Hi, I’m and I live in Toronto. I'm the founder of Site Builder Report and Index.

I also released two albums in 2013, which you can listen to here!

Introducing … Index!

Published March 25th, 2014.

I’d like to introduce you to something I’ve been working on. It’s called Index.

Index helps you discover awesome things in Toronto. To start, it has concert listings. Shortly, I’ll be adding listings for Live Comedy, Theatre, Classes and Teachers.

I love Toronto. It feels like something cool is always happening. Neil deGrasse Tyson is giving a lecture at University of Toronto. Everdale farms is bringing fresh fruits and veggies to the Annex once a week. My friend Cassie is putting on an improv show.

These things are awesome. And I want to make it easier to discover them when they happen.

And thats what I hope Index will do.

Would Apple have come up with iBeacon if they didn’t have retail stores?

Published December 16th, 2013.

I doubt it.

I have a hunch Apple needed to understand retail before they executed iBeacon. And I think this tells you a basic truth about innovation.

In order to innovate in an industry, you need to have a deep understanding of it.

Apple has spent 12 years creating a deep understanding of retail by continually pushing themselves beyond conventional retail. They have the kind of deep understanding of retail that can only come from years of doing it in a radical way.

It is this deep understanding that gave them the sharp insight to know exactly where to apply iBeacon: retail.

They were scratching their own itch.

PS: it’s crucial not to gloss over “deep understanding”. Deep understanding is illusive and is only gained from application.

Are you Idea Guy?

Published November 29th, 2013.

“Hi! I’m Idea Guy”

My favourite stereotype in the world of startups is Idea Guy.

You know him: Idea Guy has no technical understanding but is guns-a-blazing with his amazing idea (which you can hear after you sign his NDA). Idea Guy throws down $30K on his first MVP, while his developers (who’ve been through this many times before) mutter amongst themselves about how delusional his product is.

Idea Guy’s problem is this: he’s caught the scent of opportunity but don’t understand the rules of the game.

It’s easy (and fun) to mock Idea Guy. What is hard to do is to self-reflect and ask, in what ways am I Idea Guy? Because we all are from time to time.

Maybe you run a startup that knows SEO is a major opportunity and wants to hire a consultant. But instead of doing the work of understanding what type of SEO consultant you need, you just randomly email people and throw money at the problem.

Maybe you run a startup with a design problem and instead of doing the work of finding out what makes a great designer, you try to solve the problem quickly by hiring.

Or maybe you don’t run a startup, but you’re always talking about how you could have made so much money if you bought Bitcoins two months ago (or you’re salivating at Tesla stock price). You’ve caught the scent of opportunity, but perhaps you don’t actually understand the rules of the game.

Don’t be Idea Guy. Take him as an example of the way you didn’t go and recognize the scent of opportunity for what it is: a call to dive deeper and understand the rules of the game.

Carl Jung

Published November 26th, 2013.

My own understanding is the sole treasure I possess, and the greatest.

- Carl Jung

Tobias Lutke on the Future of Commerce

Published September 20th, 2013.

Tobias Lutke, CEO of Shopify, on building a business in the highly competitive space of commerce (from his interview on This Week in Startups):

“To build a business that is fundamentally good at thriving in chaotic environments is to experiment and try out a lot of stuff.”

And on the future of commerce:

“Why is Kickstarter successful? I don’t think it has anything to do with crowdfunding. I think that’s a complete misattribution of its success. Kickstarter is successful because it forces the product creator to create a video about the product.

If the people who create the product, tell you … the reason why they went there, why they built it and why this is product needed to come into existence … you have a much more powerful thing.

And that is the problem that [traditional retail] has. When you go into Best Buy they won’t tell you the product story. And [there isn't a] channel between people who create things and the consumers who buy things. There is a [distribution] layer that is just a historical construct that can be shattered. And if it could be shattered it can be very powerful”

Lutke is a very sharp guy and Shopify is the best tool for creating your own online store. Shopifys ambitions are clear- they want to be there for the future of POS too. I for one, am excited to see where they go.

My Newest Project: Locally Sourced

Published May 13th, 2013.

I’m really excited to introduce you to my newest project: Locally Sourced. Just in time for summer, Locally Sourced is an easy way to discover farm shares across Toronto.

Let me know what you think!

The only business class I ever took

Published March 11th, 2013.

One semester, when I was an undergrad, I decided to try out a business class: Business 101. At the end of the semester, our professor assigned us a final paper on Business Ethics.

I sunk my teeth into the assignment. Like most young students, I had strong opinions and reveled in the opportunity to express them.

The professor ended up giving me a 75%. I was choked. I told the professor I thought it was unfair and that he should change my grade.

He explained that I had gone beyond what was required but that I had formatted the title page wrong.

This meant that students who gave textbook “business ethics” answers would be getting better grades than me. I told him that was stupid. He was unfazed. He said you just have to learn to do your title pages correctly.

I left his office steaming that a formatting error could be considered more important than engaging the content.

That was the last business class I took in my undergrad.

Today, Ramit Sethi made a point on his blog that made me want to stand up and clap:

I just don’t care that much about proofreading. I catch 99% of my own errors, and even when I publish something that has mistakes, nobody cares.

I agree big time and it’s cool to hear this from such a prominent writer. Proofreading is too often about exercising control rather than focussing on things that move the needle.

That’s why when you ask for feedback on writing, you’ll receive minor grammar fixes rather than feedback on the actual content.

Or why business professors will dock marks if you format your title page wrong (even if you did a good job!).

 

New Design

Published February 22nd, 2013.

Yesterday I found myself on Medium, Evan Williams’ newest project. It’s a unique take on publishing and I could definitely see myself using it.

Beyond the concept, Medium has stunning design work. I liked it so much that I decided to redesign this blog that afternoon (taking generous portions of inspiration from Medium). It’s not a perfect redesign but it was a fun way to spend an afternoon! Need some inspiration? Try checking out Medium.

Breaking the Pattern

Published January 21st, 2013.

It’s happened a million times.

A client comes to you with a project. She’s enthusiastic. You get excited about doing a great job on the project. You both establish that the goal of the project is to move more widgets. You’re both optimistic about where this is going.

Three months later, the project is wrapping up. You no longer feel connected to the higher level goal of moving more widgets. For you, the project has become, “deliver a functioning ecommerce website.”

By now the client is overloading you with, what you interpret as, granular feedback. You are both exhausted and just want the project to ship. You both have secretly started to resent each other (just a little bit).

This is not the exception. This is the rule for every software project.

Finding a hundred, little, unsexy ways to fight back against this reality is the right place to begin any conversation about hiring developers or starting a company.

I’d rather freelance for non-profits than startups

Published December 2nd, 2012.

When I tell people in the Toronto startup community that I freelance primarily for non-profits I get a lot of patronizing looks. I’ll hear things like:

You shouldn’t take non-profit clients- they’re too much of a headache

Dude, they don’t pay well enough

They don’t understand what you do- so they’re disrespectful of your time

What I want to say (but usually don’t) is that I think my startup friends are full of shit. In fact, if you take the above quotes and apply it to my startup clients THAT would actually accurate.

So let’s take each of these quotes and apply it to startups:

They don’t understand what you do- so they’re disrespectful of your time

This past summer a startup client asked me to come in and work the next week in their offices. I said I would, and did some creative scheduling to free up the week. The Sunday before I started work I received a text message at 10:30pm:

Hey, we don’t need you this week.

Less than 10 hours before I was set to start work. Thanks for respecting my time.

You shouldn’t take non-profit startup clients- they’re too much of a headache

A good chunk of my startup clients are moving too “quickly” to supply appropriate documentation or feedback. So as a designer, it can be difficult to ascertain clear goals from the outset of projects.

In fact, in many cases, I have found that “goals” are developed as we iterate through my mockups. I’ll end up going through several rounds of mockups before the client has an “aha” moment and is able to articulate the goal.

It’s frustrating to have to help clients “sound-out” a goal through mockups. Clients that do the hard-work of thinking through a project before they hire a designer are much better to work for.

Dude, they don’t pay well enough

Guess what? No non-profit has ever asked me to work for equity. Startups always look to subsidize my work with “equity.”

So in conclusion, Clients that are consistent, clear communicators are my favorite clients. I love working with them. Startups that complain about a “talent shortage” should work on getting good at project management and communication. People will want to work with you if you’re good at that.

But in the meantime, I’ll keep working with my non-profits clients.

Disclaimers: I’m not trying to make a hard and fast rule about startups. There are certainly great startups to work for. This is just based on my anecdotal experience as a freelancer. This post also is probably more accurately titled “why freelancing for startups sucks sometimes” as I don’t really touch on positive non-profit experiences at all.