Living/Working October 20, 2017

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France turns to Vancouver in hunt for tech talent

In a new push to develop its innovation sector, French government woos B.C. startups
Aggressive development of France’s technology sector is a hallmark of the new government of French President Emmanuel Macron | Victor Lauer/Shutterstock 

France’s sudden thirst for technology startups and entrepreneurs – spurred in large part by the election of President Emmanuel Macron in May – has its government on a recruiting drive in Western Canada and, more specifically, Metro Vancouver.

And given that the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) went into effect just last month, French officials in Vancouver are taking the opportunity to blitz the local tech market with information on what’s now Europe’s second-largest venture capital market, all in an effort to attract B.C. startups to engage France as an incubator.

The largest of these efforts will come on November 2 and 3, when the Vancouver French consulate will co-host “Enterprising Culture” – a combination of panel discussions, industry forums, demos and networking gatherings – at Emily Carr University’s new campus on Great Northern Way. Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media (CDM) and Emily Carr are the other co-hosts.

Philippe Sutter, the new consul general of France in Vancouver, said the B.C. tech sector and its startup scene are squarely in the sights of French officials because the country is looking for young, innovative talent to kick-start Macron’s plan to invigorate the economy through technology. The Vancouver sector’s youthful, energetic profile fits, Sutter said.

“The business links and co-operations between French startups and B.C. startups will be very important,” Sutter said, adding that officials want to avoid putting out the message that CETA would benefit only agriculture or resources trade. “Strengthening the relationship between the young generation – so not only encouraging interaction between big corporations, but also companies in the startup phase – is crucial for strengthening trade and investment between France and B.C.”

Patrick Pennefather, continuing senior lecturer at CDM and one of the event’s key organizers, said it will gather, in addition to other industry attendees, five virtual-reality/augmented-reality (VR/AR) technology companies each from B.C., Ontario and France.

He added that the timing not only demonstrates France’s newly invigorated interest in technology like VR/AR, but also highlights a broad, global convergence of awareness of how such technology can have broad implications in industries like health care.

“The important thing, I think, is this seems to be an event that’s well timed and current to the [industry] ecosystem in Vancouver,” Pennefather said. “The ecosystem here is now better at generating investment and interest, not just from government, but from external parties as well.”

He added that CDM representatives will likely attend a February conference in Paris on VR/AR to see if further development opportunities exist. He said CDM’s position as a research and development hub has already attracted industry interest, and the French wave is simply another part of that enthusiasm.

“I think what’s happening is that they are trying to position themselves – at least in Europe – as a centre for VR development and research,” he said. “I also think there’s a confluence of VR research that has been done since 1989, and some of that is right here in Vancouver…. We have the brain power; we just have to take advantage of it.”

Macron drew global attention when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord, to which the French president responded by publishing a YouTube video – in English, no less – inviting U.S. citizens working in the sciences and green technology to move to France.

Since then, France has introduced a number of reforms to make good on that invitation, including custom tax regimes and streamlined immigration for tech entrepreneurs. In Vancouver, Sutter reiterated those new regulations, but added France is not only seeking B.C. startups to go to Europe, but also encouraging overall interaction, including having some French talent come to B.C.

“More tourists, students coming to B.C., and many of these young people who visit are interested in investing here,” Sutter said. “I know many French youth who not only come here for the lifestyle, but also the creative space to be innovative and to invent in a cosmopolitan environment. The truth is, Vancouver is attractive, and that helps with what we believe will be a growing trend in the B.C.-French relationship.”

Investment in technology has surged in France in recent years. Data from CB Insights and PwC showed that tech company investment deals in the country almost doubled from 2015 to 2016 (to around 500), surpassing perennial European leader Germany for the first time in years.

Venture capital industry publication FinSMEs said France’s official data showed a first-half 2016 investment of 5.5 billion euros ($8.1 billion) in the country, most concentrating in digital tech, biotech and general corporate venture capital.



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Infographic by: RaveReviews. Infographic source: Visual Capitalist


Sake for wine lovers

A wine geek tries to make sense of sake
Mariko Tajiri leading a sake service | Contributed

Before I attended a master class on sake in late September, the extent of my knowledge was that it’s made by fermenting rice. While I may be slightly more enlightened now, I’ll still happily defer to Vancouver’s passionate sake experts.

The seminar was led by Mariko Tajiri, national brand manager for That’s Life Gourmet, a fine wine and premium sake importer. Tajiri is a sake specialist and manages a portfolio of over 100 sakes from 19 breweries. She’s also an instructor for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) sake designation offered locally at Statera.

Tajiri talks about sake as if she was weaned on it. “You have to calibrate from your wine nose and palate and change to a sake one,” was her first instruction to us. She explains that while some sake may be earthier than others, they don’t demonstrate the extremes of wine.

As subtle as the differences might be, they become fascinatingly apparent when sakes are tasted side by side. The variables include different brewing methods, the type of water used (hard or soft) and whether or not distilled alcohol has been added. Finally, polishing the rice to remove protein and oils is associated with quality. Basically, the greater the percentage polished, the higher the quality (usually).

To help demonstrate the diversity, Tajiri put together a panel of four restaurant pros who are championing sake. Their wine and even the beer references helped me tremendously. Besides the restaurants referenced below, Suika, Octopus’ Garden, Bao Bei, Kissa Tanto, Coast, Blue Water Cafe and Pidgin also have intriguing sake selections if you are looking to delve deeper.


Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Honjozo, $38.99
A Honjozo sake is one that has alcohol added. Tokubetsu means “special” and usually refers to extra polishing. Here the rice has been polished down so that only 55 per cent remains (as opposed to leaving 70 per cent which is the norm). Though not intensely perfumed, floral hints mesh with steamed rice aromas. Tajiri likens it to a pilsner and recommends chilling it slightly.

Yamagata Masamune Junmai Ginjo, $55.99
Junmai sake has no further alcohol added and Ginjo means that 40 per cent of the rice has been polished away. Light on its feet, silky and finessed, Yamagata Masamune offers fresh apple, pear, honeydew and anise to the underlying cereal notes. Roger Maniwa, sommelier at Mak n Ming, compares the savoury umami element to a Northern Rhône Syrah, which piques my interest. He also cautions against serving it too cold.

2015 Kuheiji ‘Eau du Desir,’ $59.99
Kuheiji’s sakes are considered avant-garde. For starters, this is vintage dated, which goes against the sake tradition. The rice is polished to 50 per cent, so it could be classified as Daiginjo though it isn’t labeled as such. Round and textured with peach and a touch of honey, it’s reminiscent of a top-notch Chardonnay.

Kozaemom Junmai Daiginjo, $92.99
The Cadillac of sakes, Daiginjo is the top classification and Kozaemom polishes the rice down so that only 40 per cent remains. Made from two different rice strains, it’s complex, weighty and structured with banana and melon. Miki Ellis of the Aburi group (Minami and Miku) likes introducing sake novices to this while Tajiri equates the richness to that of a Viognier or Roussanne/Marsanne blend.

Tengumai Yamahai Junmai, $43.99
Yamahai is a rare type of sake crafted using a very traditional brewing method which gives a strong, sometimes funky, taste. For this reason, Iori Kataoka of Yuwa (formerly Zest) associates it with natural wine. A fascinating combination of yogurt and tinned mushroom with meaty, nutty notes and an appetizing tanginess. Besides sardines and ugni, Kataoka suggests pairing it with truffly pasta or aged cheeses. Best at 40-45C.

• All available at Kitsilano Wine Cellar. Prices exclusive of taxes. 

Vancouver Westender


Reducing short-term rental options by squeezing air out of Airbnb

In Canada, Airbnb is getting – well – deflated. The ironic reason is that it’s become too popular.

Airbnb is an online service for “air bed and breakfast.” It’s for guests who want a cheap place to stay the night, even if it’s on an air mattress.

Since its 2008 launch in San Francisco, Airbnb has exploded in popularity. Having hosted more than 200 million guests in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries, it now boasts a net worth of $31 billion.

This juggernaut has alarmed hotel owners and workers afraid for their wallets. And it’s inspired some strange demonstrations, even in Canada. Last spring, Toronto activists marched through Kensington Market in a mock funeral procession over departed rental housing. The murderer? Airbnb! More short-term rentals meant fewer long-term rentals, they insisted. Apparently, some people were (gasp) buying properties to profit from short-term rental demand. Such was the accusation of Fairbnb, an anti-Airbnb coalition started by Unite Here Local 75, a union that represents hospitality workers.

Is this really cause for alarm?

An Airbnb report in 2016 showed that 89% of hosts had only one listing, and these accounted for 70% of the total listings. The service helped many hosts cover high mortgage or rental costs.

Besides, this is a market-based response to a clear need that would not have been met otherwise. Guests didn’t want the Hilton, and they didn’t get it. They got something they could afford from people happy to offer it at that price.

Kensington Market’s proximity to the University of Toronto and downtown hospitals meant Airbnb could benefit thousands of people wanting to visit loved ones without breaking the bank.

Just the same, it was great for the bank accounts of many Torontonians. Airbnb estimates that 450,000 guests spent more than $417 million in Toronto in 2016.

Alas, freedom couldn’t last. In June, Toronto followed Vancouver’s lead and restricted Airbnb listings to a primary residence. Hosts have to pay an annual fee to register with the city, plus a new municipal tourist tax that applies to both hotels and home-sharing services like Airbnb.

Short-term renters have fewer choices and pay more for what remains. In 2016, Kensington Market had 464 listings, including 248 that were entire residences and 216 shared or private rooms.

As of October 2017, the number of listings had already dropped by 81 with just 183 entire residences and 192 rooms. On average, these were rented 117 nights per year at $112 per night.

Airbnb’s enemies still aren’t satisfied. The Greater Toronto Hotel Association wants limits placed on the number of days people can rent out their own home (it’s 60 or 90 in some cities).

Fairbnb chairwoman Lis Pimentel invoked the mantra of “enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.” She wants officials to insist on documented proof of home residence and steep fines for infractions. And she wants Airbnb out of secondary suites in a home residence, such as basements.

This all means one unfortunate truth: a man’s home is his castle – until he tries to make money from it. 

Lee Harding is a research associate with the think tank Frontier Centre for Public Policy.


The elusive art of maximizing a company’s employee motivation

If you’re a business owner, executive or anyone with direct reports, you’ve undoubtedly wondered how you can get the most out of your team members.

I’ll save you the dozens of hours of reading and the thousands of dollars associated with their purchase with this summary: you can’t motivate anyone.

Decades of behavioural science have repeatedly proven that for most 21st-century jobs – ones that require creative problem solving and that are non-repetitive – external motivators (things like bonuses or extra vacation days) don’t create engagement and certainly don’t motivate. And when, according to Gallup, approximately $3,400 of every $10,000 in salary (per employee) is lost to disengagement in 70% of North American companies, not understanding the true ingredients to motivation is a very costly problem.

Intrinsic motivation

After employees are paid a market wage for their services, an extra dollar in salary won’t entice them to work any harder (at least those with non-repetitive, problem-solving jobs). In fact, no external motivators will. Instead, they must rely on intrinsic motivators.  Your job as a manager, in turn, is to provide the ingredients – all six and a half of them –  for this intrinsic motivation to flourish.

Shared purpose: a shared understanding of why

Why does your organization exist? What value does it bring to the world? And how can members of your organization lend their unique skills to this shared common purpose? Having these statements clearly articulated (and subsequently lived) will drive intrinsic motivation and has ripple effects on everything from a company’s branding to employee recruitment and retention and, ultimately, profit.

Emotionally intelligent leadership: the art of persuasion and influence

Emotional intelligence, the second pillar of an intrinsically motivated workplace, is the ability to be aware of, in control of and expressive of one’s emotions. It is also the ability to respond to interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Not surprisingly, it is one of the most crucial aspects of human interactions, and perhaps one of the least practised in the workplace. Knowing how to adjust and respond to the needs of those around us is paramount to all human exchanges, not least in the workplace.

Healthy conflict: the source of innovation

Conflict is a part of life, both in and out of the office. Most people, however, view conflict one of two ways: as either something to be avoided at all costs or an all-or-nothing, winner-take-all battle. Conflict, however, does not have to be a four-letter word, and when done right, conflict can become a powerful source of innovation and creativity. 

Transparent communication: the bond of thriving corporate cultures

Research has found that team members need to hear feedback, on average at least once a week. This feedback, it turns out, needs to be directly related to how an employee’s job functions affect the organization’s purpose. The challenge with feedback, much as with conflict, is that most people are woefully unskilled at both giving and receiving it. More, we are prone to giving feedback as a reactive response to things that could improve. Want to be truly groundbreaking? Try giving feed-forward: positive, proactive reinforcements for jobs well done. Or if you do stick with feedback, make sure your organization has methods to track and reward behaviours that reflect its core values. 

Uncompromised trust: the missing link in today’s business world

Corporate value statements have the potential to be one of the most powerful tools an organization has. But in order to be more than words on a wall or a blurb in an annual report, they need to be linked to behaviours that are exhibited throughout an organization. If an organization (and its leaders) cannot act in accordance to the values that it purports to believe in, how can customers and employees (indeed all stakeholders) trust it? Charles Green of a Boston-based corporate culture consultancy speaks to the four components of trust: credibility, reliance, intimacy and self-orientation. Contrary to most assumptions, for intrinsic motivation to flourish at work, the last two – intimacy and self-orientation (or how much others perceive our interests as truly being invested in another’s best outcome) – are the most important. 

Collaborative ecosystems: not automatic, but systematic

The sustainable success of most organizations usually rests on their culture: that nebulous, hard-to-define but easily felt “thing” that dictates how work is done. Employees who are engaged at work enjoy cultures that have protocols for defining responsibilities and accountability and systems to positively reinforce both of these. This means having a robust business operating system, something akin to Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits).

The half: being on the balcony and dance floor at the same time

Creating intrinsically motivated teams is not a one-time event; it is a continuous, ever-adapting process. Carefully and artfully leading the constant ebbs and flows of the aforementioned six pillars of leadership is not unlike how a tree is more than its leaves and branches or a painting is more than its oils and canvas. Culture is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the secret sauce – the artful dance of being both fully participative in and fully observant of your organization’s cultural health and masterfully weaving in any missing ingredients as these ebbs and flows change. 

Casey Miller (, president of Six and a Half Consulting, is a leadership and team development specialist. His consultancy teaches organizations the skills needed to create motivated and inspired workplaces.


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