July, 2015

  1. The Uprise of Victoria’s Co-working Community

    July 30, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield


    777 fort Street. Image Courtesy of Nevin Thompson.

    From Antique Row to Entrepreneurial Row, Fort Street is dusting itself off, evolving and looking better than ever. Step aside doilies and teapots…

    The Spacestation, Fort Tectoria, 838 Fort (opening soon, name TBD), and the Watershed are all co-working office spaces that have dotted Fort Street from Langley to Cook.

    Office mashups like this were inspired by cities like Boulder, Austin and San Francisco. You can’t walk more than a few blocks in those tech hubs without coming across a unique co-working office environment with a cafe and a buzz of creativity. This same vibe has reached Victoria and is spreading quickly.


    In 2012, VIATEC moved to Hillside and Douglas to try an experiment and opened Accelerate Tectoria. It provided flexible office space and entrepreneurial advice and took off like a rocket. So much so that, within months, VIATEC started shopping for a building it could buy to make a permanent home for the concept.

    The Spacestation

    The Spacestation

    Shortly after, Peter Gustavson, CEO of EncoreFX opened Spacestation  (formerly “Spacebar”) in a building he already owned from his Custom House Currency Exchange days on lower Fort Street. About the same time, Owen Matthews of the Alacrity Foundation opened a shared office for several of his tech mentee companies at Fort and Vancouver. He saw the potential and quickly partnered to turn the old bottle depot around the corner into a 4,000ft² shared office known as “the Mini Tech Park” that houses companies like Pretio Interactive and Tutela Technologies. It’s also where the SpaceBus happens to live.

    1124 Vancouver Street

    1124 Vancouver Street. Image Courtesy of Photographer Sama Jim Canzian.

    Thanks to Owen and his office turnaround partners Fraser McColl and Dan Robbins, VIATEC was able to find the right building to buy at 777 Fort Street and opened Fort Tectoria in September of 2014. Within a few months, all 18 offices and 88 available desks are taken while the main floor lounge is packed daily thanks to its free (very fast WiFI), comfortable desks, chairs, couches AND a cafe that serves up plenty of coffee and nutritious food to keep the visiting innovators and entrepreneurs fuelled.

    Just down the block, 838 Fort Street is in the final stages of its renovations (once again courtesy of Matthews, McColl and Robbins) but the place is already filling up and there’s only 2,500ft² left of the 20,000ft² building! There are even companies moved in while construction continues like our Tectorian’s of the Week, Silkstart. Everyone is looking forward to the rooftop patio that is near completion and already planning events around it.


    Startup and early stage companies in Victoria are finding it tough to commit to a 5 year lease in an office they will most likely grow out of. They could go from 2 employees to 10 or more in less than a year. Coworking spaces are allowing them to rent individual desks or private offices on a month to month basis to allow room for growth. The downtown locations make these spaces very appealing too with plenty of options for food, beer, coffee and shopping.

    This trend moves past Fort Street…


    TheDock Victoria off Fan Tan Alley and The Watershed, also on Fort Street, both opened recently while Digital Desks is expected to open in the Parkside Hotel this September and “The Nest” will be opening close to Murchies on Government in the near future.

    WOW! With all this space for work, we hope Tectorians will still take time off for vacations!


    Local tech and business entrepreneurs are changing the city as we know it, for the better. With the availability of this new flexible co-working community, it’s easier than ever to turn great ideas into successful companies and grow our #1 industry even stronger.

  2. Sonic Road

    July 23, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield

    Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 3.59.05 PM
    Music is very powerful. It can express how we feel, it can change how we feel, it can alter the mood of a party and it can help us concentrate.

    Many office environments either have music playing throughout the building or employees that are plugged in with headphones, creating a bubble around them where they can get just about anything done; And maybe listen to profanity-filled beats without anyone knowing…

    So where do you go for your music playlists? There are many great options like iTunes, SoundCloud and Youtube. However, adding new music to your iTunes account can cost a pretty dollar and your playlists can get old, SoundCloud doesn’t have as big of a music library as Youtube, and making a Youtube playlist can be very time consuming – not to mention there’s no guarantee of it being commercial-free. I mean, who wants to be interrupted from the smooth jams of Montell Jordan with a commercial for stress-free banking?

    Enter SonicRoad.


    SonicRoad (formerly “RockitFan”), is a music discovery web app powered by YouTube and created by Victoria local, Marcelo Beilin. It’s designed for those who want access to unlimited and uninterrupted music at great speed.

    After three clicks and a few seconds, SonicRoad searches YouTube and then generates and plays 3+ hour long playlists of awesome music, for free.

    But here’s where it gets even better: To fit the user’s taste for music, playlists are generated to match a specified user interest and musical style. You tell the web-based app you’re unwinding from a busy day, cooking a meal or gearing up for a house party, etc and it will put on the perfect playlist for you! You might be thinking, how is that different from Songza? Well, since it’s linked with Youtube, the music library is incredible!

    There are 324 user interests and musical style pairings available and since SonicRoad is powered by YouTube, it also plays music videos and has access to millions of songs by over 30,000 bands and artists from 130 countries.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 3.58.41 PM


    “Since none of the playlists are pre-made, there’s no human bias that might downplay artists because they are not well established yet, because they are not being actively promoted, or because they live and work in other countries,” commented Beilin. “As a result, over half of the music featured in SonicRoad showcases great talent that doesn’t typically get a lot of mainstream play and the discovery rate for an average listener can be as high as 80% depending on the genre.”

    The mobile app is still in the works, but the web app was designed to match a mobile experience, making it easier for users to make a shift once a mobile option is available.

    While it isn’t mobile friendly yet, SonicRoad does have another great feature: Playlists of production-quality music by thousands of artists from around the world performing in 35+ languages!

    “Ever been curious about which local bands people in Japan, the Philippines, Russia, Kenya or Argentina listen to? You can find out in just a matter of seconds by exploring the genre World broken down by country,” commented Beilin.


    Marcelo Beilin was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a family of entrepreneurs and originally came to Canada to study engineering. Instead, he landed a job at a large networking equipment manufacturer and ended up staying. Before SonicRoad, he worked for Trafford Publishing in Victoria and the UK and left after a few years to develop Friesenpress, the online-publishing division of Friesens Corporation.

    “There are lots of great creative people in this city working on their own at home, in coffee shops or in public libraries to come up with great web or app-based technologies to solve a key business problem or just to make our lives better. Send With Us was started a little over two years ago by a couple of guys working in coffee shops around the city and has now received funding from top Silicon Valley investors.”


    Now that the initial development is complete and SonicRoad’s servers have been moved to the Amazon Cloud, SonicRoad is now competitive around the world in terms of performance and Marcelo will be focusing on this project for quite some time.

    Try out SonicRoad today and feel free to share your experiences or ask any question that you might have by emailing team@sonicroad.com.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.46.47 PM

  3. Cold Shoulder Cafe

    July 14, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield


    The breathtaking view from Jordan River’s campground is being enjoyed once again, after BC Hydro’s announcement in May that they will buy homes at fair market value once available, instead of immediately. This all began with the paranoia of what could happen to the land after a major earthquake.

    News that Jordan River won’t be a Ghost Town right away has made locals, surfers, backpackers and campers rejoice, putting a spark back into the little town.

    One of those sparks is the Cold Shoulder Cafe.


    Cold Shoulder Cafe opened last September where Shell’s Fish & Chips and corner store used to be. They’re showing great promise as they’ve made it through a slower tourist season and seem to always be busy, even on Tuesday nights. It may have something to do with the owners being local surfers and understanding the vibe of their community.

    Josh Constandinou, Murray Higgins, Christine Winsby, Shawna Knight, Ella Constandinou, Josey Legalis, Sage Boisvert, Jeremy Knight and Ruby Spurr make up the large, supportive team of Cold Shoulder.

    “The Cold Shoulder was an idea started by a few friends, and was a place that we always imagined would exist,” commented co-owner Murray Higgins. “We were over waiting for it to happen. We needed a hub or meeting place to enjoy the days and welcome the people travelling through this beautiful little piece of the world.”


    The cafe is unique as their kitchen is a newly painted food trailer and all the seating is in the cafe’s building and outside. This makes for a booming business as they can take their kitchen anywhere they want, including the recent Tall Tree Music Festival. “[Tall Tree] was amazing. Never would I have thought it was going to be so challenging. We felt like we survived a fierce battle afterwards, it was a huge success.”

    At the moment their menu is fairly simple and is evolving, but you can find homey items like the bacon cheese burger and kennebec fries or Christine’s amazing homemade cookies on any given day.

    “We have some ideas in mind for another small cafe,” commented Higgins. “We have just expanded with the food trailer and there is some reno concept for the fall to make the shop more winter friendly outside. In 5 years we look forward to be doing it right, and right here still.”

    The Cold Shoulder team will also be busy this summer with friend’s weddings, around the community, with a local motorcycle shop’s event in August and this weekend at Rock the Shores!


    “As small an area and community as [Jordan River is], there is truly an amazing amount of condensed things happening here: hiking, hunting, fishing, foraging, birding, paddle boarding, motorcycling, logging, camping and surfing to mention a few. These activities are all a big part of the demographic that keep us in business.”

    You can find Cold Shoulder Cafe on Facebook, Instagram or just drive to 11950 West Coast Rd.


  4. TreeRover

    July 9, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield


    After our courageous firefighters have won the battle over the current wildfires in BC and the rain clouds finally bless us with some precipitation, the clean up and reforestation will commence in order to get BC’s beauty as close to pristine as possible.

    This got us thinking of the thousands of tree planters out there who work season after season, planting an average of 1600 trees a day. They lift a cumulative weight of over 2200lbs, bend more than 200 times per hour, drive the shovel into the ground more than 200 times per hour and travel over 16 kms with a heavy load, every day of the entire season. The reforestation industry has an average annual injury rate of approximately 22 claims per 100 workers, per year (1). It is often difficult and sometimes dangerous. But people have been doing this for centuries in order to give back to Mother Nature and make memories that last a lifetime.

    Buuuuuut it would probably be nice if there were robots to do all the labour, wouldn’t it?

    Well, there’s one that already exists and it was built right here in Victoria…


    Tyler Rhodes and Nick Birch, two third year UVic electrical engineering students, have built the TreeRover through their company Iota Enterprises.

    This first version of TreeRover moves between planting sites using a 4 wheeled electric drive platform. The planting process involves penetrating the earth with a pneumatic ram, opening a hole and releasing a seedling, then tamping down the soil surrounding the seedling to ensure it’s roots are covered. It’s kind of like an RC Car, on steroids (organic, of course).

    Yes, it still needs to be controlled by a human via remote control, but at least the back breaking work is eliminated.

    “Its mission is simple: Maintain our beautiful forests, one tree at a time, by combining exponential technologies with community involvement,” commented Rhodes. “With help from supporters we plan to build a much more advanced version of the TreeRover and plant trees more efficiently than ever before.”


    “The first goal is to produce a proof-of-concept prototype. It will be used to conduct a crowd funded tree planting campaign to raise money for technical upgrades,” commented Rhodes “Supporters of the campaign will be able to purchase a tree seedling which will be planted by the TreeRover. They will receive a video clip of their seedling being planted to share with friends.”

    The second and third versions of the TreeRover will be capable of traversing more difficult terrain, typical of replanting sites and will provide a cheap and efficient alternative to traditional hand planting methods.

    Hmmm maybe this group actually built phase one...

    Hmmm maybe this group actually built phase one…


    Rhodes and Birch both hold Diplomas in Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology (Renewable Energy option) from Camosun College and are currently working through the Electrical Engineering degree program at UVic. Two co-op work terms in the marine and forest technology fields have provided them with valuable experience in technical environments.

    “Growing up in BC, we have both spent a lot of time in the outdoors. We have always wanted to put our education to use by helping to preserve the environment. Tree planting is an extremely labour intensive process and if it could be automated there is potential for huge improvements. We did some research and found that there is a serious need to increase reforestation rates. Future models of the TreeRover could outperform traditional planting methods and help significantly with reforestation efforts.”

    In addition to being inspired by Camosun College faculty members, some of their motivation has come from local company, FTS (Forest Technology Systems). FTS builds and maintains equipment for environmental monitoring and remote data collection and plays an important role in the prevention of forest fires. “Their dedication to protecting the environment through the use of technology is something we find admirable.”

    You can check out their project at iotaenterprises.com and follow them on Facebook. Stay tuned for a crowdfunding campaign scheduled for the end of the summer! You can also donate to their project right now, right here!

    Where the magic happens

    Where the magic happens


    1: “Preventing Tree Planting Injuries” (PDF). Work Safe BC. Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia. 2006.