afton Brazzoni: Yup, I am on there, yup, that's right. Yeah. And then scribenational.ca is our website.
So if someone does want to go on there, there are, there is a learning section where you can grab a free guide, a free content checklist calendar. And then I've also got a free training on brand messaging on there too. And then like, our contact page, you can get in touch with me there. Or like you said, through the Slack, on the Rainforest channel.
[00:22:35] Lori Farley: What are some of the things that you might have as an ask to the ecosystem. Are you needing things from other people in the community?
[00:22:41] Afton Brazzoni: I think my ask would really just be like, I've been interested in connecting with more tech companies in Calgary, and I think it's just such an exciting moment for the industry in Calgary. And so I'd say like, if there is anyone, you know, that is interested in content marketing and having their company's story told, you know, in looking at their marketing in new ways, maybe kind of just talking to someone about it, like we're here.
I would say really just getting the word out. It would be my ask, you know, I've, I've really built Scribe National on, largely on word of mouth, like largely on previous clients and referrals. And I think it's still a super powerful strategy, even though we have all the digital tools at our disposal and I'm, you know, we do use them and I'm not opposed, but I just think word of mouth.
Like it has worked well for my business. So that's what I would ask is just, if anybody knows anyone that that might be a good fit for us to have a conversation.
[00:23:36] Lori Farley: Agreed word of mouth, I actually never learned how to market properly. So when I started my latest couple of companies, I didn't know how to market because all of my business from 2005 til now was based on word of mouth.
If I said, oh, I'm, I'm stopping doing something. I'm having some free time. And as if you know any customers, I would, I would be overwhelmed with customers. So learning how to market for me. Done very backwards. I don't have a concept, but I never went through the grind of doing it all this time.
[00:24:03] Afton Brazzoni: Yeah. Well it's so, glossed over sometimes because we do have all of these, you know, really high tech, fancy strategies that we can use and that.
There is certainly a place for it. Absolutely. But I think especially this year, like I've been hearing so much about this being the year of organic marketing and this being the year of relationship building. And I think, especially with some of the changes that have happened with Facebook advertising and really.
People also just wanting actual human connection. Like, I wouldn't be surprised at all if, if we all saw a really big resurgence in those grassroots types of marketing for 2022.
[00:24:40] Lori Farley: So what might some of those trends be then you think?
[00:24:43] Afton Brazzoni: Well, one of the things that I've already heard a lot about is this concept of dark social, or like private online communities where.
You know, you can't run an advertising campaign inside the community. You need to really go in there and actually have conversations like the Rainforest Slack channel would be a great example of it. Like you've got to put in the time and you've got to build real relationships with people, you know? And it's another reason why LinkedIn, I think, is, is having such a moment right now and seeing such success because the algorithm on LinkedIn is such that.
Your content can actually get seen. You don't have to put a bunch of money behind it for someone to see a post. And the people who are on LinkedIn are actually engaging with the content. And so I feel like a lot of people have abandoned other social platforms in favor of going over to LinkedIn, to market, whether it's their personal brand as an entrepreneur, whether it's their company.
Just anywhere where you can actually have like a genuine connection. I just think that those types of marketing are, are certainly coming to the forefront. I don't know enough to know what's going to happen with events. I I'm sure they'll continue to be hybrid. I hope that some in person events will be able to happen.
But yeah. I just think that that sort of personalized marketing, that connection based marketing,
[00:26:01] Lori Farley: what are some of the, what are some of the reasons that you, got connected into Rainforest?
[00:26:05] Afton Brazzoni: Yeah, so I've, like I said, I think that it's a really exciting time to kind of be connected with the tech community in Calgary.
And one of the other things I would say is that I liked the idea of how. You know, you bring something to the community and, and you can also make an ask of the community. And I think that when people especially are in a startup stage and I really still consider my business, like we've only, we've had our two year anniversary, but like we're still quite new.
I just think that, that, that those kinds of opportunities and having the space to do that is extremely, extremely valuable. And I just loved that. It's not only implied, but like it's right there on your website that like, these are the guiding principles of this community. And I think, if I can kind of put a branding spin on that for a moment as a, as a tip to people listening.
People connect with your brand when they understand what you're about and when they understand what your values are. And so I think that's something that rainforest has done really well is like putting it right out there. You know, this is what we're about. so that was one of the things for me that, that attracted me to it.
[00:27:11] Lori Farley: Me too. I joined Rainforest because it was. a living group of people embodying my values and principles, which there's not very many groups out there unless you're in totally the social impact space and we need impact and visibility. And so having a more tech space, thinking about the ideals of, of, of living and connecting with people and, sharing and, and diversity, those types of things.
Building the trust and the culture are things that I live and breathe every day. And I'd never felt in the tech community before that. And I'm a groupie and again, a geek, I hang out with a lot of tech people and a lot of tech companies and a lot of tech organizations, but I'm always a sort of an outsider.
Like, why are you here? You're, you're a social impact person. You're an artist. You're all these other things that we're not. And I'm saying. That's good. That's good for you. It's good for me, that sort of Mixing, melding of people who maybe in some people's minds shouldn't come together, but when they do what amazing things can happen, the synergy is the ideas, the innovation.
[00:28:12] Afton Brazzoni: I completely agree with that. And it's, you know, it just the fact that like my experience, I mean, when I started connecting with Rainforest and even though it's like, I'm not a tech founder, but I have felt completely welcomed. I mean, even for example, like to come on to this podcast and to speak to the audience, like there, it doesn't feel like you're not one of us.
And so I think that everything you just said, like, it's really, it's really true. Like we, we really feel that as, like as, from an outside perspective, looking at the community, I can really tell that.
[00:28:42] Lori Farley: I think our audience, particularly with the historical members, we'll be glad to hear that. Some of the questions that I ask everybody is.
What advice would you give to your teenage self to get to where you are today or looking back at where you are today from your teenage self?
[00:28:58] Afton Brazzoni: Oh my gosh. I probably have like a laundry list of pieces of advice that I would give her. I think if I had to give I'll just give, she needs a lot of advice. Let me just say that, but I will give just one and I guess it would just be that, kind of what I talked about before, about how like, I never thought I was going to be an entrepreneur.
And I think, being okay with things, not being linear, like I've always been a very organized person. I like to, you know, be in control of the outcomes. I like to see the path I like to know what's happening. But I think that if I, at that time, at that age, I was like fully set on being an international news correspondent.
Like I was, I, that was what I was going to do, but I think I would just say. That actually sometimes the unknown and sometimes. Following that path where we're not, we don't, we see the one step in front of us, but we don't see the whole path and that that's okay. Like that is completely fine, and that's actually very exciting.
[00:29:56] Lori Farley: I love that, it just reminded me that I consider myself an inventor now, and I never did, but I did through my whole youth because I was just making things all the time because we needed something. But my advice to people out there is to just look around yourself because what we're doing normally naturally ourselves.
Other people can't do and they don't want to do, and they will pay you to do that was a big revelation for me when I started my business in 2009. It's just understanding that. The uniqueness that we all have in ourselves that we can bring into entrepreneurship is really an amazing capacity. And it's what people need and want. And as part of the community culture that we try to create as entrepreneurs,
[00:30:36] Afton Brazzoni: that's so true. And I think one thing and like, kind of going back to our conversation before about women entrepreneurs specifically, and again, not to generalize, cause I know that not every woman feels this way, but what I will, one thing that I, that I will say is like the whole thought of well,
well, who am I to do it? And it's like, well, no, actually, who are you not to do it? And I think what you've just said about you do have gifts. you do have like, there, there are tons of things that people are not skilled at that someone else is, or, you know, one thing or the other. And I think those are how some of them not only great companies, but also.
Like I am having more fun in my career now than I ever had. And if I hadn't started my own business, I would have missed out on that.
[00:31:17] Lori Farley: Amazing. And you're a role model, an amazing role model, very connected, very interesting, very knowledgeable, and someone who's willing to support the community and, and receive from the community receiving sometimes hard.
I know. I'm hard at asking for help. For some reason I'm not good at it. I'm sure there's other people out there that are in that way, but Rainforest is a pretty safe place to do that. So, I, I'm encouraging all of our, all of our listeners to practice that. Afton, is there anything that I didn't ask you that you thought, oh, I wish I would have been able to say that. What are some of the things that you want to talk about?
[00:31:49] Afton Brazzoni: Really? I think we've covered a lot of good stuff. Like I think I wanted to just sort of. Of course, let people know, you know, how I can help them, which, which we've certainly covered. obviously highlighting the great things about this community, which, which we've totally covered.
I think if anyone ever, like I'm a dog lover, I also love hiking. If anyone ever wants to talk about those kinds of things, feel free to get in touch. you know, and. I think for people to like to continue exploring their creativity right. Is, is really just, I think what it's all about. I think that entrepreneurial spirit and creativity really go hand in hand. So. No, I think, I think we've had a great convo for sure.
[00:32:28] Lori Farley: I agree as well. And thank you for joining us today. thank you for this chance to get to know you. And most of the people I've interviewed in the past are people that I've known for a long time. So I really enjoyed what we had a chance to talk about, and I think our listeners will as well.
And I just want to thank the, thank our hundreds of listeners that are out there. Make sure you come back next week for our next episode of the Leaders, Innovators, and Big Ideas podcast. Back to you, Al.
Al Del Degan Hosts Darren Machalek
Listen to the episode here: Podcast
[00:00:00] Al Del Degan: Hey everybody. Welcome to the show. my special guest today is Darren Machalek. I mean, there's so much exciting things that have happened with Darren and his life. We go way back actually. so I'm gonna just start out with, hi, Darren. Welcome to the show.
[00:00:12] Darren Machalek: Hi, thanks for having me.
[00:00:14] Al Del Degan: So I know the listeners of the show, they really enjoy. Hearing, people's origin stories,mainly focused I guess, on your, career, but, if you want to add some of your, personal trials and tribulations as well, you're more than welcome to, but can you give us a bit of a run through, how you got to where you are today?
[00:00:32] Darren Machalek: All right. So a little bit of, my background, born and raised in Winnipeg. so great city love that city. when I turned 18, I pretty much packed my bags and moved to Calgary. and again, nothing wrong with that city. Absolutely love it. My family is still all out there. love to go back every year and visit with my family and wonderful city.
But, I went out to Calgary to go to university. And I just wanted to, to start fresh, you know, like when your growing up, you know, through high school and you make your friends and lifelong friends, you almost have this identity thrust upon you. And I saw this as a good opportunity to move to Calgary, start this new chapter in my life and really find out who I wanted to become and create that identity of who I wanted to so I got accepted to both university of Manitoba and, Devry Institute of Technology here in Calgary. And I went, you know what? This is a great opportunity. I'm going to go to Calgary. I'm going to go to Devry. It's an accelerated program. So it's a four year degree in three years, by the way, this is not a plug for Devry, they're not getting any money.
[00:01:37] Al Del Degan: Are they even still around?
[00:01:38] Darren Machalek: They do in the U S they're. They're all online here in Canada, but they're still in the U S. But I got my bachelor of science in computer engineering technology, from the U S so I have an American degree, great hands-on program. And then after I, I left, and graduated Devry I started my first company, which was to make video games.
So me and three other friends started this company and we started working on a role-playing game and submitted our application to Sony. And then we are going to develop games for the PlayStation portable, and then we got rejected by Sony. And you think you're 21 years old, just finished university, your hopes and dreams of creating video games is crushed.
but we didn't, we didn't take it that way. We, we said, you know what? This is kind of cool. We got rejected by Sony. This is a multi-billion dollar company. How cool is that? I still have the email. I still have the email. I, one day I'm going to get it framed. You know, after that we're like, okay, well, I guess we better go get jobs.
[00:02:39] Darren Machalek: So I got a job at an auto parts warehouse just to kinda keep me going. And then one day I saw this company online, never heard of them before DKTek Software Corporation. And I'm like, oh, they're looking for a software developer. So I applied and sure enough, they called me back. I'm literally in the middle of this auto parts warehouse.
I get the phone call. We'd like to come in for an interview. And I'm like, oh my God, I was walking on cloud nine. It didn't matter that I didn't have the job. I just had an interview as a software dev. And I was walking on cloud nine that whole day. And I'm like, okay. Did I even listen to what they said?
Where am I going for this interview? So I go on their website and I see two addresses. And I think you might remember this two addresses and I'm like, oh no, this is a 50 50 chance here. I'm like, okay, I'm going to pick this one. This one seems logical. So show up and I picked, right. And I remember mentioning, I think it was to you and, and this is where we met Al and you're like, well, you passed the first test.
You found the right list of the two. So did my test. And, I guess I, I did well. We did the interview. Did the test. I think I tried to bribe you guys with movie tickets. Cause my girlfriend at the time was looking for a movie at a movie. but nonetheless it paid off and I got my first crack as in the industry.
you know, and I'm, you know, Al you talk about how we know each other and, and the journey. I wouldn't be where I am today. If you guys didn't take a chance on a junior developer with zero experience, I, I would not be here. I would not have the experience. I don't know where my life would have been, had I not had that.
so just, a little, thank you. And I've said that to you many times, but just so your audience knows our relationship.
[00:04:24] Al Del Degan: I want my audience to know how important it is that you can hire junior developers and, you know, create new, career trajectories and change the world. Right? Like, I mean, you're a living example of that and wait until everybody hears the rest of your career trajectory. Cause it's pretty amazing.
[00:04:42] Darren Machalek: Yeah. And I will also say just, just as a, a little call here for DKTek, like not only did I get my first opportunity as a software dev, but I learned a lot of cool things about what a company could be, and we're going to get into my future of my company now, but some fundamental pieces that I'm inspiring to build the culture of my company came from DKTek.
It was, it had that startup vibe. It was laissez-faire right. Like we have work to do. And we were very serious with our clients and our projects, but it was just easy going, you guys, you and, and, and Chris Kelly treated people. Right. You know, it wasn't micromanagy and like it was guys, we have an objective, we had the big project schedule on the wall.
We had a fridge full of Red Bulls and let's do it. And we did it right. We, we did really well in delivering the major projects we had. And for me personally, Like that, that casual, we were serious about the work we do, but we're a team, we're a family. We went out to Banff for our retreats, every Christmas, right?
Like it built a foundation or planted the seed in my mind of what I wanted to build as a company. So going on in my journey. so you guys inspired me in many, in many ways. you know, then after that DKTek shifted focus, and I, I started my second company, which was L 99. inspired by video games cause I'm an avid gamer.
It was Level 99 Software and it was just consulting with you guys for, I think it was about a year, you know, we, we tag team on some projects and did that brief stint. And then in 2008, as we all know, 2008, the market and the housing market and the economy just. No one was hiring contractors. And at the time we were working at a major client and their contracts dried up, but they had a full-time role as a systems analyst.
And they said, do you want to make that transition? So in 2008, December 1st, 2008, I joined this company and worked as a systems analyst and then things rapidly took off. I think a year and a half in, I was then moved into a temporary manager role of corporate systems. So managing the team that does like finance, HR, like managing all of those corporate applications.
then once I moved from that temporary role, like it was a term role. I moved into a manager of systems planning, which,and I'll, I'll share where we worked. We worked at the Calgary Airport Authority. At that time, they started the planning for the new international facility. And my director at the time, Paul Lawrence saw something in me.
[00:07:24] Darren Machalek: And this is another person that took a chance on somebody who had zero management experience. And he said, I liked this guy. I want this guy. And he was tough. He was a tough director, but fair. Right? Like he, he would give you rope, and, and, and let you, and let you go well, but you better deliver on what he asked for.
And I did. I, you know, I think that's the beauty of I, going back to that point, a young manager we're hungry, right? I don't have experience, but I'm hungry to try and achieve and be successful. And, and it worked. And for, I did a brief stint as that manager of systems planning and Paul then moved from IT to a larger portfolio executive director of terminal integration.
He is overseeing that whole big program of taking the existing terminal and the new terminal and making them work together. And he got to pick two people on his team, the moment he started it, and he said, Darren, I want you to be one of these people. And he's like, I want you to be general manager of terminal integration IT.
And I want you to build a team, put the team together because I know we're going to be successful. And I did. This was, I became a general manager, like very short timeframe. I'm now running a multi-million dollar. Like I don't, I'm not talking one, $2 million. I'm talking tens of millions of dollars. And he knew that I'm a nerd when it comes to budget and finance and despite having ADHD, like, and a lot of people see it as detriment.
Now I'll get into where the detriment of ADHD comes in but, hyper-focus is one of our superpowers and budgets, projects, things like that. I get my hyper-focus and he knew this, like, he didn't know how to HD, but he knew he gave me something I could run with. And boom, I was running the entire budget for Paul.
If he trusted me to not just run my IT Piece, but our entire team budget. And that went on up until about, I would say about 2016 when we slated to open the international terminal. And we got an opportunity to work again together on the IFP project, right? You were part of the, the actual IFP core project team and I was on terminal integration.
So another great opportunity to work together. and. We, we opened an international terminal in 2016. Like we delivered on this and, and my role as general manager, was to take the existing terminal, and the new terminal and make them work from an IT aspect. So my project team, we had to gut a lot of the technology systems in the domestic terminal put in brand new project systems or new systems.
IT systems that would work in the international terminal. So like if, if for the audience to give you some examples,if you use the flight information displays or the check-in kiosks, The self bag drops, like everything that you use from an IT aspect. that's what we made sure was well integrated and working successfully.
[00:10:27] Al Del Degan: Ya, and I bet you a lot of people don't realize that, even though each airline has all these different pieces of technology in their own area they're actually just using it. And it's actually put in there and managed by the Calgary Airport Authority itself. So like all the technology in the building with the exception, I think of the U S area, cause they kind of do a bit of their own stuff, in security and stuff, but you still provide all the wires to those locations and probably some of the hardware as well. but yeah, like people don't realize that the Calgary Airport Authority is a pretty massive IT company, and you were basically running that show, which is really cool.
[00:11:03] Darren Machalek: We had a great team. I, you know, I, I thank you for the, you know, I was running the show. We, we couldn't have done it without a fantastic team. Like, you know, I had one project manager, senior project manager, Damien Griffith. For those of you looking for a great project manager, I still recommend him.
we won a project of the year from PMI for our terminal integration. So we had to renumber the whole terminal. If you remember this, the terminal used to go backwards. So from south to north, it would go ABC. Right? And because the, international terminal was built on the south side, we had to flip the whole terminal around and you think, oh, you're just changing gate numbers and letters, but all of the IT systems, your baggage is routed based off of those gates and carousels and labeling electrical designs are all done through that.
[00:11:58] Darren Machalek: We had to flip it and it was a portfolio under our program we were delivering on. And the crazy part about this is we had to do this in one night. We had to flip an entire terminal in three hours because we couldn't disrupt operations.
[00:12:12] Al Del Degan: 24 hours. Right. Airports run 24 hours a day.
[00:12:15] Darren Machalek: Yeah. So Damien and I, and, and the team, I, I, you know, there was a grand team, right?
Like electrical, passenger experience, baggage, everyone. This is a team effort. but Damien and I built the plans. Eight, months of planning on paper for three hours to execute in one night. And I'll tell you this, nobody lost a bag. Nobody got lost in that terminal. Cause we, we did it smoothly and we were rewarded.
PMI recognized us as being project of the year, which was, which was fantastic. so the year of opening 2016, there was a reorg within IT. So I wasn't part of IT. I was part of that terminal integration, but there was a reorg and I was asked to take on another general manager role. But remember, the terminal is not open yet.
I can't leave my job. So they, they gave me a second general manager role to manage and a second team to manage. so now I was general manager of IT operational systems, as well as general manager of terminal integration. so I led that up until we opened in October. I think we opened Halloween, of 2016.
And then once that was done, I moved into my final transformational role, which was general manager of airport systems. So I completed my term, the terminal opened yay success,that we reorg'd the department. And the new role was general manager airport systems, which was. like a solution design engineering team.
So, you know, all those new things we put in on the new international terminal, we, we designed those. So did that for a few years and, and I apologize, very long-winded audience. I'm sorry. I'm still talking about my history 2016 happened. It was great. 2017, was moving along smoothly and that's when, my life hit a big bit of a twist.
So back in 2010, my mom slipped and fell on some ice and she had a traumatic brain injury in which she lost motor function, memory, everything she was hospitalized and couldn't even feed herself. Couldn't remember my dad, it was bad. That was 2010, and she started to recover. like she got motor functions, started getting her memory back.
She had to learn how to write again. Like, and thankfully she got all of her motor function back, but she suffered longterm cognitive damage, brain damage. So, memory short-term memory is, is a challenge for her. So that's in Winnipeg, my mom and dad and Winnipeg. So that happened in 2010 and then 2017, My dad had a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 63 and passed away.
And my mom who can't take care of herself, like she can't cook for herself. She can't like that's, that's how bad her brain damage is. She's fully functioned. Like I can have a great conversation with her, but those fine details. she, she can't do. And her primary caregiver, which was my dad passed away. And my dad worked, at CP Rail for 35, 36 years.
One company, his whole life had a pension, was retired. He just retired. He retired. Yeah. And then passed away and I needed to make a choice and a lot of thoughts. And for those of you that have had a death in the family, you go through this period where you start re-evaluating everything in your life. So I was remotely taken care of my mum, from, from Calgary and she's a Winnipeg and trying the best I could and I had that to manage.
And that was tough. That was so tough. And I said, okay, what am I going to do here? I can't, I can't sustain taking care of my mom and, and have this full intensive career at the airport. And I went, you know what, life's too short. my dad worked for one company for 35 years and I don't think he would ever change that.
You know, he, he loved what he did. He was a machinist at CP Rail and he loved what he did and they took good care of him, but I didn't want that to be me. You know, I was coming up on 10 years at the Calgary Airport Authority and it was, it, it was a great place, great people. it still is a great place and great people.
I still have many friends there. But I'm like, do I want to be 35 years at the Calgary Airport Authority? What, what am I missing? Right. Like I had DKTek, I did contracting, what am I? There's something driving me. And I said, you know, I want to make the video game. I'm a creative person. I want to make video games.
Yeah. I just I'm like, I love writing, you know, you and I did a short film together. I love create creativity, creative aspects. I love being a programmer. I love business. Like I learned so much about business and I'm PMP certified. I love projects. There must be a career out there that does all this.
And sure enough, there is video games, video games you have to wear every single hat and do that. So I went, okay. I'm building a plan. Putting together a plan here. And I started building a plan and I said, you know what? December 1st, 2018 will be my 10 years at the Calgary Airport Authority. That would be a perfect date to leave.
And I put in my notice, I gave them a month's notice. You know, I socialized it first, they knew it was coming and I gave my notice. And December 1st I started my new journey and I started, I converted, an old hobby company, into a game company, my old consulting firm into a game company and I created what is called Metawe.
And you're like Metawe. What, how do you spell that? And why are you saying it funny? And it's M E T A W E. And a lot of people would go Mettawee. Yeah. Mettawee but it comes from a Cree phrase, "pe meta way", meaning to come and play, which is great for a video game company. We want you to come in. but also in just taking those root words, Metawe how do, how what's the new way people connect?
You know, we connect online, we connect to playing games, we connect in a virtual sense in a meta sense really., so we take the "Meta" and the "we" together we're in the Metawe. And for those of you that have heard that Facebook has rebranded to Meta. That's a whole other topic that I'm willing to get into after, after I share close out my history.
So yeah, so 2018, December 1st, 2018, I left a 10 year career and started making video games full time. And that is where I'm at today. Oh, I should also throw, because this is big and I don't want anyone to think that there's any kind of cultural appropriation. Yes, the name Metawe is inspired by the Cree language and I am Meitei, so I I'm a member of the Meitei Nation of Alberta.
I have, my genealogy of, of rich, indigenous heritage, consisting of Cree or Chippewa chip away. And, it's fantastic. It's it's actually part of becoming a member of any, meitei group, you have to show your genealogy. And it's so wonderful to go through there and see my heritage documented of, of all of this richness.
[00:19:17] Darren Machalek: So, yes, the name is inspired by my, my heritage and my proud Meitei, upbringing from my mom. So. And that's where I'm at today.
[00:19:25] Al Del Degan: Well, don't, bury this. You just on LinkedIn, I saw that you just posted something really exciting. Do you want to tell us about that?
[00:19:32] Darren Machalek: Oh, absolutely. So we just became a member of the Canada Council of, Aboriginal Business.
Yeah. So like what, we became a member and we got our certified Aboriginal status. Like they have their own certified. So what they do is they allow, indigenous businesses to register with them. They host conferences, networking events, they provide resources for indigenous businesses to help them grow and set them up for success.
But they also connect non-indigenous businesses with indigenous businesses. To help both. Right? Sometimes non-indigenous businesses are looking to partner up with indigenous businesses and to help them to work together, to further both companies, best interest, right. That, has been, very exciting.
So that is where we just recently joined that, the, yeah, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and we submitted our, our proof of, heritage and the company. They gave us our, our Certified Aboriginal Business status, which is fantastic. I'm so proud of just being able to be recognized from that, like, you know, being Meitei to you and I have my Meitei card and all of that.
it's just nice that my business has also equally or our business is also equally, equally recognized, and you know, it's not, and I just want to clear this up because sometimes there can be some negative stereotypes. You know, having my mate, my matey card and applying for certified Aboriginal business, there's no financial or monetary gains having this.
[00:20:56] Darren Machalek: I don't pay less in taxes. I don't get indigenous discounts. I don't get free education. Just for me, it's a sense of pride, right? Like, you know, somebody's Italian, and they have their Italian heritage. They're proud of their food. They're proud of their music, their wine, their culture.
That's the benefit in itself. And for me being Meitei and, and a, and a member of the Meitei nation of Alberta, it's the exact same thing. Right , of just having that pride in my culture. So, yeah, I was really happy to have that and, you know, the first day of being a member, I actually came across another indigenous game developer here in Canada. Like just literally the first day and we're going to have coffee next week. and it's super exciting and I apologize. I'm going to butcher their name. it's Achimostawinan Games, but I think it's,Achimostawinan . Yeah. So we can, we can, you can probably post a link to their, their game site, but they're out in Ontario and, very exciting.
It's it's like finding a long lost cousin. That you just, and you're like, man, we have so much to talk about. Like, so I'm really looking forward to, to meeting with them for coffee next week. So, yeah.
[00:22:03] Al Del Degan: That's brilliant. So the obvious questions that pop into my head right now are, with it's Mettawee is that, am I saying that right?
Picture it like, if it was spelled M E T A W A Y Metawe
[00:22:15] Al Del Degan: Metawe. Okay. So with, with Metawe, What's it been like since you dove in with both feet? Now, I know, cause I downloaded it. You created a smartphone game for landing aircraft, which is very cool. How was that journey? And then what have you been up to since then? Like how has it been running a video game company now? Cause you had already said that that was like the first thing you did was create a company to create video games and then you went through all. 10 12 years of history. And then now you're back to full circle, back to creating a video game again. So tell us a little bit about that.
[00:22:48] Darren Machalek: It is, for the, all of you aspiring game developers out there,making a video game and making a video game business are two very different things. If you like making video games, That's great.
That's fantastic. Maybe just make video games and release them under your own name. running a video game business is, is like playing a video game on hard mode. You know, like you, you now have to be the creative director. You have to be the project manager. You have to be the producer. You have to be the art director, you so, and that's just oversight and the, and the game designer, then you have to program.
and then on top of that, you have to file taxes and run a business and pay GST, find out how you're going to sell your game. And thankfully, there's good avenues out there like Apple and Google, both have their platforms, right. to download games. so making a game is very different than marketing and selling a game, which is very different than running a game business and just making a game and putting it out there.
[00:23:49] Darren Machalek: It's not going to be successful. I can. I, if you are just a lucky, you just get lucky and somebody stumbles across it. Yeah. Maybe, but, it's, it's very hard without marketing to, to find that out. And, my first game Departure Dash available now on the apple and Google, it's been available for four years now, but, It's, it was one of those labors of love where I took my past history and made it one of those clicky, you know, you're landing aircraft and taking off aircraft.
I thought my first game sales were going to translate into me being self-sufficient and being able to afford making another game. And boy was that eyeopening. I, you know, I pulled together a team. The team was contractors. Like I can't do art. So I had an art team and all of that. And that came from my project management experience.
[00:24:35] Darren Machalek: But, yeah, nowhere did I recoup the costs that it took for my personal time. If I did the math on how much I spent, like personal time on it, I would have made about a dollar an hour, so I could go get a minimum wage job and still make, you know, 15 times more than I would as a game developer. so it really plays hand in hand and that was probably the most eyeopening, but then I made two other mobile games and I'm like, I'm not giving up on this.
That's not me. I don't give up. I just didn't find the right recipe for success. So I launched two more mobile games and this time I said maybe how I'm trying to monetize is wrong. I'm going to give these away for free and put ads in them. And so I made a Ready Jump, which is kid friendly, by the way, if anyone wants to download Ready, Jump, you play as a dinosaur and you jump, you just tap the screen and you jump.
and I check the ad revenue on that, and I went okay. This could be lucrative if I had $50,000 in marketing budget to promote the game, but it just wasn't lucrative. So I'm like, okay, I don't have the, the brand to create a video game that's going to sell at a price. I don't have the marketing budget to promote free games.
[00:25:55] Darren Machalek: So what other options are there? And I said, well, You really didn't want to create mobile free games and casual games. You just did this to get the experience. Let's focus on what you want to do, which is creating full fledged, full big role-playing games. And you want to write story? I want to write dialogue.
I want to create interesting characters and worlds. That's the vision. That's the mission. Of Metawe. That's what I started out to was, like to embrace my roots as a storyteller and to create these immersive, imaginative worlds that players can come in and be like, what's this story about, what's the intrigue, what's this world building.
That's really what I wanted to do. And I said, okay, I have experience now of launching games. I have launched 3, and I'm going to say successful games. Finance does not always mean success, launching a game and having experience can also mean success. And so that's what I've been working on for the past, year and a half now is, my, my current role-playing game.
It's called Project Kenora. Right now, that's its working title. we're currently in the process of trademarking the official name before we go public with it. and we're working with our legal team on that and yeah, it's a full fledged RPG set in space. It's a scifi adventure, with indigenous roots as part of it too. So there's, I'm drawing from that as well. essentially it's, there's a new planet, that earth is starting to reach out to like what earth is expanding out to start to colonize new planets and essentially the earth government, the United Nations said.
Okay. you know, as part of reparations for the land, it Canada in the United States that, you know, was, was taken and, and we're going to give these planets free to indigenous groups and go out and you guys recreate your own societies and your own land under, under the earth government, but you'll still go do that.
And there's this one planet called Odenow, but they get free reign of this planet, but it's overseen by a corporation and the corporation gets one core city and then gets to mine minerals. And that plays into a whole intrigue there of corporations and indigenous land. And, you play as a member of this corporation.
Her name is Kenora. That's why it's called Project Kenora and she is Meitei. Mixed blood she's mixed blood and her whole thing here is she's an agent of this corporation executing the corporations will, but she's going through this struggle of this identity of working for a corporation and trying to get her roots because she's never, she was taken from a young age to work for this corporation, and she's never had that opportunity to embrace her community.
And it's that struggle that she goes through and that's what the player gets to experience. And there's so much more, but that's just the Coles notes of a scifi adventure. there's I mentioned indigenous,inspiration there, you know, people see things like cyber punk, you know, there's games out there.
There's a whole genre of science fiction cyberpunk, and you look at it. And one thing I wanted to do different was you see cyber punk and always in the background you see characters, like all of the signs are either written in like Chinese characters or Japanese characters. And, you know, that was kind of the futurism for cyberpunk of, you know, that fusion, that cultural fusion.
I went, I'm doing something different. I'm going to do all of the characters on all of the buildings, in Cree syllabics. And if you look up Cree syllabics, they look super cool. Like they, it looks scifi and futuristic. And so neat. And so working with my concept artists. And if you go check out on Twitter @Metawegames, a lot of my concept art is up there.
You'll see our buildings have the Cree syllabics on there. and, and that's what I want is those glowing neon lights with, with a language that people, a lot of people wouldn't recognize like, oh, out of the global population, not very many people speak Cree or see Cree syllabics. So I wanted people to be, whoa, what is that?
And then they start researching more. Wow. That's Cree that's really cool. I want to see more. What does that mean? And I want them to go onto the Cree online dictionary, but oh, wow. That means restaurants. That means beer and start getting that cool pop culture piece from the indigenous undertones that are, that are in the game.
And it's just something cool I wanted to play with.
So how far are you into this game now?. so it's, I have a playable. Like you can play it like me. I can play it or a test or can play it and it start the, the first zone. it's an open world, so you can go and do multiple things and there's branching storylines.
so I would say it's a pre-alpha state, but I didn't want to start bringing on contractors and other teammates until I was ready. And so last year I was ready. I'm like, I can't just use dev art or art. I find online a free art online, never steal. I always, I always credit the artists and what, what they did.
but I, I used that temporary art until I was ready. And last year we were ready and we hired four artists to the project team. We have a character concept, artist, a building concept, artist. We have a three character animator and we have a props animator. So I have four, four contractors working right now.
[00:31:22] Darren Machalek: And they're located throughout the globe. Like it is an international team working on this. It is super cool to work with people from other countries on, on this initiative. And this year, 2022, we're what nine days in. I'm going to be expanding the team out to probably about four more. So, I want to bring on board a, and this is going to be targeted.
Certain roles are gonna be targeted. I want to collaborate with some indigenous concept artists to create the clothing of this world. I want to inspire the, the, the fusion of indigenous traditional clothing with SciFi modern clothing and, and basically say, okay, this town looks like this. What would they wear?
And so that's, that's one role, a UX UI designer. I I'm bringing on board, another prop animator and, and another concept artist. So we're really going to be ramping up to four more contractors this year, to, to keep going with the company.
[00:32:18] Al Del Degan: Let's go full circle again. Let me ask you a, Dangerous question. Are you going to be open to hiring junior developers in the future?
[00:32:25] Darren Machalek: 100%? And by the way, it's even these concept artists, I don't need game experience. I need passion, right? So like you can teach people how to program. You can teach people those technical skills, passion, you can't teach passion, you can't teach, you know, ambition.
That's what I look for. Right. You know, I would say that, to the audience, you know, if you're ever looking for talent and you're creating a talent pipeline, hit up SAIT, hit up UofC, hit up your local university and trade schools, hire these junior people, give them slack. Like, they're not going to know, but I'm going to tell you that it's an and yes, they're going to get experienced three to four or five years.
They're probably going to leave you. Yes, they are. That's inevitable. That's inevitable. But. That's the beauty of a pipeline. That's the beauty of this. You can create a wonderful talent pipeline and it's better to have a junior resource for three to five years pumping out great things for your company, then to just have to settle with somebody. Do you know what I mean? Like, it's hard to find that ambition and passion and absolutely, developer roles. I'm the only developer right now. I'm the only writer and developer. and I'm working with, I made a friend, up in Edmonton. he runs a board game shop and their name is very similar.
he runs Pe Metawe, which is the full phrase, of the Cree. and he runs a board game shop in Edmonton. So check them out. If you're up in Edmonton, check out, Pe Metawe Games, awesome company. They do consulting as well, but we made friends, we became friends and we were talking and he's what he's doing is he's creating programs for internships.
he's working with company to help create programs for internships. And he's like, would Metawe wanna hire interns to do like software development testing? All that I said, yes. Let's do it paid, you know, I don't, I don't. And maybe this is just my opinion, not please don't think I'm, I'm, I'm, looking negatively upon anyone for it, for this, but I will always pay internships.
[00:34:23] Darren Machalek: I believe that just because somebody's inexperienced doesn't mean that they don't have value. Right. And, and I, even if it's something small minimum wage, $20 an hour, whatever it may be and just for their, their three months, or four months. It gives them that sense of pride and ownership. I got paid for doing something and it also gives me that sense of I'm not taking an advantage of this person.
I'm getting value and I'm paying them for that value. So we're going to be interns. and my I'm going to only hire like, this is I I'm saying this recorded audio your five, 10 years from now. You're going like Darren, you said this, I got it on audio. I'm only gonna have. Devs out a university.
I'm not going to hire a AAA. you know, somebody in the industry for five, 10 years, and you're gonna be like, why, why wouldn't you want that experience? I absolutely would love that experience. But game dev is a passion industry and I want that passion. I want those junior people to feel that and give them that taste of it.
Maybe they try out game dev for three to three years and they go, I don't like game dev. I want to go work at, you know, a big company. I want to develop APIs. I want to do, I want to develop blockchain. Cool. But at least I gave you that experience to do that and go forth. And then I'll bring in another new junior devs and I'll train them up and set them up for success.
Like you guys did with me, right. At DKTek. You guys took that chance. And as I said, you guys inspired me. I hope to do that. For the next, new software developer, that's coming out of school. I give them 3, 4, 5 years experience and maybe they go create, the new disruptive technology.
And they, they changed the world who knows, maybe they don't, maybe they just get a great career, , get married and have kids, or maybe they just enjoy their life as is. I don't care. I just want to be able to help those people. and so yes, I'm making that commitment. All my devs will be fresh out of university or college or just even an impassioned person that says I've never done game development for it, but this is what I want in my career.
[00:36:28] Al Del Degan: Right on. Well, Darren, I mean, you're, you're a, you're a huge inspiration. you know, I hired you originally back in the day, because I could see that passion just pouring out of you when you were sitting in our office.
And, and I'm so glad I did because, you certainly changed a portion of the world in, in a better way. And I think you're going to go on and continue to do that going forward. So huge pat on the back. And, and, I'm actually proud of you, Darren. I'm inspired and proud at the same time.
So that's. thank you so much for joining us today on the show. I really appreciate it. I'm looking forward to having many more conversations with you and, you know, just thanks so much for being here.
[00:37:08] Darren Machalek: Great. Thank you having me at any time you want me to back, I would be more than happy to talk. You know, me, I'd love to talk so.
[00:37:16] Al Del Degan: Awesome. All right, everybody. Thanks for joining us today. we'll see you next week. Every Tuesday morning at 8:00 AM. We have a new episode, so join us. And if you want to be a guest on the show, reach out to us. And, we're also looking for hosts. It's a community podcast so if you'd like to host an episode of your own, please reach out as well. So take care, everyone. Thanks for listening.
It has been such an exciting year within Alberta tech and the energy in the Rainforest has been no different! 2021 began with vigor as the virtual world was no longer filled with uncertainty - we felt more grounded in our virtual community.
As the digital environment grew, the desire to know more about what was happening in the tech sector became fierce in YYC. The Rainforest met that demand by focusing our weekly cadence, LWOL (pssst… get it in your calendar for 2022), on demystifying the tech scene. Our first panel of career pivotor's brought in an attendance of over 165 people and the energy grew week-over-week as we explored different tech roles, ecosystem resources, and introduced over 300 newcomers to our online gatherings.
In the Summer, we recognized the LWOL audience was made up mostly of founders and curious Calgarians so we shifted our focus to hearing founder stories through the lens of the Social Contract. An average of 80 attendees joined per week with each founder bringing a new audience to the community. Hearing how the innovation of ways played into these founders’ success, failures, and team building has inspired many to form collaborations, pay it forward, and share their own knowledge with others.
When not colliding at LWOL, our online Slack community of nearly 2,000 people shared 5,400 private and public messages demonstrating the power of the online community even further.
2021 also began with an addition to the YYC team with our new Community Storyteller, Amber Rowden. Among Amber’s many efforts to tell founder stories through the lens of the Social Contract (check out our blog, Rainforest Role Models campaign, and our various social channels), she grew the Rainforest LinkedIn following by 75% and brought Rainforest Alberta nearly 15,000 website visitors. She even took the community onto new channels like Instagram and TikTok where we continue to gain followers and act as an onramp to the ecosystem.
In 2021, we engaged in a project with previous Community Manager and artist, Mackenzie Bedford of Bedford Creative. This inspiring project offers an approachable and fun way of sharing the Rainforest analogy with new audiences. The videos are also used throughout the ecosystem to help us remain rooted in the social contract. The project has already had over 230 views!
In the Spring we held a fireside chat with co-author of the Rainforest book, Greg Horowitt (hosted by Rainforest Alberta co-founder, Jim Gibson) where we were reminded that “99% of what makes innovation happen is completely invisible”. It all comes down to optimized human behaviour and TRUST!
This led to our first-ever virtual Summit where 147 participants took part in an interactive morning of reflection on the social contract values and the importance that our actions have on accelerating a welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant tech sector.
A very special highlight of this year has been supporting the community-led LIBI podcast, managed by Al Del Degan. This year we hosted the first-ever LIBI podcast awards and it truly felt like we were on the red carpet! We couldn’t be prouder of this team, as the podcast was named top 4 Canadian innovation podcast this year!
Other impactful events and partnerships have involved our friends at Platform Calgary, Startup Calgary, CRIN, and more! Check out this report for more impact stats.
As we say goodbye to another unprecedented year, we would like to thank the many partners who help us grow the Rainforest movement. Thank you to our friends at Rainforest YEG, Alberta Innovates, the Calgary Innovation Coalition, the wonderful humans at Zinc Ventures, and most importantly, the dreamers, doers, and curious individuals who make up this incredible community. We are grateful to serve you.
Wishing you all a peaceful and joyful holiday season,
Rainforest Alberta - YYC